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CFA Study Techniques - Proven Best Practices You Need to Know

edited March 2014 in 300 Hours
imageCFA Study Techniques - Proven Best Practices You Need to Know

By Sophie    Are you lagging behind your study plan? Do you think your study methods are efficient use of your time? How do you know? Common questions every CFA candidates ask themselves every now...

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  • SamCSamC LondonPosts: 6 Associate
    Summary: Do questions/practice papers
  • Very nice article! I found out in level 2 that watching the Schweser videos before reading a chapter not only is making it easier to study when I get home but makes the read a lot easier and funner.
    The process is: watching the video with the end of chapter summary on hand and a pencil, take some notes and compare the material during the video. After that sit down and read the chapter quiclky only emphasizing in the hard parts and examples, and skip almost entirely the easy or very well explained parts. After that do the end of chapter questions.

    It takes me almost the same time to read everything from scratch and this video-read combo, it started as just a test but I am loving it very much now!

    I'll report the results after June :D
  • Interesting @Dan! I was just about to dabble with some video lectures to try things out, thanks for sharing your experience. It certainly sounds more fun than plain reading ;)
  • IanIan LondonPosts: 9 Associate
    Hi Sophie,

    Love the post, its great to see some academic rigour applied to this.

    I am going to challenge you however on some of your assertions (nothing personal) . I don't think you can discount keyword mnemonics and the use of associative imagery so quickly. Whichever way one looks at the syllabus there is a vast amount to cover, attempting to learn the syllabus without structuring it in a memory efficient format means you are likely to forget most of what you have learnt pretty quickly. I completely agree with you that practice questions are essential, and I did many many of these in advance of my exam, but it still didn't stop me forgetting the underlying equations soon after the exam.

    Once I started committing the underlying content to my long term memory by structuring it in a more memory efficient format using techniques such as mnemonics and associative imagery (which can work really well for memorising mathematical concepts), then I found I had a rock solid recall of the essential content. Content which I could draw upon at any time in order to undertake questions and think about the content more deeply.

    Clearly, rote learning and memorising stuff without any understanding of the content itself is not at all helpful, but using memory techniques to provide a sound foundation from which to then deepen and perfect one's level of understanding via Self Explanation, Practice Testing and Distributed Practice seems to me to be the optimal approach.

    Like most things in life, I guess, a number of things combined will usually produce the most effective results.

    Love to hear your thoughts and continue the conversation.

    Kind Regards.
  • Hi @Ian‌ - No worries, I enjoy a great debate.

    What I'm saying (and the study did) was to "generalise" a technique across all forms of study material. I believe mnemonics and imagery have their place, but it cannot apply to 100% of study material types, if you get what I mean. For example if you have to remember FRA formulae and learn the concept, mnemonics and imagery are less useful, than for example IPS type questions in Level 3.

    The premise of the article was to say what technique is useful for the most materials, rather than a specific type of material. I've read the academic study myself and it's pretty solid methodology used, hence sharing it with the community. In short, I believe mnemonics and imagery has its place, but not 100% of the material can be studied this way! :) So there's no right or wrong, we are just having different assumptions here.
  • kungpow9960kungpow9960 Baltimore, MDPosts: 17 Sr Associate
    This seems about right to me in terms of hierarchy of what is more and less applicable for CFA studying. I definitely think your point that individual results will vary is a great one. For me, interleaved practice, distributed practice, and practice testing were the most effective. Being able to do a problem set in FSA and then switch right away to derivatives (or whatever) was key at Level II and III. Imagery was not helpful for me at all, while highlighting was somewhat useful in helping me focus my attention on notable concepts when I went back to re-read. I'd say mnemonics were also not helpful broadly, but I found them useful for some Level II concepts like remembering which exchange rate to use for a particular income statement item depending on whether you're using the current rate method or temporal method. But those applications were few and far between.
  • I do find scribbling (especially in my own wacky descriptions and language) helps memory retention. Maybe that's the 'elaborative interrogation' at work!
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