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5 Last-Minute CFA® Exam Study Tips For Level I

By: Kaplan Schweser
January 8, 2021
Student on a laptop studying for the CFA Exam

Do you feel like you’re running out of time to study for Level I of the CFA® exam? If you are behind on your study schedule, you are not alone. To increase your chances of passing, follow these last-minute CFA exam tips to make the most of the studying time you have left.

Tip 1: Strategically Select Topics to Focus on

The Level I CFA exam is weighted by topic area. To maximize your chances of success, you should weigh your late-season studying similarly. You should pay special attention to ethics, and if you are on the brink of a minimum passing score, it can put you over the top.

CFA Level I Topics and Weights

  • Ethical and Professional Standards 15–20%
  • Quantitative Methods 8–12%
  • Economics 8–12%
  • Financial Statement Analysis 13-17%
  • Corporate Issuers 8–12%
  • Equity Investments 10–12%
  • Fixed Income 10–12%
  • Derivatives 5–8%
  • Alternative Investments 5–8%
  • Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning 5–8%

Tip 2: Put More Focus on Practice Problems

For those who are studying late in the game, we recommend putting more focus on practice problems than reading material. Don’t worry about how many you get wrong early on. Instead, use the questions to learn the concepts. Answer the questions the best you can, and then make sure you’ve mastered the concepts embedded in the questions by going through the curriculum where those topics are covered.

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Tip 3: Minimize Distractions

If you are really behind your study schedule, this CFA exam Level I tip is super effective. If you can, take a week off from work to minimize distractions and maximize your remaining study time. Use an auto-response to emails and texts. Anticipate your internal needs (hunger, boredom, stress, sleep deprivation) and plan ahead. Keep snacks near you and mix up your study plan to keep your brain engaged.


Tip 4: Fill Small Pockets of Time With Studying

Make sure you are taking full advantage of every spare minute to study throughout your day. Do you take the train or bus to work? Work on flashcards or QBank questions while on the ride. Review CFA Level I notes while exercising. Study during your lunch breaks and small breaks in time between meetings. Your study materials should be with you at all times—utilize every waking minute you have available to get some precious study time in.

Tip 5: Use the 50/10 Rule

Use a timer to study for 50 minutes of every hour with zero breaks or distractions. If you get distracted and stop working in those 50 minutes, start the timer over again. Once you hit 50 minutes, take a 10-minute break…then back to work! If you can train yourself this way, you will study hard 80% of the time, which is more effective than half-studying with periodic distractions.

Bonus CFA® Exam Tips

It’s never too late to consider two other tips as part of your last-minute study. One is to sign up for a CFA Program Level I Review Workshop and the other is to take a mock exam.

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