CFA: The most difficult exam on planet earth?

Have been reading different posts/arguments on here about how ‘DIFFICULT’ the CFA qualification is, most of them are coming from CFA Charter holders or L3 candidates. I find such attitude to be silly, I also find arguing someone who says that they found CFA to be doable or okay, not THAT difficult in other words, to be even sillier!

I mean, if someone says a qualification is not insanely difficult, you can’t just argue them back and say: You know what, you are mistaken, it is very difficult, but you just didn’t notice it lol (No offence, I am just sarcastic like that) – Or, try to imply that they don’t know what they are talking about because they are L1 candidate and then you start warning them about L2 and L3 in such a ridiculous manner.

All of this is just not true and not right. I work in an audit firm and as you may know, such professional qualifications are very popular in these firms, so I know a lot of people doing different qualifications and I have seen all kinds of attitudes during my years working there. I have also personally known people who passed L1 and L2 on first attempt, I have known another person who passed all three levels on first attempt – and no, they were not geniuses, just normal people like anyone else I know.

So, your arguments of: Call me when you get to L3, or … let’s see when you actually start studying for L2 are just not valid. How do you know that you are not talking to someone who has the capability of clearing the three levels on first attempt? Some people have done it before and I have met some of them, so why do you directly assume that you are talking to someone who won’t be able to do it?

I think in a way, you guys are trying to market the qualification you have and the accomplishment you’ve achieved by exaggerating the difficulty, surely the more difficult the qualification is, the more worthy it is and the more you look better for getting through it, but don’t you think your attitude is just unprofessional and silly? CFA is already known to be such a challenging qualification and it is a respected designation, you don’t need to act as such, if anything, you are hurting the designation with such cynical and unprofessional attitude.

Do not say difficult, because difficult is relative! What’s difficult depends on the person himself and it differs from one to another… plus, CFA is not exactly rocket science! I think it is fine to use the word “challenging” CFA is surely and indeed going to be challenging for everyone taking it. Because:

  • Questions are challenging, they are not clear cut – Now that’s challenging!

  • You will need to devote a lot of time studying for it and you will probably not have much social life specially if you are a full time worker like me – Now that’s challenging!

  • You will need to grasp a lot of concepts, spanning through various topics, study big fat books and memorise tons formulas – Now that’s challenging!

  • You will need to sit through a six hour exam and maintain your motivation through it – Now that’s challenging!

  • As with all professional exams, the pass rate is low, so you will need to be better than other candidates in order to be amongst those who pass – Now that’s challenging!

  • … and so on and so forth… I am sure some of you can come up with some other points.

Clearly what I mentioned above applies on almost every CFA candidate, it doesn’t matter whether you are very intelligent, you are a committed person, you come from finance background, you have a good memory etc… none of us has it all, surely having to accommodate ALL the challenges is going to be tiring and will require a lot of efforts, and that’s challenging, so I can safely say it is challenging without exaggeration, as it is going to be challenging for everyone. If someone says that they didn’t have to study that much for the exam, or that CFA questions are so easy, they are probably not being honest here because it simply isn’t true, you will need to do a lot of studying to cover a lot of materials in different topics, and you will need to do a lot of practice to get through tricky questions …. But the point is, once you’ve done all that stuff, you are going to pass, it is only about putting in the efforts to overcome the challenges, and if you put in these efforts, it isn’t going to be ‘difficult’ to clear the real exam.

So, don’t call it difficult and exaggerate it too, don’t assume that your experience is going to apply on everyone else, if you have failed a couple of times before you pass the exam, don’t assume that it is inevitable and ask them to get back to you after they get their results as if you are sure they are going to fail, because you did!

That’s just illogical, we are not identical people – If you have passed this challenging exam, be positive, share useful tips, talk about your experience honestly without exaggerating and do not look down upon starters, specially that those starters may actually be capable of managing this experience in a better way, they may be capable of accomplishing what you’ve done in fewer years, so quit that arrogance and be realistic!

(tap, tap, tap) Can anyone hear me?


What’s the most difficult exam on the other planets?

I’m no English major, but aren’t “difficult” and “challenging” interchangeable?

Unless you’re a rocket scientist, that comment is nothing more than a useless platitude.

(Note that if _ I _ say that the CFA exam is not rocket science, it’s not a useless platitude; it’s an expert opinion : as a warhead designer for 10 years, I know rocket science first-hand.)

Pretty dang much.

I am a brilliant genius

sadly. if you’re turned off by the arrogance. you should juss stick to being an auditor. cuz the industry is full of it.

Wait until you take levels 2 and 3…


Thanks Magician. After reading the post, I had the same doubt :slight_smile:


Lol cfa hardest exam on planet.Try to pass polytechnique entry exam and you will know what difficult means

I know I haven’t taken Level 3 yet, but after taking Level 1 and 2 there is absolutely no way these are the hardest tests in the world. I took much harder tests in college.

The only thing I can think of that is very difficult is for a non-native English speaker to get through these, since there are a lot of words and it’s necessary to understand exactly what the question is asking.

There hasn’t been anything very deep yet on the tests. Each section is like an “Intro to ____”.

Granted I majored in economics, which pretty much covered quantitative methods as well, worked in corporate finance doing financial reporting & analysis, and now work in portfolio management. So I have more experience than maybe some people taking these? That’s the only thing I can think of.

Honestly not trying to brag, if anything trying to downplay passing Level 1 and 2. I’ve definitely been extremely stressed at times over the last 18 months but more due to time management.

Of course it isn’t – difficulty is subjective and any objective answer is predicated on someone having taken every possible exam, ceteris paribus.

The OP would be better served studying than telling people what to say about the exam, though.

Well, the material is pretty difficult, the exams are not. I could write you an exam on some relevant test subjects that will leave you clueless. If the questions were any harder, a lot of people would not administer the examinations. Of course, STEMs are on a completely different level, coming from a computer science background, and a reader of science in general.

… and the responses just prove my post right - lol - Thank you all.

Level 1 behind my back, approaching level 2 all confident that I can pass that exam BUT with a lot of hard work and efforts :wink:

Audit is overly full of arrogant people, you won’t beleive how much! I’d rather go to industry :wink:

See if you feel the same after level 3… if you make it…