Category Archives: Uncategorized

4 Months Study Plan for CFA Level I

Please download 4 months study plan for CFA level I from here – 4 Months Study Plan for CFA Level I

You can download our sample tests for Financial Reporting and Analysis, Fixed Income, and Quantitative Methods from here.

Wish you all the best for your preparations. For any queries, please mail us at info@konvexity.com

Strategies to ace CFA level III Morning Essay based Exam

If you look at the results of the CFA candidates in past, you would realize that a majority of the candidates perform poorly in the morning session of CFA level III exam. There are even examples of many guys who had cleared CFA level I and CFA level II in the first attempt itself but fail to clear CFA level III exam even after multiple attempts. So, whenever anyone says that CFA level II exam is the toughest of all the three levels, I always chuckle. If CFA level II is the hardest exam then how come 50 percent of the people who have cleared the hardest part, fail to cross the last hurdle. The essay exam makes CFA level III the most challenging exam of all three levels.

The primary reasons behind the poor performance in the essay based exams are following:

  • Most of the candidates have lost the art of writing the subjective exams and are too slow in attempting the exam and eventually end up skipping 10-20% of the morning session.
  • The exam requires quick thinking. If you are not able to think quickly during the exam, then you are more likely to lose time while thinking and eventually fall short of time.
  • Candidates do not read the question carefully and instead of answering what is being asked in the question, answer something else.
  • Candidates end up devoting more time to few questions and thus fall short of time. Or they make mistakes in solving some numerical question and have to redo that question again and thus wasting precious 5-10 minutes in doing so.

 

CFA level III candidates need to understand that every year CFA Institute is making the essay based exam more challenging. If you browse through the previous years’ actual exam papers, you would realize that earlier they used to allocate more marks to few of the questions and now they have reduced the allocation of marks. Suppose earlier if they asked the question related to risk tolerance then the question would have been of 5-6 marks and now it would be of 4-5 marks only. So, it may happen that you might have been able to solve the previous years’ actual exam just in time but fail to solve the actual exam in the given time because the exam might be 5% lengthier than the previous years’ exams. So, you need to take care of that thing in mind and practice the mocks/actual exams accordingly.

The trade-off between accuracy and attempts: What would you prefer? 160 marks attempt with 70 percent accuracy or 180 marks attempt with 60 percent accuracy? Obviously, the former one. If you are losing your accuracy by a higher amount than the gain in the number of marks attempted, then you need to slow down a bit. Ideally, you should be able to have good accuracy with 100% attempt. But if you are unable to do that, then 160 marks with 70 percent accuracy is also not a bad attempt. Here, you also would have the option to skip the 20 marks question for your weakest area.

That is another mistake made by the candidates that rather that attempting their strong areas first, they simply go through the exam in normal way i.e. start from the first question and end up with the last question. The problem with this technique is that the last question could be asked from your strong areas and you might have been able to score 80-90% marks in that question instead of skipping that.

Which part of the exam should be done in the end?: The questions related to private wealth and behavioral finance are usually dicey question and also time-consuming. So, it is advisable to do those questions at the end of the examination if you do not have any specific weak area. Most of the candidates end up making a mistake in the return requirement calculation for private wealth question and that question also consumes a decent amount of time. So, it is always a good strategy to solve those questions at the later stages of the exam. You may solve their theoretical part earlier but the return requirement question is better off to be left for the end.

By using the following strategies, you can have a fairly decent attempt in the morning essay based exam:

