Most of you are familiar with the CFA designation – the one that makes you lose at least 3 Springs of your life (if you are lucky), your friendships and sometimes your partner. The one that makes you, according to CFA Institute’s statistics, read 8,914 pages of material, study 3,865 equations and take 18 hours of examinations. It is true that studying for it can be a very daunting and time consuming task. But if you are really interested in it (and I am not here trying to convince you to become a CFA charterholder – although I think it is a great thing to do if you are passionate about finance), I think you are going to get a lot out of this episode.

I have been asked many times over the years about tips and tricks on how to improve your chances of passing the CFA exams. So, in this special episode in which we decided to be the ones doing all the talking, Luke and I put together a list 18 points that may improve your chances of being more successful in studying for the CFA exams. I must say that the combination of the points shared during this podcast made a huge difference in my studying attitude and I like to think they have positively influenced my results. Please note, however, that these are tactics that have worked well for me, and may not work so well for others, so pick whatever idea you like most and try to implement it to your mindset.

Also, here is a spoiler alert – if you are looking for tactics and/or ideas on how to tackle specific CFA curriculum material, you will not find any of it here. There are plenty of resources online for that.

If you listened to the episode and still have any questions, feel free to send us an e-mail at and we will do our best to answer any questions you may have.

Also, while we are at it, If the interview was valuable to you, make sure to take a few seconds to leave us a 5-Star review on iTunes.

Stay tuned!

Luke & Leo

P.S.: Our next episode will come out on May 4th, in which we cover the topic of equity analysis and portfolio management with Jörg de Vries-Hippen, the CIO for European Equities at Allianz Global Investors.

Show Notes

Please note: most the points below will not make sense to you unless you have listened to the episode. So, you know what you need to do!

  • Understand your “why”
  • Create a study habit
  • Plan your study journey to the smallest detail
  • Study more than you think you should
  • Focus on process rather than on product
  • Don’t be stingy
  • When in doubt – chose active learning
  • Learning Techniques
    • Read table of contents
    • Skim through readings, paying attention to subtitles and graphs
    • Make notes while reading
    • Be cautious with highlighting
    • Focused vs. defuse modes of thinking
  • Treat your books as a work in progress, rather than a finished product
    • Write concepts and summarize ideas with your own words all over your books
    • “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough”. Albert Einstein
  • Changing the scenery
  • Take care of the hardware
    • The importance of sleep and exercise
  • Find a study group / study partner and tips on how to build a productive study group
  • Take your books with you everywhere you go – and study every single day (even if just for 10 minutes)
  • Don’t let your ego get the best of you
    • “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas A. Edison
    • Embracing failure and trying to improve on the topics you are worst at
  • Make sure you have a support system around you
  • Beating Procrastination
    • “It is always the hard part that creates value” – Seth Godin
    • Turn off distractions
    • Tools for remove distractions (see list below)
  • Don’t overdo online forums
  • Believe in your ability to succeed


Tools for Removing Distractions

  • The Pomodoro Timer – simple countdown clock set at 25 minutes that you can use for studying

  • Stay Focused – Free Chrome extension that blocks distracting (or all) websites. You can set allowable “free browsing” time, as well as set times during weekdays when websites should be blocked. The extension is quite humorous and you can set up the extension to prompt a challenge (for example, typing 400 words of a text that talks about procrastination) in case you are planning to unblock your websites, as a way to discourage you from doing so.

  • Leechblock – Also an extension like Stay Focused, but for Firefox

  • Freedom – Freedom is an amazing tool for those who have a hard time staying away from social media, YouTube and other modern distractors. It does cost ($6.99 per month for monthly subscription, $2.42 a month for annual subscription, or $119.99 for lifetime access), but it can be really helpful in blocking out sites that you tend to go to when using any of your devices (PC or phone). You can set Freedom to block websites for any amount of time you like.

  • MeeTimer – Firefox extension that monitors your time online, grouping it into activities for more meaningful statistics. You will be amazed with how much time you may be actually wasting online!

  • Stickk – I love this one. This is a website that helps you stick to goals, but it does that in a very creative (and compelling) way. You can set any goal you like. For our purposes, you can say “I will study for 30 minutes every single day until exam day”, for example. You can then set the stakes, and that can mean donating money to a cause you do not support in case you fail to stick to your goal. So the website relies on your fear (actually loss aversion) of donating to a terrible cause as a powerful tool to help you stay on track. Try it out!

Published On: April 20th, 2017 /