Taking Notes - for CFA level 1


I am in the dilemma about writing notes. AS of now, I read the topic and understand it to the extent possible. Once I understand it, I start to create notes, hoping that it will consolidate my understating and help me refreshing quickly before exam.

However, I have realized that taking a notes take much longer topic. For example, if I have finished understanding Financial Analysis Techniques in 4 to 5 hours, but it took more than 8-10 hours to understand and take details notes. AS a result of this, I am beginning to question use of notes for me.

Before I continue with taking notes or ditch it completely (by the way, I am using notes from Elan), I would like to know about best practices people follow for passing CFA Level 1 exam.

I understand, taking notes is personal as it depends upon the person taking notes, but I would appreciate if we get some different perspective about it .



Very different for everyone

I started off taking notes but found it not very useful, particularly because I couldn’t manage when and how to review, as opposed to learning new material.

Now I don’t make any notes, but make electronic flashcards as I read the material (definitions, formulas, lists, concepts etc). Ths software offers manages which cards it shows for review so I’m confident I’m not wasting time reviewing things I know well, but at the same time, taking suffient time on things I really should be reviewing. It’s slower than taking paper notes (do to the time takin reviewing flashcards), but I know I’m retaining much much better. I have about 200 ‘cards’ per study session which will seem extreme to some people but I consider it the equivalent of paper notes, just cut up and offered up for review at appropriate times.

I use Anki but there’s also Quizlet, Cram and probably loads more. They should probably all sync well between phone, computer, tab etc.

Read the CFAI text in full before doing any questions while underlining and taking notes in the margins. - took about 2 weeks per book

Then typed up all my notes with LyX (can use LaTeX if more advanced). - took about 2 12 hour days per book

Used my notes to go back and do all the EOCs and practice exams. - about 2 weeks of nonstop EOC and mock exams.

I would suggest leaving more time at the end for your practicing. I was able to devote full days before the exam as I was still in university for L1.

My friend and I didn’t take any notes until our review period. After we took a mock exam or a Qbank session, we would go through each question (right or wrong) and then explain our answer to each other (why it was right or wasn’t) If i got something wrong, i would write down the explanation / formula so I would cut down my incorrect rate on similiar questions. I think it worked pretty well, def. helped me raise my mock scores. As others have said here, you should leave a lot of time for practice at the end. This is where everything really needs to start sticking together.

Thanks oaktavian, dwheets and james for your perspective.

Taking notes is a good idea but it takes a long time preparing it… My adivse is read each topic in the curriculm , mark what you feel is important and get a comments on each topic or on a side of the book…

Best of luck


Personally, I need the notes. I summarize a Schweser book in about 30 to 35 pages and It’s true that it takes more time than just reading, but I can archive all my notes in a folder I can carry around everywhere I go. I can also customize my notes by emphasizing the concepts I usually have trouble with, and this is invaluable in my opinion.

Taking notes is an effective way to take a grip of the concept being tested. However, it is nice to take note after reading the whole topic area, because by the time you’re taking your note when reading the topic again, it sticks and you understand the concept better. For me, i have read the whole corruculum, and i just finished taking some notes. I realized that i score above 70% in those subject that i have taken notes on so far, and i intend to continue that process. So i dont know if this will work for you, but for me, its surely working, and i will advice you to give it a serious consideration.

take notes. don’t get bogged down on details you won’t be able t o rememebr it all anyway. more on to practice questions

i take notes while i read schweser. i find while writing stuff down i am thinking about it and retain more- whether or not i even reference my own notes later

I highlighted instead of taking notes and then went through all CFAI material a second time reading only highlights.