  • Try not to allocate more time to any question than the total number of minutes allocated to that question. Keep an eye on your watch. It is always better to keep on checking you watch after attempting one full question rather than checking it after doing 2-3 questions. Because it can happen that you might spend one hour in doing first 2-3 questions and those questions would have been for only 40-45 marks. So, you always end up chasing the time. If you keep an eye on the watch, then you will have a sense of urgency and you are less likely to be behind the time schedule by a big margin.
  • Navigate through the questions first and identify the easy questions. Sometimes you get easy questions like calculation of Roy’s safety ratio. Around 60-80 marks questions would be relatively easier on the exam. You should not leave any of those questions and try to have an accuracy of 80-90% in those questions.
  • If you have to think a lot for answering some part of the question, it is better to skip that part and move forward to other questions. Your subconscious mind would automatically be working for that problem while you would be busy in attempting other questions and that would also save you time.
  • Most of the candidates are slow starters. You need to destroy that initial inertia. How can you do that? It is simple. First, attempt the question from your strongest topic and give yourself a challenge that you would be attempting that question in less than 80% of the allocated time to that question. Suppose institutional investors chapter is your strong area and there are two questions for that having a total of 30 minutes. Try to finish those two questions in 24-25 minutes. If you challenge yourself at the start then it would save you previous five minutes. And you are more likely to do this with the same accuracy at the beginning only because you would be fresh and you would be attempting your strong area and also there would be a sense of urgency to solve it. That is the general problem with most of the candidates. They end up spending 5-10 minutes more in the first two questions. If you can challenge yourself to solve that 5 minutes earlier, then that would effectively save you 10-15 minutes.
  • Just go through the command words again to know what is actually being asked in the question. Always read the question carefully whether they are asking you to calculate before-tax nominal return or after-tax real return. Attempt the questions at their respective allocated pages. Do not restate the facts in the case to answer any question. Do not repeat the same reason again in different wordings. For example, if they ask you two reasons for the high-risk tolerance of a pension fund and you write these two reasons: (1)The employees are young and thus more risk can be taken. (2) Defined pension plan has a longer time horizon and thus a high-risk tolerance. The two points are stating the same thing again i.e. the risk tolerance is high due to longer time horizon. Now, this question is very important and you are more likely to get a similar question in the exam. So, you should prepare yourself in advance so that you also do not need to think again and you can provide different reasons as well. The other reasons could be profitable company and surplus for defined benefit plan, low correlation between the assets and company’s operating results and low spending requirements (less liquidity required). Once you keep these 3-4 reasons ready for yourself then you would be able to provide different reasons and would also be doing that quickly. Make similar notes for all kinds of questions that had been asked in last 3 years’ actual exam papers.
  • Do not attempt the questions passively. Attack the questions and always try to maintain a surplus amount of time with you. A sense of urgency is your best friend in the morning exam.

 

And even after doing all the above things, you end up skipping 10-20 marks portion, then you shouldn’t lose heart. Because the result of the exam is more dependent on your performance in the afternoon exam. Many candidates panic after the morning exam if they are not able to complete it and then end up attempting the afternoon exam in 1.5 hours. Solving the afternoon exam in 1.5-2 hours is not going to improve your performance in the morning exam. But it can definitely hurt you as you would end up making more silly mistakes in the afternoon exam. A sense of urgency in the afternoon exam is your worst enemy. The afternoon exam can easily be finished in 2 hours 45 minutes because it is generally very less calculation intensive as compared to CFA level II exam. Most of the candidates would finish it before 2 hours 45 minutes. Attempt the afternoon exam slowly so as to minimize your silly mistakes and maximize your potential score.

Let’s take an extreme scenario. Suppose you end up skipping 40 marks questions in the morning exam. Now 40 marks are a lot of marks. But suppose you attempted 140 marks questions from your stronger areas then you would be hoping to get at least 65% marks in those questions. That would be a total of 91 marks in the morning exam. Now the MPS (minimum passing score) for CFA level III exam is around 60-63% of total marks. Let’s take the upper limit of 63%. 63% of 360 is 227 marks. That means you need to score around 135-136 marks in the afternoon exam. And you can get that much score by scoring 45 question correct in the afternoon exam. 45 questions can be easily attempted correctly in the afternoon exam if your Ethics and GIPS are strong. If you can score 14 from 18 questions in Ethics and GIPS. Then, you need to score only 31 questions correct out of rest of 42 questions and that is not at all a difficult task given the difficulty level of CFA level III topics.

So, even in that extreme scenario, you can easily pass the exam by scoring well in the afternoon exam. You should not lose your cool and try to focus more on the afternoon exam after the morning exam. Attempt the afternoon exam slowly to minimize the silly mistakes and if you can minimize the silly mistakes then scoring 45 questions correct would be a cakewalk. However, if your Ethics and GIPS are weak, then you might end up getting 8 questions correct in that and then you need to score 37 out of rest 42 questions. Scoring 37 questions correct is a little challenging but if you can minimize your silly mistakes then it is also very much possible. But it is better to revise your Ethics and GIPS from the curriculum books to boost your score in those two topics. Those two subjects might eventually end put putting the wind in your sails.

