CFA LifestyleCFA Tips and Tricks

Surviving the CFA® Exam

Student celebrating surviving the cfa exam

Preparing for the CFA Exam could be one of the most challenging times of your life. If you’re really serious about passing, you’ll need to spend most of your time focusing on flashcards and mock exams and less time spent on other things.

While it may seem like too much to handle at times, any CFA Charterholder will tell you that the reward is worth the effort. All the time and effort spent studying, practicing, worrying, and waiting for results will help you advance your career in the finance profession.

It may seem overwhelming now, especially during such trying times. Still, everything you are learning now is a stepping stone to becoming the respected finance expert you aspire to be. Whether you are just starting your CFA journey or nearing the finish line, here are a few suggestions to help you survive the CFA Exam.

1. Attitude

The phrase “Attitude determines the outcome” is a great way to explain the best approach for working towards the CFA Charter. Each CFA Exam is not a test that you can cram for and just get through quickly. How you prepare is how you will perform on exam day, so you must be thorough.

It is not realistic to be excited every time you sit down and start studying. There will be times when you can’t bear to look – AGAIN – at Ethics, or Corporate Finance, or Derivatives. But keep in mind that you are not studying to pass a test; you are studying to become a trustworthy and credible expert in your field.

Of course, positivity helps too. Remember that all your hard work will pay off and that, ultimately, you will acquire one of the most respected professional certifications in the finance and investment management industries.

2. Balance

Finance professionals understand more than anyone the concept that balance is key to a successful life and career. Yes, preparing for the CFA Exam requires serious effort and significant time commitments. You need to devote the proper amount of time and effort to your CFA Exam preparation since the exam requires both discipline and commitment. However, the CFA Exam process is only a chapter in your story, not the entire book.

There will be a lot of study time, for sure. But make time for family and friends, give yourself enough time to rest, and refresh yourself with hobbies and fun events. Do not neglect your mental, physical, and emotional health, especially during an arduous journey like passing the CFA Exam.

If you keep yourself balanced, your time spent studying will be more effective and less draining. You will also stay motivated and study more effectively in the long run.

3. Focus

The world has a lot of distractions. Everything is vying for your attention. Social media, television, friends, the dishes in the sink, the flashcards you need to run through, they’re all competing for your time.

If you are going to survive the CFA Exam, you must maintain your focus. Prioritizing is critical, so do your best to limit distractions. While you should take some time to stay in touch with your family, maybe that movie that just came out on your favorite streaming service can wait.

More specifically, when you are studying for the CFA Exam, put away your phone or other devices that might pull your attention away from any study task at hand. Give your complete focus to your study time. Try to find the best study method that works for you. Whatever the method, just make sure the time you spend preparing for the exam is focused.

In the end, surviving the CFA Exam comes down to determination and perseverance. If you can keep the right attitude, maintain balance in your life, and stay focused, you will be setting yourself up for success on the CFA Exam.


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