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Anyone taking CFA exams this weekend?


compoundinglife
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Saturday is the big day. Anyone else on the board taking any of the exams this weekend? I am sitting for Level 1 and I think I have a shot of passing  :-\

 

I wish you the best of luck but would caution against confidence. The 1 exam that I felt confident about prior to exam day is the 1 that I failed due to lack of preperation.

 

Howard Marks expounds investing scared. I would encourage you to test scared when it comes to these exams. There's a reason only 30ish% pass.

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Saturday is the big day. Anyone else on the board taking any of the exams this weekend? I am sitting for Level 1 and I think I have a shot of passing  :-\

 

I wish you the best of luck but would caution against confidence. The 1 exam that I felt confident about prior to exam day is the 1 that I failed due to lack of preperation.

 

Howard Marks expounds investing scared. I would encourage you to test scared when it comes to these exams. There's a reason only 30ish% pass.

 

Thanks for the good luck wishes and the advice. Good analogy regarding Marks. My statement of having a "shot" though was one of under confidence. I have a shot at passing just like everyone else who takes the test does. :)

 

I took this week off work and have been reviewing all of the EOC questions, question banks, mock tests etc for about 10-12 hours a day since Thanksgiving day. It has been a real eye opener. Averaging 90 seconds per question is really tough. The thing that worries me the most is not fully processing the questions and falling into the traps they set. Its been really humbling on the practice questions and exams. I know what I don’t know and I know where my gaps are. I think if I can get the questions right that I should get right then I will be fine. Its screwing up the ones I should be getting right combined with my a bunch of questions in my weak spots that I am worried about. It has become painfully clear to me over the past week why only 40% or so pass the first time.

 

 

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I would take the Schweser exams, and drill questions 10 at a time, and immediately look at the answer rather than taking full practice exams. Better for instant feedback.

 

Yeah that is a good plan, I have been doing a hybrid of that strategy. I have access to Allen, Analyst Notes and Schweser question banks and access to Analyst Notes and Schweser mock exams (plus the CFA mocks which I have been saving for today tomorrow). The process I have been using is:

 

1.Take a mock exam to get an idea of where I am at

2.Drill questions immediately seeing the answers, then go back to the books/examples/EOC questions to review based on problem areas from the questions and mock exams.

3.After a bunch of drilling I go back to a mock exam and see where I stand.

 

While drilling the questions with immediate feedbck is better for learning IMO, the practice of taking the exam without immediate feedback and with the pressure clock ticking has been good prep so I can hopefully be less stressed at the actual test and also have an idea of my pace and time per question.

 

 

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...the practice of taking the exam without immediate feedback and with the pressure clock ticking has been good prep so I can hopefully be less stressed at the actual test and also have an idea of my pace and time per question.

 

I think this is the best approach for this stage of prep. imo, 2 points to address for success:

1) Knowing the curriculum: this simply requires time, you can't cheat this - last 2-4 months of prep would have addressed this

2) Exam sitting skills: last couple of weeks before exam. You have to condition yourself for exam day and that means simulating as many 2X3hr sessions as you can. This cements everything you've acquired in part 1) 

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Not directly CFA related, but an interesting piece on the BBC related to revision:

 

"Now if many of us were revising [...] we might study the list, test ourselves and then repeat this cycle, dropping items we got right. This makes studying (and testing) quicker and allows us to focus our effort on the things we haven't yet learnt. It’s a plan that seems to make perfect sense, but it’s a plan that is disastrous if we really want to learn properly."

 

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141202-hack-your-memory-learn-faster

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Diplomas and certifications aren't my thing, but I helped one of my coworkers with the level 1 test. She had failed the first time (barely), and the second time she really doubled down on studying and found that flash cards were a very helpful way of practicing any time you have a few spare moments.

 

She's smart, but she didn't really have much of a financial background (she worked as an editor for most of her career), so a lot of it was new material to her. If you've been a serious hobbyist on top of dedicating a lot of time, I imagine you'll have a pretty good shot.

 

CFA may be one of the great certification cons in America... fail a ton of people and make a fortune in test fees. A prestigious certification to have for the industry, so people want to get it. Great business model - wish it was a public company.

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Not directly CFA related, but an interesting piece on the BBC related to revision:

 

"Now if many of us were revising [...] we might study the list, test ourselves and then repeat this cycle, dropping items we got right. This makes studying (and testing) quicker and allows us to focus our effort on the things we haven't yet learnt. It’s a plan that seems to make perfect sense, but it’s a plan that is disastrous if we really want to learn properly."

 

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141202-hack-your-memory-learn-faster

 

Thanks for the link. I was using a flash cards for a while to do some studying on the bus or during breaks at work and found an app that implemented a spaced repitition algorithm. The basic idea is when you answer the cards you rank them easy/hard, cards that are easy will be displayed less frequently and cards that are harder will be displayed more frequently. It keeps the easy stuff in the rotation cycle so they are not lost while allowing you to spend more time on the harder stuff. 

