Failed Level II

After a week or so of self reflection, I felt I should throw my opinion about the level II exam out there.

I’m obviously disappointed, but the truth is I probably didn’t deserve to pass, and the exam did what it should have in terms of showing areas of weakness.

If I had one piece of advice to share with incoming level 2 candidates or people re-writing, I would suggest being very careful of the advice and the perception about the level II exam. I unfortunately failed from both perspectives in my opinion. The reason why the bulk of people mock till they drop for level II is because it pays off. I ignored advice in this respect and read the books over and over again and entered the exam with one mock done, and was exposed for it on exam day.

The most important piece of advice though, at least for me is to block out a lot of the negativity surrounding the level II exam. As soon as I registered for the exam, the attitude and advice from almost everyone around me was that level II is insanely hard, and it’s common to have trouble with it. Level II is hard, no question about it, but the single worst moment of level II for me was the second I put the pencil down and realized that I just failed an exam that was very passable, that I let the narrative that this exam destroys people the first time around decrease my ambitions for passing it on the first try. This is the biggest disappointment of the exam and CFA journey for me thus far. Level II is very passable, keep the passion and put in the work and it’ll happen.

Also, make sure to sweat the smaller areas. I focused extremely heaving on FRA, Equity and Ethics and let the rest go by the wayside. Exam reflected exactly that as I did well in those areas and did poor in pretty much everything else.

Just my $0.02.

On to June 2018, best of luck to all new and returning exam writers!


Great post and I am sorry that you did not make it.

However, I am convinced you have the right attitude and have learnt your lesson.

As you rightly say, it is all about persistence and attitude. Just keep going and don’t be discouraged by failing this exam.

You will pass next year!

I def agree on your second point. L2, is hard, yes. But if you study for 3 months it is definitely doable. Heard so many people telling me that L2 is incredibly hard that i ended up being scared. I thought i was def failing it…but then i put my pencil down and thought “wtf…this is it?”

Go for it guys… do 6-9 mocks and you will pass.

Sorry to hear about the outcome, but this is spot on. When I took L2 (in 2016, still waiting on 2017 results), I reworked the same Derivatives, FRA and Corporate Finance questions from the topic tests probably up to 5 times each. Repetition and active learning are key. Read the material only once and highlight as you go for easy reference. Rereading is too passive.

As someone who has failed the level 2 exam before, I hear you loud and clear. This response is exactly how I felt after I got my disappointing results a few years ago. My advice is to have a complete understand of all topics, including the challenging derivatives and QM sections. Also, candidates should do at least 5 mocks and many topic tests to get into the exam-taking groove. Don’t give up; you sound like someone who knows what they have to do. Good luck!

In essence: study the whole curriculum & practice. Revolutionary stuff.

I agree about the negativity. Level II is hard, but don’t get into a mindset that it’s unpassable. Be determined, study hard, do mocks - that’s where I personally learn the most, esp. technique to do the calculations (you may think you understand FX or derivatives or whatever in theory, but there are so many hidden details in the calculations, that you can only learn once you start doing them).

I also failed L2 with 10th band and was not ready for this outcome. I probably put 500 hours and did 8 mocks (CFAI, Schweser and Boston), all CFAI online tests and countless questions in QBank. I think what failed me is a short 4-month lead tome from December exam (results came out end January) and the fact that I never saw any of the topics before (Im not in the finance industry) and used only Schweser notes (not CFAI books). It is crushing to put so much effort into this and dont pass, but we have to deal with it. I guess next time I will scan through CFA books not to miss anything and try to put this all in a long-term memory over a year doing queezes daily. I want to start studying in September, maybe 1-2 hours daily. Any feedback appreciated. Attaching my results :slight_smile:

@Labossi I’m in the same boat just like u buddy. L2 is def passable with a lot of understanding of the material & practicing as much as one can…just what @big_h mentioned.

Looking forward to June 2018 L2 exam. Good Luck to u too :slight_smile:

do you mean the official mock exam or other source?

Labossi – you are absolutely right about the negativity thing. You absolutely can pass Level II!!! If you can pass Level I, Level II just takes things a step further. I actually think going from not knowing the CFA material to passing Level I is a bigger jump than passing L1 to passing L2. You have never seen Ethics before on L1, and a lot of the concepts may be unfamiliar. Yes, L2 takes things a step deeper, but there are also fewer questions.

