We are nearly there candidates – it’s practice exam season!
You might be worried that your scores aren’t high enough. Candidates should be targeting a consistent practice exam score of at least 70% (the higher the better of course). But the score for your first practice exam can be quite low and demoralising – but that’s pretty common.
But how can you improve your practice exam score? We’ve done some analysis on the candidate scores for our free Practice Tests and shared some interesting data points, along with some great advice from CFA charterholders on how you can improve your mock exam scores before the big day.
Read on to find out more!
#1. Don’t dwell over a low score. Make it a learning opportunity.
The best way to cope with this is staying calm. Panicking can quickly lead to demotivation, wasting the progress you made so far by acting irrationally.
The important thing here is to ensure that you have learned and understood where and what you got wrong, so that this mistake won’t be repeated in future papers. After all, we either get it right, or we learn. It’s a win-win.
#2. Review the model answers.
Model answers can clearly reveal your knowledge gaps, more efficient calculation methods, and sometimes even better answering techniques (especially for constructed response section of Level 3). Going through them after grading the paper is an essential part of learning and improving memory.
#3. Have a quick review session on areas you’re unsure of.
For example, if you realise that often have difficulty with bond pricing questions, take some time to read up about the section through. Focused, fast reviewing of topics is the key here: quickly review, because you need to be moving on to the next practice exam.
#4. Read the question properly.
Pressed for time, candidates can sometimes make this same mistake: reading halfway through the question, thinking “yeah, I got this, I know what this question is about and the answer is C!” only to realize that the question said “least accurate”, not “most accurate”, or something equally obvious.
A good tip is to always circle or underline these key words in the question, or when you’re reading a vignette. Some examples include: “most accurately”, “least likely” or absolutes such as “never, always, just”.
Please read the question thoroughly.
#5. Don’t get distracted from completing practice papers.
Don’t do this.
It’s much more important to make sure you get the experience of completing the exam, under time pressure. Or else your results are meaningless as you’re not training for the real thing.
Finish the practice exam, then do the post-mortem and review if you have to. But as the exams draw closer, doing more practice exams is scientifically proven to be one of the best ways to learn. Prioritize this to maximize test score improvements!
#6. Do your practice exams under timed conditions.
#7. Avoid getting stuck on questions.
Once your time per question is nearly up, learn how to skip over questions you know you may need more time on, or simply just developed a mental block with. Here’s how you can do this swiftly:
- just circle the question number, as a signal to come back to it later when you’ve extra time;
- for multiple choice questions, select the most probably answer, Guess, if you haven’t got a clue. The goal is to not leave the answer sheet blank on these questions, just in case you have no time to come back to them. For constructed response questions in Level 3, just jot down some thoughts, formula or even explanation related to the concepts and move on – you may get partial credits for it at least.
- Move on to the next questions and stick to your time per question.
Doing this blitz through the question whilst sticking to your time limit will maximize your test scores and avoid a costly mistake of not completing your paper on time.
#8. Make use of CFA Institute’s mock exams.
Make sure you try these mock exams under timed conditions after doing a few third party providers’ papers, as the CFA Institute mock is the closest you get to the actual exam in terms of difficulty and tone, so it is a very useful tool to calibrate your practice.
#9. Don’t (ever) make your exam ‘open-book’
Of course, if you’re really rushing to finish the pile of practice exams you enthusiastically bought five months earlier and need to speed up, there are open-book methods that you can use.
#10. Keep practicing! More practice is proven to improve scores.
For the past few years, we have been hosting a free Practice Test for every CFA level (links at the end of the article). Since then, hundreds of candidates have taken the exam, and by observing aggregate trends we were able to draw out some conclusions.
What have we learned?
As long as you’re putting in the effort and the hours, trust that your knowledge and ability will improve. It may not seem like it, but you are steadily improving – at an average of 0.22 percentage points per day after day T-minus 100!
The correlation between the two datasets were very strong – for every additional practice exam a candidate had completed previously, their practice test score improved by an average of 2-5%.