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How To Save Yourself from 3 Worst Exam Mistakes for the CFA® Program exam

It’s the week before the exams! In this series of posts, we present the top revision tips from Wiley, our AB Maximus CFA® Program exam prep course partner.

Every year, many hopefuls end up failing their papers – contributing to the exams' infamous passing rates! With the help of our friends at Wiley, we've looked at what CFA institute's says are the 3 biggest mistakes candidates make – and the ways to save yourself from them!

1. Poor Preparation

This is the single most important reason candidates fail the exam: they haven’t studied the assigned readings enough to fully understand the CFA® Program exam curriculum and Learning Outcome statements.

How to save yourself:

At this stage, it’s too late to do much – immediately sign up for intensive revision classes.

2. Panic Attacks

With every exam comes pressure, and even well-prepared candidates go into panic mode when faced with too many difficult questions and not enough time. Your mind may go blank, or you may make careless mistakes.

How to save yourself:

Take a deep breath and remember that you do not need a perfect score. The passing mark is is somewhere around 70%, so take heart that you can botch at least 108/360 points – but try to offset those with higher scores from other questions. When panicking, remember: start with reading the question carefully. Reading too fast can lead to misinterpretation, which can result in wrong answers. Follow the instructions and you will be ok.

*Wiley tip: Your strategy should be to maximize your point total, so don’t be distracted by rumours such as minimum scores in Ethical and Professional Standards.

3. Poor Time Management

Yes, we just said you don't need a perfect score, but many candidates fail because they left too many questions unanswered due to not allocating enough time per question.

How to save yourself:

Of course, do practice questions and mock papers. But bear in mind also that the exam questions are designed to be answered with straightforward responses in minutes. If your solutions are too long, you may be using the wrong approach. Stick to the exam curriculum concepts. Don’t overthink the question.

About the Author

Darren Degraaf, CFA, CPA, MBA, MAFM, PRM, is the revision expert in AB Maximus' CFA ® Program exam prep course. He is currently adjunct professor of the Sauder School of Business in the University of British Columbia and director of Instructional Management for the Stalla Review for the CFA Exams Division of DeVry University. Before an international career in CFA® Program exam prep, he worked in HSBC for almost 20 years.

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