5 Sure-Fire Ways to Beat CFA Exam Anxiety

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By Sophie 

You’ve been doing well, humming along nicely ticking off topics you’ve covered on your CFA study schedule. Yet sometimes – and increasingly frequently of late – the weight on your shoulders starts to wear your down more each day as you realized you’re only half way through your revision and feel like you (still) know nothing. 

Sounds familiar?

Uh oh. This is you starting to feel overwhelmed by the exam stress. Fret not, this is completely normal and can easily be conquered by actively taking the following steps to stay focused and avoid a dip in productivity when you need it most:

#1. Stay on track of your study schedule
You’ve made a good solid study plan at the start, don’t waste your effort by not sticking to it! There may be the occasional slip in schedule due to unforeseen personal reasons (we all do), don’t beat yourself so hard over it and try to make up for lost time.  
Observe your productivity as well, if you’ve been reading the same line of text for the last hour and nothing is going in, it is time for a break, come back to your studies when you’re 100% refreshed and focused.

#2. Leave the last month for doing tons of practice questions and revision
Whatever you do, make sure you leave the last weeks before exams exclusively for completing practice questions. Fiercely protect your last month for process, as this short but intense month is where you’ll learn 80% of what you need for your exams (speaking from experience) – you’ll truly test and know whether you really know something or not by actually doing tons of practice questions (not just passively reading).

Which practice exams? Your friendly 300 Hours team will take care of this and round up all the best practice papers and available offers – let us take care of that so you can focus on hardcore studying!

#3. Stop being a perfectionist
But what if you’re so far behind schedule and can’t finish it in time before attempting practice questions? Being a perfectionist is certainly not a good trait in situations like this (and in most cases in life). Instead, this is what you should do to implement damage control:

First rule? A deadline is a deadline, just like when the times up and you have to hand in your papers in an exams, the same rules apply here. Do your best in the amount of study time remaining to adequately cover the remaining unread chapters. Do whatever you need to cover them in time for your sacred month of practicing, such as: 

  • Skim through the remaining readings,
  • Skip the readings of “easier” topics,
  • Skip the End of Chapter (EOC) questions of the remaining unread chapters,
  • Most importantly, jot down the topics that you’ve had less time to cover in a little handy book (see #4 below)

Although not ideal nor “perfect”, this is an absolute essential strategy to ensure that you maximize your chances of passing the papers. Sure, you didn’t have time to finish reading the remaining chapters thoroughly, but these lack of understanding will be captured in your last month of intense practicing and topic scores (see #4 below), which will give you the opportunity to rectify and revise in the last month to plug the knowledge gap.

#4. Have a Little Book of “Things-I-Didn’t-Know”
This is a simple, but effective way to track your progress and focus your efforts on patching the holes in your knowledge.

Have this book with you at all times during revision. All you have to do is jot down topics or concepts that:

  • you don’t fully grasp yet while going through your initial readings, or
  • you scored relatively lower in when doing the practice questions in your final month

The beauty of this simple system is that by the end of your readings and right before the exams, you have a concentrated list of “things-you-didn’t-know” that you can focus on in your final revision, after going through all the practice papers. It also acts as a stress-reliever in some way as you can brain dump all the concepts that worry you to focus on completing the syllabus on time (see #1), knowing that you have some way of coming back to tackle them later with gusto.

#5. Have some perspective
Finally, it’s useful to always take a step back and realize that you’re attempting one of the toughest finance exams in the world, while trying to balance work, personal commitments, and getting enough sleep. You’re already an over achiever and it’s OK to try again if it doesn’t work out this time. 

Why? Just because…

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan

300Hours founder

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