With just a few weeks standing between now and the first Saturday of June, many financial services professionals are entering the final stretch in their preparation for the CFA exam.
Whether you’re studying for level I or level III, it’s common to feel some degree of anxiety during this critical time. After all, the CFA—which is often considered a gold standard in the industry—has a reputation for being one of the hardest certifications to attain. In fact, it’s been estimated that only one out of five people who start the process, successfully pass all three exams and complete the additional requirements of the CFA. While that’s a lot of pressure, earning this designation can help set you up for long-term career success as it’s a testament to your hard work and mastery of your skills.
But before you can reap the benefits of becoming a CFA, you first have to pass the exams—one of which will be here before you know it! Although you may have already committed nearly 300 hours to studying, these final weeks are not the time to lose focus. On the other hand, you also want to avoid burning out. Instead, the next month should be a fine balancing act between remaining productive and getting mentally ready for optimal performance on exam day.
As you prepare for the exam this June, consider these final study tips:
Make flash cards and carry them with you: Not only does it help to take notes as you go along, but jotting down key points on flash cards and reviewing them on your commute to work or during your lunch break can help you retain vital information throughout the final month of prep. Many financial services professionals juggle an already full schedule with their CFA preparation, so having access to notes without lugging around stacks of information can be helpful.
Stick with your schedule: The best way to ensure you stay on track for your final weeks of review is to map out which sections you’ll be studying during which weeks, and how many hours you plan on dedicating to them. If you stray away from this schedule, the material will start to feel a lot more overwhelming—something that can prevent you from understanding the big picture as well as the finer points.
Take practice exams and review: Make sure you schedule routine review days and practice tests as checkpoints to make sure you understand all the material. A great way to do this is to have your notes readily available when you are unclear on any question. This will help you identify areas for improvement and retain vital information along the way. However, don’t focus on your scores when doing this. These tests are meant to boost your self-confidence, so worrying about your score can be counterproductive to your overall progress.
Pace yourself: Resist the temptation to increase your study hours as the exam approaches. While you may be feeling frustrated or stressed, not taking the time to rest and recharge can make matters even worse. The last thing you want to be when taking the exam is burnt out, so make the effort to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking well-deserved breaks.
Take time off work: Whether your company offers you the days or you’d need to take personal time, consider taking the 3-5 days leading up to the exam off. Balancing work responsibilities with a full study schedule can be difficult, so taking time off will allow you to focus on studying without any distractions.