5 CFA Exam Mind-Tricks from a Recent CFA Charterholder

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By Khulan Bat-Erdene [LinkedIn]

Khulan is a market risk manager based in Luxembourg. Besides being a CFA charterholder, she is also an alumni of the NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business, and holds an MSc in Banking and Finance from the Luxembourg School of Finance and a BASc in Financial Mathematics from the National University of Mongolia.

So you’ve decided to pursue CFA designation, and you are serious about it, and you are ready to kick off. Well, let me remind you that it is not a speed run, but rather a long-distance marathon, for which you need some rigid strategy. Some say it is tough, some say it is tougher still, but to be honest it really depends on you, your perception and most importantly your mental plan.

As someone who has gone through all of this recently, I am wrapping up everything and formulating up some tips that might be useful for you guys. Here it goes!

1. Productivity is All that Matters

Focus on your productivity rather than the number hours you’ve studied. ‘Official’ study time is useless if you’re spending that time constantly stuck to your desk, trying to study when nothing comes into your brain. But most candidates tend to do that, feeling that they can’t just go out and do something else because they’d feel guilty of not studying and therefore cannot enjoy the time. So instead, tell yourself that you’re going to study two good productive hours and then have some fun. If you’re hitting a brick wall study-wise, here are some tips on tackling and preventing burnout.

2. Learn to be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

At some point along the way, most probably after your first mock, you may feel like you know nothing even though you’ve covered everything. It is disappointing, right? Let me assure you that this is super normal in this “marathon” and it is part of the game. So don’t panic. Just expect it, pull yourself together and carry on. The sooner you get shocked, the better it actually is for you. If you have low scores, read our list of tips on how to improve them.
3. Take A Proper Break

Miss most of the parties, but definitely not all of them. That way, you don’t put extra pressure on you saying “Oh I’ve missed this and this and that and what if I don’t pass this exam after all? What a failure I am!” This sort of feeling makes things only worse and puts more weight on your shoulders. Actually taking proper break will keep the opportunity cost lower and productivity higher. So go for it from time to time. We also have a list of quick exercise tips that can help you break up your study sessions.

4. Be Present
Try to focus on NOW, what you are reading, memorizing or practicing. It is normal human behavior for thoughts to travel back and forth, reflecting on the past or worrying about the future, but it isn’t useful behavior in this case. By trying to minimize these episodes of “expensive travel with zero pleasure”, you’ll increase your productivity and likelihood of passing as well. Regretting that you should have studied better, or worrying that what would it be like on an exam day are the definitive signs that you’re not in the present moment. So watch out for this signs and stop it the moment you realize it.
5. Block Irrelevant Information…

…especially towards the actual CFA exam. Whenever new information comes into your mind, your brain will automatically process it for a while. This is waste of time at this crucial moment. After your exam, you can give it deeper thought – but not now. Remember, you’ve certain amount of energy on any given day, and you’re trying to make the most out of it.
Hard work always gets paid off in one or another way. Good luck. Don’t hesitate to share your experience or ask questions in the comments below!

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


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