All the best for your preparations and exam.

CFA level II in 2 months

Most of the candidates get serious for the exam two months before the CFA exam. So, if you are one among those candidates and want to know how to approach CFA level II exam in next 2 months, then this post is for you.

“What we face may look insurmountable. But I learned something from all those years of training and competing. I learned something from all those sets and reps when I didn’t think I could lift another ounce of weight. What I learned is that we are always stronger than we know.” ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger

We can learn a lot from the above Arnold’s quote. We also have so much to cover in these two months. But we can do it because we are always smarter than we know. The number of months left should not be a criterion for preparation for the CFA exam. Rather we should look at the number of study hours. 5 hours daily for 2 months is better than 1 hour daily for 6 months. I know few guys who had finished their preparations in last 2 weeks by studying 10-12 hours daily. But that strategy may not suit everyone as grasping power differs from person to person. If we study more than 6-8 hours daily, then our retention power drops significantly. So, we should not target more than 8 hours of study per day.

The curriculum of CFA level II can be finished in 200 hours and we even can revise it twice in those many hours. But if you devote only 200 hours, then you won’t have time for practicing enough number of questions which is crucial for passing the exam. Also, candidates tend to give too much weight to practicing ‘n’ thousands number of questions for CFA exams that they end up spending hundreds of hours in solving questions. Few guys even solve more than 5,000 questions. Attempting more questions is fine but that should be not done on behalf of your revision time. More is always not better. If you end up solving 5,000 questions but those questions are of poor quality or are in not the itemset based format, then you will be wasting your time.

First of all, we need to make a strategy for the exam. Unlike CFA level I exam, where the CFA Institute has clearly specified the exact percentage of each subject’s weight in the actual exam, the percentages are in ranges for the subjects in CFA level II and CFA level III. But we should not worry about that as by looking at the historical trend, we can guess the composition of June 2014 CFA exam.

Topic Weight Weight (2010-12) Weight (2013/2014) Expected Weight (2015)
Ethical and Professional Standards 10 to 15 10 10 10
Quantitative Methods 5 to 10 5 5 5
Economics 5 to 10 5 5 5
Financial Reporting and Analysis 15 to 20 20 20 20
Corporate Finance 5 to 15 10 10 10
Equity Investments 20 to 25 20 20 20
Fixed Income 10 to 20 10 5 10
Derivatives 5 to 15 10 10 10
Alternative Investments 5 to 15 5 10/5 5
Portfolio Management 5 to 15 5 5/10 5
Total 100 100 100 100

CFA Institute changed the composition of the exam last year. Earlier they used to have 10% weight for Fixed Income and 5% for Alternative Investments. But they changed it last time. They have added one more chapter to Alternative Investments this time and replaced one chapter of Fixed Income with another one. So, we can expect the composition to remain the same as of last year this time as well.

The importance of new topics added : It is very important to know what are the new topics added by CFA Institute for CFA 2014 exam. In 2011, they added Inventory and Long-Lived Assets to Financial Reporting and Analysis and out of 4 item sets of FRA, 2 item sets were asked from those two chapters. And not a single question was asked from those chapters in the next year. Similarly, last year they added one chapter Fundamentals of Credit Analysis in Fixed Income and only 1 item set was tested from FIS and that was from that newly added chapter. They have replaced that topic this year with another new chapter Credit Analysis Models. So, you can make an inference and focus more on the newly added topics this year.

Looking at the weight of topics, if we can focus more on 6 subjects, then we can easily pass the exam. Those subjects are Financial Reporting and Analysis, Equity, Corporate Finance, Derivatives, Ethics, and Alternative Investments. And apart from Derivatives in the list, most of the subjects are comparatively easy and straight forward. So, we must try to finish these 6 topics first and then move on to the next 4 topics.

