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For busy working professionals who wrote Level 2 exam

For those who have a demanding job at hand and wrote L2 exam, please indicate how you managed to juggle between work and L2 preparation. How many hours you managed per week?  Possibly, there could have been times that there were  long gaps in study . What strategies you followed to ensure retention of material . Thanks.

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I work full-time, started studying at the end of December (took Dec L1 2016). Ended up studying ~390 hours total including mock exams. Best piece of advice: plan your schedule meticulously before you start studying for every week between when you start and the actual exam to ensure you have a solid schedule that you can hold yourself accountable to. It’s the only way in my opinion to tackle these exams while dealing with a full-time work schedule. Best of luck, don’t hesitate to PM me if I can be of more help.

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." -Viktor Frankl

Thanks Black8Mamba23 for your guidance. Will certainly PM you for more guidance.

Agree with Black8Mamba23, plan your schedule and stick to it. I put my study target on the company calendar and block lunch hours to study (my boss can see the schedule and basically left me alone for the final month). My target is set for an entire week, so if I study a little bit more than needed today, tomorrow is a lighter one as reward. Weekend is a good time to make up all the unmet targets and I don’t allow myself to carry this week’s target to the next one. Make sure you have high quality time, I struggled several times staying awake to study and just didn’t work. 

I worked 40-45 hrs/week while preparing.

I didn’t count hours or anything. I’d go home from work and usually spend 30-60 mins daily reading the material, and maybe 2-3 hours over the weekend. I started in January.

For material retention, I made flashcards of things I figured I should know based on CFAI topic tests and mocks. I also memorized everything on the Schweser quicksheet (and added notes on it, for example using long-term rates for CAPM, and short-term for FFM).

Thanks for valuable comments Tingli and Tactics..Best wishes

I worked like 45-55 hours a week during studying for L2. I started in late January. Not gonna lie it kind sucked, but I agree that its important to have a game plan. I am confident that I did well on the exam, but I also think I put in over the recommended 300 hours.

There were also some days when I “studied” for 4 hours but actually studied for like 1.5. I think its important to realize that youre gonna have some unproductive days like that. If you don’t, you will burn out way sooner than anticipated. Lucky for me, I burned out a week or two before the exam haha

Worked 70+ hrs a week during LII prep. Started laying out my study plan in September and set starting date for beginning of October. 340 hours including Mocks was the target I started with. Distributed those hours only across weekends (initially 5 hrs each weekend day).

My logic was that if I only consider weekends for my scheduled hours, almost anything could come up during the week and it wouldn’t matter and any time studied during the week would be extra and kind of a buffer.

I also made sure to really stick to 5 hours effective study time, meaning if I started to wonder off into the internet or whatever, I would add additional hours that day. You always have downer days where you just quit after 3 or 4 hrs, but that is normal I guess, as long as they are very limited.

So those are the pros.

Cons:

1) to maintain level of commitment during 9 months is really not easy.

2) if you work those hours during the week and put in an additional 10 to 12 hours of effective study time on weekends, you have no time for other things. (Typical weekend-day: sleep in because you are exhausted from the week, have breakfast around noon, start studying, after 3 hrs a one hour break and 2 to 3 hours after the break. Before you know it is dark outside and the day is over).

3) around the last two months you really must start to go back to refresh what you studied at the start. It is much harder to make it stick. So I scheduled my strongest topics early on, which also means you ease into it.

4) Towards the end (last month or so) I started to do TTs during lunch time and at night from 11pmish to 1amish if I wasn’t too tired. Also, my direct supervisors kind of took it a little bit easier on me during the last weeks.

Summarizing: It works, but it is a huge commitment to start out that early. It basically prolongs the gruesome experience for a couple of months. Did I feel prepared going into the exam? Yes. 100%? No, but who does?

Worked 40-45 hours per week during studying and took the last two weeks off as educational leave.

I agree that the key is to set up a clear schedule. I set up mine roughly as follows:

- Allocate topics across available study days in accordance with the approximate exam weight;

- Make sure that each topic is allocated in a way that the study days include weekends;

- Decrease intervals for revising different topic areas when approaching the exam;

- Set targets for each day.

And as mentioned before, the key is to stick to it - which goes both ways for me: If i fall behind, I catch up on the weekend. If I am faster than expected, reward yourself with a day off in order not to burn out.

