Does this sound like you? Probably, and about 95% of the other December Level I CFA candidates. The other 5% are people who have their socks arranged neatly by colour in their drawer.
But in investments we learn quickly that returns in the long term perform better and with lower Beta risk than short term investments. So why don’t we apply this to ourselves and study bit by bit over a longer period instead of the last 3 weekends before the Level I CFA exam?
Going into the reasons is a psychology book all by itself but this Time article shows research that states cramming is the least effective method of retaining information.
Instead I’ll focus on some tips I used to get motivated for my Level I CFA exams which I passed on the first attempt.
Getting Motivated Top Tips
#1 – Have a Morning Mantra
#2 – Find a Friend (or an Enemy)
#3 – Eat Bite Size Chunks
#4 – Treat Yourself Along The Way
When you wake up in the morning you have a routine to get ready for work – have a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed. Adding in a quick daily mantra into this routine can make a tremendous difference in your focus, determination, and eventual success in the Level I CFA exam.
A motivational mantra could be “Knowledge is power, and my knowledge will increase today” or a simple picture of that new BMW you’ve been wishing for.
You might feel lonely as you sit in front of the study material, but you are NOT alone. 100,000+ people have taken this exam before and passed it and so can you! They understand the questions you will, the time it takes to study, and have advice on how to balance your family with working and studying at the same time.
So find a friend that has taken the CFA Level I exam that you can email, have a coffee with, or call when you need a pick-me-up. An other advantage will be to make your commitment known. Research suggests where there is stakes, there is a better chance of success. Human psychology has demonstrated that if you include an element of accountability in your task, your natural willingness to achieve it will be reinforce.
Can you eat a steak in 1 bite? I sure can’t and need to cut it up into pieces that I can fit in my mouth and chew. It also tastes much better when I do this.
The same thing applies to studying for your Level I CFA exam. Don’t think of it as a large steak, but as pieces of a delicious future for you and your career.
Chew your way through each section in bite size chunks.
Studying every weekend can wear you down, especially when your friends start calling you to tell you about a great concert or the sun is shining outside as you sit at your desk.
So ensure that you don't feel like studying for the Level I CFA exam is a punishment - and instead treat yourself along the way when you finish a study section.
Make sure the treats are things you don't normally have so that they feel special - and build it up over the months to the exam. Like going to a live concert with a friend on a Saturday evening at the end of every month if you have completed 2 study chapters and the associated test questions.
You will be tempted to cheat, but the reward is sweeter when it's earned honestly. Tell your CFA friend from #2 about these goals and treats to help keep you accountable.
I'll leave you with wise words from a wise man on how determination and motivation
“And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed!”