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To FLASH or NOT to FLASH?

edited August 2014 in CFA Level I
Hey everyone! I have signed up for the CFA Level 1 exam, December 2014. I am using the Schweser Notes for preparation and shall read the CFAI books for the EOC, blue box and any other concepts that I couldn't understand from Schweser. I am working- full-time, so I can allot approx 20 hours per week for my CFA Level 1 Prep. I signed up on 19th August. (yep, right before the end of the 2nd deadline). Since then, I've covered Reading 5,6 and 7 in Quant.
I started making flashcards, using my laptop, for Reading 8 (Quant) - Statistical Concepts and Market Returns. Now I found this method to be very effective, but sadly it's extremely time consuming. There are only 3 months to go, and I am done with only 3 readings!
Also, I don't have enough funds to purchase ready-made flashcards.

So any advice on:
1. To make flashcards or ditch the idea completely?
2. Any specific subjects of the ten in which you guys found flash cards to be extremely effective?
3. Any other strategies you guys could suggest for quick reading,retention and recall?

Thanks a ton,
Jessica.

Comments

  • MM12MM12 Amsterdam, the NetherlandsPosts: 58 Jr Portfolio Manager
    Hi @jessmat‌, I believe the 'best study strategy' differs from person to person. I have never made flash cards when preparing for CFA, but I made a very detailed summary which I believe has a very similar effect on understanding a topic. I know of a friend who used flash cards for level 1 recently and was very happy (she would go around showing them off whenever she had the opportunity!). Also she passed the exam (although the sample size is too small to infer any causality :wink: ).

    To answer your third question, I believe 'active learning' is a lot better for retention/recall than 'passive learning'. So JUST reading the books will be faster, but you will remember a lot less. I would recommend anything that makes you think about what is important about the topics you read - whether that be making flash cards, a summary, practicing tons of questions (which you should do anyway!), or something else.

    Hope this helps! Good luck with your studies.

    jessmatMuneera
  • edited August 2014

    What's your background? If you've got a decent finance background Level 1 should not be difficult. I'd advise to focus on the key points for each reading and then doing the practice questions. I'm not sure flashcards would be worth the effort. A formula sheet very much would be though. 


    I'd also suggest getting a test bank and doing lots and lots of questions (I think I did about 2,500 for Level 1). 

    jessmat
  • edited August 2014
    @MM12 - hey! I've always been a passive reader/learner. I guess I've been lucky enough to get through school and college without much effort. :wink: :stuck_out_tongue:   But for CFA, my old lazy techniques aren't going to work, it seems. As you rightly said, active learning seems to be more useful. I'm going to try making summaries for a chapter and see if that works for me, on comparison with flash cards! I just need to study as much as possible,  in the least amount of time,  since I can just about put in 2 -3 hours per day on an average and I am kinda freaking out!
     Thank you so much for the tips!!

    @BeanCounter - Hey! I've completed my Masters in Commerce. My background is mostly Accounts,  but I do have some Finance, Quant and Econ knowledge, not very detailed though. I've touched upon these subjects over the past,  during my college years. Only Ethics is entirely new. I need to revamp my study techniques, because till now I've done well with just reading the materials. Never really thought about or needed to make notes and stuff for college you know...and for CFA I feel, some amount of summarizing is going to be required. Ok, kinda tensed now...Thank you so much for your advice!!


    Any more tips you guys would like to share? Or anyone else? 

  • For ethics - don't bother with flash cards. Just do questions (and lots and lots of them). There's a bit of knowledge needed but it's mainly application which is far more difficult to get from short summaries. I used the Allen Resources testbank for iPhone/iPad. It's absolutely fine for level 1 and it's frequently on sale - just do quick questions whenever you have time (e.g. on the bus or metro). 

  • Hi @jessmat‌.

    I'm also at L1 stage for December and have been using the CFAI material. What I've done is got myself a big book for answering EOC questions anywhere other than in the book itself, so that I can come back and do them again to see how much I've learned (or forgotten) since I last did them, but also so that I can write down a couple of lines to summarize things in my own words or indeed scribble page references that I know I'm going to need to come back to and fully re-read e.g. Econ p224-226 or similar. For the formula's I have an A5 book into which they all go, section by section. Therefore I can just come back to that to refresh my memory of the quant formulas and such without having to re-read entire sections of text. So far it seems to be working well. not sure if any of these techniques could work for you?

    Muneera
  • @BeanCounter: My initial plan was to do 5 pages of ethics everyday. I haven't done a single page ever since I started CFA prep. So I guess, after finishing QM, I must begin with ethics. I did find an affordable question bank, so yay! I have lots and lots of questions to practice now. I'll keep an eye on the Allen Resources. The minute they put up a discount, I'm buying :) . Thank you so much for your suggestions. I shall keep them in mind when I begin with ethics! 

