After Enron and 2008 Crisis CFA Exam Puts Greatest Weight on Financial Reporting and Analysis and Author of Prep Guides for Wall Street’s Toughest Test Gives 5 Study Tips

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The Enron debacle, a series of accounting scandals, and then the ethical failings of credit ratings agencies in the 2008 financial crisis, have turned a spotlight on how well financial analysts do their jobs -- and resulted in the CFA Level I exam weighting 20% of the score to Financial Reporting and Analysis. The Chartered Financial Analyst is Wall Street’s most coveted professional credential and Jane Vessey, CFA instructor and author of the popular ExamWise Q&A workbooks for CFA Level I, gives 5 study tips for this critical area in the exams coming this December.

Jane Vessey, CFA, is author of ExamWise Q&A workbooks for CFA Level I, providing hundrededs of practice questions with a test engine download for unlimited pre- and post-study tests and mock exams.

Post Enron and other accounting scandals, Financial Reporting and Analysis carries the highest weight in the CFA Level I exam, accounting for 20% of the total marks.

The Enron debacle, a series of accounting scandals, and the ethical misconduct of credit ratings agencies in the 2008 financial crisis, have turned a spotlight on financial analysts and how well they do their jobs. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam -- a famously grueling three-level, four-year marathon that bestows Wall Street’s most coveted professional credential – puts the greatest weight on Financial Reporting and Analysis.

Jane Vessey, CFA instructor and author of the popular ExamWise Q&A workbooks for CFA Level I, notes that the Level I exam, coming this December, allocates 20% of its score, and the 2015 Level II will allocate another 15-20% of total marks to this critical area.

The CFA Institute responds to these and other issues throughout the curriculum that forms the basis of the exam. In the six-volume set, the Ethics Study Session discusses issues revolving around conflicts of interest and the need to prepare research in a diligent manner. Other Study Sessions give analysts tools to thoroughly understand and analyze financial statements and spot the signs that accounts are being manipulated.

Oxford educated and London based, Vessey says, “The Study Sessions focus on the importance of understanding alternative methods of accounting and candidates must not only be able to calculate numbers, but also understand the impact of accounting choices on financial ratios. These are essential skills for analysts who compare companies operating in different accounting jurisdictions as well as within a single country where companies can quite legitimately use different accounting methods.

Based on her CFA exam prep courses and books, Vessey offers these 5 study tips for passing the Financial Reporting and Analysis section:

1)    Study Session 7 is an introductory chapter aimed at candidates with little prior knowledge of financial reporting. For those who already have a good grasp of financial reporting this Study Session can be completed relatively quickly. They can then allocate more time to focus on Study Sessions 8 and 9, which require more detailed study.

2)    The financial ratios covered in Study Session 8 are critical, so candidates need to make sure they learn the CFA definitions since these will be tested in the exams. Different text books may teach slightly different definitions, but in CFA readings ‘debt’ is defined as total interest-bearing debt, both long and short term.

3)    Cash flows are important. They're generally less easy to manipulate and usually not affected by choice of accounting methods (unless there's a tax effect). Allocation of cash flow between operating, financing, and investing activities is essential to understanding how a company is financing its operations.

4)    Study Session 9 is long and will take candidates time to work through. Candidates shouldn’t just focus on calculations, but on understanding how alternative accounting methods will affect the financial statements and the ratios they learned in the previous Study Session.

5)    Throughout the Readings, candidates need to pay attention to the differences between US GAAP and IFRS and how the differences affect the financial statements. Candidates are expected to have a thorough knowledge of the two systems.

For those students planning to take the exams in 2015, Vessey notes there is a new Reading in the 2015 Study Session 9 that builds on the existing Reading 33, while Reading 34 has been removed.

Jane Vessey's two volumes of CFA Level I practice questions are available from, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and other booksellers: ExamWise 2014 CFA Level I Volume 1 - The Candidates 450 Question And Answer Workbook For Chartered Financial Analyst Exam and the companion volume 2.

The Publisher, TotalRecall Publications, offers CFA candidates free mock exams via a test engine download at

Jane Vessey, CFA, graduated in Mathematics from Oxford University and is a CFA charterholder. She manages a training company in the United Kingdom specializing in financial analysis and investment. After 20 years in the investment management business in London, Tokyo, and Indonesia, she now lectures at leading business schools and trains investment practitioners in top financial firms. She has been a visiting lecturer at Cass Business School teaching classes in asset management and valuation and is a visiting lecturer at Cranfield Business School. She has developed online training programs for students taking the CFA examinations and teaches CFA preparatory courses at a number of universities.

Located in Friendswood, TX, near Houston, TotalRecall Publications, Inc. was founded in 1998 by Bruce Moran, a former NASA IT professional who transitioned into computer instruction and educational materials. The company began with the introduction of study guides and innovative Q&A testing software for numerous computer certification exams. In 2005, TotalRecall applied these successful formats to the financial industry and launched products for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams for Levels I and II. In addition to the ExamWise Q&A workbooks, the company also publishes the comprehensive CFA study guide A-Plus Study Notes CFA Level I Certification: A Complete Course of Study for Chartered Financial Analyst, by Samuel J. Gottlieb, CFP, CFA. Gottlieb also writes a similar book for Level II. TotalRecall publishes more than 200 non-fiction and fiction titles, all distributed worldwide through book retailers and wholesalers and via eBook databases such as ebrary, EBSCO, and See for a complete listing of financial books.

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