How to Pass & Prep for the CFA® Level II Exam
The Level II CFA exam is a considerable step up from the Level I exam so having a study plan and understanding the differences between Level I and Level II will help ensure you are prepared to pass the Level II exam. To pass the exam, you will need to achieve at least the minimum passing score (MPS) set by the Board of Governors of CFA Institute after each exam.
The all-time average CFA Level II pass rate is only 46%, and 2021 pass rates have been even lower. People who are studying for the CFA charter are smart, driven, and want to pass just as much as you do. That means it is crucial that you have a study plan and adhere to it.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Start Your CFA Exam Level II Prep Early
- How Much to Study for CFA Exam Level II
- Review CFA Institute’s Learning Outcome Statements (LOS)
- Know CFA Exam Level II Weights and Curriculum
- Learn the CFA Exam Level II Question Format
- Recommended CFA Exam Level II Prep Breakdown
- Learn How to Take the CFA Exam Level II
- Apply Level II CFA Concepts to Real Life
- Last-Minute Level II CFA Exam Study Tips
- Can You Pass CFA Level II with Self Study
Start Your CFA Exam Level II Prep Early
How Much to Study for CFA Exam Level II
How Many Study Sessions Do You Need for CFA Level II Exam Prep?
You should engage in 80-100 study sessions across your six to nine months preparing for the Level II CFA Exam. We arrived at this range because most CFA Candidates prefer to prep for a few hours, almost every day of the week. If your preference is to take more frequent days off from your prep, you can engage in fewer study sessions than that. However, keep in mind that if you were to only engage in 60 study sessions, then you will need to average 5.5 hours per study session in order to meet the minimum suggestion of 325 total hours studying. The more often you sit down for a study session, the less demanding each individual study session will be.
Review CFA Institute’s Learning Outcome Statements (LOS)
Your focus should be on the Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) from CFA Institute because they detail exactly what you are expected to do on exam day.
The Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) and core concepts are built from the Candidate Body of Knowledge, developed by the CFA Institute. They have devised study sessions and LOS to help candidates figure what should be gained from each reading. Be sure to develop your prep plan around these, as they will help you focus on the right topics for the exam.
One method of studying to help focus on the LOS is through self-explanation or by pretending you’re the teacher who has to explain to a student. Interleaved learning is another. This is the process of taking breaks so that you’re not trying to learn or practice large quantities of material all at once. Interleaved learning can morph into distributed practice, which is spreading learning over a long period of time rather than “cramming.”
Know CFA Exam Level II Curriculum and Weights
You should have a solid understanding of the CFA Program curriculum and how each topic is weighted for the Level Il exam. The curriculum is updated annually and all three levels of the exam focus on the same core topic areas. Exam weights vary by level and can change slightly from year to year, so it is good to be clear on what the weights are for the exam you are taking.
- Ethical and Professional Standards: 10-15%
- Quantitative Methods: 5-10%
- Economics: 5-10%
- Financial Statement Analysis: 10-15%
- Corporate Issuers: 5-10%
- Equity Investments: 10-15%
- Fixed Income: 10-15%
- Derivatives: 5-10%
- Alternative Investments: 5-10%
- Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning: 10-15%
Although the topic weights are variable (which means they are subject to change), you can see that the one with the most weight is ethics, financial statement analysis, equity investments, fixed income, and portfolio management. As you study, you should also be aware that unlike Level I, which focused on knowledge and comprehension of investment tools, Level II focuses more on the application of these tools along with in-depth analyses of asset classes.
Learn the CFA Exam Level II Question Format
Recommended CFA Exam Level II Prep Breakdown
We recommend following the Prepare > Practice > Perform® method of studying. In your prep stage, you absorb information through reading and listening to lectures. In the practice stage, you start working through practice problems. In your perform stage, you simulate exam conditions to assess your level of readiness.
Read more about what exactly your CFA Level II Exam Study Plan should look like.
Level II CFA Exam Prep: Reading & Lectures [PREPARE]
To increase your odds of passing, you should spend up to 40 percent of your study time preparing, which involves absorbing the information by reading and listening to lectures.
Level II CFA Exam Prep: Practice Questions [PRACTICE]
On top of that, you should spend up to 50 percent of your self-study time on practice questions. Research studies have shown that practice is the most effective way to prepare for Level II.
For too many candidates, this means taking a brief quiz, marking it, and moving on. When practicing Level II CFA questions, you should spend an average of 90 seconds answering the question. However, you should spend significantly more time thoroughly debriefing the question and answer.
Debriefing Is a Critical CFA Level II Exam Study Strategy
Different Forms of Level II CFA Exam Question Debriefing
If it’s a narrative point, find the explanation in the curriculum and see if it’s an isolated fact, part of a list, or a piece of analysis on a calculation. Isolated facts need learning. Little and often is the best way. Five minutes a day, squeezed in whilst lining up for your lunchtime burrito, can make a huge difference.