I worked full time and took level 2.  Its difficult to say the least, but i agree with everyone else.  Maintaining a schedule and routine is key.  I live in California, but work east coast market hours, so basically worked from 6-3 every day.  I blocked off an hour for lunch every day to study, and then would study from 4-7 each day when i got home.  I tried to study about 3 hours Sat & Sunday as well, but also tried to make sure i had time to get outside and do some hiking or diving or any of my hobbies to maintain some health & sanity.  Our busiest time at work is the week before the exam (last week in May), so was working 12 hour days and got very little studying done.  Hopefully the preparation leading up to the exam was enough so that the last week did not matter.  I started after new years, so had a solid 5 months to prepare.

Well, I juggled it all by deciding not to be a lil ***** and handling responsibility like a boss.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Shark101 wrote:

Worked 70+ hrs a week during LII prep. Started laying out my study plan in September and set starting date for beginning of October. 340 hours including Mocks was the target I started with. Distributed those hours only across weekends (initially 5 hrs each weekend day).

My logic was that if I only consider weekends for my scheduled hours, almost anything could come up during the week and it wouldn’t matter and any time studied during the week would be extra and kind of a buffer.

I also made sure to really stick to 5 hours effective study time, meaning if I started to wonder off into the internet or whatever, I would add additional hours that day. You always have downer days where you just quit after 3 or 4 hrs, but that is normal I guess, as long as they are very limited.

So those are the pros.

Cons:

1) to maintain level of commitment during 9 months is really not easy.

2) if you work those hours during the week and put in an additional 10 to 12 hours of effective study time on weekends, you have no time for other things. (Typical weekend-day: sleep in because you are exhausted from the week, have breakfast around noon, start studying, after 3 hrs a one hour break and 2 to 3 hours after the break. Before you know it is dark outside and the day is over).

3) around the last two months you really must start to go back to refresh what you studied at the start. It is much harder to make it stick. So I scheduled my strongest topics early on, which also means you ease into it.

4) Towards the end (last month or so) I started to do TTs during lunch time and at night from 11pmish to 1amish if I wasn’t too tired. Also, my direct supervisors kind of took it a little bit easier on me during the last weeks.

Summarizing: It works, but it is a huge commitment to start out that early. It basically prolongs the gruesome experience for a couple of months. Did I feel prepared going into the exam? Yes. 100%? No, but who does?

Yeah, that’s a tough way to do it. Kudos to you for sticking with it. Good luck come end of July!

Thanks friends for sharing your experiences. Valuable feedback indeed. Wishing all of you success in the exam for the efforts 

Shark101 wrote:

Worked 70+ hrs a week during LII prep. Started laying out my study plan in September and set starting date for beginning of October. 340 hours including Mocks was the target I started with. Distributed those hours only across weekends (initially 5 hrs each weekend day).

My logic was that if I only consider weekends for my scheduled hours, almost anything could come up during the week and it wouldn’t matter and any time studied during the week would be extra and kind of a buffer.

I also made sure to really stick to 5 hours effective study time, meaning if I started to wonder off into the internet or whatever, I would add additional hours that day. You always have downer days where you just quit after 3 or 4 hrs, but that is normal I guess, as long as they are very limited.

So those are the pros.

Cons:

1) to maintain level of commitment during 9 months is really not easy.

2) if you work those hours during the week and put in an additional 10 to 12 hours of effective study time on weekends, you have no time for other things. (Typical weekend-day: sleep in because you are exhausted from the week, have breakfast around noon, start studying, after 3 hrs a one hour break and 2 to 3 hours after the break. Before you know it is dark outside and the day is over).

3) around the last two months you really must start to go back to refresh what you studied at the start. It is much harder to make it stick. So I scheduled my strongest topics early on, which also means you ease into it.

4) Towards the end (last month or so) I started to do TTs during lunch time and at night from 11pmish to 1amish if I wasn’t too tired. Also, my direct supervisors kind of took it a little bit easier on me during the last weeks.

Summarizing: It works, but it is a huge commitment to start out that early. It basically prolongs the gruesome experience for a couple of months. Did I feel prepared going into the exam? Yes. 100%? No, but who does?

Wow kudos. Really appreciate the info as this will likely be me soon.

Worked 65-80 hours a week while studying. Started studying late March (was traveling too much for work). Studying was pretty on and off - on days I was in the office till midnight or later, it would be impossible to study. But I tried really hard to leave by 10pm at the latest and study till I couldn’t do it anymore (usually like 1-2am). But that meant I was sleeping between 4-6 hours on the weekdays. Weekends were basically spent working and studying where I could. I usually took Friday night off and sometimes Saturday nights off to hang out/grab a few drinks with buddies to keep my sanity. Found that I could really only do like ~8 hour sessions on the weekend before it wasn’t going anywhere.

