Slacktastic passers, how economically did you prepare?

I admire the folks that passed with all 70%+ or that passed each exam on the first attempt. That’s awesome.

This is a different kind of story, a story about a slacker.

I would always min-run the CFA exams. I’m not condoning this approach, but I think it makes an interesting story.

First CFA1 attempt, December 2007. Used only Qbank and studied for one week prior to the exam. Band 10. Second attempt, June 2008. Didn’t muster will to study, didn’t show up. Next attempt, December 2009, finally passed. I put in a solid 10 days for that one. On to level II.

I heard the stories about level II, so I knew June 2010 CFA II would be a challenge. I began studying for that one late April 2010. I put in a solid 5 weeks, mainly Qbank (40% of the Qbank questions). I also did 3 Schweser practice exams, listened to MP3 lectures while driving and cycling, and tried to memorize secret sauce. Middle-of-the-road pass on first attempt.

Fast forward to June 2011, CFA3 attempt 1. I put in 6-10 days of slacktastic effort. I did not use Qbank this time. Rather, I did some EOC and CFAI past exams. Band 6. Then in 2012, I put in 14 days of ultra-intense Qbank and Schweser practice tests, along with the CFAI past exam essay sections. I also read the books this time! I read as much as I could along with the Qbank and practice essay tests. I barely, barely passed. I feel guilty. Almost.

Anyway, if you have a good slacker studying story, like I hope this one was, please share that story for the rest of your slacker bretheren and sisteren. As if we’d read it.

This is why I prefer Finance majors with an excellent grad school transcript when I hire new analysts into my firm.


Because…? Slackers can’t do the same thing in a classroom for months before the final?

Perhaps you can do that on a few classes but some them require long papers, many hours of group working and even longer hours of research. You know. The real studying.

I respectfully disagree, in part, but I generally agree with your proposition that more complete measures of performance are more helpful in the hiring process.

I disagree that group work adds value above a self-study regimen like the CFA. “Group work” too often becomes the solo work of the one person with the greatest drive to get results. In my experience, that person is usually me. Granted, some group work teaches relationship skills, such as how resolve disputes among peers, but this does not seem to be your point. Your point is that group work is part of the “many hours” that comprise a B-school diploma. Indeed, your point seems to be that you fear a potential hire can fake her way into a job by easily passing the CFA–but to hire her would be a mistake, because she won’t be a hard worker.

If we want to make sure we hire hard workers, it makes sense to take a longer measure of performance. A B-school GPA, combined with the selectivity of that school, is one such measure. However, the distinction between this measure and the CFA may be marginal, or even nonexistant.

To prove that the difference between the two is slight, consider:

A high GMAT leads to a great B-school. The GMAT is a poor measure of hard-workingness. An intelligent person can earn a high GMAT but not be a consistent hard worker.

A high B-school GPA can be gamed. Sure, we all have to take accounting and investments to get our finance specialization, but most programs allow a wide variety of electives. Not all electives are equally demanding, and not all electives curve the same.

A B-school GPA is vulnerable to tomfoolery. There are few controls on cheating.

A B-school GPA is difficult to compare across B-schools. Different programs have different median grades. A high GPA at one school may be less indicative of hard-workingness than a lower GPA at a different school.

At this point, rather than continue the tired saw comparing B-school to CFA, I’d rather make my own point.

CFA is a terrific objective measure of hard-workingness. It’s controlled. You can’t fake it. It’s comparable across candidates. It requires tremendous background knowledge. In fact, I can’t see why anyone would prefer any B-school diploma over the CFA, when the CFA requires the existance of an undergraduate degree! Why not use that undergraduate diploma measure? It offers the exact qualities one might prefer in a B-school diploma.

Look, I was trying to share the experience of a certain type of test-taker: one who studies insanely hard in the period immediately prior to the exam. I don’t hear much about from others like me who approach the exam with the imperative of economy, but I know they are out there. I wanted to hear from them, and I still do. I thought I’d open the door with my anecdote about a slacker, to keep it casual. You know. To keep it pleasant.

It’s OK, even preferred, to self-deprecatingly label yourself a slacker. Wouldn’t you agree?


Anyway, threadfail.

well expalined. I respect your perspectives and the spriit of jest.

CFA is not an objective measure of hard-workingness. It’s an objective measure of how much you can memorize and how much of the time you can dedicate to memoziing. Did you know that in Asia some my colleagues take a 6 month sabatical to memorize - so to speak- the curriculum just to hurl it out within the 6 hour testing period. In fact some of these guys get a separate apt away from the family to do this.

We don’t live in a vacuum tube environment. There are going to be issues working with other people in a team, issues with mgmt screw ups, environmental (like political and regulatory) factors and macro issues, HR issues. But they all make up what a portflio mgmt team has to go through to make a winning buy side team.

and I never mentioned anything about a GPA in my earlier post. I said a transcript. Something that shows his/her strengh and weaknesses on various topic on a relative scale.

CFA is not comparable across candidates. it’s comparable for that particular exam year only. The curve moves up and down even on a same exam topic every year. Thus, you may score the same in a two year period but be in a different failing band. if CFA were truly objective, it wil be like CPA exam where you simply show mastery of your skills and pass (or fail). There won’t be guesses on where the curve was each year.

You make good points, too, thank you.

Without question, CFA exams favor those with the ability to rapidly accumulate and retain information, only to pass an exam. Does hiring this ability allow an employer to create an analyst labor-base that generates higher margins for the firm, because those analysts are more productive? Maybe not. But, when you think about it, it’s actually a useful skill to have on a team. For example, it would be a useful skill when you need an analyst to research a new entity and present a recommendation about that entity within a minimum of time.

You know what works for you and your team. It’s great to hear your reasons, we can all learn something. Anyway, I’m sure volumes could be written on the best predictive measures for hiring quality teammates. Is the CFA credential one such predictive measure, and a good one?

There would be a lot of angry exam-takers if it were not.

On that basis I’d have to agree with your statement. There are obviously worse degrees out there that simply waste people’s time. My points made and yours understood. Thanks.

hawgdriver my friend, you are awesome. I’m truly amazed. You embody the very notion of an efficient use of time, seriously.

Those who failed by a bee’s d!ck probably cringed when they read your post thinking back to the 300+ hours they spent for their preparations.

Of course as you mentioned not everybody should/can replicate this method, but it’s nice to read a success story with a different flavor.

Well, my background (MBA, actuary, investment consultant) probably filled in the other hundreds of hours–besides, I spent probably 150-200 hrs during the 14 days I prepped CFA III. Just counting this time around, not the first time I failed. That was probably another 50-75 hrs. So add the two up, and they are about the same. And I barely passed.

I think it’s more about shaving a few hours off the amount of studying required because it’s done so close, and so intensely, relative to the test itself. But thatnks bro.