Financial Reporting and Analysis: One of the most important areas of CFA level II exam and it also carries the maximum weight along with Equity in the exam. This is the area which generally helps candidates in crossing the minimum passing score. The variation of scores in Equity is not that much. But the variation is huge in FRA and that’s why it is the most important topic. The first two chapters of FRA are from CFA level I and should not take more than 4 hours in total for the first reading. One should try to finish the first chapter in 1 to 1.5 hours and the second chapter in 2.5 to 3 hours. The next three chapters are the most important and you can expect one item set (5%) from each chapter. Every single topic is important in those 3 chapters. Spend your considerable amount on these three chapters and write down all the important formulas and points while studying it for the first time. Try to finish the 3rd chapter (Intercorporate Investments) in 6 hours, 4th chapter (Pension) in 4 hours and 5th chapter (Multinational Operations) in 5 hours. Last 2 chapters of FRA are not that important. However, few questions can be asked from these chapters especially from the areas that have been added to the syllabus this time. So, you would require a total of 19-20 hours to study FRA for the first time. These 19-20 hours time excludes the time required for solving the item set based questions. You should practice around 30 item sets for FRA. That would take around 15 hours of your time assuming 18 minutes per item set and 12 minutes for analyzing your mistakes. You may need to practice more item sets if you are not getting more than 70% marks in the item sets. For that, you can practice additional 20 item sets and that would take 10 hours more of yours.

Equity: This subject also carries equal weight as that of FRA. The only difference is that Equity is a little bit easier than FRA. There are 10 chapters in equity and out of 10 chapters, 3 chapters (1st, 4th, and 5th) are new. But 1st and 5th chapters were dropped last year and has been included again in the curriculum. But for the 5th chapter, they have included many new topics and there is a good probability that you might end up getting 1 item set from it in the exam. You can also expect 2-3 questions from the 4th chapter (Your Strategy Needs a Strategy). First 6 chapters are basic chapters and are very similar to CFA level I curriculum. You can finish those chapters in 1 hour,  2 hours, 2 hours, 1 hours, 3 hours and 3 hours. The next 4 chapters are very important from exam point of view. The 7th chapter is the most important one. They have always asked at least 1 item set from 7th chapter in the exam in last 5 years. You must focus more on this chapter and should finish it in 4 hours. 8th chapter is related to multiples and very easy chapter and can be easily done in 3-4 hours. Last 2 chapters are new concepts but are not that difficult and one can expect to finish those chapters in not more than 4 hours each. So, you require a total of 28-30 hours for equity. 30 item sets are ideal for practicing equity and you will be needing 15 hours for that. You may want to add additional 20 item sets if you are not getting good marks.

Corporate Finance: Corporate Finance is one of the easiest topics in CFA level II curriculum. There are 5 chapters in it. You have read some basics of first 4 chapters in CFA level I. You should try to finish first 4 chapters in 4 hours, 2 hours, 2 hours, and 2 hours. The last chapter is a new concept as it was not there in CFA level I curriculum and it is also important for the exam. You should finish it in 4-5 hours. This subject requires a total of 14-15 hours. Try to do at least 20 item sets for this. This topic is learned better by attempting questions. That would take 10 more hours.

Derivatives: One of the trickiest topic of CFA level II curriculum. But if understood well, you can score full 100% marks in this area. There are 6 chapters in it. The last chapter has been modified a bit. So, you may expect 2-3 questions in an item set from that. But still, the most important chapter is the 3rd one related to options. You are most likely to get one item set from that chapter. The first two chapters can be finished in 3 hours and 2 hours respectively. The 3rd one can be finished easily in 5 hours. You can give 3 hours and 1 hour to 4th and 5th chapters. The last one would not need more than 2 hours of your time. 20 item sets are more than enough for this topic and can be finished in 10 additional hours.

Ethics: Ethics is also very important especially when you’re a borderline case. You must focus more on this topic. It contains 8 chapters but most of the later chapters are case studies and should not take more than 30 minutes of your time. The first two topics are exactly the same as those were in CFA level I and they will also be there in CFA level III. The chapter of research objectivity is an important chapter. The first two chapters can be finished in 5 hours (try to finish these quickly, you can revise these better by attempting questions). Research objectivity chapter would take 2-3 hours. The remaining chapters will also take a total of 2-3 hours. It would require a total of 11-12 hours. 20 items sets are more than enough for the practice part and would take 10 additional hours.

Alternative Investments:  The first and 3rd chapter are more important for the exam. The first chapter can be done in 5 hours. The second one can be done in 3 hours. The third one may require 6 hours as you need to study the case study at the end of the chapter as well. The 4th one should not take more than 2 hours. Overall, it would require a total of 16 hours. 15 item sets are enough for it. That would require 8 additional hours.

