Today I came across an article by a student at Baylor who claims to have passed the CFA with only 5 days of studying, two being on flights.
Here are the biggest takeaways I found from his piece:
Really Understand the Exam Format
Although I had limited time to study for the exam, I did spend time understanding the topic weightings and prioritizing according to their exam importance. I also read all I could about the exam and found out that Ethics would need special attention, not least due to the 'ethics adjustment' factor. So even if you're in a rush, take some time to really understand what the exam is about, so that it can inform your study strategy. You can also learn more about all three CFA exams with the CFA Insights Guide.
The Right Background Can Give You A Head Start
It also goes without saying that background makes a huge difference with regards to how much study is necessary to do well on the CFA exams. While I didn't have much work experience in the finance realm (my internships so far have been in other sectors), my extensive academic experience made a huge difference. I have taken at the graduate and undergraduate level nine finance courses, 10 economics courses, several math & stats courses, and two introductory accounting courses. As was reflected in my allocated study time - and my CFA results - FRA was my weakest subject by far. I also found that my undergraduate course work was much more relevant than my graduate economics coursework, with many topics in my economics classes being too specific or complicated to apply to the similar topics on the CFA exams, at least in Level I.
Nevertheless, I can confidently say that having a robust academic curriculum helps immensely, and if possible, any college student that is a prospective CFA candidate should take economics courses such as Money & Banking, Microeconomics, and Macroeconomics, and finance courses such as Investments Analysis, Options & Derivatives, corporate finance, and International Business Finance. While I can't really comment on which accounting classes would be useful, I do know that IFRS is really important for you to study if your accounting courses have only covered GAAP. If you happen to be a college student without experience in any of these subject areas, then you definitely need much more study time, as there will be considerably more new material to cover.
Practice Exams are Key
One of the things I have learned from my hellish weeks in university is that practice exams are vital to testing what you do and don't know. In fact, research studies indicate that taking practice exams are one of the best ways to study and retain material. Some caution though: with the CFA exams, you must keep in mind that when taking their online subject test exams, the questions are recycled from a bank of questions, so your improved performance on certain questions may just be you remembering the answers from before. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the website to crash the night before the exam, so you should definitely take these free practice exams early!
Plus, what I have found is that by taking the practice exam before I have fully studied all of the material, I can better hone into the areas I am weakest in, and spend less effort towards subjects I am already familiar with. This allowed me to really focus on specific topics such as IFRS, Technical Analysis, and Accounting Ratios. In fact, I dedicated the two of the three days I was back home after vacation solely to practice tests, which allowed to learn how to use the calculator and really learn the relevant formulas.
Make Your Own Formula Sheet
For the math driven portions of the exam, I recommend making and memorizing a formula sheet - especially since you won't have one on the exam! While stuff like the annuity formula may be less useful to you since your calculator will have the function built in, stuff like the breakdown of ROE via Dupont Analysis, elasticity calculations, and the Dividend Growth Model are just a fraction of what you may find useful to have for quick reference.
Do Not Skimp on Ethics
Additionally, I recommend thoroughly reading the CFA material for Ethics, since the subject material is specific to the CFA Institute and charterholders, and a substantial 15% weighting for the exam. The Ethics portion can be used as a sort of 'tiebreaker' for determining whether an on the border candidate should pass. This was the first subject I studied (because it was luckily the first in the curriculum) and while I only got through about 70% of it, it made a big difference focusing on this first. Even so, I commonly found myself being overly conservative in my intuition, assuming things were unethical when they technically were acceptable.
Get Familiar with Your CFA Calculator
One disadvantage of my background is that before I started my business classes, I had primarily science and math classes, and had used my TI Nspire CAS calculator since middle school. This meant that when the CFA exam came around, I had to get familiar with a simpler calculator - either the TI BA II Plus or the HP 12C. I do recommend the TI BA II Plus Professional if you choose the TI for its algebraic notation, as the additional functions on the Professional prove quite useful on the CFA exam for those relevant questions and save you precious time. If you're looking for full guidance, you can get 300 Hours' BA II Plus calculator guide here.
If you are able to get intimately familiar with the HP 12C though, it is a very quick calculator due to its RPN notation, which requires less keystrokes, but many people are not familiar with this, so I do not recommend using the 12C if you are studying with a time crunch.
Don't Get Overconfident, Either
You also don't want to get overconfident in your abilities just because you have an extensive work and/or educational background;. Despite having taken nine finance courses, none of my classes covered technical analysis, which was an important subject for the Quantitative Methods portion of the exam, and there were areas of Economics that I was still lacking or had forgotten. This is why taking practice exams is so important, and if possible, reviewing material that condenses the main subjects into 'soundbites' so you can quickly ascertain what you are familiar with and what you need to focus additional study to.
While I only used one additional study material outside the CFA curriculum, what it was invaluable for in my time crunch was providing a quick reference to formulas and a breakdown of each CFA section into subjects which I could then determine how much study time to allocate to.
He does mention at the end he DOES NOT recommend waiting until a few days before the exam to start studying and that he did get very lucky. I currently plan on taking the L1 in June 2019 before my senior year, and starting to study sparingly in 2018. Being a Finance Major and Economics Minor, I should cover a lot of the material in my classes, so It shouldn't be too much to study out of class, besides ethics. What do you think of this guy's story and tips for studying? Is there any other tips you think that he missed that should be mentioned?