CFA Flashcards: 7 Simple Tips to Create An Effective One

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Have you considered making your own CFA flashcards for your studies?

Sometimes you find them ridiculously useful, and sometimes you may find them a bit ineffective – why is that?

The secret to effective flashcard use is in the method.

Successful CFA candidates utilize flashcards that makes the most of their study time. I found them to be a great CFA study aid when I was taking the exams, and they helped greatly in answering concept-definition questions especially in Levels 1 and 2. 

Creating your own study flashcards are one of the best ways to really drive home CFA concepts.

Here are 7 tips that I used to transform flashcards into a powerful tool in my CFA exam study arsenal.

Cover all CFA LOS bases.

how to create your own cfa flashcards

Whatever type of flashcards you use, make sure they cover the entirety of the CFA curriculum’s Learning Outcome Statements (LOS). 

CFA Institute has been updating the topic weightings of all levels in the recent years to make them more evenly distributed, so make sure your flashcards are built with even coverage of the CFA LOS-es.

Keep it short and sweet.

Your flashcards should have as much supplementary detail to help you understand each concept, but keep it short and keep words to a minimum.

Use bullet points, diagrams and mnemonics to help you retain information. 

Divide and conquer.

scrum board progress to do done

As you go through the cards, divide them into categories based on how familiar you are with them, such as ‘mastered’, ‘in progress’ and ‘no clue’.

This will help you prioritize and focus on your problem areas as you approach the exam.

Use paper flashcards.

Whether you prefer print or e-based learning, for me, there is a clear winner when it comes to flashcards.

Use old school paper flashcards whenever possible.

Yes, they are more of a pain in the ass to bring around, and you can’t access them everywhere, but I find e-flashcards to be more distracting than useful.

And for note-taking, there is no substituting the flexibility I have with a pen on paper.

Write is right.

Write your own CFA flashcards

Writing longhand is the best way of retaining concepts in your head. If you decide to make your own flashcards, write them longhand.

This concept also applies when using your flashcards – scribble in your notes (I like to use a pencil or a different pen colour to the flashcard’s ink) as you go along. The act of writing it down increases your retention power by several fold. 

However, we get that when studying for exams, time is of essence. If you’re keen to make your own flashcards despite this, you can use non-CFA flashcards apps like Quizlet or Anki to speed things up too.

Can’t spare the time for DIY flashcards? Use provider’s CFA flashcards and annotate.

Making your own flashcards is an excellent idea.

However, for some candidates this is realistically not feasible due to time constraints. And that’s OK too, especially for a tough exam.

Do not make your own notes if it means taking the risk of not completing them in time and ending up with incomplete flashcards. 

Third party prep provider’s flashcards work well too, and you can get them instantly, start learning, and annotate as you go along.

Small-dose learning is the best.

CFA exam day schedule timeline

There’s not much benefit in trying to study a whole load all at once – instead, aim to hit your flashcards many times during the day, for short periods of time.

Magicians, required to spend thousands of hours practicing every little flick of the wrist, have long understood the benefits of practice in little doses.

For example, when learning ball juggling, a common magician’s learning tip is to keep their juggling balls in a frequently visited place, such as a hallway. When passing by, they would practice for 5 minutes or so and move on.

To get the most out of your flashcards, keep them in a frequently accessed place, such as your office/work desk. When taking a short break from work, break out the flashcards to keep them working for you double-time.

You can even combine this with the memorization method of loci for supercharged memorisation: split your flashcards (e.g. by study sessions) and keep them in different rooms of your house. The strong association of each study session by house area will help memory recall during the exam.

Did you make CFA Level 1 flashcards for your studies, or for other levels too? Do share any further flashchard making tips you have below!

Meanwhile, you may find these related articles on studying of interest:


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