Fixed Income: There are 4 chapters. First 3 chapters are related to valuation stuff. The 4th chapter is regarding credit models. Spend a good amount of time in first 3 chapters. That would take around 10-12 hours of your time. Credit model can be done in 4 hours and the last chapter can be done in 3 hours easily. So, a total of 18 hours is needed for it. 20 item sets are enough for practice and that would take 10 additional hours. It is very important area this time as the weights have been changed from 5-15% to 10-20% this time. You will find at least 2 item sets from this topic.

Quantitative Methods: One of the easiest topic of CFA level II curriculum. The questions will be straightforward from this topic on the exam and it is high scoring. There are 3 chapters but if you know 2nd chapter, then you can finish first chapter in 10 minutes. The 3rd chapter, although very conceptual, was generally not tested in the exam.  But lately they have started asking a couple of question from this chapter as well. You can finish first and 2nd chapter combined in 5 hours and third chapter in 3-4 hours. It will require a total of 9 hours. 10 item sets are sufficient for practice purpose and would take 5 more additional hours.

Portfolio Management: This is also easier because the first chapter which is also the lengthiest one, has been also covered in CFA level I. The last chapter is mostly theoretical and is generally not tested in the exam. The first chapter can be finished in 5 hours. The second and third chapters are very important for the exam and can be done in 2 hours each. The last one can be done in an hour. This topic would take a total of 10 hours. 8 items sets are enough for practice and that would take additional 4 hours.

Economics: There are 3 chapters in it and candidates generally find this topic a little difficult as there are too many confusing theories to remember which are not that intuitive to remember. But still, we should not leave it because, in the exam, there may be easier questions from this topic. The first chapter is very lengthy and would require 5 hours of your time. The second and third chapter can be finished in 3 hours and 2 hours respectively. It would require a total of 10 hours. 8 item sets are enough for practice purpose and that would take 4 more hours.

For all the topics, it is necessary to write down important formulas on a paper or notepad. Try revising all the formulas for FRA, Equity, Derivatives, and Corporate Finance on a regular basis. You may want to give 1 additional hour to revise these formulas. You may revise these in your office or your commuting hours.

The second revision should not take more than 50 hours and the third revision can be done in 30 hours. You must try at least 2 full-length mock tests (6 hours each). That would take 20 more hours including 4 hours for analyzing your mistakes.

Topic Hours for reading Hours for practicing questions
Ethical and Professional Standards 12 10
Quantitative Methods 9 5
Economics 10 4
Financial Reporting and Analysis 20 15
Corporate Finance 15 10
Equity Investments 30 15
Fixed Income 18 10
Derivatives 16 10
Alternative Investments 16 8
Portfolio Management 10 4
Total 156 91

You need a total of 250 hours for one reading and practicing enough number of questions. A second and third reading will take 80 hours more and 20 more hours for mock tests. So, you require a total of 350 hours. If you do not have enough time, then you can cut down on practicing questions by 50% and drop the third revision and one mock test and  you would require 270 hours in that case. You may also cut down your time on the topics with 5% weight. But still, 250 hours is the bare minimum requirement and that much time you need to devote. That is a different thing and you may be able to pass the exam by studying only for 100-150 hours. But if you devote 250-350 hours, that will reduce the probability of failing drastically.

Your first target should be to study all the topics and practice half of the desired questions. That would take around 200 hours and you must finish it at least 20 days before the exam. So, you need to do that in 40 days i.e. 5 hours per day on an average which can be managed even if you are working or have a family. You can rise up early and can devote 3 hours early in the morning from 4 AM to 7 AM. Rest 2 hours can be managed later in the evening or during the day. Or you may devote 3 hours daily on working days and 10 hours on weekends. In the last 20 days, you can practice rest of the questions and can attempt one mock test. Then, you can go for one more revision and one more mock and then the final third revision.

Do not worry too much about the things you need to cover. Remember the famous quote from Bruce Lee.

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.” ~ Bruce Lee

The importance of nutrition and health: Health and nutrition are very important for next 2 months as you would be absorbing a lot of stuff. You must take full care of your health and treat yourself like kings/queens. You can easily improve the performance of your brain by doing these small things. You must drink plenty of water as well.

