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Harnessing Your Memory for the CFA Exams - Part 2

edited April 2013 in 300 Hours

I apologize to my loyal fans for the delay. I was caught up trying to write an essay for a behavioural economic course I am taking.

Before I continue with memory improving techniques, I feel like I need to back pedal. The sheer volume of material that issued by the CFAI isn't the only thing that makes approaching the material difficult. It is our collective inability to read (coupled with CFAI meandering way of presenting ideas). We aren't "bad" at reading nor I am saying that we are lacking in comprehension. But there are really weird notions floating around about reading.

Before you Start Reading...
Most of the CFAI material that we learn are imparted by reading (unless you are one of the lucky few that can stay awake during the video lectures offered by prep providers.) So before I divulge more memory techniques it is important to know how to read effectively.
  • Review before reading
  • Ask questions while reading
  • Use the dictionary
  • Read at your own pace
I'm sure you can predict what what I am going to say next. Yes, you are absolutely right. Unfortunately you can't triple your reading speed and double the amount of material remembered. Sorry.

So what does this mean when you tackle the first chapter? Read the LOS, know what you need to take away from that chapter. This is akin to consulting the map before you set off to a foreign destination. Read the introduction. Jot down, for example, which equations you need to memorize and which merely require comprehension. Get to know what the author is trying to convey.

How to read ACTIVELY
Now we start with the main course.

Ask question while you read the chapter. This is the difference between being "active" reading and "passive" reading. This is the difference between understanding or just churning through material and retaining nothing. Passive readers read all the words, maybe memorize some overarching concept. Such as diversification is a good thing. Industry allocation is more effective than selecting individual companies, so on and so forth. But next week you won't be able to articulate why. So after sloughing through a chapter of portfolio management you'll have achieved essentially nothing. Memory techniques will help you remember the formula which is useless if you can't understand how to use it. You'll be at a loss at what to do if CFAI decided to throw a curveball (which in my experience they thoroughly enjoy doing).

Don't rush, take your time
The third point is obvious and doesn't warrant elaboration.

I'm not a proponent of speed reading. Finishing the readings faster means more time to do other things but...sitting again for any level chills me to the bone. Skimming also comes with the risk of missing an important word and completely misunderstanding the sentence. The secret to reading faster is understanding. "People who can see a whole word at a time will read faster than people who can only see a letter at a time, and people who can see several words in a phrase at a time will read faster than people who can see one word at a time. As your eyes move across the page, you occasionally have to stop, so the more words you can see before stopping, the faster you will read." This is why looking up words in the dictionary is vital, the larger your vocabulary the smoother the ride to the end of the page.

Try out these techniques and tell me do you still remember (without scrolling up) why I was late with this post?

Source: How to Get Straight A's

Pick a location you are intimately familiar with. We are extremely good at remember places, have you ever forgotten where the kitchen is at your best friends house?


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