How to Pass the CFA Level II Exam

First of all, congratulations on passing the CFA Level I exam. Now that you are through with the first exam, you can start preparing for the Level II exam. The Level II exam sits at a critical point in the candidate’s roadmap and some consider this exam to be the hardest of the three.

The 2010 pass rate for Level 2 was 39% (source: The preparation for the Level II exam requires you to have a strong game plan. This article outlines how to prepare yourself to pass the exam.

1. When to start: The CFA Level I exam is conducted in June as well as December. However, this is not the case with the level II exam. The CFA Level II exam is conducted only in June. It is recommended that you put in atleast 250 hours for studies. If you start six months before the exam, you should be able to manage studies, practice as well as revisions. Starting your preparation in January or February will be a good idea.

2. Familiarity with study material: When you register for the CFA exam, you are provided the curriculum books. The candidates will get the printed books and also have the option to get the ebooks. The entire study is divided into divided into 18 sessions.  Briefly go through all the study sessions and make a mental map of how familiar you are with each study session.

3. A study plan: Before you start your exam preparation, it is important to create a study plan. Depending on how much time you have left for the exam, your study plan should accommodate enough time for studying all the study material, enough practice of questions, and atleast 2 weeks for revisions before the exam. You can get started with the free CFA Level II 21-week study plan.

4. Third party study notes: To make your preparation easier, you can also use 3rd party study notes. Deciding on which notes to purchase must be done carefully depending on your needs. There are companies that provide extensive study material to prepare for the exam (for example, Schweser and Stalla). These study packs are alternatives to the official study books. However, most students can get the best results by using the official curriculum books. The books are extensive and cover every topic in much detail. Many of these students find the official material cumbersome. What students really need is a some form of low-cost, high value supplement which will help them simplify their learning.

5. Flash cards: Flash cards are an effective way to note important formulas and concepts. Handmade flash cards are more useful as you make flash cards based on your preferences and difficulty areas.

6. Practice questions: The CFA level II exam consists of 20 item sets. Item sets are sometimes called “mini-cases.” Each item set on the CFA exam consists of a vignette (or case statement) and six multiple choice items (questions). We recommend you to study as many item sets as possible. There is no need to begin practicing under pressure.  Start by doing practice problems open note or open book.  As one develops confidence through practice, then he or she can transition to doing these problems without help.

7. Approved calculator: The exam questions are construction with the assumption that the candidates have the ability to work with a financial calculator. So, it is important that you are comfortable with one of the approved CFA calculators for the exam.

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