Test Series: If you want to attempt item set questions, you must first attempt the questions from the curriculum books. Then, you can refer to the previous years’ mock exams. If you want more practice, then you can practice item sets freely from here which are based on 2013 syllabus but most of the syllabus is unchanged this time except fixed income. But if you want quality questions, then you can subscribe for out Super 30 test series that contains 30 tests of different topics. Each sectional test is itemset based tests of 1.5 hours duration. Each test will contain 5 item sets and 30 questions. There will be 4 tests for FRA and Equity. 2 tests each for Derivatives, Corporate Finance, Alternative Investments,  and Fixed Income. And one test each for Ethics, Economics, Portfolio Management and Quantitative Methods. These tests have covered all the topics comprehensively. We also provide three full-length mock tests in mock test series. You can gain access to test series from here.

Final words: With only 2 months remaining for the exam, many candidates think of giving up. Remember that if you quit once, then it becomes a habit and seep into other areas of your life. Never quit. You must know that most of the guys would not have finished more than 50% of the curriculum so far. You can easily catch them with more focus and self-belief. You may not be the smartest of the guys but you need to remember one thing.

“It’s not the tallest or the most athletic player who gets the rebound, it’s not the quickest guy or the best shooter who is the top scorer, it’s not the most spectacular who wins the game, it’s the one who wants it most on the court. Everything you need is already inside. You want something? Fine get it! But always remember no one will give it to you, it won’t be easy. Not a bit. It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. How much more can you take than everybody else? Are you willing to sacrifice? Ask yourself are you one of many and make excuses and say yourself you are not tall enough or not strong enough or are you the one that keeps practicing when everyone else leaves the gym? Are you the one who doesn’t listen when his body yells pain? Are you the one who doesn’t know what excuses are? It’s up to you. You chose your destiny. Choose wisely. Once decided there is no turning back!”

And please do not postpone the exam by citing stupid medical reasons. Remember that dead last finish is greater than did not finish, which trumps did not start. Don’t be afraid to fail, but afraid not to try.

I hope you find enough motivation and discipline to study extremely well and come out with flying colors after the exam. You may want to this read this post as well for CFA level II exam. Wish you all the best.

CFA level III in 2 months

The month of March is about to end and if you had finished only Behavioral Finance and a little bit of Private Wealth reading, then this post is for you. You might be one of the guys who had finished CFA level I and CFA level II by this time i.e. 2 months before the exam. But somehow you’re not finding the same enthusiasm to cover the CFA level III syllabus.  It happens with many guys for different reasons. The primary reasons are: (1) Candidates think that they would prepare comprehensively for CFA level III exam because it has a subjective exam and they tend to spend too much time on earlier readings. (2) Candidates find first few readings quite boring and that hinders the speed. (3) They feel complacent after CFA level II exam and do not give too much time and effort to CFA level III exam. (4) They find curriculum easier than CFA level II and never have the same urgency to finish the exam that they had during the level II exam. (5) They think that they are not good in the subjective exam and their passing probability is low and think that they may just gain experience in the first attempt and then give it a full effort in the second attempt. And there are many such reasons like getting married, change in jobs after level II and so on. Whatever be your reasons, you have one thing in common which is the time left for the exam. Now you have to finish the curriculum in 2 months and are wondering how to go about this.

Every candidate is different and has different strengths and weaknesses. But I will provide a broader framework which could be helpful for you to finish the curriculum and even revise it twice before the exam date. You are free to modify it according to your strengths and the syllabus already covered by you. I am assuming here that you haven’t touched anything and you have to start from tomorrow with only 60 days left for the exam.

First of all, we need to be aware of the pattern of CFA level III exam. You may also like to go through this post about level III exam. As you are aware that there are 18 study sessions in CFA level III. Now you need to know what all topics are most likely to show up in the morning essay type exam and what all topics you would find in the afternoon item set based exam. You can refer to the table given below. You will find 2 item sets of Ethics and 1 item set of GIPS in afternoon exam and for the rest of the subjects, it can vary.

