The problem of retaining the material

During May I was studying Economics with Curriculum, made all EOC and was sure that Eco would be my strong point. However, it did not prove to be the case. Not long time ago I decided to test myself with Elan Practice Questions and found that I was nowhere. Average score was from 50 to 70% depending on topic. I really spent so much time on Economics from Curriculum and did not expect such results.

Is it worth reading iy for the second time for example? However, it is impossible to go through Curriculum twice I suppose. So how to fight with this “material retention” problem?

And another thing that concerns me, guys, is Fixed Income. How long will it take to learn it from scretch? In the university I did not have classes on fixed income at all.

I’m probably not the best person to ask about economics (even though I’m pretty sure I passed in June I still struggled with that area).

Fixed Income, however, is something I do feel I can advise you on. A lot of Fixed Income overlaps with Quantitative methods (discounting cashflows in particular). If you can get a strong grasp of Quant first then Fixed Income shouldn’t be too difficult.

On top of this you will only have to learn a few more equations and theory. It’s worth 12% of the exam and is easily one of the best sections to gain easy marks in considering how little material you need to learn for that 12% (same goes for Quant actually!).

How long will it take to learn from scratch? This ultimately depends on the individual. Read through the material and the examples in your study guide and you’ll get a rough idea on how long you will need to spend practicing questions to learn it.

FIxed Income is one of the easier sections of CFA Level 1. Don’t worry yourself too much about it and just get on with it.

Thanks for your advice!

I appreciate it a lot.

I have almost finished FRA with Curriculum and then start Quant with Elan. Is it okay if I do not use Curriculum for Quant?

And then since mid August till the end of September I will study Fixed Income&Derivatives.

This is when study guides and videos come in handy!

Honestly though, i STRONGLY suggest all candidates to go back and forth when reading the material. Don’t just go in sequence and hope that you will remember everything you read by the exam date! I think the best way to study is to randomly do questions on previous chapters you read every weekend.

I think you probably KNOW the material but you just don’t REMEMBER (because you have to fully understand the material as you read along the curriculum). In this case, you may find it useful to just review the end-of-chapter summaries or watch a video on the topic from one of the alternative providers.

And even if you don’t buy the additional study guides, definitely purchase the mock exams, they are your friends! try to buy previous years ones as well (probably at discount online?) and try to do them EARLY.

You have to get used to HOW the questions are asked in the exams and not focus too much on reading alone.

Best of luck,


You pulled all the information in your subconscious mind, this big dark area.

And it’s not on the surface now.

However the material will click when you do the following 2 things:

  1. Briefly revise the study session

  2. Do tests/mocks relating to this study session immediately after revising it.

That’t how it works.

And what do you think about 11 hour guide from Elan? May be reading it on a regular basis will help?

Or this guide should be used much later?

You cannot possibly expect to score perfectly just after finishing your first read. There is an insane amont of material to go through so you tend to forget what you studied as you move on to next subject. Retention only comes when you put in more time and effort to revise the material and to practice the questions.

I agree reading the curriculum for the second time would really be a pain in ass, and that’s where these study guides come in handy. Their content is more exam-focused and I believe they do an efficient job in preparing you for the big day!

I used Eleventh hour guide during last month only when I had started hitting the mock exams. Before that, I just relied on elan study guides.


Sorry, I’m not that rich to buy 3rd party providers’ stuff.

If you can’t afford 3rd party study materials, per the attached link you’ll find a great study program using on the CFA material.


So you suggest I should read Schweser notes on Economics now?

Yes! From Schweser or Elan this time around.

I have just adjusted a little bit my “studying strategy” ( well, for me it’s called strategy). My finance background is not sufficient so I am advised to put much more time and efforts than on average. Recently instead of going directly to new reading sessions as usual, I spend about an hour listening to online lectures which are easily found on youtube or the likes. I find it really useful because those help me to retain readings contents much better.

Like many people here, I only have about 2.5 hours to study in evenings during weekdays. Sometimes I feel extrememly exhausted after long work hours, so video lectures seem to be more effective prior jumping in texts. In weekdays, I try to cover 3 readings in the CFAI curriculum and in weekends, I revise those 3 readings with Schweser notes and do EOC , Concept checkers, and sometimes even Q-bank if I have enough time or if I am in a good mood :)). By the way, I have a small study group that meet up every Sunday evening. Each of us is assigned to present one reading to other members of the group. When you have the obligation of explaining something to people, you will be pushed to understand it better , I think. We rent a classroom with a white board so that we can draw graphs, write equations, etc… to explain stuffs and help one others understand materials better. That’s how our group works and personally, I find it quite effective for material retaintion. This way of studying might sound a little crazy for some …but regarding my background and my fear of failing the exam, I think I need to follow it :frowning:


The problem with the CFA curriculum is not the complexity of the material. The material is not that hard. You should be able to learn in pretty easily.

The #1 problem is the volume of material. Once you’ve completed the curriculum, you realize that you’ve forgotten about 80% of it.

But if you do what Alf says, and keep plugging away, you will eventually be able to retain it all. But the key is practice, practice, practice. You can’t just passively read the questions and answers. The CFA exam is not a spectator sport.

Do practice problems and mock exams and whatever you can find until you can’t breathe!!! And do some more!!! It’s funny only because it’s true =D

Good luck!

My CFA lv1 experience:

Aug-Feb Studied hard from the cfa curriculum, i felt really good, confident, and i thought i knew most of the material

Took my first mock exam: i got a 15% grade. Freaked out big time.

Spent the next three months alternating between taking mock exams (analyzing every single mistake, going back to the curriculum, going “AHA” now i get it), and reviewing (own study notes + schweser video reviews). By the end of it i was consistently getting +90% correct answers.

Passed the exam with +70% on every topic.

So my advice: Just get over with the material as fast as you can - the key is reviewing. Don’t freak out if your first practice exam attempts suck hard. Even if you didnt understand stuff, you will definitely get it when you review and take mock exams (be sure to analyze every single one of ur errors). I can almost guarantee that if u spent 2 months reviewing+mockexams you will pass alright ^^

this is complete BS:

“Well in the end, people writing these posts might be very smart, but only around 30% manage to pass level I and merely 50% for level II and III (knowing that these people have already successfully passed level I, ie. they do know it’s not a piece of cake at all => population is not the same => 50% pass-rate cannot be compared directly to 35% passrate of level I).”

How’s everyone’s progress so far on studying for the December 2013 exam?

So far I’ve completed reading Schweser Books 1 and 2, and in the middle of Book 3. I’ve only read the material and done the EOC Schweser quizzes - nothing else yet. Hoping to finish reading all 5 books by end of August and then plowing through QBanks/Mocks/Practice Exams.

Material retention rate: about 20% =(

Averaging 2 weeks per book, started June 10.

Anybody else want to share their progress?

Well I read through the material, done 3 mocks plus one real exam in June, tons of Qbank, took practically 1 1/2 months off just doing some math problems, and will resume studying on Wednesday next week!