Tips For Passing the CFA Exam with Success

Your chances of passing the CFA Level 1 exam on the first attempt are about one-in-three. That number is even less if you are not a native English speaker or if you are taking the exam outside of the US or Western Europe. Here are seven simple steps to follow to give yourself the extra boost you need on test day.

Follow these Simple Tricks

1. Pace yourself

Study at your own pace and don’t be rushed. To do this, you better start studying early. Don’t get caught doing reading the last chapters of the Curriculum at the last minute! The last few weeks before your examination date should be used to some revision, practice questions, and mock exams. One of the big drawbacks of CFA preparation classes is that you have to proceed at the pace of the group and this may be too fast or too slow for you. Far better is to be able to use reference materials and online learning and study at your own pace, free from distractions.

2. Use available tools

The CFA Insitute gives you only a few questions and to practice with. There are lots of test questions, background guides, and other resources available that can help you prepare. If you like watching videos, you can watch for free all of the AnalystPrep’s videos that summarize the entire Curriculum by registering here. You could also do the 100 questions free trial and see if you like it before buying the premium package.

Get access to the CFA videos

3. Take practice exams

The best way to get familiar with the test and the pressures of test day is to practice, practice, practice. That means doing exam questions all the time (before bed, during a break at work, etc.) so you become familiar with the wording and style of the questions and you are able to work more efficiently on test day. Even better is to take one or two full-length, timed tests in the week before the exam to give you a feel for the pacing and time pressure on the exam. Remember that you only have 1.5 minutes on average to answer each question!

4. Keep up-to-date

Read the newspaper and financial journals (like the Financial Times, Economist, Business Week, Wall Street Journal, CFO Magazine, etc) to stay abreast of trends in the marketplace. Not only will you learn a lot about what’s going on in the world of finance, but you will also come across handy reference pieces to help you with the exam. Looking for similarities between real-world examples and test questions is one of the best ways to retain information.

5. Get a good night’s sleep

Far better than cramming on your last night is to make sure you are well-rested. Your brain will function better on a good night’s sleep and you will appreciate it during the (long) day. You are going to need lots of stamina to finish both sections of the test, so get your beauty sleep.

6. Arrive early

There is nothing worse than being stressed during the test, to make sure to arrive at the exam site early (most open several hours before the exam begins and will let you in up to an hour before start time), scope out the room and get comfortable. There are restrictions on what you can bring to the test site with you, but arriving early will allow you to mentally prepare yourself.

7. Skip questions

Don’t get caught up on a question you know you can’t answer or that will take you too much time. Since you have to answer 240 questions in 6 hours, you are better off skipping questions you struggle with and going back to them at the end (time permitting). Go for the easy questions at first and don’t get caught in calculations that would take you 5 minutes. If you haven’t answered every question 3 minutes before the end of the exam, simply answer them randomly! Worst-case scenario: you have one in three chance of getting it right.

Good luck!


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