Passing Your CFA & CSC

By Jeff Fritz

The finance industry is competitive, and for a fresh-faced finance student hoping to enter into that fray, attaining your CFA and CSC designations may be your most valuable keys to both achieving industry respect and opening the right doors for your climbing the corporate ladder.  But as with all worthwhile things in life, attaining these designations is horrendously challenging, and only a special few will have the commitment necessary to claim them.  In this section of the NFSA Arbitrage, we’ve assembled two such students.  Together they will explain the strategies they used to prepare for and perform successfully in the weighty exams of these two designations.

Can you give us a brief background of yourself?

Muz (CFA): My name is Muz Parkhani and I have graduated from York University. I completed my Bachelor of Administrative Studies and specialized in Finance.  I passed my Level 1 CFA in June 2008 and scored over 70% in all ten areas and am a candidate for the Level 2 exam (June 2009).  My short-term goal is to land a job in a rotational program.  This would help me learn more about the business and gain valuable experience. In the long run though, I hope to start my own independent investment management firm.

Aziz (CSC): My name is Aziz Samali, and I attained an Honours Commerce at McMaster University, specializing in Accounting. I am currently working towards my CA designation while working at EY.

How long did you prepare for exams?

Muz (CFA): 6 weeks. (That was only possible because of the finance courses I took in my final year at York)

Aziz (CSC): Three to four weeks for each exam.

What supplementary source did you find most helpful in writing your exam?

Muz (CFA): The best source to prepare for the exam is the official curriculum. The key is to focus only on the LOS and therefore a candidate should be able to identify and master the examinable concepts.

Aziz (CSC): None

What courses did you find most helpful in preparation for your exams?

Muz (CFA): I took most of the CFA prep courses offered at York. As we all know, CFA exams test your knowledge in ten areas. Hence, I would say all the courses I took helped me excel in the ten areas. The following is the list of courses I took in my final year: (1) Personal Investment Management, (2) Advance Portfolio Management, (3) Fixed Income, (4) Derivatives Securities, (5) Security Valuation, (6) Financial Statement Analysis, (7) Advance Corporate Finance, and (8) Professional Investment Management.

Aziz (CSC): Financial Times Newspaper

What would you recommend that students focus on extensively?

Muz (CFA): The entire curriculum I would say.  There is not one area or LOS a candidate should ignore.  They do test you on almost the entire curriculum.

Aziz (CSC): The books and questions they provide. Make sure to practice cause there is so much you can remember theory wise.

Did you work at the same time while studying for the exam?  If so, did the firm you were with assist you in any way?

Muz (CFA): Yes, I was working full time (like I did all throughout my under graduation program). They did allow me two weeks off from work before the exam.

Aziz (CSC): I was in school taking full course load while working part time, so I was able to book some time off to do the test.

What did you do to diffuse the tension/stress that you may have experienced while studying/writing the exam?
Muz (CFA): I avoided talking to a lot of other candidates especially a few weeks before the exam. 

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