My CFA L1 Study Strategy

Hello everyone, I would like to share with you my study strategy for the December 2010 Level 1 exam. This was my first attempt to take the exam, and the outcome was a better than expected >70% in all topic areas except alternative investments, where my performance ranked in the 51-70% % section. Total study time: didn’t keep count of the hours, must have been several hundreds. Before I begin, here are some background notes. I earned a BA in Economics back in 2001 and am currently transitioning into asset management after years of globetrotting work experience in the ‘softer’ corners of management science and practice. As I was browsing through this forum at the outset of my L1 preparation, there was an overwhelming majority expressing serious doubts about the feasibility of such transitions, especially as one approaches mid career. Ultimately, I have decided to set up my own shop. The team I work with is very small: there are only three of us. We manage mostly our own capital using a set of proprietary statarb models with macro overlay. Days are long, nights sometimes, too, but the learning curve is as steep as NASDAQ in 1999 and the prospects look good. So, here are the cornerstones of my December 2010 L1 strategy: 1. Concentrate on Schweser, use highlighter; CFAI text supplementary/when in doubt. 2. Photocopy LOS and summary of each reading for own, portable “notes lite”. 3. If time allows, write out each LOS and the corresponding Schweser/CFAI text you highlighted earlier. 4. Solve all Schweser and CFA curriculum examples and end-of-chapter questions multiple times. 5. During the earlier stage of your preparation, work through as many of the Schweser QBank questions as possible. They are rather easy; use your performance with caution. 6. Spend at least one week on each study session (20-hour study week). 7. As the exam approaches, prioritize CFAI questions vs. Schweser questions: this is very important 8. Keep all material in front of you continuously. Once you make a good set of notes, review them constantly on coffee breaks, lunch breaks. The biggest problem with deep study is that you don’t see certain material for months. The closer the exam date, the more you should focus on solving CFAI questions from a wide cross-section of topics. 9. Keep your Schweser quick sheet in your bathroom for review 10. Last 6 weeks: reiew study material, take Schweser followed by CFAI mock exams. 11. Don’t cram the week leading up to exam date, especially the last day and night. Lack of exercise and relaxation in the last 24 hours can hamper your capacity to concentrate. Work on your confidence beyond merely knowing the material. Play and re-play the hours leading up to the exam and the exam day itself before your inner eye: exercising the day before; having something protein-rich for dinner thereafter; getting to bed on time; getting up early to avoid unnecessary stress in case of traffic towards the test center (btw., even if you are local, it may be best to stay at a hotel within walking distance from the test center); getting to the test center; relaxing your mind during the last hour before the exam (avoid taking study notes with you); getting seated; placing your earplugs; taking your time with the first few questions to build confidence; breezing through the rest… I cannot overemphasize the importance of avoiding distraction during those 300 minutes: your concentration must be at 100%. Don’t let your eyes wander before and during the exam. Avoid discussing questions from the morning session during the lunch break – that won’t help you solve any of the questions in the afternoon session. I get very easily distracted by noise, so the choice of earplugs was not to be underestimated. Re-reading a few questions could easily be equivalent to losing the effect of a couple of weeks of study-time. At my test center, there were several high-heeled female test takers who couldn’t care less about the noise they generate while marching towards the bathroom during the exam. Go for silicon-based earplugs: besides keeping most of the noise at bay, they help shave off a few seconds during ‘installation’. Earlier, I touched on the subject of proper nutrition. I was particularly concerned about the afternoon session. I knew I would be tired, and would need an energy boost that lasts through the entire session. No bread, no meat, no greasy stuff during the lunch break – that would only kill my blood pressure half-way through the afternoon session. At my test center, there was one small cafeteria – for 2.000 test takers. I had therefore packed 2 starbucks dark chocolate bars, fruits and ½ litre of water. As a short-term memory boost, chewing gum comes in handy, too. I approach the CFA exams above all as tests of endurance. With ample amount of time available, most would pass easily. I have therefore concentrated on thorough understanding and knowledge of the material, wrapped in a frame of mind that I thought would allow me to quickly tap that knowledge when I need it most. I wish you all success with the Level 1 exam! And with Level 2 and 3, too! Greetings from Bulgaria and Norway, SZ

Awesome tips! Thanks 1 question-- when did you decide to do end of chapter questions for each LOS? Would you do them right after completing your notes for each LOS or some time aftter? Thanks.