Three Proven Methods to Completing All Your CFA Practice Exams by Exam Day

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By Mike

When completing practice exams, there are a variety of approaches balancing thoroughness and speed. Your own optimal approach will depend on your specific circumstances – how much time you have, and how many practice exams are you targeting.

Here are 3 main approaches that we recommend – use these as a base, and modify how you complete your practice exams to suit your preparations.

The three recommended methods are summarised in the table below. These methods will help you get the most out of your practice exams, but they aren’t magic. You need to have allocated enough time to practice in the first place!
Approach
Thoroughness
Speed
When to Use
Thorough
High
Very Slow
  • Just starting on practice exams
  • Understanding of syllabus still shaky
  • Plenty of time for practice exams
  • Unfamiliar with CFA exam format and setting
Streamlined
Medium
Slow
  • Somewhat familiar with practice exams
  • Fair uderstanding of syllabus
  • Adequate time for practice exams
Speedy
Low
Fast
  • Pressed for time, actual exam drawing near
  • Good for reviewing previously-completed practice exams
  • Good understanding of most of syllabus and exam format


The Thorough Approach
The Thorough approach is ensures you get the most improvement per practice exam, but also requires the most time. You should expect to spend at least 8 hours on each 3-hour paper with this approach.

The Thorough approach is as follows:

  • Attempt: Attempt the practice exam under timed conditions.
  • Grade: Grade the practice exam.
  • Thorough Review: Thoroughly review the exam’s questions, focusing on questions you were unsure of and your incorrect answers. Where possible, refer back to the relevant areas of your study notes to refresh your memory.

The Streamlined Approach
The Streamlined approach allows you to go through your practice exams faster, but sacrifices a bit of thoroughness. You should expect to spend about 6 hours on each 3-hour paper with this approach.

The Streamlined approach is as follows:

  • Attempt: Attempt the practice exam, preferably under timed conditions.
  • Grade: Grade the practice exam.
  • Review: Thoroughly review the exam’s questions, focusing on questions you were unsure of and your incorrect answers. To optimize for time, refrain from referring to your study notes unless you’re completely lost for that particular question.

The Speedy Approach
The Speedy approach is a very useful approach if used correctly. Use it for when you’re reviewing practice exams that you’ve already completed, or if you’re really rushing to complete all your practice exams before the actual exam. You should only need about 1-3 hours on each 3-hour paper for this approach.

The Speedy approach to completing practice exams is as follows:

  • Read: Read through the questions of the practice exam.
  • Grade and Review: After reading every question, settle on an answer, and immediately review the given answer and explanation. If it’s a calculation-based question, recall the concepts and formulae used, and go straight to reviewing rather than performing the calculations.

When using the Speedy approach, just read through the questions and answers – there’s no need for writing down answers. If that sounds a bit iffy, remember that this approach is to get through your practice exams as time-efficiently as possible. Reading through the questions with the given answers allows you to really blitz through your practice exams, although it is the least thorough approach. 

Only use it if you’re really confident that you don’t need to review your study notes anymore, or if you’re really pressed for time (if you are, here’s tips on how to finish up your study notes ASAP).


Questions? Let us know in the comments below!
Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan

 

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