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By Caimin Kenny, 01 May 2024

A day in the life of a Sapphire Capital Partners analyst:  best exams to get started in the finance industry

As I near completion of my annual contract as a university placement analyst here at Sapphire Capital Partners, I would like to share my insight on obtaining the Investment Management Certificate offered from the CFA Society of the UK in order to pave my way to success in the finance industry.

Why professional exams help get into the finance profession

Professional exams are a valuable asset when it comes to entering the finance industry. They provide a strong foundation of knowledge and skills that are highly sought after by employers. These exams demonstrate a commitment to professional development and a dedication to the field of finance. Employers often look for candidates who have passed professional exams as it showcases their expertise and sets them apart from other applicants.  Additionally, professional exams such as the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam are globally recognised and respected, giving individuals an edge in the competitive finance job market. The Investment Management Certificate (IMC) is an ESQL Level 4 accreditation course provided by the CFA Society of the United Kingdom that provides the foundational knowledge requirements for the UK's investment management industry.  I am delighted to have obtained this accreditation during my time with Sapphire!

By passing professional exams, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of finance concepts, theories, and practices. These exams cover a wide range of topics including investment management, financial analysis, ethics, and economics. The knowledge gained through studying for these exams can be applied directly to real-world scenarios, making candidates more valuable assets to employers. Furthermore, professional exams often require a significant amount of self-discipline and dedication to studying, which are important qualities in the finance industry.

Overall, professional exams help individuals gain the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the finance profession. They demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning and professional growth, which are highly valued by employers.

Exams to consider

To get into the finance industry, there are several exams to be considered. One of the most well-known and respected exams is the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam. This exam is highly regarded in the finance industry and covers a wide range of topics such as ethics, investment analysis, and portfolio management. Passing the CFA exam can open doors to various career opportunities in investment management, research, and analysis.

Another exam I would consider taking is the FRM (Financial Risk Manager) exam. This exam focuses on risk management and is valuable for individuals interested in careers in risk assessment, risk consulting, and risk analysis. The FRM exam covers topics such as quantitative analysis, financial markets and products, and risk management practices.

Additionally, the CAIA (Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst) exam is worth considering for individuals interested in alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, and real estate. This exam covers topics such as alternative investment strategies, asset allocation, and risk management.

These are just a few examples of professional exams that can help individuals break into the finance industry. It's important to research and choose exams that align with your career goals and interests.

How to prepare for finance exams 

Preparing effectively for exams like the CFA requires a structured and disciplined approach. Here are some tips to help you succeed:

1. Start early: Give yourself ample time to study and review the exam material. Cramming at the last minute is not an effective strategy for these exams.

2. Create a study plan: Break down the exam syllabus into manageable study sessions and allocate specific time slots for each topic. This will help you stay organized and cover all the necessary material.

3. Utilize study materials: Invest in quality study materials such as textbooks, practice exams, and online resources. These resources can provide valuable insights and practice questions to enhance your understanding of the exam content.

4. Practice, practice, practice: Take advantage of practice exams and sample questions to familiarise yourself with the exam format and time constraints. This will help you build confidence and improve your exam performance.

5. Join study groups or seek guidance: Collaborating with others who are preparing for the same exam can provide additional support and motivation. Consider joining study groups or seeking guidance from experienced professionals or instructors.

6. Stay consistent and focused: Maintain a consistent study schedule and avoid distractions. Dedicate regular time slots for studying and create a conducive environment that promotes concentration.

By following these strategies, you can effectively prepare for exams like the CFA and increase your chances of success.

Tips for acing finance exam

Passing finance exams such as the CFA requires a combination of knowledge, preparation, and test-taking strategies. Here are some tips to help you ace the CFA exam:

1. Understand the exam format: Familiarise yourself with the exam structure, question types, and time constraints. This will help you allocate your time wisely during the exam.

2. Focus on the curriculum: The CFA exam is based on a specific curriculum provided by the CFA Institute. Make sure to thoroughly study and understand the curriculum to cover all the necessary topics.

3. Master the learning outcome statements (LOS): Pay close attention to the LOS provided in the curriculum. These statements outline the specific knowledge and skills that will be tested in the exam.

4. Take mock exams: Practice with mock exams to simulate the actual exam environment. This will help you familiarise yourself with the format, manage your time effectively, and identify areas for improvement.

5. Review and revise: Regularly review and revise the exam material to reinforce your understanding and retention. Use flashcards, summaries, and other study aids to facilitate the review process.

6. Manage your time: During the exam, allocate time for each question based on its weightage. Avoid spending too much time on a single question and make sure to attempt all questions within the given time limit.

7. Stay calm and confident: Maintain a positive mindset and believe in your abilities. Stay calm during the exam and trust in the preparation you have done.

By implementing these tips and strategies, you can improve your chances of acing the CFA exam and achieving your goals in the finance industry.

Resources for CFA exam preparation

When preparing for the CFA exam, utilizing the right resources can greatly enhance your study experience. Here are some resources you can consider:

1. CFA Institute materials: The CFA Institute provides a comprehensive range of study materials including textbooks, practice questions, and sample exams. These materials are specifically designed to align with the exam curriculum and can provide valuable insights into the exam format and content.

2. Online learning platforms: There are several online learning platforms that offer CFA exam preparation courses. These courses are designed and taught by experienced instructors who can guide you through the exam material and provide additional support.

3. Study groups and forums: Joining study groups or online forums can provide a platform for discussion and knowledge sharing. Interacting with fellow candidates can help you gain different perspectives and clarify any doubts or queries.

4. Exam prep providers: There are various exam prep providers that offer comprehensive study packages for the CFA exam. These packages often include study materials, practice exams, and additional resources to aid your preparation.

5. Financial calculators: The CFA exam requires the use of financial calculators for certain calculations. Make sure to invest in an approved financial calculator and familiarize yourself with its functions before the exam.

Remember to choose resources that align with your learning style and preferences. Experiment with different resources to find what works best for you.

Post-exam steps for maximising your finance career

After successfully completing the CFA exam, there are several steps you can take to maximize your finance career:

1. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile: Highlight your CFA designation and the knowledge and skills you have gained through the exam. This will make you stand out to potential employers and enhance your professional profile.

2. Network within the finance industry: Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with professionals in your field. Networking can open doors to new opportunities and help you build valuable relationships.

3. Pursue relevant work experience: Seek out internships, entry-level positions, or projects that allow you to apply your finance knowledge and skills in a practical setting. Practical experience combined with the CFA designation can significantly enhance your career prospects.

4. Continuously update your knowledge: The finance industry is constantly evolving. Stay updated with industry trends, new regulations, and emerging technologies. Engage in continuous learning through webinars, workshops, and professional development programs.

5. Consider advanced certifications or degrees: Once you have gained some experience in the finance industry, you may want to consider pursuing advanced certifications or degrees to further enhance your knowledge and career prospects.

By taking these post-exam steps, you can position yourself for success and make the most of your finance career.