CFA Exam Tips: Suggestions for Attacking the Test

By doing several practice exams in the months leading up to the exam, candidates get a feel for how to approach the test. In the event that some candidates would like additional guidance, here are a few suggestions:

  • Do the Test in Sequential Order – By accepting the test’s given order as your decision rule, you will not waste any time during the exam deciding which section to do next. This does not imply that you cannot skip questions and come back to them (more below on this).
  • Double Check Your Answer Fill-ins – Take the extra one second and double check the answers that you fill in. You do not want to get half way through a session and realize that you have filled in 20+ wrong circles. Match the question number you are answering to the number that you are filling in on the bubble sheet.
  • Come Back to the Hard Stuff – If you are looking at a long, multi-step problem or a problem that you cannot remember how to solve, make a note and come back to it. Do not waste time getting hung up. Make a note, move on and come back once you have answered all the questions that you find easier.
  • Plan for Multiple Run Throughs – If you follow the above point and pass over the harder questions to come back later, then you will find yourself running through the exam multiple times. You do not need to answer all questions in perfect order; this is the beauty of a paper based exam – you can skip and come back.
  • Skim Two Questions before Reading the Item Set – This is more for the CFA Level II and III candidates that have item sets. By glancing at two questions before reading the item set’s story, then you have an idea of what to look for. The question sequence may follow the story sequence.
  • Make Notes When Needed – Use the space in margins of the item set’s story to make a note or underline key sentences. You do not want to be forced to re-read and entire story, just to relocate an important fact.
  • Eliminate Wrong Answers – If you know for certain that one of the answer choices is wrong, note it. This is particularly useful if you decide that you need to return to a question. Once you return to the question, you will not need to waste time re-analyzing a wrong answer choice. The key here is to be 100% certain that the answer choice is wrong.
  • Keep Track of Time and Unanswered Questions – Monitor your time in relation to how many unanswered questions there are. If there are two minutes left and you have two unanswered questions, just take a guess and fill them in.
  • Answer Every Question – There is no penalty for guessing and your goal is to get as many questions correct as is needed to pass. Do not leave any questions blank! Give yourself a chance on every question by answering them all.
  • Do Not Panic! – Chances are you will hit a few stressful questions on the exam. Do not let them induce panic. Consider this, with 240 questions a candidate needs to answer 168 correctly to obtain a score of 70%. This translates to answering 72 questions incorrectly and still be almost guaranteed of a pass (there are no guarantees, but 70% is widely thought of as the magic hurdle rate). Stay calm and stay focused.

Checkout our mock exams and practice tests for CFA exam.

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