    @Maverick: Hey! I am stuck on Quantitative Methods. There are so many readings in there!! 
    Formulae- I started keeping a formula book, as per your suggestions. Must say, it helps a lot!
    EOC questions - I just solve them on scraps of paper. I think I should become more organized and get myself a notebook.
    Summaries- I am using Schweser Notes. They have provided End of Chapter Summaries. So, instead of making my own notes, I just add extra points to those summaries. Then I can come back and just go through those 4-5 pages per chapter.  
    So yes, I think your techniques are pretty awesom and have worked for me as well, so far ;) Thank you so much!! 
  • MaverickMaverick Abu DhabiPosts: 149 Jr Portfolio Manager
    edited September 2014
    Hey @jessmat:‌ No worries. My A5 formula book is actually getting rather full and I'm a little concerned that I may have to spill into formula book #2.
    In all honesty, I read Quant and then got to the EOC probs and thought... "Ouch this doesn't look friendly, hang on, lets have a quick re-read of the formulas book". Had a scan, reminded myself of what I should be doing to calculate and then scored 77%. I know I'm going to have to re-read a few times before the actual exam, so to have them well condensed and to be able to revise them in an hour or so makes perfect sense to me. Glad it's working for you too. :smile: 
  • kungpow9960kungpow9960 Baltimore, MDPosts: 17 Sr Associate
    As I always say, here are my two cents (apply the appropriate discount rate):

    Re: Flash Cards: Make them yourself. I didn't make them or use any for Level I and if I had to do it over again, I'd definitely make my own and use them. I bought Schweser flash cards for Level II and they were OK, but not great. They are made according to the LOS, which is good but still sub-optimal, I'd argue. What you want for Level I in particular are definitional flash cards. So, "debt to equity ratio" on the front and the formula and maybe a sentence defining it on the back, as an example. So when you get to the exam and they ask "which of the following is closest to the correct debt to equity ratio?" you'll have instant recall of that card and do the problem in 15 seconds, banking those extra 65 seconds for the harder stuff.

    I ended up making my own flash cards for both Levels 2 and 3. Here's my method in brief, but do what works for you and what you can get done. There's no point to try to make hundreds of cards if you don't have the time; you'll only waste valuable time. I did it the old fashioned way: with a pen and hundreds of note cards. It takes a lot of time to make them, but once you have them, they're invaluable. So valuable that even now that I have my charter and will never need them again, I kept them and stored them in a closet. And writing them all out is helpful (or was for me, at least) in cementing the concepts in your mind. Between 2 and 3, I probably made well over 600 cards. Probably more, because I stopped counting them for Level 3 around 350. I bought a little box specifically for index cards from Staples and organized the cards by topic area. I used the big cards for 2, but smaller 3X5 for Level 3 to make sure I put only the critical info on the back.

    Once you have them, or as you complete sections, run through the cards when you have spare moments. For me, I took a section with me each day for my 20-30 min bus ride to and from work. Sometimes I'd run through cards at lunch. At night when I was studying, I got in the habit of ending my evening by running through some cards from a completely different section than what I had been reading or problems I had been working. Weird tip: say them out loud. I found that when I did that, they stuck more. Weird, don't know why. Close the blinds so neighbors don't see you talking to yourself!

    Ethics: Don't bother with flash cards. It's not about memorizing every statute because the focus is on applying the Standards, not regurgitating them. What I did was I'd read one Standard per day from the curriculum. Read the whole thing and all the examples they give you. Doing this, you'll get through the whole Ethics section is something like 20 days (give or take if you read one Standard or two, etc.). Then start working the problems at the end and do them all. If you've got Schweser or some other prep service, work every single Ethics problem they offer you AFTER YOU WORK THE CFA CURRICULUM. That's critical because I found the Schweser problems were not as hard and the exam day questions much more in tune with the CFAI questions. Going back to the reading: after your first read-through, start over again. Between now and the exam, you'll be able to read the whole thing 3-4 times, working problems along the way. That should solidify it in your mind. Take a little bite at a time.

    Finally, Formula Sheet: YES. But try to make a primary and secondary sheet. If you think a formula is super critical and is likely to be on the exam (*ahem* *ahem* variance of a two-asset portfolio) put it on the primary sheet. Anything not as critical goes on the secondary sheet. With your flash cards, review it frequently.

    Hope that's helpful in some way.
    mikeySophiejessmat
  • As others have said, flash cards are great. I've used them for levels 1 and 2 so far. The downside is the time investment. If you were writing in Dec and just getting started, you don't have time. If you're writing in June and asking the right questions now, you've got loads of time. You have the option to just make flash cards for formulas, which wouldn't take as long as including definitions etc in your flash cards.
  • edited September 2014
    @Maverick‌: Thanks! It's working well. Formula sheets are the best for a quick revision! :)

    @kungpow9960: As you rightly said, making flashcards takes a long time. I don't think I have enough time for making those. I'll probably just make ones for the concepts that I find hard to remember or something. I'll use more flashcards in level 2 and level 3 (when I get there). Thank you so much for your detailed explanation, specially on how to go about ethics. I am definitely going to follow your tips on ethic and also about making 2 formula sheets. Sounds good!!  :) 

    @TimBCanada: Thank you! Sadly, I am writing December. Lots of work, lots of studying, very little time. So probably going to make them only for few critical concepts or things that i just can't seem to remember! :) 
  • kungpow9960kungpow9960 Baltimore, MDPosts: 17 Sr Associate
    @jessmat: Sounds good. Glad you found some of my ramblings helpful. Good luck!
  • I did a summary page for each chapter, and then flashcards just for equations or very specific facts that were harder to remember. That worked very well for me over all three levels. Good luck!
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