How to Pass the CAIA® Level II Exam

By: Kaplan Schweser
January 8, 2021
Man studying so he can pass the CAIA Level II Exam

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve already passed the Chartered Alternative Investment AnalystSM (CAIA®) Level I exam. So first things first…


Now it’s time to set your sites on the Level II exam and earn the charter. Like the Level I exam, the CAIA Level II exam is offered twice each year, in March and September. Registration for Level II opens roughly five months before the exam window opens. Registering early will save you about $100 USD.

For each offering of the CAIA exam, CAIA Association® produces and publishes an updated Candidate Handbook to their website. In it, you’ll find a wide variety of valuable information for anyone preparing for either level of the exam.

Tip #1: Know What You’re Preparing for

Like Level I, there is a multiple-choice component to the CAIA Level II exam. But unlike Level I, there is also an essay-based portion. The Level II exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that carry about 70% of the exam weight. The remaining 30% consists of three sets of constructed-response (essay) questions.


CAIA Level II Topics and Weights

CAIA Level II TopicMultiple Choice WeightConstructed Response Weight
Emerging Topics0%10%
Ethics, Regulation, and ESG0%10%
Institutional Asset Owners and Investment Policies8-12%0-10%
Risk and Risk Management8-12%0-10%
Methods for Alternative Investing8-12%0-10%
Accessing Alternative Investments8-12%0-10%
Due Diligence and Selecting Strategies8-12%0-10%
Volatility and Complex Strategies8-12%0-10%


Tip #2: Get an Early Start on Studying

According to CAIA Association, feedback from candidates suggests that, on average, candidates spend about 200 hours preparing for Level II of the CAIA exam. Of course, you might require more or less preparation time depending on your individual circumstances. But no matter how you slice it, you’re not going to be successful on this exam without a significant investment of study time. Don’t take the commitment lightly. Start early to ensure you aren’t scrambling at the end to catch up.

Want to find out what you need to know for the CAIA exam? Download your free copy of the CAIA® Fundamentals eBook.

Tip #3: Use a Structured Study Plan

One area where candidates often struggle is simply determining where to start and how to make sure they allocate appropriate time to each topic. To overcome that, you need a study plan. You can try to use a calendar and map out which topics you’ll focus on each day. But it’s a daunting task, and probably an inefficient use of your time. If you’re utilizing a CAIA exam prep provider, you may have access to a study calendar tool that organizes the curriculum and materials, in the timeframe you have. That type of support can be priceless.

Tip #4: Prepare for Constructed Response

The constructed response questions on the CAIA level II exam have a purpose. They’re designed to go beyond testing your ability to pick the right answer from a series of options. They test your practical application of the knowledge you’ve gained to realistic scenarios. And because constructed response questions can deal with any of the topics tested on the exam, you have to ensure your mastery is as broad as it is deep.

In the CAIA Candidate Handbook, CAIA Association provides some insight regarding the constructed response questions. Each question has three to five parts with a respective, stated point value. Each part can usually be answered in one or two paragraphs. Because the CAIA exams are administered via computer, you will type your responses to the questions. Each constructed-response question will ask for a specific output, like a description, calculation, or argument. Make sure your answer is in the format the question is asking for. The good news—you will not be penalized for incorrect grammar and spelling.

To fully prepare for the constructed response portion of the exam, use a CAIA Level II exam prep provider that offers mock exams as part of the review package. Mock exams are designed to simulate exam conditions and build your comfort level prior to exam day.

Tip #5: Set Yourself Up for Success on Exam Day

This tip is inclusive of all those things candidates know they should do leading up to the exam, but sometimes forget to do when the realities and stresses of the exam are at hand. As the exam gets closer, do not abandon your study plan in favor of cramming at the last minute. You’ve put in the time and done the work. Conduct your final preparations and put the finishing touches on your review.

Get a good night’s sleep the night before, and don’t skip breakfast the morning of your exam. Figure out where the testing center is in advance of exam day, and know how long it will take you to get there. Leave early and plan to arrive early. You don’t want something like running late to frazzle you and work against all of the hard work you’ve put in.

Be confident in your preparation, and you will set yourself up for success on the CAIA Level II exam!

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