First of all, I must apologize to my fantastic readership base that I know have missed my brilliant, insightful blog posts for the last six months. As the title of this article implies, I have put off my blogging practice to focus on preparing for an exam that is coming up June 2nd. This exam happens to have massive implications for my career, as well as equally large implications for my self-esteem, sanity, and marriage. Basically, I have been treating it very seriously!
So late Friday night, (a day I had off work and managed to get six hours of studying in), I read a couple of thoughtful and interesting blog posts from a friend and decided that I missed writing. So here I am with a couple insights to share about what has kept me from the Kraken these past six months. I thought this was a fair compromise.
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Examination – Level III
For some quick background, I started in the Chartered Financial Analyst (hereby referred to as CFA) program back in August of 2007. It is a chartering program designed for the financial services industry where membership is contingent on passing three exams, and members, as well as candidates (those enrolled to take the tests) are upheld to strict ethical standards. The curriculum for these exams is a mile wide and fifty feet deep, covering all sorts of fun and interesting topics like equity and fixed income valuation, accounting, economics, and even quantitative statistical analysis. For each exam you register to take, they mail you six textbooks and wish you look on the exam six months later.
Going through this process for the last five years, I feel that I have learned a few things above and beyond what is written in the books (though I hope that I have retained some of that as well). Here are a few of the lessons learned…. some the hard way.
1. Perseverance matters – I failed the second level of this exam twice. Even though both of those instances were huge set-backs for me, I knew I had to try and try again. Life can deal any number of hazards into your way and the cards may not always fall where you expect them to, so the only thing you can do is keep trying. Sometimes the people who win are simply the ones who hang on the longest. Its quite possible that this time next month I will never be taking another CFA exam again, and I would rather have completed the CFA in five years, than not at all.
2. There is no substitute for putting in the time – While there are all sorts of strategies and tricks people can use to help them have a chance on exam day, the most important aspect by far is putting in the time. Just like many endeavors in life, not all study time is equally valuable. You can have bad days where the hours just aren’t yielding the dividends they should be. Its important not to dismiss those days, or give up too early, because fighting through those times provide a side benefit of training your brain to try and stay on task. The more you fight through the bad days, the less of them you will have.
3. Do not be afraid to overpromise and underperform – When it comes to setting goals for yourself, you should plan ambitiously. You should go ahead and proclaim that you are going to put in the 8 hour marathon session. Guess what? Sometimes you are going to fall short of that goal. Sometimes life gets in the way… but you know what they say… By reaching for the stars, you improve your chance to reach the sky. If I miss my target of 8 hours by only studying 7, its still better than going with a conservative goal of 6. Lofty goals force us to reach higher.
There are more lessons that I am sure I could relate, and perhaps I will another time, but for now I need to sign off. One other lesson specifically should be that getting sleep and good rest needs to be a priority, however, I would feel slightly hypocritical preaching that mantra considering it is after 1a.m. and I have ambitious study plans for tomorrow.
As for the regimen for the rest of the month, I will be putting in about 6 hours tomorrow and another 6 on Sunday. During the week I study on the train and during lunch, stay late on Wed and Fri after work to put in a little time. Starting next weekend its practice exam on Saturday and review on Sunday. The week before the exam I am taking off of work to study full time.
I look forward to writing more after the test, and of course will appreciate any thoughtful contributions.