With two weeks to go - I was pretty screwed and decided to take two weeks off work. Luckily my team was able to handle most things in my absence and I only had to put in limited time throughout the two weeks. Crushed like 12 hour study days for two weeks straight and overall was happy with the effort I put in.

I really don’t think it’s that difficult to study + work at the same time, especially if you work pretty regular hours. But your life will suck for awhile.

When I was studying for these exams I was working at PIMCO.  I was blessed with a wife who took care of our three children and agreed to pretend that I didn’t exist from January through May for each of three years.  I studied 2 hours each night after work, at least four hours each Saturday, and at least four hours each Sunday.

Simplify the complicated side; don't complify the simplicated side.

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S2000magician wrote:

When I was studying for these exams I was working at PIMCO.  I was blessed with a wife who took care of our three children and agreed to pretend that I didn’t exist from January through May for each of three years.  I studied 2 hours each night after work, at least four hours each Saturday, and at least four hours each Sunday.

Must’ve been incredibly difficult, but I imagine this is often the reality for most candidates who want to successfully get through the program. 

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." -Viktor Frankl

Full-time here and because I lacked the time to study previously, I decided that I am making sure that last week’s exam will be my last Level 2 attempt.  Because the only work leave I could really expect from my job is a full week before the exam, I had to make some steps in my life to finally get things done.  

Strategies that worked:

1. Started studying December.
2. Taking advantage of every holiday to study.
3. Alternating readings.  For example, one reading on FRA then afterwards switch to Corp Fin, then the reading on Derivatives, etc.
4. Exercising between study sessions during the weekday/weekend to make the brain absorb more and combat burnout.  My home is an hour away from work by foot so from the office, I walk/jog 30 mins, then dinner/study at a separate place, then walk/jog 30 mins more and study at home.
5. Maintain a 7.5+ hour daily sleep schedule to let my brain put what I learned into long-term memory (power of REM sleep).
6. Mind-maps, mnemonics to memorize faster.  
7. When you make your study schedule, allow extra buffer time for real life things and sudden increases in office workload.

8. In May, listening to free YouTube videos on some of the topics (to test your overall level of understanding of the readings).
9. Prayer.

Other things:

1. On the first pass of the CFAI readings, blue boxes, and EOCs, ideally this should be finished in Feb-March but I managed to finish in April.  Don’t focus on memorizing formulas.  Doing the blue boxes and EOCs will significantly help you memorize them.  
2. Now that I think about it, prep providers should help one understand a large portion of the readings faster (CFAI material is relatively heavy but imho still needs to be read, as seemingly “obscure” side-topics usually come out of the exam).
3. On the second (and if there is time, future passes) of the CFAI readings/BBs/EOCs, one can understand them a lot more and remember some more formulas.
4. By this time, when you do CFAI TTs/mocks you should be able to remember most of the formulas.  I started mocks in April and then did one every two weeks.

Good luck!

Thanks Earldd for sharing in detail your strategy. Very  valuable  indeed. Best wishes on your success

I am working working full time as an associate portfolio manager. Sticking to a schedule is key. I created a spreadsheet to track my hours and pace. Originally aiming for 400 study hours knowing full well that I would slack here and there. I started early in september and went with the tortoise vs hare approach. I tried studying on my lunch at first but that habit didn’t last long since I needed the mental break from work. What I found worked well was 1 hour per week night after my daughter went to sleep then 2 hours both Saturday and Sunday during my daughter’s naps. I only used cfai curriculum and made my own cue cards. If I’m unsuccessful in passing the exam it will be because I didn’t dedicate enough time to drill practice questions.

In hindsight I would have started the cfa designation journey right out of university and prior to having children.

^+1.

Yes, it’s much harder once you have kids, because you really cannot plan when your kid is gonna be ill or not sleep. Unfortunately my daughter’s sleep schedule is everything but calculable.

I started last June (so yes, before registering) form old Schweser books. I read through Equity, FRA and Derivs (this latter proved to be a bad idea since they changed the whole topic, and it immensely confused me).

After having studied 3 topics, I went back to review, before starting a 4th. And then I reviewed everything again and again before introducing a new topic. This takes a lot of time, but helped immensely with my retention. I feel that subjects I started with (Equity, FRA, CF) were my strongest, and if I made errors on these it was only due to some nervousness or silliness on the exam.

