Advice from this year's CFA LII takers?

Congratulations to those who passed the CFA LII examination

I also cleared the CFA LI examination and plan to take Level II next June.

Could you guys please give some advice on the right strategy for passing LII?

How tough is LII compared to LI?

And lastly, which material should I use for LII, Schweser, CFAI or any other source?


Hi steve11, i relied mostly on Schweser and they haven’t let me down yet. Focus most of your time on making practice questions, instead of simply learning the readings. Some formulas should be memorized, so make sure you have a formula sheet ready for your studies.

Best advice that I can give is to start early, use CFAI end of chapter questions as your main form of practice from Nov-April, take good notes as you read (don’t just copy information down, rewrite it in your own words- forces comprehension) and sign up for live/online lectures if you don’t love to read. That was the difference for me this year.

Do the CFAI topic tests. All of them. And when you’re done, do them another 5 times. There is no substitute for hard work and I’d get started by October. It’s not worth failing and wondering “what if I started a month earlier?” My two cents.

Also, continuously take/retake the CFAI topic tests.

  1. Start early and allocate plenty of study hours. Depending on your education/work background, I would target 400-500 hours of study. Less if you have a solid finance and accounting background, more if not.

  2. Study provider packages are good. I used Wiley, but Schweser is a solid option as well. I did purchase Schweser’s practice mock exams ala carte which are better than Wiley’s practice exams in my opinion. Wiley’s pensions reading and many of their videos are awesome though.

  3. Do all CFAI blue box examples EOC questions, more than once if time allows (e.g. EOC after each reading, then all of them again closer to the exam during review).

  4. Do all of the CFAI online topic test questions. These are like doing prior year past mocks as they are taken from the same pool of questions. Don’t bother with Qbank style questions

  5. Mock until you drop. This is key towards the end. Allocate time do to, and review 6-8 full mock exams. Plan for 1.5 hours of review for each one hour of mock exam time.

  6. Be active in this forum and interact with fellow candidates. It will help keep you involved, motivated and on track and will make you be a better prepared candidate.

  • Put in the time. Unless you’re a savant, learning the material requires repetition. Repetition requires time. Just keep “throwing mud at the wall” and eventually enough will stick.
  • Try not to put L2 on a pedestal. Although the material is more involved compared to L1, I feel its legendary reputation is exaggerated. The exam sets a very high bar, but, recently, nearly 1 in 2 have managed to clear it each year. Don’t psych yourself out.
  • You’ll almost certainly walk into the exam feeling unprepared for certain topic(s). That’s not ideal, but it’s OK. However, I strongly suggest that Equity, FSA, Corp Fin and Ethics are not among your weaker areas.
  • Complete multiple practice exams under exam-like time constraints. Remember, the CFA Institute provides one free exam (AM and PM sessions), along with plenty of “Topic Tests”. Take advantage of these resources.
  • Don’t fret over which third-party resource provider to use. Just pick one and know the material.
  • Like some others, I (very roughly) tracked my study time in Excel. The biggest benefit of this is that I can’t lie to myself about how much time remains to hit my target number of hours. Having two months left until exam day might seem like plenty of time to tie up loose ends, but seeing 60 days boiled down into a daily hourly commitment is a wake up call.
  • If you feel like handwriting flash cards, you should hand write flash cards.
  • Bring your calculator on exam day; some of the questions will require calculations.
  • Start early, and chip away. Six months felt about right to me.

Happy mud throwing.

Some top of mind thoughts;

  • Keep the CFAI material for reference in the event you have trouble with a topic, but Kaplan or equivalent is more than enough. But, and I can’t stress this enough, read every word and make sure you understand the concepts before even trying to memorize formulas. Sure you may pass–a BIG may–on memorizing formulas, but no legitimate firm will ever hire someone that can’t grasp the concepts
  • After you complete this. Do as many practice problems as you can. Don’t do easy ones like get me from EBITDA to FCFF then FCFE with all the basic formula inputs given to you. Challenge yourself and do problems like get me from EBITDA to FCFF with limited information/assumptions. Do many practice tests. Questions you get wrong, you go back to the source material and re-learn
  • Flashcards–IMHO–are vastly overrated. I go to primary/secondary source material
  • Bring 2 calculators on exam day (black swan events)
  • Bring earplugs (NYC this year had a fcking band playing in Times Square)
  • In person classes are overrated. So are online ones. Big waste of money–IMHO
  • Don’t think the CFA alone will get you a great job. It won’t. Saying you know investing/markets/etc. because you have the CFA is like saying you’re a great pilot because you own a pair of aviators. It makes zero sense. Basically, humble yourself right now. Respect the test (though it isn’t as challenging as its legend). And embrace the challenge