I was also super worried about passing L2, but I have a habit of listening to affirmations I record myself every day, and right after i registered for L2 last year, I put “I pass the 2017 L2 CFA exam” on my recording. I listened to it a lot during the year, and despite it being a complicated year for a lot of reasons and me only getting to put in 150-200 hours of studying, I passed because I visualized that it was possible, and that visualization caused me to study smart (heavy focus on CFAI materials and topic tests, not just doing the questions but reading through the answer solutions to understand what CFAI cares about most, utilizing Kaplan for reading curriculum material when Kaplan was best choice). i’m not sharing this to brag at all. In reality until I found out that I had passed the exam I was a nervous wreck, and my study schedule was not adviseable but it was unavoidable because of unforeseen things that happened in my life this year – I would not do only 150-200 hours if I had to take the exam over again. I’m just sharing this to let you know that you are absolutely right – ATTITUDE really matters. This is true not only for the CFA exam but also in most careers.

It sounds like your attitude may have impacted you this year, but you should feel blessed that you realized it – experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. Now I’m sure with your newfound positive and optimistic attitude, you’re just going to crush through L2 this time. The questions are just waiting to get solved, CFAI’s tricks are just waiting to be identified by you! Further, you can use this lesson elsewhere in your life, I’d guess. Best of luck and keep me posted on how things go!!!

Can you explain a bit about recording affirmations ? I mean how you record and play it and what other affirmations you use ?

Sure – not going to share my personal affirmations but basically it’s a way to help you visualize your goals so you can achieve them.

Step 1 – write out a bunch of short goal statements that are positive (not negative, don’t include “no”-like words) and in the present tense. They can involve personal, professional, or other goals. For example, “I pass the CFA Level II exam.” “I run a mile under 7 minutes.” “I wake up before 7am every day.” It’s better to keep your list concise – I wouldn’t do more than 10-12, but don’t have actual evidence that more than 12 wouldn’t work too. it’s all about training your subconscious to work with your conscious mind.

Step 2 – record yourself saying those affirmations out loud.

Step 3 – listen to that recording twice a day or commit those statements to memory and say them twice a day.

Try it for at least 21 days for a near term goal. Obviously the CFA exam is in like ~11 months, but I’ve experienced better success with goals on my list within weeks of including them in my recording.

I think the theory is that as you tell your brain that you are capable of something enough, your brain tries to goal seek to figure out how to achieve that goal. The brain is essentially a muscle that can be trained – if you tell it to do good things, it will help you do good things! I’m not making any promises that this will work for everyone but I can vouch that it has helped me achieve goals, including passing the CFA Level II exam!

Thanks a ton, man it was quite helpful. Do you repeat one affirmation 10 times to create like a 1 min audio? When do you listen these affirmations ?

I have felt that despite having the aptitude for success my easy-going attitude and sub-optimal habits have caused me to under-achieve. I am trying to change my mindset.

Nah, put 10 different affirmations on 1 recording, and then just listen to it on repeat. any time of the day but ideally in the morning when I am getting ready for the day. Hope it’s helpful!

You definitely made a point-doing practice questions/exams are the sole reason that I passed. After working 8-9 hours a day and getting home, it was extremely difficult for me to focus on reading the concepts and material. All I could do was to do topic exams. I barely scored any questions at first, but the good thing is that I can go back to the topic for the formulas and theories. For anyone with limited time for preparation, I would suggest doing mocks and topic exams for at least 150 hours, from a strategic perspective. However, this might not be suitable for every exam taker, as some people are more comfortable with spending time on reading and understanding.

In the same boat, Labossi. Just kept re-reading and dint focus much on lesser weights. Ended at band 9.

Did something similar, @mglasses, dint work :slight_smile:

I got pretty bummed out but I guess I’ve recovered from the disappointment and now can let it out. Memorization is very important in level 2, specially for the less weighted topics. That’s what I learnt this June. It doesn’t matter if you understand the big quant concepts (that pretty much everyone ends up mastering by exam day, like triangular artibrage, forward pricing, etc)… You have to memorize all the qualitative definitions, differences between models, and all the variations of standard formulas (the difference between a correct answer and a wrong answer is being able to recall a single adjustment factor to the formula). Also, having a “rough high-level idea” about certain topics didn’t cut it for me like it did in L1. Need to understand everything on the syllabus inside out, and then retain all the information on exam day too. Also in high-sight I spent too much time doing the CFA topic tests and not enough on mocks. Will certainly change that next year. And finally, I’ll make my own notes for next year. I was too disorganized this year, scrambling back and forth between Schweser (too simplistic and leaves a lot of explanation out), CFAI books (too dense), and my own flashcards (didn’t cover all the topics, and only covered what I thought were my weaknesses like Equity formulas). It’s super helpful to have everything in one place.

Exactly, my feelings.