One Simple Tip to Studying More in Less Time

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By Sophie

We all have a limited amount of time in a day to prepare for our CFA exams. But how do you become more productive within the same amount of time you have?

Imagine this: Two CFA candidates of equal skill, Alice and Beth, planned to have 10 hours allocated for studying in a particular day for the CFA exam, but with different approaches.

​Depending on how you approach your available study time, you can have very different results.

Alice essentially sat down and studied for 10 hours non-stop, even having lunch at her study desk. Beth, on the other hand, studies intensely for 90 minute blocks,  then takes 15 minutes break before resuming work and repeating the process. For her breaks, she either takes a brief walk, do some stretches, gets a drink or take a nap. It’s always something different every time. She even has a 45 minute lunch break with a friend.

​Guess who had a better quality study session? Let’s look at this in more detail:

Alice – studying all in one go

Alice, knowing that she’s up for a long day ahead, started the first 3 hours at 80% of her capacity to pace herself. She gets tired after lunch, averaging 60% her capacity from 12pm-4pm, before dragging herself over the last 3 hours at 40% of her capacity. At the end of the day, her effective study hours are:

3 hours x 80% + 4 hours x 60% + 3 hours x 40% = 6 hours

Beth – studying with frequent breaks

Beth took 2 hours off studying throughout the day – 5 sessions of 15 minute breaks and longer 45 minute lunch break. In that 8 hours of studying, she averaged 80% capacity since a break is never too far away, which gives her the opportunity to recharge for the next study sprint. Her effective study hours are:

8 hours x 80% = 6.4 hours

This is 24 minutes more than Alice, and she did it in less time, with way more fun, and less chance of long-term burnout.

CFA Pro Tip: Constantly refresh yourself with disciplined breaks

Lesson here? At some point in our CFA studying life, we know how it felt like to be Alice – slogging the whole day without feeling like we got much studying done (or absorbed). Doing “other stuff” than studying often invokes feeling guilty, stressed and unproductive, which is counterintuitive once you’ve seen the results above!

Just like anything, the law of diminishing returns applies to studying too. Your concentration and focus takes a nosedive if you’re sat there too long without the opportunity to renew that energy. It’s not just about quantity, quality matters too – it’s not just the number of hours we sit at a desk that determines the value we generate. This is possibly why there’s such a huge variance of study hours needed to pass the CFA exams, the definitions are probably not the same!

We know the CFA exams are tough, we’ve been through it ourselves. That’s why it’s crucial to work the way Beth does (be effective!), as you’ll get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality, more sustainably.

What’s your study routine and schedule like? How do you you think your productivity varies across the study session? Share your experience with us in the comments below!


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