Tie It All Together: Effective CAIA® Exam Review Strategies

By: Kaplan Schweser
May 11, 2021
CAIA candidate completing their Final Review for the exam.

If you are a candidate enrolled in the CAIA® exam, time can get away from you. An effective review strategy can help. 

Preparation and Mock Exams

Ideally, the preparation phase of the journey should be finished about three months before your exam day, and the last three weeks before your exam day, at least, should be set aside for mock exams. Kaplan Schweser, for example, provides CAIA Level I mock exams and CAIA Level II mock exams.

CAIA mock exams are designed to simulate the actual CAIA exam format, difficulty, and length. It should be as close as you can get to sitting for the exam without actually being there. Because it mimics the pressure of exam day, the mock exam helps you develop familiarity with the testing conditions and gives you the confidence to go into exam day fully prepared. Taking a mock exam too early will not give you an appropriate understanding of how much information you’ll actually retain on exam day. If you take a mock exam too late, you won’t have ample time to improve your performance in identified areas of weakness.

Debriefing is a Critical CAIA Study Strategy

In the period after preparation is finished and before mock exams, your study strategy should be practicing questions and debriefing. For too many candidates, this means taking a quiz of 10 questions for 15 minutes, marking it, and moving on. Don’t make this mistake. When practicing questions, you should spend an average of 90 seconds answering the question. But you should spend significantly more time thoroughly debriefing it.

Start your debrief by making sure the questions you got right were correct for the right reasons. Guessing right on exam day is a bonus. Up until then, it’s just another question that you need to review. For all wrong answers and guesses that resulted in a correct answer, it is crucial to find the area of the curriculum that let you down. If it’s a missed calculation, find at least five examples of that type of calculation. 

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If it’s a narrative point, find the explanation in the curriculum and see if it’s an isolated fact, part of a list, or a piece of analysis on a calculation. Isolated facts need learning. Little and often is the best way. Five minutes a day, squeezed in while lining up for your lunchtime burrito, can make a huge difference.

A Better Understanding of How Answers Are Derived Leads to More Correct Answers

Taking this approach to question practice will result in a better understanding of how the answers were derived, and put you in a better position to answer similar questions going forward. If you’re using a QBank, then you’ve got thousands of questions to attempt to cover the whole syllabus. It’s a big ask to do that, but an effective use of the questions should ensure you cover the majority of every CAIA exam topic.

When deciding how much time to allocate to the different topics, each candidate will have strong and weak areas. Dedicate time to each area accordingly, but don’t lose sight of the syllabus weightings. For Level I, questions on Introduction to Alternative Investments and Professional Standards and Ethics weigh more than questions on Structured Products or Private Equity. For Level II, multiple-choice questions weigh more than constructed responses, except for two topics: Ethics, Regulation, and ESG and Current and Integrated Topics. These two topics are weighted at 10% each for constructed responses.

To conclude, set your aim on enhancing your understanding of all the topics through question practice and debrief. You will put yourself in a strong position to hit the mock exams in lay.


Ready to gauge your readiness with a Mock Exam? Choose from Kaplan Schweser’s CAIA Online Mock Exam options now.


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