How to Pass Level I When You Are Not a Genius
I just wanted to give back to the community on how I passed Level I, after failing it the first time. I am not a genius (I’ve met some insanely smart people who passed after studying for 2-3 months. But for most of us, this is not realistic) and do not have a great memory due to certain issues. Therefore, I needed to craft a strategy that worked for regular people and did not require insane natural memory or talent. How could I refine/develop my memory, while at the same time getting the problems correct? How could I improved my results the most without being overly lost in complications, jargon, and injurious pedanticism? Here:
1) The readings should only be used as a tool to understand some basic concepts, to then go straight to the problems. The summaries are very important and those concepts+formulas from the summaries should be ingrained into your mind. About 30-60% of the reading material is unnecessary, it goes into a lot of depth that is not needed. Don’t waste time re-reading the textbook unless it is to help you memorize or understand a certain formula or concept from a problem. At least 50% of your time should be dedicated to working on problems.
2) EOCs and CFA Institute’s Online practice problems (PPs). I made flashcards from EOCs and Online PPs and did them dozens of times. I had a total of about 500 flashcards of these problems. It is imperative to have the EOCs memorized, then do the online PPs 5-8 times, spread out between weeks. Memorizing these formulas+concepts is a lot like practicing a musical instrument or sport. You start out practicing the hard areas and doing “drills” (flashcards) slowly everyday, then as you get better and faster you add more work to the pile. If you mess up, start again from the hard spots, then gradually add more as you progress.
3) Memorizing formulas. Do it. Use flashcards, practice 1 set of flashcards everyday for 2-3 weeks, daily, then revisit. When I memorize a formula, I write it down 20 times from scratch for the first time. Then I keep revisiting it between other cards for 1-3 hours daily. Then I Then I keep revisiting a few of these small packs (10-50 cards) daily. After that, move onto other flashcard packs. Only focus on formulas from EOCs, some Blue boxes, and Online PPs. The online PPs in my opinion, are most similar, but not identical to the test. When you make flashcards, don’t include a plethora of information that its too difficult for you to recite it back from memory. Try to keep it as simple as possible while yet fulfilling the CFAI’s expectations. My trick was, if its longer than 7-9 lines, or 3-4 sentences on my flashcard, then it was too complicated.
4) Practice tests. I used AdaptPrep’s practice tests and CFAI’s practice tests. I did about 8 practice tests before the exam. It is important to score about 90%+ on 3rd party, but 75% (ideally 80%+) on the CFAI’s practice tests.
5) Ethics. Don’t waste too much time reading the textbook for ethics, just do the EOC and online problems over and over and over again. Understand the nuances and even make a chart or study guide for it. For example, when is it appropriate to accept a gift and from who? Is it lavish? Understanding these nuanced “moral dilemmas” is critical. I did CFAI’s ethics online PPs about 8 times and got 90th+ percentile on it. Ethics is extremely nuanced and has lots of tricks so don’t underestimate it. As you do the problems over and over you get used to their tricks and then you develop an unique intuition that is usually counter-intuitive for most other people who underestimate this section.
Hopefully this helps!
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