CFA L1 vs CPA difficulty

For those of you that have seen all 4 sections of the CPA and sat for CFA L1:

  1. How many hours did you devote to L1 and how many did you devote to the CPA?

  2. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being super hard and 1 being a cake walk), how would you rate the CFA L1 and how would you rate the CPA exams?

Looking back on it, L1 seemed really difficult at the time. But after taking L2 (twice) and L3, it really wasn’t that bad.

Of course, YMMV. It depends on whether you were a finance major or an accounting major. If you were an accounting major, the CPA exam should be relatively easier, and if you were a finance major, the CFA L1 should be relatively easier.

It also depends on what order you take them in. EG - If you take CPA first, the acccounting on L1 should be a cake walk.

To answer your questions directly:

  1. I studied about 250 hours for the entire CPA exam. I probably studied about 150 for L1 CFA.

  2. I would rate CFA L1 as a 6/10. I would rate the CPA exams as:

  • BEC - 1
  • AUD - 2
  • REG - 2.5
  • FAR - 4

For the record, here are my study hours for L2 and L3:

  • L2 - studied 150 hours and failed (Band 9)
  • L2 - studied 300 hours and passed
  • L3 - studied 400 hours and passed (I had about six weeks of unemployment, so I had more study time)

BEC listed twice?

Also, what was your career path? If you were an auditor for a public accounting firm, of course Audit is going to look easy for you.

Regardless, your general point still stands. This BEC exam doesnt look hard at all.

^Fixed it.

I was working as a publican for the state when I took both CPA and L1. I had zero experience to draw from in either case. Everything I knew was 100% academic.

I did not keep track of the hours I spent but it definitely felt that CFA (especially L2 and L3) were more difficult.

I felt that the CPA exam was more difficult than CFA level 1. Though I had to study for all four parts at once. These days you can cram for one part at a time.

^To note: I took the “new” test, which is four little bite-size pieces, rather than the whole thing at once.

If I had to take all four parts at once, I would say CPA exam is somewhat harder than L1

Honestly, I feel that the comparison in terms of the hours is not fair. CPA is a different ball game altogether with a different kind of pressure. You got to pass all sections within 18 months of passing the first section. I have seen people struggling to get credits on all 4 sections within 18 months. With credits expiring for FAR and REG, it can become a total nightmare. With that knowledge, I gave it more time and effort, than probably needed, so I did not count the number of hours I spent studying.

Having passed CPA and yet to appear for L1, I can share my experience on CPA exams with the level of difficulty (relative to each other) as follows:-

BEC - 4

REG - 5

AUD - 5

FAR - 8 (passed in second attempt)

I found FAR really challenging!!

^I thought the same thing. I thought the CPA exam was the hardest test in the world. I thought that there was no way that any test could get harder than the CPA exam.

Then I took CFA L2. And it changed how I viewed the CPA exam.

^^^^ Yep.

You can take the actuary exams to change your views again laugh