Study Session Study Session Subject Moring Exam Afternoon Exam
1 Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct No Yes
2 Ethical and Professional Standards in Practice No Yes
3 Behavioral Finance Yes Very less chance
4 Private Wealth Management Yes Maybe
5 Portfolio Management for Institutional Investors Yes Very less chance
6 Capital Markets Expectations in Portfolio Management May be May be
7 Economic Concepts for Asset Valuation in Portfolio Management More likely Maybe
8 Asset Allocation May be May be
9 Management of Passive and Active Fixed Income Portfolios Maybe More likely
10 Portfolio Management of Global Bonds and Fixed-Income Derivatives Maybe More likely
11 Equity Portfolio Management May be More likely
12 Equity Portfolio Management May be More likely
13 Alternative Investments for Portfolio Management Very less chance More likely
14 Risk Management More likely More likely
15 Risk Management Applications of Derivatives May be May be
16 Trading, Monitoring, and Rebalancing May be May be
17 Performance Evaluation and Attribution Maybe Maybe
18 GIPS No Yes

Essay based morning exam – Both morning and afternoon exams will have a total score of 180. In the morning exam. there will be 9 to 12 questions (each question carrying 2-4 parts and the weight varying from 10 to 40 marks). The morning essay exam will be loaded with 3rd (Behavioral Finance), 4th (Private Wealth) and 5th (Institutional Management) questions. These three readings will have weight around 45%- 50% (80 to 90 marks) of the morning exam. So, you need not worry about the essay based exam. Just ace these three study sessions and you’re pretty good for the morning exam. The other questions may be from other study sessions like 7th, 8th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th. But you need not worry too much about those sessions. Just study those sessions as if there would be only multiple choice questions asked from those topics.

Item-set based afternoon exam – It will have 10 item sets just like CFA level II exam and a total of 60 questions. 3 item sets from Ethics and GIPS. So, you need to study those sessions thoroughly. Rest 7 item sets will come from other study sessions. Last year (in 2013) there were 2 item sets from Alternative Investments. But after 2013, they have reduced one reading of AI so you may not find two item sets in this year’s exam.

Strategy for morning exam – Go through all the previous actual CFA papers. You can find last 3 years’ actual morning exams (2011-2013) on CFA website. After going through morning exams, you will get to know what kind of questions would be asked from every reading. Before starting any topic, you should go through the exams to see what is important and what type of questions would be asked so that you can prepare accordingly. The major problem with morning exam is that it is lengthier and most of the candidates fail to attempt the full exam. Your goal should be to not commit that mistake. For that, you need to practice enough number of essay based papers and write only the model answers which have been asked in the questions. The best way is that when you attempt mock exams, give yourself 2 hours instead of 3 hours. This is important because on the main day you can very easily lose 30 minutes. In private wealth and institutional management reading, you need to solve for the interest rates. If you miss one or two values, you need to solve that question again and that can take a good amount of time. So, try to finish your mocks in 2 hours so that you can easily finish your actual exam in 2.5 hours and can further improve your answers in last 3 minutes. They will give you marks on the steps and not on the final answer. So, do show all the steps in the calculation. You can learn more about that only by going through previous actual exam papers.

Strategy for afternoon exam – You will find this paper relatively easier and also less lengthy than the morning exam. But that generally leads to silly mistakes. It can easily happen that you may end up finishing in 1.5 – 2 hours. But you should not make such mistake. Give adequate time to each item set (around 15 minutes) so that you do not miss the fine points asked in the questions and do not commit the silly mistakes. Practice is the key here. This exam in more important than the morning exam because in the morning exam, candidates generally get lower marks than the afternoon exam. If you perform excellently in morning exam and below average on afternoon exam, then you may not pass. But if you perform below average in morning exam and excellent in the afternoon exam, then you are more likely to pass. I couldn’t finish my morning exam. I left 20 marks of questions unattended. But I performed really well in afternoon exam and I was sure after the exam that I would pass easily. Your target should be to get 80% marks in the afternoon exam.

