Reading/Note Taking Strategies

Hello, I’ve noticed several people who’ve shared their study plans/what has worked have mentioned reading through the CFAI/Schweser text more than once. I know that level II is a completely different monster than level I, but it doesn’t seem efficient to read through the text more than once. I’m also almost afraid to start studying too early for fear that I’ll forget everything by June. In what ways have you guys been able to retain the information? Do you make flash cards while reading and revisit them later on in the study process? Go back and take notes after reading through the material?? Any tips would be helpful.

My $0.02:

  • Read CFAI once, taking notes of the most important concepts and ALL formulas. Get over covering the CFAI books as fast as you can, so you get at least 2 months of reviewing/mock exams.

  • As for the review: Combine schweser videos+your notes+ mock and sample exams. I’ve tried Schweser video reviews and they are great! They cover almost 99% of the curiculum in about 55 hours (1 month should be enough). As far as the forum goes, Elan videos are better (i cant comment havent tried them), but if u can get schweser, i promise they are good than enough. Again take note while watching the vids.

  • Last month: Massive mock exam taking, aiming to at least complete 6 full exams, analyzing every single answer, and making sure u get it. Even though the video review would be nice, if you’re behind schedule, make sure to prioritize Mock Exam Taking! It’s a great review anyway


Osmosis, bro.

I’m a pretty copious note taker, so probably not the best one to ask. But I read through the entire curriculum and then made my own notes on what was important, etc. Main points I re-wrote in my own words. For the second pass, I condensed everything onto 10-15 pages of computer paper, front and back into each section. And then when I took mocks, etc, I only referred to the 10-15 pgs. I didn’t trust depending on Schweser for what was/wasn’t important, so I took matters into my own hands. The process was long and tedious, but significantly worth the effort as I solidly know and understand all the material. I also started early enough with the thinking that I would stay on a topic until I 100% understand it. Speeding through a first-read doesn’t do you any favors. Take your time to understand the tiny nuances, and it will reward you in the long-run.

You’ve got lots of time, so what I’d do:

  • Read through CFAI, and finish it around say end of October. Don’t worry too much about practice problems or anything, just read it, understand it, etc.

  • Spend a couple weeks in November reviewing as if you were writing in December. Do a couple of the prior years mocks or something

  • Keep things fresh but don’t worry too much over Christmas. Come January, go hard on the Schwesernotes/Qbank/Concept checkers/whatever, and aim to finish all that by mid-April

  • Spend the last 6 weeks doing all your revision

Or in other words, you’ve got time to easily squeeze a preliminary read through in, but be careful you don’t burn out early. I’d say level 1’s worst is burnout, but at level 2 it’s dread - you’ll never feel prepared going in, just be as ready as you can.

I recently just failed level 2 unfortunately. I personally didn’t do enough mock, EOC & BB questions. I did almost all EOC’s but did not go over the ones i struggled with or did poor on again (same with BB’s). My strategy: lightly review my flashcards i made (30 mins a day during the week) until end of October. Beginning of November, read Schweser material 2013 edition and 2014 CFAI edition for all new material. I will do EOC of both Schweser and CFAI and BB’s. I aim to finish around end of February (4 months of reading material). Gives me enough time to really read the material and understand it. I will review in March. In April, I plan on taking mock exams and start “memorizing” (but really understanding) all my flashcards. By May, I will take mock exams with no referencing back to anything. And hope to be ready by June to crush the exam.

I work fullfime and will allocate my time for studying as follows:

Saturday & Sunday - Reading & Kaplan EOC Monday - GYM Tuesday - Videos for Reading (2) potentially Wednesday - GYM Thursday - CFAI EOC & CFAI Blue Boxes Friday - GYM

I will spend about 4-6 hours on the weekends each day which will allow me to read the chapters in all one sitting and do questions.

Let me know if this helps or if you have better suggestions, but this is what i have so far. I wish everyone the best of luck!

I’d read the curriculu once from Schweser, except for the heavy weights, Schweser AND CFAI curriculum.

Take notes and add them to the key concepts at the end of Schweser’s chapters. These will form my review material.

I’ll make a formula sheet at the end of every book.

Review is more important than the first read. It prints in all that you understood in the first reading. so make sure you don’t skip any explanatory and sub-ideas when adding to those key concepts.

Doing and re-doing practice questions at different points in the study period also helps with the retention.

Take notes of the whole thing as you go, even the parts that seem easy. Slows you down in the beginning but pays off later, especially if you are studying on a longer time frame instead of going gung-ho 20hours study hours per week on those 2-3 months before the exam.

Also, few minutes of reading the previous days notes puts in the “zone” for learning new stuff… instant concentration

Memorizing key facts : Research indicates that on average you remember 20% of what you read, 30% of what you hear, 40% of what you see, 50% of what you say, 60% of what you do, and you remember 90% of what you see, hear, say and do.

I made notes in the margins of the study guides while i watched the Elan videos (something like what Peter Olinto does in his lectures). I added to those notes with key takeaways from the BB examples and EOCs. I think this was an extremely effective way of doing things as everything i needed to know was consolidated in my study guides.

i study very differently, i am very visual, once i scanned the books i remember where the words are on the page and that’s how i recall my memory.

It doesn’t help me much to write my own notes.

Thanks to all for your replies. Many of these posts have been very helpful.

I only highlight important points in material itself, that helps when you are reviewing. Also write one liners on reading material itself.


I really like your schedule, i will be starting up with my prep soon. And will be trying to hit the Gym atleast thrice a week atleast… Alot hopeful, if i will be able to follow the sched…

That is amasing… I am trying various methods though… but after going through two books i start forgetting, what was in the first one…

Good Memory i would say…

Get Evernote…

Create a separate Note for EVERY single LOS…

Then watch the Schweser videos and take notes (in the appropriate LOS note) in Evernote as you watch.

Then do lots of practice problems (Qbank or Finquiz) after you finish the video. Don’t worry if they’re not item sets; your goal right now is to solidify the basic concepts you learned from the videos.For doing problems, aim to spend at least 2x the time you spent watching the videos.

If it’s clear you don’t get something (when doing problems), then go back and read it in the notes or CFAI texts. If you find any of your LOS notes blank (in Evernote), then that LOS wasn’t covered by your study provider; go back and read it in the CFAI texts.

Save the CFAI EOC problems for April, and try to finish your 1st pass through watching videos and doing problems by then.

Save the CFAI mocks for May. Use the Schweser (or any other provider’s) mocks for late April and early May to warm up before the CFAI mocks.