Level 1 is harder if you spent all of uni partying like me and needed to learn how to be a disciplined student for 5 months and still pass the exam. Now that i’ dedicated, I think level 2 is an easier level. Don’t skip anything that ain’t optional… even those “lol this 40 page case study? Who cares?” sections. I found rereading the curriculum between mocks to be more helpful than doing 10000 practice questions like I did for level 1. There are more qualitative questions in level 2. Some exam questions could simply ask you what a concept is qualitatively and the answer could be straight from the text; if you’ve read it a few times, it helps. Get used to the question format early. Book at least two weeks off work. I did one early April which I basically spent learning derivs and one before the test for mocks. If I can pass this, you can.

The interesting thing I observed about people using third party material is that almost everybody advises to still do the CFAI EOCs and Blue Boxes. Now, if someone were preparing just from CFAI curriculum, those Blue Boxes and EOCs are the things that will require a major portion of your preparation time. Whatever is left of the curriculum can be finished at least twice in the time someone will devote to study and finish any prep provider’s material. Therefore, In my opinion, there is really no need to refer anything except CFAI curriculum ( except for practice exams of course ). It just defies logic. Perhaps it provides a psychological security that we did so much to prepare. As for my experience, I cleared level 1 using solely Schweser ( didn’t touch CFAI text ) and failed band 8 level 2 on my first attempt, again using Schweser only. For my second attempt I chose CFAI curriculum mainly and understood the material thoroughly. I felt that this time around my understanding of material was complete. I felt confident all through and the exam was a breeze. There was nothing on the exam that appeared a zinger. I was under control for the entire 6 hours. Never at one point I feared that I could fail this. Didn’t have such feeling for level 1 even though I manged a pass when results were out. My point is, there could be many ways to pass the exam and different things work for different people but the smartest way , IMHO, is to use the CFAI curriculum for your preparation. It’ll keep you in good stead not just for the exam but in the long run when you’ll actually want to apply all that you learn here. Cheers!!

Here is my preparation for my first-attempt pass:

  • I started in the second week of May, which left me three weeks to study the curriculum (those three weeks were basically 15-hour days, though, as I took time off from work). I had started derivatives last year, but by the time I got around to studying properly, I’d forgotten everything.
  • I used the CFAI material and analystforum as a back-up whenever I didn’t quite understand something.
  • I focused on blue box questions and EOCs, but did not do any mocks.

Now, I want you to completely disregard all of that and do as the others say. Start early, do plenty of mocks, and put in the work. There is no substitute for comprehension of the subject matter.

Level 2 is a beast compared to Level 1. I know everyone says it, but do not underestimate it. My stupidity in allowing myself to procrastinate could have easily backfired and ended in a fail.

Hahaha legendary, mate

Best advice that i have read about level 2 is give yourself 40+ days of review. During that time “mock until you drop”. Do all the mock exams and topic tests and review those concepts. Spend time reviewing answers. I had a binder of questions and answers that I had printed out and reviewed for calculations that I got wrong on a daily basis. Understanding the mechanics and nuances of subject matter cannot be stressed enough it can make some questions that may seem impossible and make them incredibly easy…LVL 2Test takers who passed will understand ;).

Yeah, I had a notebook full of “stuff I got wrong on mocks” with notes on why I got them wrong. Good approach. You may not read it again, but the process helped.

Do what has been said here above. Start early, grind through as many mocks as you can.

L2 is substantially harder than L1 because you are building on everything you learned in L1, and in many cases going beyond what you might have learner in your finance classes in Uni. You have the advantage of taking the L2 directly after L1 (vs. me who took L1 in Dec 2014 and L2 not until June 2016), because having L1 material fresh in your memory will help a lot.

