Failed Level 1 but Passed Level 2 on 1st attempt

Hi Everybody,

I wanted to share my strategy while studying for Level 2 as I am guessing that my story here is unique. I wrote the Level 2 exam this past June and passed upon my first attempt. Previously, I wrote the Level 1 Exam in December 2014 and failed upon my 1st attempt. Brutal. I attempted Level 1 again in June 2015 and passed. I wanted to share with you HOW I studied and what worked for me in studying for the Level 2 exam.

Disclosure: I realize that everybody learns differently and what works for some, may not work for others. If this post helps, great! If not, well, this was a pleasant distraction from work.

Before I lay out my approach I need to stress that my strategy had one goal: To finish the curriculum as early as possible so that I had ample time to practice and revisit weaker topics. This is KEY. There is an ocean of information in the CFA curriculum and many will find that after completing all the readings they forget about 80% of what they previously read. That’s OK! How the hell are you supposed to remember everything you read 1-3 months ago while working a fulltime job, family, etc.? That’s why we need a 2-month window between finishing the readings and exam day. This gives us ample time to circle back for review, practice, and hammer the ideas home.

Here was my study schedule:


Objective: Complete Schweser curriculum and complete EOC ?’s from the CFA text after each reading.

Note: I read out of the CFA text for a few readings that I personally found challenging. Do NOT get hung up here. If you get stuck on a question(s) after a reading, circle the question for reference later on, and move on. Same goes for a specific reading. While I do NOT recommend skipping a reading in its entirety, I’ll admit that there were a few readings that were over my head upon first read. While I did not skip these readings, I would note the difficulty in an excel file, and would move forward through the reading at a good pace without getting hung up.

April: Week 1-3

Objective: Watch Arif Irfanullah videos for larger Topics and complete the CFA EOC ?’s for 2nd time after each video. If you have a good grasp on a reading then skip the reading, read the summary in the CFA curriculum for that reading, and complete the EOC ?’s in the CFA text.

Note: I watched his videos for FRA, Fixed Income, Equity, Derivatives, and a couple readings from Economics. I can’t tell you how much this helped me especially for FRA and Derivatives!

Remember how I said that there were a few readings that were over my head? While I did not understand these sections fully upon first read, I still had a background once I got to the videos. After watching the videos, everything slowly started clicking. Again, for me, this worked because this strategy incorporates active learning: you’re reading the material and interpreting it yourself at first, then you’re listening to somebody else explain it differently (and visually), and then you’re practicing.

Now we’re at about mid-late April……

April: Week 3

Take a week and do the following:

1.) Read the LOS for each reading and wherever you see “calculate”, go to the text, and make a flash card and/or formula sheet for the relevant formula. You don’t want to be doing this a week before the exam. Formula type questions are easy points on the exam.

2.) Read the summary for each reading in the CFA curriculum as you do this.

That’s it. We’re keeping it light because we’re about to beast mode it for the next month.

End of April-May


· Take 2 mock Exams per week which will let us complete around 6-8 mock exams.

IMPORTANT: I would spend as much time reviewing a mock exam as I took taking the mock exam. This is very important. You need to understand WHY you got an answer wrong. If you don’t, go to the textbook and work it until you understand the concept. Also, be honest with yourself when taking an exam. Don’t guess on a question and convince yourself that you got it “right”. Personally, as I was taking each exam, I would “Circle” each question that I was even SLIGHTLY unsure about. This helped me a TON. Later on, I would revisit those “circled” questions and retake the questions to see if I understood it still.

In between mock exams I would suggest to do the following:

1.) Complete all CFA Topics Tests (if you have the time)

2.) Complete EOC ?’s for a 3rd attempt and do Blue Box Examples.

3.) Attempt ALL questions (mocks, EOC ?’s, etc.) you have circled previously because you were either unsure of the answer or you got it wrong.

4.) Look at your flashcards every day even if it’s just for 15-30 minutes. Reason being, you can then start to split the flashcards into two categories: Formulas you’ve mastered vs. Formulas you need to memorize. By the end of May, you will have a very small pile of flashcards and won’t have to worry about cramming (i.e memorizing a bunch of formulas) before the exam.

June: 1st week

*Take off entire week from work if possible*

Monday-Wednesday: Read CFA summaries for each reading and review all my flash cards. This should be relaxed if you were slowly reviewing these formulas the last month.

Wednesday-Thursday: Re-Read Ethics plus flash cards sprinkled in.

Friday: Relax and do something fun!

Rest is key. I honestly can’t stress this enough and I think lack of sleep was the reason I failed Level 1 on the first attempt…. you’ve done the work and need to be confident. Good luck!

Somebody get this guy a beer.


Love the part “Rest is key”. For me, it is unnecessary to get stressful right before the exam. You already do everything you can, so just enjoy the exam. If you fail, doesn’t matter, you learned something and it is never going to leave you. If you pass, congratz.