Congratulations on completing Level 1 and welcome to CFA Level 2!
The CFA Level 2 exam, on the other hand, is a different beast, with a reputation for being the most difficult exam with the most material to cover. Given the unknown step up in difficulty, many candidates failed at this hurdle.
That is why, just like our Level 1 tips, here are the top 10 CFA Level 2 tips – a set of golden rules distilled from thousands of experienced candidates and CFA charterholders – that every Level 2 candidate should know.
CFA Level 2 is more difficult than Level 1
The assumption that Level 2 is a continuation of this is a big mistake. It isn’t.
This is the main reason why candidates fail – Level 2 is a significant step up in difficulty from Level 1. Candidates who fail frequently discover their error too late in the preparation process.
If possible, begin studying a little earlier: It may be worth considering starting your studies earlier in order to cover the vast amount of detail in Level 2 materials (6-9 months before). Unless, of course, you passed Level 1 like Sophie and are attempting to complete CFA in 18 months, which can be completed in 4 months (with some determination).
Basics of Level 1 will be needed
Aside from studying hours (see tip #3) and topic weight (see tip #5), you should also consider your Level 1 topic strengths and weaknesses when creating your CFA study plan.
Many concepts in Level 2 build on fundamentals outlined in Level 1; having a solid foundation in Level 1 is advantageous. Some study materials include a Level 1 refresher booklet designed specifically for this purpose, which I recommend keeping. If not, a condensed version of your Level 1 notes will suffice.
If your weaker subject is heavily weighted in Level 2, begin studying earlier. You’ll need to devote more time to that subject if you want to improve your grades and chances of passing.
Target 350 hours of study time, at minimum
Level 2 is significantly more difficult than Level 1 simply because it is more intense – the depth and detail Level 2 goes into (and tests on) is greater because it is more application-focused.
More importantly, candidates must become accustomed to answering the new vignette-style multiple choice questions in Level 2 (see tip #4).
According to the June 2019 CFA candidate survey, the average Level 2 candidate spent 328 hours preparing for Level 2 exams. However, we recommend starting with 350 hours of study time to do these properly:
sharpen your new exam technique (see tip #7); learn a large amount of new material; balance work and other life obligations (as this will be put to the test).
You can’t afford to skip topics in Level 2
Based on the most recent CFA Level 2 exam weighting changes outlined below, CFA Institute can now be cheeky and test all ten topics equally!
This means you can’t afford to skip any topics, and CFA Institute’s changes were most likely implemented to discourage this behavior in the first place.
However, all hope is not lost. CFA Level 2 still has some (study) method to its madness:
Aside from Ethics, you should prioritize the following topics in your study plan: FRA, Equity, Fixed Income, and Portfolio Management.
Be strict about time management during studies and exam day
As mentioned in #4 above, don’t let the reduced number of questions in Level 2 lull you into a false sense of security in terms of time. The time constraint in CFA Level 2 is the same, with vignettes to read and go through.
When studying: It is tempting to go through a topic without a deadline in order to fully comprehend each topic. Given the vast amount of material you must read, this is not a good strategy. Understanding 70% of the Level 2 curriculum is preferable to understanding 100% of half of the material. When the timer goes off, move on to the next topic and return to it once you’ve finished reading through the entire curriculum and have some extra time.
You can be certificated, find discounted training opportunities and explore relevant job position by joining Bee Prepared membership.