My 2 cents to add will be to make your own formula sheet as you go along, and then take time to memorize all the formulas. Despite what you might hear, there is a decent amount of plug-in questions, where you need to remember what the formula is exactly (and a + where you should have a - will make you arrive at one of the wrong answers available).

By making your own formula sheet and writing the formulas down yourself I believe it is easier to remember them and easier to gain an understanding of why they make sense (which makes it infinitely easier to remember them).

Regarding study material, here is what I did for both L1 and L2 with good results:

Buy and read Scweser´s Secret Sauce (2-300 page book covering all topics). Read each topic and then go and do all end-of-chapter tests in the CFAI books. Write down all formulas you use on your self made formula sheet. Google and watch Youtube videos on topics you struggle with, and post on forums like this one. Chances are someone else has posted regarding the same thing. Read CFAI chapter if you are still struggling. Do this for each topic before moving on to the next one.

Once you have gone through all topics, re-read the whole Secret Sauce book to refresh. Then go and do all the mock exams you can.

Good luck!

A very important thing to do in order to succeed in L2 is practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. But THE most important thing is to learn from all those mistakes that you make, and I mean LEARN. My process: - Alright, I made a mistake - Why did I make it? - Did I understand the question correctly and did I read it carefully? - Do I understand the underlying principles and concepts? If not, why so? - Did I do a mathematical error? How can I streamline my process to ensure that this does not happen again? - Is it a formula that I haven’t quite memorized? - Do I need to ask a fellow candidate or this forum for clarification even after referring to the CFAI material. These are just a few of the questions that I ask myself after making every single mistake. That’s truly where the rubber hits the road. Be honest with yourself, that’s integrity 101. Self-criticize and self-scrutinize MERCILESSLY, and be objective. Good luck to all.

Start early for sure as others have said. Use both CFAI and 3rd party if you go that route. I used Schweser. Read each section. Go to CFAI and do the Blue box and EOC. Repeat until finished with all the books. Last month and a half should be all mocks and reviewing sections you have problems with.

Forget about the QBank for Level II. Its good if you are bored and just want to do a couple questions, but the test is NOT LIKE THE QBANK.

Sign up for the Schweser live or Live Online test. It was a very well constructed test and mixed the questions as the real test does.

Do all the CFAI topic tests and their online mock. The topic tests are from actual old exams, and they are hard but they give you a good understanding of how CFAI words the questions. Schweser and CFAI will have different ways of wording questions so you really need to get used to CFAI.

Write your own notes and create your own formula sheet/important item sheet. You want to do the formula sheet at least two times.

Last couple weeks should be last couple mocks, and HIT ALL THE EOC from CFAI questions from important sections you want to do well on. This is key, do not forget it.

Read ethics over again the last week.

On the test don’t freak out if you get an impossible item set. It will happen. Just stay calm and work through it as best as possible.

One huge thing is read the questions slowly. Sometimes read them twice. They aren’t trying to trick you but they are tricky if you don’t fully understand what they are asking.

If you’re going to yolo the exam (2 or 3 week cram), I would highly suggest the following:

  1. Schweser books - read these and understand concepts, don’t do ANY of the practice problems in the books.
  2. Use topic tests on CFA website as you go along. DON’T worry about how many you get wrong or right the first time through, or how long it takes.
  3. As for mocks, depends of how much time you have/how good of a test taker you are.
  4. If you suck at test taking and have time left after cramming, at minimum do the 2 mocks given by the CFA. Do it with open book if you want, but be SURE to go over what went wrong after.
  5. If you’re a good test taker and don’t have time, just do bits and pieces of the mocks (don’t go through full vignettes)

As for myself, I took 2 weeks off from work to study from 0 to 100. I did undergrad in business school with degrees in finance and stats, and work at a bulge.

Start doing those EOCs and blue boxes ASAP.

Write down the equation you used for each question from the CFAI problems to create your formula sheet you need to memorize.

Start memorizing formulas early.

don’t take any shortcuts in L2. depending on how you o tackled level 1 it might not be the same way.

plan your study session (try to do one reading each sitting and follow it up with end of chapter problem by doing them all in 1-2 days)

you can play your study like


do alot of mocks typically 5-6 mocks. keep track of your weak areas. and do more problems on them and quickly review the readings.

don’t drop any subject BUT focus on equity and FRA since they have the biggest weights.