About note-taking...

I keep reading in most Level III threads that taking notes is crucial, so I obviously want to take that advice seriously.

However taking notes really doesn’t come naturally to me… I tend to read once or twice, then practice, practice, practice. In the practice stages I might go back and take notes on specific topics I keep having trouble with, but I don’t see myself taking notes on the entire curriculum, or rather I’m unsure that would be the best use of my time versus doing more practice questions (and practicing writing answers, of course).

For background I passed LI in Dec & LII in June, working quite hard for both; I’m not looking to take any shortcuts for Level III. I recognize everyone is different but I’d love to hear from others who’ve been successful without taking copious notes on everything they read - or anyone who’s got good note-taking advice to share.

Thank you!

Personally, I found taking notes took too much time. I highlighted. Honestly, I’d go with whatever worked for you in Level 1 and 2, just keeping in mind that Level 3 is much more qualitiative and conceptual. You need to understand more than you need to calculate.

Thanks, geo!

Just to clarify, what I was saying is that there is nothing inherent in Level 3 that should force you to change from what provided you success in 1&2.

Yup, gottcha. Thank you.

i do not take notes or hightlight for 2 reasons:

  1. everything is new to me if i have to take notes on everything i didn’t know i will be writing my own books.

  2. same as above and i would be highlighting over 50% of the texts, which defeats the purpose of highlighting.

  3. i rarely have time to go back to highlighted materials, or my own notes, if i don’t understand a certain section, i wouldn’t rely on reading only my notes i want to read the original text or study guide or investopedia for a more comprehensive understanding. If it’s just for review purposes, there are EOC summaries already, so i don’t think i need my own summary.

  4. taking notes is VERY TIME CONSUMING, IMHO, and since i may not refer to it, i’d rather use that time to do practice questions.

BUT some people need to write things out in order to memorize the material. Perhaps it’s worth writing out the formulas a few times??

I wrote out notecards for all three levels, and the benefits were invaluable. At Level III, in particular, it helped get me in the habit of summarizing ideas in bullet points.

Different people learn differently; some learn best by seeing, others by hearing, others by doing. You need to know how you learn best, then exploit that method to the hilt.

I learn better when i can hear the material, that’s why i watch videos and have people constantly talking to me when i sleep. :slight_smile:

Writing is important for L3 i agree, but naturally you would be good at writing when you do enough practice + mock exams.

I write all my answers down when i do the questions.

all the schweser instructors have told me not to take your own notes as the schweser notes are as distilled as possible and taking your own notes is time consuming and a waste of time.

having said that, i find flash cards to be indispensible. for level 2 i made them during my 2nd read through.

reading through behavioural finance though it felt like i needed to make flash cards on the 1st read through.

Thank you all - very helpful indeed. Really appreciate it!

Taking notes is a giant waste of time IMO. Unnecessary work. Just read the chapters over and over again.


Take notes if that is what works for you - if you were successdful in levels 1 & 2 I would try to duplicate a majority of that process because that is what got you here. That being said, if you ordered or are making flash cards then some of your note-writing effort could be wasted.

L1 - did all the practice problems as I went

L2 - wrote notes on what I thought was important, didn’t do any practice problems as I went

Passed both, but worse on L2 than 1 (terrible comp I know lol). L3 I’m thinking I’ll just read & practice, note taking was a huge motivation killer (too time consuming, couldn’t just kick back with the book and get enthralled in it)

Woody, you hit the nail on the head when you talked about a “motivation killer”… I think I’ll aim for a few notecards on the trickiest topics, and otherwise focus on reading and practicing. Thanks again, guys!

Interesting topic - I feel like taking notes/making flashcards, even if I don’t go back and review them again, help me retain the info better…although I do agree that it takes ALOT of time and maybe faster to just read the material 2x…

One of the problems about flashcards is that, i think it can only take you so far.

meaning, if you only put 20% of concepts on the flashcards, you can only study the 20% (and that’s only if you memorize EVERYTHING on those flashcards).

Now, if you put more than 20% on the flashcards, it defeats the purpose,because you may as well just read the textbooks.

When it comes to mock exams, you will realize they ask you questions that make you think beyond just the definitions and then those 20% you know may not be as useful as thinking critically and out of the box when attempting those questions.

For me it boiled down to one thing: when I did my revision I wanted notes that were in my own words with tags/cues that had meaning to me. Reading someone else’s chapter summaries or notes was not effective for me.

With that said, it was extremely time consuming on the front end, but holy hell was I efficient in the last month of preparation. It was probably not worth the amount of time it required, but I did crush those exams.

If I could do it again, instead of writing ~2 pages of notes per reading, I would right 3 or 4 sentences pointing out the important topics that need to be understood for each.

Well that’s essentially why i wouldn’t write my own notes.

  1. What you already summerize is what you already digested and understood. You are unlikely to be able to make flashcards out of material you don’t understand or things you didn’t know you don’t understand.

  2. The CFA exam is ALL ABOUT the details, yes, surely you can condense the whole chapter in 3-4 sentences, but when it comes to review time, is it useful to look at a flashcard that tells you what does “immunization” mean? or do you need to still go through the questions and examples?

  3. Let’s say you have time to go back to your own flashcards, how much time do you actually spend reviewing them? do you go through it once? twice? do you study it constantly in your shower? But all you are reviewing is really just what you already understand or general definition - worse yet, you may have misinterpreted the material so there is no guarentee what you wrote down is in fact correct.

  4. Wording is everything - in terms of L3, if you learn the key words in the curriculum, you have a higher chance of getting those points in the AM, ie, not using your own words.

I highlight sh-t. And also study in both Formal and Informal Settings. For L1 and L2 did a lot of studying while drinking at pubs and exercise bike at gym. Since then, cut down on the booze a lot, and sort of became increasingly sullen, and time will tell if it’ll have an overwhelmingly beneficial effect. Still study at gym. For me it’s constant exposure to the material, albeit a large variance in ‘quality of study’.

This is on top of regular studying at a quiet desk with scrap paper and sh-t come around say, Jan or Feb.

For the time being, perhaps more, part of me feels that getting the CFA is going to be a Pyrrhic Victory for me anyways, so maybe that’s why I don’t bother with the copious note taking or index cards.

I was about to whip out alternative investments, while sitting at an old pub that I haven’t been too in about 10 months, had it in my backpack. But as I was going too, this hot blonde sat down next to me, not overwhelmingly hot, but she was a looker, and it being all ‘holiday cozy’ season and all, so I didn’t want to completely dork out and read about duration hedging or synthetic c0ck overlays, so I just small talked with her. People alone at bars often twiddle with their phones even though they aint’ really looking at it, just to make it seem they are occupied or something. I just sat there for a while, and when she was doing the phone twiddle, I jestered, “So what’s so important on your phone?” That broke the ice. Then her friend joined her, and I left because I didn’t want to drink more than one beer. And I also felt too old.

well to me making notes help me develop a mental map of the concept which i can come back to time and again during my preperation untill i get a comfortable grip on the concept. In my view this helps me visualise the whole concept and the related details with more clearity. By the way i tried to complete behavioral finance without notes but that didnt happen, by the time i ended listening to one portion of the video i found that i forgot what the first concept was and how it all relates to the whole scheme of things. Finally i decided to make notes and in three days i am through with it with a sense of comfort.