If you’re using something like the SchweserPro™ QBank, then you’ve got thousands of questions to attempt to cover the whole syllabus. It’s a big ask to do that, but an effective use of the questions should ensure you cover the majority of every CFA exam topic.
CFA Exam Level II Prep: Mock Exams [PERFORM]
When taking Level II CFA Mock Exams, your focus should be on the Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) from CFA Institute because they detail exactly what you are expected to do on exam day.
Learn How to Take the CFA Exam Level II
There’s a difference between learning the material and learning how to take the exam. Be sure you practice taking the exam in realistic simulated exam conditions in the last four weeks of studying. CFA Level II mock exams offer realistic simulated exam conditions that can really help you in your last weeks of studying.
CFA Institute will give you one mock exam, and you can purchase others with exam prep providers like Schweser. The Schweser Online Level Il Mock Exam includes an exam sim mode that uses the same interface as the actual computer-based exam. It also includes a multimedia tutorial that takes you through each question and helps you understand where the answer comes from, the calculations required, and what terms they are testing you on. This helps to fill in your knowledge gaps and give you an idea of how you should pace yourself during the actual exam.
Looking for more help with passing the Level II CFA® exam? Check out our CFA Exam Level II study packages.
Apply Level II CFA Exam Concepts to Real Life
Just knowing the material isn’t enough to pass the CFA exam. You must be able to take the knowledge and apply it to real situations. Most questions are not asking you to regurgitate memorized material. They are asking you to use problem-solving skills and apply knowledge to situations you may encounter on the job.
Many CFA charterholders advise you to always tie back what you are learning to the real world. Saqib Baig, CFA, recommends, “As you are going through the learning outcomes, keep asking yourself questions as to why you are learning this and how you are going to use this in your work.” The more you can make the study material real to you, the easier it will be to remember it.
Following these tips will ensure you are as prepared as possible for Level Il of the CFA exam. Now that you know the best way to study, learn how to prepare an effective CFA Program study plan and pass the CFA Level II Exam. Join Dr. B.J. Tolia, CFA, as he discusses the CFA Level II curriculum, the key differences between Level I and II, and study strategies that have been proven to work.
Last-Minute Level II CFA Exam Study Tips
Use these last-minute study tips to keep you feeling motivated and prepared during the last few weeks leading up to the exam.
1: Take Mock Exams to Learn Which Topics to Focus on
Figure out which curriculum topics you need to focus on during the last few weeks of your Level II prep by taking a CFA mock exam. Make sure the amount you time you use to focus on specific curriculum topics also has heavier topic weights.
For example, if you have been struggling with learning how different methods are used to account for intercorporate investment formulas but also are having a hard time memorizing classifications of regulations and regulators, get focused on what your learning barriers are in Financial Statement Analysis because that topic carries more weight than Economics in Level II.
2. Use Mock Exams to Test Your Readiness
Take a CFA mock exam a week out from your actual exam to simulate what taking the exam will be like and what your score could be.
3: Practice Vignette Questions
Start practicing Level II questions vs diving deep into more reading material. These practice questions can help you learn new concepts and practice your answering techniques. Practicing CFA questions can you give you the confidence that indeed you are ready or they can help you identify weaknesses. Either way, they are beneficial for CFA candidates in the early and late stages of CFA prep.
4: Solidify Your Calculator Methods
Your calculator is an important tool when taking a CFA exam so make sure you are ready to use your calculator’s features as described in the learning outcome statements.
Watch this video to learn how you can use the BAII Plus calculator for capital budgeting, uneven cash flows, NPV, IRR, payback period and discounted, and more.
5: Study Using the 50/10 Rule
Use a timer to study for 50 minutes of every hour with zero breaks or distractions. If you get distracted and stop working in those 50 minutes, start the timer over again. Once you hit 50 minutes, take a 10-minute break…then back to work! If you can train yourself this way, you will study hard 80% of the time, which is more effective than half-studying with periodic distractions.
6: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and anxious about preparing for the Level II CFA exam. This exam is undoubtedly more difficult than Level I. If you don’t understand how to do something or just need some advice contact Kaplan Schweser.
Candidates that take advantage of Kaplan Schweser instructor-led review workshops can get direct expert guidance all the way up to exam day.
Can I pass CFA Level II with Self Study?
Getting guided instruction ensures that you have a CFA expert who knows what it takes to pass the exam in your corner. An expert can help you break down your study routine into specific weekly tasks based on and leading up to your CFA Exam date, and can also provide detailed feedback following your mock exams, and ultimately help you master the CFA curriculum.
Ready To Start Preparing for the CFA Exam?
As you get ready for your next CFA exam, consider making a Kaplan Schweser CFA Level II exam prep study package—complete with classes, study tools, and mock exams—the centerpiece of your mission to earn a passing grade.
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