Tomorrow I will officially begin studying for the 2015 CFA Level 3 Exam. Only 153 days are remaining. Thank goodness for the leap year or it would only be 152 days!

I am going to break my preparation for the exam down into three phases: Initial, Middle, and Final Preparation.

Initial Phase – January 3rd until April 13th:

I have 102 days set aside for the Initial Phase. My goal for the Initial Phase is to get through each of the 32 Readings in the 2016 CFA Curriculum with a solid understanding of all of the material. “Solid understanding” is a vague term, so I will attempt to quantify what I mean. I must be able to answer all of the end of chapter questions correctly, and score 75% or higher in Schweser’s Q-bank for all of the Readings. I will answer all questions under test-like conditions, i.e., not looking up the answers while using only a pencil, a blank paper and my trusty HP 12C calculator. I will have approximately three days for each reading. Obviously, the actual time spent on the individual Readings will vary due to a variety of factors, e.g., number of pages, difficulty, my ability to comprehend the material, and fluctuations in my available time to study. The majority of my time will be spent in the CFA Level 3 Curriculum during the Initial Phase, while the Irfannullah Financial Training (IFT) videos, and Schweser’s Q-bank questions will supplement the curriculum. I will skip the first four Readings (Ethics) and start with Reading 5 (Behavioral Finance). I will finish the Initial Phase with the four Ethics and Professional Standards Readings. April 13th is actually a hard deadline for the end of the Initial Phase. I have somewhere to be on April 14th, which is key to the Mid Phase of my CFA Level 3 Exam preparation.

Middle Phase – April 14th until May 4th:

I have 21 days allotted for the Middle Phase. My goal in the Middle Phase is to master how I am going to deal with the structured response portion of the CFA Level 3 Exam. The corner stone of this phase will be attending Marc LeFebvre’s LevelUp CFA Bootcamp in Zurich, Switzerland. The dates for the bootcamp in Zurich are April 14th through April 17th. If I am unable to attend, due to my Army commitments, I have back up plans “B” and “C”: LevelUp CFA Bootcamps in Boston from 21 – 24 April, and New York from 28 April – 1 May. I would have to fly across the Atlantic for plans “B” or “C”, but I could always study while I am flying. I often study best when I am in a situation that has few distractions. The remainder of my time in the Middle Phase will focus on the structured response portions from the last three actual CFA Exams. My hope is that my “solid understanding” from the initial phase will make the Middle Phase as smoothed as possible.

Final Preparation Phase – May 5th until June 4th:

I will have 30 days for the Final Preparation Phase. I have four facets to my last phase:

  1. Identify my strengths and weakness
  2. Maintain proficiency with my strengths
  3. Improve in areas where I am weak
  4. Practice taking the CFA Level 3 Exam

To identify my strengths and weaknesses, I will answer hundreds of questions in Schweser’s Q-bank. In areas where I am strong, I will continue to occasionally answer questions in Schweser’s Q-bank to keep the material fresh in my head. In areas where I am weak I will review the CFA Curriculum and/or watch the IFT videos as needed. I will continue to answer questions in Schweser’s Q-bank  until I show improvement. I will also be locking myself in my room where I will be taking mock exams to get my mindset right for taking the actual CFA Exam on June 4th. While it is not always practical to set six hour blocks of time aside to take mock exams, I should be able to get several three hour sessions in during my Final Preparation Phase. If the Army will allow it, I will attempt to take a week of leave (time off work), so I can focus exclusively on the upcoming exam. For the CFA Level 2 Exam last year, I came directly out of the woods from a major military training exercise and took the train to Munich and sat for the exam. This was less than ideal and I would prefer to avoid a repeat of last year’s circumstances.

This is my plan of attack for conquering the CFA Level 3 Exam and tomorrow I begin.