On the other hand the topics I studied last I could not internalize as much, so I had some white spots in them PM, FI, Derivs).

Mistakes I did:

1. I overstudied the last week (unfortunately I lost some valuable time during April and early May due to ilnesses), so I went into the exam sleep deprived and over excited. Don’t do this, because if I fail, it partially was because I got confused on Quants, which normally was one of my strongest, but I somehow could not recall certain straightforward rules or formulas on the spot.

2. Due to running out of my schedule I did not destine sufficient time on Alternatives, I just read it once. I realized too late that it is a very easy topic, you easily could get 100% on it, still I think I got 67% but could have been better.

3. On the exam I solved the vignettes in the order they were coming. Instead I should have solved them in the order of easiest to hardest (this is what I did for LI). This way you could have your easy points under your belt for sure, and have a longer time per vignette for the harder questions.

After passing December 2016 Level I, I started studying for June 2017 Level II in early February (Level I results were posted late January). Just like Level I, I used a spreadsheet to make a scghedule and track progress. Spent approximately 2 hours each day after work/during commute, and about 4-5 hours on Saturday and Sunday, sometimes I took a day’s weekend off.  My preferred way of studying is as follows:

1. Read prep provider’s (Wiley in my case) summary notes and complete CFAI EoC questions per reading. EoC’s highlight what info I missed, which I look up in the official CFAI curriculum. Some people leave these questions to the final review phase, but I find way more value in them during the reading process to reinforce concepts and retention.

2. Repeat 1. for all readings, make sure to finish this process by May/November (1 month before the exam).

3. First week of the last month of review I just skimmed through the summary notes to remember definitions, formulas, overall concepts. Took about 7 days since it’s a lot of material and forgot some of the stuff I read in February/March.

4. Three weeks out, I did all topic tests on CFAI website. Topic tests are comprised of questions from previous mock exams. This year had more than 80 topics tests online, so that’s 480 questions of hard difficulty (topic tests tend to be harder than CFAI EoC and the actual exam).  All topic tests took me 1,5 weeks since reviewing them takes as much time as completing them, but it’s a very good exercise.

5. Final 1,5 weeks I did 2 CFAI full mocks and rehearsed formulas. My mock scores confirmed I was well prepared, so I relaxed most of the final week leading up to the exam on Saturday. On Thursday I did a final read of Ethics, and Friday I checked into my hotel.

My Level I study process was quite similar, the only difference is that I stuck with CFAI topic tests and mock exams this time, instead of prep provider’s exam material. For Level I I used Schweser and found the mock exams to be too easy. When I did the CFAI mock I scored about 10% less which worried me. The best learning material is CFAI, but just because of the immense amount of reading material I use supplemental summary notes, but for everything else CFAI.

I have a job related to inspections and therefore remain away from home mostly. I started in April and studied 1-1.5 hrs a day on weekdays and around 6 hrs on weekends. I used mostly Schweser and referred core reading when more clarity was needed or wanted to check how well i have read (by solving EOC questions/ Boxes). I could barely finish 1st reading by 10th May (left Ethics). Thereafter I started 2nd reading. It took me around 10 days to revise everything. At this point I took leave and studied for 12 hours a day till the end. Finished Schweser 2 more times, did Ethics from core reading. As far as question practice was concerned, I did Schweser mock tests but mostly took 2-3 sections only at a time  (i.e. after thorough study/ revision of all chapters of 2-3 sections) so that I could know that at best how much prepared I am. Finally I attempted one complete CFA institute mock. Total hours approx 230-250 hrs.

I am satisfied with my attempt given the conditions in which i studied and hopeful to clear level-II.

Retrospectively, I should have started atleast a month ago so that i could get a week more at the end which I could have utilised for mocks as 1 hour of last week of May is like 4-5 hours of March/ April.

I thought that two hours a night after work and then 5 hours on Saturdays starting in Jan was more than enough. Sundays were optional depending on how far ahead or behind I was compared to where I had planned to be. Started second week of Jan, 15 hours a week would have put me at roughly 315 hours, but I took the week before the exam off and was doing 7 hours or so per day that week so all in I probably put in 335. Felt prepared but I was also a re-taker so I had a base to work off of. I think had I not been a re-taker I would have started in November so I could maintain the same amount of weekly prep time wise. Taking Sundays off was huge for me actually, you gotta keep living life while you prep. Some people prefer to cram though, so to each their own. The above is what worked for me, working around 55 hours per week.