CFA CFA Level 1 Notes or No Notes, that is the question?

Notes or No Notes, that is the question?

  • This topic has 11 replies, 10 voices, and was last updated Nov-17 by Maverick.
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    • Sh90
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      Hi there, I’m trying really hard to develop a proper study approach to learning the material. However, a week into it I ended up making just notes and completed only one study session. I have not done any practice questions. When I asked people around me how they tackled level 1, some advised that I prepare notes while others suggested that I memorize directly from the textbook; most posts I’ve read mention “reading” the material two to three times +practice tests. So now I’m somewhat lost though I prepared a study plan and aiming to start my practice tests by mid October for the December exam. Please advise urgently as so the efficient way of memorizing all of this. THANKS!!!

    • CFAcharterwannabe
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      @Sh90‌ what you need to do is not make extensive notes. It will be a waste of time. My suggestion would be to note down very important things, try finishing the EOC’s and getting to the mock papers ASAP. Go for the CFAI mocks first cos honestly they are the best guide to how the exam paper will look like. The rest like Schweser mocks are strictly practice only. Rely on the CFAI mocks to get a good idea of how the exam is going to look like.

      Level 1 is mcq’s so making elaborate notes is going to be a serious waste of time. But then it differs from person to person. I noted down points that I thought were really important but thats it. If you are a notes taker go for it. But the important thing is getting lots and lots of practice. Leave at least a month just for mocks and practice. Good luck!

    • Sh90
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      Great thanks!

    • sethneha
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      hi @Sh90,

      first of all which material are you using to study – CFAI books or via a Study provider’s material ?

      1. If it’s through provider’s material then it’s already in a concise form covering all relevant topics and explanations. i wont take guarantee for Scheswer Notes as i always found both for Level 1 and Level 2 that some topics are missing in their notes but they cover those topics in their mocks and also in CFAI mocks. so you may have to match them with LOS being tested.

      For Level 1, i completely used only CFAI books, that time i didn’t know any other provider apart from schweser, i did take their books but hardly ever used them until CFAI books stopped making sense to me.
      from my experience of using CFAI books, i can say it worked for me without making notes.
      i did make for Economics and Fixed Income, those have been my nemesis from day 1, i had made long huge notes covering chapters in and out with all diagrams cause i couldn’t understand them from huge CFA books and i needed in simple points. for rest topics, i highlighted main points, marked, wrote forumulas and practiced in the CFA books itself.
      and before exam, went through the summary at the end of chapter and those highlighted points.

      2. Making notes depends on person to person – how you study, are you comfortable to read from books or want it on your own handwriting ? or want summarized version of everything at end to go through not leaving a topic out.

      initially for me understanding Derivatives theory in Level 1 was a pain, i just couldn’t get through those paragraphs, so i wrote all of that theory on MS word in bullet point wise and then got through it! i made through Level 1 in first attempt solely by reading and re-reading the CFA books multiple times and only doing EOCs, getting >70% in almost every section. i solved the CFAI mock just a day before the exam.

      i used same thing for Level 2 attempt and failed big time. only after my first stint with Level 2 i realized, that it was different ball of game and needed different strategy to study and pass, and what practice questions and mocks meant.

      3. i would say, don’t spend too much time on making notes, understand the topic fully in and out. if you do want to make notes, then just cover the gist of that topic and the important formulas related to it.

      i was tempted to make notes for every topic and sub topic in Level 2. i literally stopped myself cause i knew it’s not worth at the end of month when i am juggling with mocks, reviewing that i am so freaked out to even look at these notes!

      If you do want summarized notes covering all topics with formulas, then get hold of Eleventh Hour Guide by Elan Guides. rest focus on covering topics and head to EOCs and do mocks.

      i hope this helps.

    • dodo
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      I picked up the CFAI books everytime I wanted to sleep. Best sedative ever.

    • Sh90
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      @sethneha: I am currently using Schweser notes. Okay so Im going to study until mid October then start proper reviewing/practice.

      Thanks for your comments everyone. May the CFA gods be with me!

    • ensenmason
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      I started to take notes at first, it was a waste of time. The first time through, just try to understand and comprehend. Later in the process, you’ll know the things you need to have down on paper because they just won’t stick in your brain for long. Formulas and such. I found having a one page of what I found hardest to remember and reading it carefully before both sections of the test gave me a few correct answers I may not have got otherwise.

    • djsg
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      I have been taking typewritten notes and the process is quite slow. I can only clear about 3 to 4 pages of CFAI material per half an hour. Sometimes if the content is very dense, I can only clear 1 page per half an hour.

      I also asked myself if I should continue this practice. However, if i were to just read the material, things may not get into my head. Oh well, I guess I have to be selective in whatever I type, in order to speed up the learning.

    • tng2928
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      @Sh90 i don’t think memorizing directly from the textbook is an applicable piece of advice for the typical candidate…I’d go with notes + practice questions if possible… if you’re stressed for time near the end then the last few SS you can bail on the practice q’s, but pay more attention to those topics when you’re purely doing questions/mocks

    • hairyfairy
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      taking notes definitely works, but obsessing about having them complete would be a risk (I’m guilty of this as well) because you end up not having time for anything else. I never end up with a proper ‘complete’ set of notes, but I think if I did I wouldn’t have time for practice exams and wouldn’t be doing well at all in the exam.

    • vincentt
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      In Level 1, I used to ensure my notes are complete in a way anyone can use it, but that’s silly. Your notes is only for you, only take notes of what you don’t already know. For example, by looking at a certain formula on a post it note on your wall daily, you will eventually remember it, then move it to your notepad.

      Certain concepts are easier to grasp after a few practice questions, certain ones are not, hence i would advise taking notes when you’re reviewing your practice exams/questions. Take notes of concepts in the questions you don’t know and got wrong, thought you knew and got wrong, also the ones that you don’t know but got it right.

      If you have done enough questions, you will eventually have a “complete” notes on the areas you are weak on.


    • Maverick
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      I’m still in L1 and to be honest, I was finding that by writing a lot of notes, I was clearing 8 pages per hour in readings and then breaking through and catching up to make around 12 pages per hour in the combination of readings and practice problems. I’ve now switched to highlighting the important bits in the CFA I provided material and simply writing the formulas into a formula book and I’m clearing around 15 pages per hour.

      Horses for courses I suppose!

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