CFA Exam Tips: Study Strategy for Final Week

This article is a part of the series of CFA exam preparation. The goal is to provide candidates with some final suggestions for exam success. The points offered do not need to be taken verbatim; they can be adapted to fit the unique needs of the individual.

  • Ideally by now candidates have implemented 95% of their study plan.
  • Cramming is not advised; if a candidate has not sufficiently read the material, performed hundreds and hundreds of practice questions, and taken several practice tests, then cramming looks like the only option. If you find yourself in this unfortunate position, then concentrate on the most heavily tested topics and hope for the best.
  • For the well prepared candidate, the final week is simply the last leg of a preparation marathon, with the finish line in sight.

Practice Exams and the Final Week

  • Hopefully, candidates will already have three to five practice exams under their belts prior to the final week before the test.

  • If a candidate needs to do one more practice exam, do it early in the final week, so there is sufficient time to review it.

  • Throughout the final week, candidates may be better served by reviewing practice exams already taken, rather than actually taking practice exams.

  • The idea is to appraise progress that was made over several months time and remind oneself not to repeat practice exam mistakes on the real deal.

Practice Questions and the Final Week

  • The bulk of the practice question drills should have been conducted between January and mid-May.
  • During the final week, continue to do practice questions to stay fresh, but do not beat yourself up with them.
  • If there are a few formulas or concepts that you simply cannot grasp, then try to let go of these particular matters (unless the issues are Ethics related!). You are going to miss some questions on test day. Every candidate has those one or two concepts that he or she cannot get for whatever reason. Do not let the prospect of missing a few questions overly stress you and jeopardize the entire exam.

Notes and Flash Cards

  • Candidates who took the time to write many pages of notes and create many flash cards have a big advantage in the final week.

  • Notes and flash cards are great review tools. Keep running through them all week to keep key concepts in the front of your mind.

  • If you stumble across an ambiguous or unclear item in your notes, then get out the official curriculum and look up the precise definition or explanation.

  • CFAI is the final authority so be sure to consult with the official material on any undecided items.

Time Off of Work in the Final Week

  • If you work full time, it is a good idea to take several days off (maybe even the whole week) during the week leading up to the test, including the day before the exam. This will allow you to get plenty of sleep that week and focus your mind on reviewing.
  • The additional benefit of time off this week is it removes the stress of the work environment. Many candidates work in high stress jobs. The week of the CFA exam is not a good week to be stressed out by a mean boss or uncooperative colleague.

Make Time for Ethics in the Final Week

  • Ethics is such an important part of passing, candidates must dedicate portions of the final week to reviewing Ethics.
  • If a candidate feels especially weak in Ethics then he/she must make extra time to thoroughly review the Standards of Conduct, the Soft Dollar Standards and the Research Objectivity Standards.

Studying the Day Before the Exam

  • Studying the day before the exam should be a general review in nature, possibly with a little extra emphasis on Ethics.
  • It is recommended not to go into work the day before the exam.
  • If a candidate has the day off work, then he or she could study for a few hours in the morning, but stop by early to mid-afternoon.
  • The evening before the CFA exam should be a very distraction free time. Do not worry about the one formula you cannot seem to remember or that research report due at work on the following Tuesday. Just keep your mind clear and get rested for tomorrow because it is a big day.