 

I am a little surprised that people would think you could drop stuff from rotation altogether once you have it down.

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I was using a flash cards for a while to do some studying on the bus or during breaks at work and found an app that implemented a spaced repitition algorithm. The basic idea is when you answer the cards you rank them easy/hard, cards that are easy will be displayed less frequently and cards that are harder will be displayed more frequently. It keeps the easy stuff in the rotation cycle so they are not lost while allowing you to spend more time on the harder stuff.

 

That app sounds good. Is it CFA specific, or customizable based on your own question set?

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I was using a flash cards for a while to do some studying on the bus or during breaks at work and found an app that implemented a spaced repitition algorithm. The basic idea is when you answer the cards you rank them easy/hard, cards that are easy will be displayed less frequently and cards that are harder will be displayed more frequently. It keeps the easy stuff in the rotation cycle so they are not lost while allowing you to spend more time on the harder stuff.

 

That app sounds good. Is it CFA specific, or customizable based on your own question set?

 

Not specific. http://ankisrs.net/  People seem to use it frequently for language learning. They have a feature that allows you to share your flash cards and there were quite a few CFA flash card sets available but I find actually making the cards to be one of the more valuable parts of the learning process. I very rarely ever refer to notes I take but by taking them I am more likely to retain/remember.

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Level 1 was the most annoying of all the exams. Have fun!

 

What about level 1 made it the most annoying?

 

For me it was the rote memorization of material I didn't care about, stuff unrelated to actual investing. Level 2 and 3 had much more focus on accounting and analysis.

 

Yes there is plenty of that.

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Diplomas and certifications aren't my thing, but I helped one of my coworkers with the level 1 test. She had failed the first time (barely), and the second time she really doubled down on studying and found that flash cards were a very helpful way of practicing any time you have a few spare moments.

 

She's smart, but she didn't really have much of a financial background (she worked as an editor for most of her career), so a lot of it was new material to her. If you've been a serious hobbyist on top of dedicating a lot of time, I imagine you'll have a pretty good shot.

 

CFA may be one of the great certification cons in America... fail a ton of people and make a fortune in test fees. A prestigious certification to have for the industry, so people want to get it. Great business model - wish it was a public company.

 

Yes flash cards have been helpful. I can see them being helpful for CFA especially for someone who does not have an investing or finance background. Flash cards help keep stuff in your mind. Even if you are not entirely sure what is going on you will eventually have your "Aha!" moments if you keep stuff floating around in your head long enough.

 

I am not one for diplomas or certifications either. I never finished High School nor do I have a degree. I have never taken any of the industry certifications in my tech/software career. The funny thing is I will probably never be able to use the CFA designation because I don't have the 4 years professional experience required and don't plan on changing careers to work professionally in finance or investing. I do manage accounts pro bono for family members but that is explicitly called out as non-qualifying in the requirements, which makes sense.

 

But by learning all the material and taking all the tests I am rounding out my knowledge base and getting a better understanding of what other competitors participating in the market might know or think about. I have found it mostly enjoyable. I also know that I am generally much more motivated when there are deadlines/milestones.

 

I understand your feelings about it being "one of the great certification cons". The other way to think about it is to compare it to getting an MBA. My understanding (which could be wrong) is that in the industry the CFA is viewed equivalent to a graduate program. The cost of going through the CFA program and the fact that you can do it entirely on self study makes it a compelling bargain. If you study with just the curriculum which is entirely possible and regiester early for the tests it is very inexpensive in comparison. Of course you won't have the prestige of an actual degree but thats what you pay colleges for. 

 

I was actually fairly impressed with the quality of the CFA books. I have picked up quite a few investment and finance textbooks at goodwill and find I like the CFA books better.

 

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I think the Institute did a tremendous job by creating the curriculum body of knowledge materials for candidates. I recall in the 90s you had to source your own textbooks, there were no finite list of learning outcomes (just read the textbooks and hope youve covered everything for exam), no free mock exams, no test preps, review classes. I would argue its easier to pass exams today. The high failure rate says more about the quality of candidates than the difficulty of the exams.

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I think the Institute did a tremendous job by creating the curriculum body of knowledge materials for candidates. I recall in the 90s you had to source your own textbooks, there were no finite list of learning outcomes (just read the textbooks and hope youve covered everything for exam), no free mock exams, no test preps, review classes. I would argue its easier to pass exams today. The high failure rate says more about the quality of candidates than the difficulty of the exams.

 

I'd argue that the failure is a bit of both material and candidates - more people taking it who are less prepared due to the popularity of the program and having companies pay it for you and because the complexity of material has increased.

 

I know a CFA grader with a PhD in Finance and the CFA designation who has commented that the course work and materially is substantially more difficult then it was when he took it. 

 

Harder material + a much larger audience of candidates = increasing failure  rate

 

 

Certainly glad the CFA has improved so much with their materials though. Even the last four years I've seen pretty large improvements. 

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