How much time should be given to each study session: First of all, you should try to study everything from the CFA curriculum books. Last year, they asked many questions in the morning exam which were not very well covered by the 3rd party notes. You must be thinking how can you finish the curriculum books in 2 months. But it is possible. 3 books out of 6 books have less than 400 pages and rest 3 books have less than 600 pages. The comprehension will not be that tough as you had already passed CFA level II exam. You can  easily finish 100 pages in 8 hours. So, you will be needing around 200 hours for finishing the first reading. It is very important to prepare your notes as you finish first reading so that you can do second revision and third revision in 50 hours and 20 hours respectively. You must spend around 80 hours for practicing question. You may spend 40 hours for essay based exams and 40 hours for essay based exam. Those many hours will definitely prepare you for the final exam. So, you need around 350 hours. But if are using 3rd party notes, then you can decrease that time by 100 more hours as it will take less time. But you must not cut your practice time for essay based question and item set based questions. So, if you can devote 6 hours on an average daily for next 60 days, then go with the curriculum books. But if you cannot devote that much time, then use 3rd party vendors notes. You may also do a combo as well i.e. you can study from 3rd party notes and do questions from the curriculum book and do blue box examples. That would be ideal as less time is left.

Study Session Study Session Subject Number of hours needed for first reading Time for practicing questions and mock tests
1 Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct 6 to 9 4
2 Ethical and Professional Standards in Practice 4 to 6 4
3 Behavioral Finance 8 to 12 4
4 Private Wealth Management 16 to 24 8
5 Portfolio Management for Institutional Investors 10 to 15 6
6 Capital Markets Expectations in Portfolio Management 6 to 9 3
7 Economic Concepts for Asset Valuation in Portfolio Management 5 to 8 3
8 Asset Allocation 8 to 12 4
9 Management of Passive and Active Fixed Income Portfolios 7 to 10 3
10 Portfolio Management of Global Bonds and Fixed-Income Derivatives 7 to 10 3
11 Equity Portfolio Management 7 to 10 3
12 Equity Portfolio Management 4 to 6 2
13 Alternative Investments for Portfolio Management 6 to 9 4
14 Risk Management 10 to 15 6
15 Risk Management Applications of Derivatives 15 to 20 8
16 Trading, Monitoring, and Rebalancing 8 to 12 4
17 Performance Evaluation and Attribution 8 to 12 4
18 GIPS 10 to 15 4

The range given in the table is the range of the number of hours needed if you are studying from the notes provided by a 3rd party vendor to the number of hours needed if you are studying from curriculum books. If you are studying from 3rd party vendors, then you should be doing Risk Management in 10 hours and if you are studying it from the curriculum books, then you should be able to finish it in 15 hours.

Test Series: We are coming up with a test series. There will be 20 sectional tests in the test series. 8 tests for essay based questions and 12 for item sets based questions. Each test will be of 90 marks and of 90 minutes duration. These 20 tests will cover the entire course comprehensively. The cost will be $20 for the test series and that will be available on our website from mid of April. We will also be providing 1 full mock test but that test will not be part of the test series. If you want some tests for practice, you may subscribe to our test series.

Final Words: Do not lose your focus. You just need to focus for 2 more months and then you will be over with the certification. Visualize ‘CFA’ after your name. That should give you enough motivation. Trust yourself. Never ever think that you will not be able to pass the exam if you are not so good in subjective papers. This subjective exam is a different one and it is more like that of an objective exam rather than a subjective exam. You need to develop a hunger for passing the exam. If you do not believe in yourself then who else will. Ignore the naysayers who think that it cannot be done in 2 months. Pay no attention to the people who say that it can’t be done. Study diligently for next 2 months and I am sure that you will have the last laugh. Best of luck. I hope to see on the other side in the coming month of August.

Financial Markets and Products Sectional Tests : FRM Part 1

We are providing two comprehensive sectional tests for Financial Markets and Products for FRM Part 1. Each test consists of 50 questions and of duration 2 hours. But since most of the questions are theoretical, please try to finish test within 1 hour 45 minutes. Test 1 is relatively easy and the target score should be 80% i.e. 40 correct answers. Test 2 is moderate and the target score should be 70-75% i.e. 35-37 correct answers. All the best. Please download the tests from the links provided below.

Financial Markets and Products Sectional Test_1

Financial Markets and Products Sectional Test_2

Solutions to Financial Markets and Products Sectional Test_1

Solutions to Financial Markets and Products Sectional Test_2

ThinkMarkets

A blog of the NYU Colloquium on Market Institutions and Economic Processes

Fundoo Professor

Thoughts of a teacher & practitioner of value investing and behavioral economics