Exactly how hard is the exam (all 3 levels)? (a.k.a the "Three Dragon" thread)

In the Level 1 forum, I posted some advice to those who didn’t pass the Level 1 exam. In short, I told them that Levels 2 and 3 got a whole lot worse than Level 1. I mentioned that they needed to put some thought into how badly they wanted to take the exam, and whether they were willing to do what was needed to pass the higher levels.

In part, my post read,

There were a few people who didn’t take it so kindly. Two people said that I was being overly negative. One person said that the exams need not take over your life so much. Another one suggested that I was an “asshat” who needed to “get my priorities in order.” (Note–this person admitted to failing Level 1.)

My question is directed to those who have passed Level 2 or Level 3–what’s your take? Am I stressing too much about the exam? Should I lighten up? Or is this totally normal? Who has the same experience?

Again, I’m interested in hearing from current Level 3 candidates, Level 3 burnouts, or Charterholders.

Can you link the thread?


my comment was spot on in that thread

Agreed, But why the Michael Jackson? Why not Jerry Springer or something?

Thanks. I think your post was more realistic than overly negative, but timing probably played a role in some of the responses. I would certainly agree that someone who puts an honest effort into L1 and fails is unlikely to make it through 2 & 3. Everyone’s experience is unique, but I did not let the exams takeover my life and still managed to put in plenty of study time by being disciplined in my approach. In the interest of full disclosure though, I was a band 10 fail at L3 twice before finally passing. I honestly don’t believe I had any better command of the material on the third try, I think CFAI just happened to ask questions that I could answer.

The exams aren’t hard. The material is only a foot deep…but a mile long. If you put 400-500 quality hours for every level, you will pass.

I passed L1 alright with an average dose of studying while holding a full time job…

But now come L2, it seems passing while holding a job might seem a bit of a stretch…

While I don’t wish to quit yet, I’m risking getting fired for insufficient performance in order to make time for my studying. I figure I could always look for another job if I get fired (esp if I end up passing) but to FAIL and have to wait another year to try again and waste another several hundred hours is unberable to even think.

Am I being irrational to risk my job in order to pass? (I have more than enough to survive well over a year on savings.)

I totally agree with you Greenman72!! No matter what anyone else say I am with you!

**venting starts**

I am rarely encouraging others too because only the experienced ones know what it takes to get to L3 and the charter. Seeing how I am like months before the exams never encouraged my colleagues to start CFA. And worse, they were more recognized and appreciated at work because they were able to give more input into the job whereas I was always divided between work and CFA.

The result - I was the second one to be laid off from work!

I am SO glad that I am perfectly single otherwise either CFA or my relation would have gone out the window.

The result - Even after I get my charter, I am not left with many options anyways because I am not THAT young anymore. Parents are so upset that I am single.

CFA took a lot of sacrifice of free time and fun at the peak of my youth. I will always be remorseful of that loss no matter how much the Charter pays off later!

Regarding health, I have gone totally healthy at times and totally unhealthy at times, too. In any case, I have lost a lot of hair always in May, gained few kgs which Im still struggling to lose, got a little used to sleeping pills and the smoke.

**venting stops**

But at the end it was my decision. My achievement-oriented attitude ended up costing my youth!

Haha, great picture iteracom.

I remember someone in analyst forums (if someone can link that thread, it would be greatly appreciated) quoted this and it captures the imagery relatively well…it went something like.

Level 1 is like one guy stuck in a women’s prison for a year…

Level 2 is like one girl stuck in a men’s prison for a decade…

So, is the Blue Dragon or the Red Dragon the fiercer of the two?

I think, according to most legends, the Red Dragon is supposed to be the big daddy of them all, but in this drawing, he doesn’t look particularly more menacing than the Blue Dragon.

Hahah @iteracom, as someone studying for level 1 the picture is both motivating (embarassing if I don’t pass), but also daunting.

Oh jeez.

Yeah, those folks are in for a rude awakening. My health almost failed during level II, literally. I was getting like 4 hours of sleep at night and looked like death.

The blue dragon looks a little tougher than the red dragon, and most people will say that L2 is a little tougher than L3. Not a lot tougher - because L3 can still crunch your bones to mush - but a little bit.

Each exam has its challenges:

L1 is a race against the clock. 90 seconds per answer.

L2 can confound you with a whole universe of tiny little details that you might forget.

L3 synthesizes information across the whole curriculum, and the written section really challenges you to explain your financial thinking.


L3 may seem deceptively easier, but it can just as easily slaughter you.

^ exactly. At first glance the red dragon looks a bit prissy, but when you look closely you notice that evil little grin. He’s basically inviting you to not take him seriously, because he knows he will tear you a new ass.

I remember reading somewhere that you can clearly see that the red one can breathe fire, which the blue cannot. Thus red is more deadly.