Five Common Study Mistakes and Advice for CAIA® Exam Prep

By: Derek Burkett, CFA, FRM, CAIA
December 14, 2020
Woman holding head because of making one of the five common study mistakes on the CAIA exam

Planning an efficient and effective study program is key to your success on the CAIA® exam. Equally important is avoiding common study mistakes and the resulting setbacks. You want to start on the right foot and stay on track throughout the exam season.

In the following, we present common study mistakes that we have observed over many years. We also provide some advice that we have seen help many candidates succeed. Hopefully the information will help you avoid pitfalls as you get ready for the CAIA exam.

Common CAIA Study Mistakes

Studying for the CAIA exams is not like studying for exams in school. Study mistakes are often based on a failure to realize this fact. Here are the five most common.

1. Beginning Too Late.

When it comes to the CAIA exam, time is not on your side. On average, you will need 200 hours of study to master the entire curriculum. Some candidates delay their study program or overestimate their ability to catch up when they deviate from their study plan. In both cases, the candidate is fighting an uphill battle to complete the study program. Start studying early to ensure you are able to get through the entire curriculum, practice what you have learned, and remediate deficiencies.

2. Failing to Follow a Structured Study Plan.

Many candidates don’t take the time to develop a structured study plan and instead shift from one task to another as time allows or as they remember to do things. This leads to ineffective study habits and an inability to know how prepared you are for the exam. You need to stay organized and understand your progress.

3. Only Reading and Rereading the Curriculum or Study Materials.

Some candidates rely too heavily on simply reading the curriculum and study products multiple times and neglect practice questions and mock exams. These candidates may understand the concepts, but they may not be able to recall their knowledge in an exam setting when a concept is tested in an unfamiliar format.

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4. Relying Solely on Practice Questions.

We have seen some candidates focus their study time on practice questions while neglecting to read the underlying material or attend classes to learn the fundamental concepts. These candidates may understand the specific questions they have seen, but they are often unable to apply the underlying concepts in different scenarios. Exam questions are unlikely to look exactly like what you encounter on a practice exam, so you need to understand the fundamental concepts in the curriculum.

5. Ignoring Weak Areas of the Curriculum.

Candidates sometimes have a tendency to minimize their weaknesses and instead focus on areas of the curriculum they find comfortable or more interesting. However, the exam will test all topics in the curriculum. You must study the entire curriculum and ensure you understand all the concepts that will be tested on the exam.

Study Advice

Follow these six tips, and you can avoid making all the common study mistakes.

1. Develop a rigorous study plan.

A well-thought-out study plan with a CAIA exam prep provider is essential. The study plan should serve as a map through the entire curriculum and should incorporate classes, study notes, practice questions, mock exams, and final review to reinforce the learning process.

2. Study the entire curriculum.

As we noted above, all topics are fair game for the exam. You must incorporate all topics into your study plan to ensure you are ready for every section of the exam.

3. Utilize practice questions.

Practicing what you have learned is essential for knowledge retention and assessment. Do not underestimate the importance of this step in the learning process. Make your mistakes before the actual exam and understand your weaknesses.

4. Review content to eliminate weak areas.

You will also need to build in time to review what you have learned and remediate areas of the curriculum that you have not fully mastered. You want to minimize surprises on exam day.

5. Simulate the exam.

Simulating the exam is also important. The pressure of exam day is a huge factor in your performance. Simulating exam conditions beforehand can reduce your stress during the actual exam and help you assess where additional study would be beneficial.

6. Attend a review course.

Reading the curriculum once is generally not enough. You need to review what you have learned, ideally in a CAIA OnDemand Review Workshop with an expert in the curriculum. Even concepts you understand need to be reviewed to ensure you retain the information for the exam.

The CAIA exam isn’t an easy task, and it requires a significant commitment of your time and resources. Avoid these common mistakes and give yourself the best chance to succeed with proper planning, structure, and support.


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