What's the best way to approach item sets?

Should I read the passage or questions first? What kinds of things should I note when I read the passages? What is the best way allocate time to the questions? What are the hardest things about the item set format?

Should I read the passage or questions first? - I like to read question #1, then go back to the vignette and answer it. Then move on to question #2. If you have Schweser, use it. The more practice problems you do, the more you will learn how the vignettes work and how to move through them. Also, you will find that you might not even need to read the vignette to answer the question. (“If Jane Doe lowers the discount rate used to value the asset, then the NPV of the asset will a.) rise, b.) fall, c.) stay the same.” You should be able to answer that in two seconds without even reading the passage. It’s not uncommon to find that three of the six questions can be answered this easily and quickly–if you know the material. What kinds of things should I note when I read the passages? - Each vignette is divided into “paragraphs”. The first paragraph will probably be stuff you don’t need (“Jane Doe, CFA, works for Awesome Asset Mgmt as a fixed income analyst,” is all information you don’t need). The other paragraphs will each contain an “idea” that is testable. (“Jane Doe says that lowering the cost of capital will lower future returns.” Do you agree or disagree?) With practice, you will learn to identify these “ideas”, and how they might present themselves on the exam. It helps if you read the question first, then go back and find the paragraph. What is the best way allocate time to the questions? - You have three minutes per question, or 18 minutes per vignette. Some will take only a few seconds to answer. Some will take several minutes. If you have to spend more than just a few minutes on it, I would make an educated guess, and come back to later if you have time. You don’t have time to spend 10 minutes on a question. You have to move along. What are the hardest things about the item set format? - It’s really not very difficult once you start to practice it. Again, you won’t even need to read the vignette to answer some questions, and if you do have to read the vignette, you should be able to find the relevant information pretty easily. You’ll find that the questions generally don’t “borrow” from each other. They’re usually stand-alone questions that should be easily answered, provided you know the material. The best advice I can give is to 1.) Know the material, and 2.) Do lots of practice vignettes. The more of them that you see, the better you will get at navigating them, and you will find what works for you.

Another thing–learn to eliminate answers. For example, if you buy a future on an asset and the price of that asset rises, then your net profit/loss is a.) -$100, b.) -50, or c.) +75. You don’t even have to do any math, you don’t have to read the passage, and you don’t really have to do any analysis whatsoever. You can answer this question just by eliminating wrong answers. The answer is C, because if you bought a future and the price rose, then you made money. C is the only possible correct answer. No further analysis needed. If, however, the answer choices were -100, +50, and +75, then you would have to work the problem to know which positive number was correct. But now, even if you have to guess, you’ve got a 50-50 chance. Again, if you know the material, you’ll be surprised how far common sense like this will take you.

^^ tHanks for the advise ddrobinett. You said use schweser to practice item set questions, however their question bank questions do not have vignette style questions. Did you mean do their mocks, or are there questions that have vignette style problems?

They have both stand-alone questions and vignettes in the Q-Bank. The vignettes will be the “difficult” questions in the “build-your-own-exam” mode. But more specifically, I meant to do their mock exams. I took the entire week off before the actual exam. Saturday-Thursday is six days, and Schweser has six practice exams. What a coincidence!!! I would do one whole vignette and then check my answers for only that vignette. I did this so the problem would be fresh in my mind, and I could recall what I was thinking. Then I read the answer for EVERY PROBLEM–EVEN THE ONES THAT I GOT RIGHT!!! And if I got it wrong, I spent extra time to understand why I got it wrong. You might be surprised how much I picked up that last week by doing so. Does it suck? Absolutely. I hated spending Memorial Day in the library, instead of going to the lake or hanging with friends. (BTW–That’s how I have spent every Memorial Day for the past four years.) I hated having to “waste” half of my vacation days on my test. Doing 120+ problems a day, and reading every answer is not easy. I studied from 8:00 a.m. to about 7:00 p.m. every single day. And every day I went home exhausted, with a headache, and with blurred vision from staring at papers all day long. It took every bit of courage I had to get up and do it again the next day. But I passed.

Thanks for pointing this thread out, @ddrobinett. How did you approach the actual material - read schweser/cfai and/or watch videos? Trying to get a sense of you approached the text before you started practicing mocks. Thanks again for the tips above - useful!

The only time I opened my CFAI curriculum was when I did the EOC questions. I watched the Schweser video Study Session 1, then worked through the Schweser notes for Study Session 1, then worked through the Q-Bank for Study Session 1. Then moved on to Study Session 2. Once I had worked through them all, I went back and did the questions in the Q-Bank for Study Session1 again, then SS 2, and so on. (You’ll find that you’ve probably forgotten most of it.) Then I hit the parts that I thought would be a significant portion of the exam again–Accounting, Corporate Finance, and Equity. Then, it was the last of May, and I started taking mock exams.

What would be the best place to acquire a significant number of practice sets? The Schweser mock exams, should be held for the month before the test. I would rather not burn through them in March. Like say, I finished the Fixed Income sections and wanted to practice vignette’s on it. I keep reading the 3rd party question banks are too simple.