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Exam Advice

Are you up for the challenge? The keys to success are to get organized, develop an effective study program and review.

Key #1: Get Organized, Start early.

1. Preview the material before starting.
2. Develop a game plan. Get your calendar out and determine which weeks you will be studying which sections. Plot this on Excel, Outlook or a similar schedule-making program. Schedule your studying so that you finish with all the sections at least one week before the exam, so you can review. Also, schedule in review days as you go along.
3. Select a review course. In no way should a review course substitute for studying the material. However, a good review course can augment your study program by clarifying or pinpointing concepts you may be having trouble with.

Key #2: Develop an Effective Study Program

An effective study program will make the difference between doing well and not well. To develop an effective program, consider the following:

1. Study all "learning outcome statements" (LOS). LOS - "knowledge, skills and abilities that you should be able to apply after completing a reading and all associated exercises and problems." To master each LOS, develop an outline and write down any important terms, definitions and formulas relating to each one. You'll be more likely to remember these points later if you take time to write them down as you come across them.

2. Use flash cards. Homemade flash cards are an effective way to master the material. They can be quickly reviewed while commuting to work, during a lunch break, etc.

3. Use memory techniques. Mnemonic devices, such as taking the first letter of each word in a concept to spell one word, are helpful. There are other tricks, such as catchy slogans. For example, "SiP a CoKe" can be used to remind you of option put-call parity: The prices of a Stock + the Put = those of the Call + the present value of the striKe price. Also, don't fail to take the value of auditory memory cues into account.

4. Study quantitative and qualitative material differently. When studying quantitative material, working on problems is important. First study the concept, then learn by doing these problems over and over again. Once you understand how to solve a problem, return to the material for further understanding. Read qualitative subjects, such as ethics or behavioral finance before working on any problems. Approach these readings as if you were enjoying a good book. Many ethical problems are scenario-based and easy to read.

5. Work through as many practice questions as you can. Use the curriculum provided by the Institute to show which problems you must work on. Enhance your studying by working on additional problems.

6. Use your approved calculator. Part of the challenge in doing well in the exams is the ability to answer questions in a short period of time. Practicing with the calculator you will use on exam day will allow you to achieve the greatest efficiency.

7. Stay motivated.

8. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy, moderately proportioned meals, sleep right; remember to do exercise. People who are healthy are better learners.

Key #3: Review

Hopefully, you've been reviewing the material as you progress. Do not take this part of the study process lightly.

Here are some helpful tips for your review stage:

1. Finish early. Finish covering all materials at least one week before the exam.
2. Use practice tools. Tools like CDs or online exams are available to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Find out where you need to build on your strengths and practice in areas where you are weak.
3. Work problems offline. Do your work like you would on the day of the exam – with a calculator and pencil in hand.
4. Take practice exams. Take all the revision tests seriously. Time yourself and allow no interruptions. This will allow you to become used to writing two three-hour exams in one day.
5. Make time for yourself. If possible, take off 2/3 days before the exam. This will allow time for your final review, and reduce stress levels before the exam. Stay at home, study the material and allow no interruptions.
6. Sleep tight. Take it easy the night before. Lightly review the material, brush up on weak spots and eat a nice dinner. Also, remember to pack your calculator, pencils, erasers, required medications, exam ticket and photo ID. Get to bed at a decent time.
7. EXAM DAY. Wake up early and eat a good breakfast. Go over some broad concepts. Start with ones that are easy for you; then work a few problems. Don't go into the exam cold. Leave the house in plenty of time to get to the exam.
8. Take the exam. Relax and take a few deep breaths. Avoid talking with others about the exam. If you see someone you want to talk to, try not to talk about the exam.

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