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How do you feel after taking level II exam?

dbfinley wrote:
I’ll bite on this one. I just sat for it this morning, and I think this thing was absurdly difficult bordering on impossible to pass. I’ve sat for L II of the CFA, and this thing is much harder. I felt like I just got crushed on both MC and Essays, there is just so much minutiae that they can test that it’s almost impossible to learn everything unless you have an eidetic memory. I studied for 4 solid months for this and still failed miserably. I have no idea about the person who said this exam was so easy. He must have had a different test with different q’s. This also is absurd, this thing should be standardized so we don’t have some people getting easy tests, and some getting impossible ones like the bloodbath I just sat through. /rant

I sat in September for L2 and I think comparing this to level II CFA is irrelevant at best.  You have to play the player, not the game on these exams.  CFA Level II requires mountains of calculation recollection and ability to apply those in various situations you may come across.  CAIA states that level 2 should be roughly 30% calculate questions, and the rest conceptual, mainly centered around your ability to understand lists of “pros/cons” to various topic areas.  IMO, understanding these lists are useful if a client communicates something like ”why should I invest in private equity secondaries” or “I am low risk, looking for stable cash flows in real estate in real estate” so I get why CAIA formats it likes this (I’ve been overseeing and implementing an alternative platform for RIAs for the past 3 years and most of your time is spent trying to communicate the pros/cons to clients because that is the biggest bottleneck in the alternatives space - a lack of education, fear of the unknown, and unwillingness to change (they are used to stocks/bonds).  By knowing the underlying “lists” the curriculum teaches, you are able to understand basic differences between the various alternatives available in the market, which is required to form suitable portfolios and form the right networks for what your tasks are.  

Here is a rough take on how I approached the exam:  Take a list of 5 things, and remember 3 of them.  Take a list of 8 things (like 8 benefits of CTAs) and remember 4.  Print out the formulas at the end of the two books, and go through them over and over until you can look at the title of the formula, and write it out (after you have gone through material).  If you create a study plan where you read the section, work the questions in the CAIA workbook, work the questions in the q-bank, watch the online videos (I did this while doing cardio before lifting for 30-40 minutes 4-5x per week) and make notes/notecards when reading to remember these “lists” by making it more manageable, then hit practice exams hard the last month and review areas you got wrong, this test is more than manageable if you have 150-200 hours to put into it.  Also review the Current topics toward the end/closer to the exam so they are fresh. Good luck on L2. 

Disclosure: past study habits applied to this exam do not guarantee future passing results.  Study habits may vary by person and you should develop a study plan that works for you given your time constraints and learning style.

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First, congrats to everyone who passed level two.

I have a question about level 2.  Both levels have multiple choice questions on areas such as hedge funds, real assets, and private equity.  How do the questions differ between levels.  I guess I am asking this.  Could you pass in those areas just using level one study materials, or do the questions explore different areas of the topic.

Agreed.  I thought the CAIA II test available on the web site was a miserable representation of the questions asked last month.  The amount of time necessary to answer the questions, especially since you needed to show your work, was far too great.

James T. Palermo, CFA, CAIA