Last Tuesday, was a very special day for me. When I got into the office, I saw I had a large envelope waiting for me. Right away I knew what it was – my results from the CFP® or certified financial planner exam.
A lot of thoughts rushed through my head once I saw that envelope. Including the classes to sit for the exam, I had studied for about 18 months.
Had the long process of studying for the exam finally come to an end? If I had failed, would I take the exam again in March?
Luckily, once I picked up the envelope I could read through the plastic where my name and address had been. In big bold leaders, I saw the words “Congratulations!”
I quickly ran upstairs to my desk, tore open the envelope and reality finally set in. After 18 months, I had passed the exam. It was over!
I gave a classic Michael Jordan fist pump, might have even yelled a little, and then called to tell my wife and parents the great news.
Passing the CFP Exam®
Passing the CFP® exam, is the biggest accomplishment of my academic career. I never put much work into high school or college. I was fine with showing up and getting a B or C.
I didn’t consider myself to have good or bad study habits because I never studied. In order to pass this exam, I had to learn not only about financial planning but about becoming an effective leaner.
The rest of this post is a detailed guide of my how I studied. Even for anyone not taking any exams, there are still great techniques I found that can help you accelerate your learning.
I had a checklist of what I needed before I began. To make sure I would never have to search for something once I began studying, I organized the following items:
- Full water
- Scratch paper
Before I even picked up my book, this is what I did to get my mind ready to study:
- Breathing routine – 3 minutes – I went through a few basic breathing exercises to relax my mind. I did the following breathing exercises in order: breathe of fire, 4, 7, 8, breath, and slowly inhaled and exhaled for about a minute.
- Visualization – 1 -2 minutes – I visualized passing the exam. In my mind, I would open an envelope, take out a sheet a paper, and see the words congratulations on top. I would then try as hard as I can to imagine the feeling of passing the exam. I would visualize the benefits of passing the exam, including an increase in income, more control of my time, and time to pursue other projects.
- Recalling a Moment of Success - 1 minute – In my mind, I would think back to a specific moment of success in my life. As soon as I had a memory, I tried to recreate how I felt during that moment and what events led up to it as best as I could. Then, I would repeat the word – determination. This was my trigger word. Since everything I have ever done in my life has been because of determination.
- Turn on Classical Music – I would go to last.fm and turn on classical music station.
Efficient and Effective Learning Techniques
I could now open my books. I was in a great state of mind to take in new material.
To get as much information into my mind as possible without burning out, I developed a simple procedure of how I studied. I went through this routine twice in the morning and four times at night.
- Set Timer – Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Set Goal – Write one sentence on what I wish to learn in the next 25 minutes.
- Study - Studied for 25 minutes.
- Break – After 25 minutes, I would take a five-minute break. Which included things such as going to bathroom, stepping outside if it was a nice day, splash my face with some cold water, doing very light exercises or stretches.
More Effective Study Tips
My goal was to never be just reading and rereading material. I always tried to involve as many senses as I could in the learning process. Here are a few tricks I used:
- Used Highlighters – I went through a few packs of highlighters while studying. If I didn’t have a highlighter, I made sure I underlined important material with a pen.
- Read Out Loud - I read flashcards and any material I was having trouble with out loud. Now I was reading, speaking, and hearing material instead of just reading.
- Practice Tests – I took as many practice tests as I could. My goal was to get a 100% on every practice tests, even if it meant retaking the test multiple times.
- Fake Lecture - I would stand up in my room and pretend I was lecturing to a group of students sitting on the couch. While this was embarrassing the few times I got walked in on, I felt that since I was teaching the material I had to really grasp the subject.
- No Caffeine – Since I wasn’t allowed to bring any caffeine into the exam, I knew I had to find away to study without it.
- Quizzes – After each page, I would develop a short quiz on the material. Usually just fill in the blanks, definitions, and such. After reading and highlighting through the material, I would take the quiz. If I had succeeded, I would place a check mark on the page to let myself know I understood the material. If I got any of the questions wrong, I didn’t place a check mark on the page. This way I was never wasting time, going over material I already knew.
I only had three hours a day to study. I needed to maximize the time I had. The techniques turned me into an efficient and effective learner. I owe a lot of these techniques to a blog I recently discovered, called Study Hacks. A highly recommended resource for anyone who wants to improve their learning.
At the age of 25, I had to learn how to learn. A bit embarrassing to say, knowing that I just got out of about 16 years of traditional education. However, without these techniques I would not have passed this exam.
In the comments, please mention any effective exam study tips you have used in the past.
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