I started Level I Dec 2016, wrote Level II Jun 2017 and just passed Level III Jun 2018. Lots of people find it extremely tough to pass three levels all at first try, let alone writing three exams in a raw. What’s the secret? COMMITMENT. I don’t think there’s anything else than that. Never think you are smarter than others. Never think others must be studying less than you do. From level I to level III, make sure you devote a good amount of time (I personally do average of 1.5-2 hour a day. I found it more efficient to have a consistent study style than not studying during work days and study two full days for the weekends.) Buy study packages, whichever one works for you, do enough practice questions / mock exams. Always have a good attitude, nothing is more important than that.
Here’s some experience for each level:
Level I: I started study in Aug 2016; used 2 months to go through all 7 books. I probably studied the books a bit more than I should’ve (didn’t have any experience at that time); Then I bought Schweser early October and started my practice journey. I found Schweser Q bank really useful for level I. There were thousands of questions there. I started doing practice questions topic by topic (generating 50 or 100 questions a time), figure out what my weakness is. At that time it was financial reporting, which freaked me out because it has the heaviest weight. I did lots of extra practices on that topic before I started consolidated practice. Turned out that it really helped. I probably did about 5 consolidated practice questions (meaning I went into Q bank, select all 10 topics, generate 120 questions, and set 3 hours for practice). Then I did all 6 Schweser mock exams plus the sit down mock exam. I came out of the exam feeling pretty confident. And surely I passed.
Level II: I started early Feb 2017. I didn’t spend much time on going through actual books (probably just 1 month). I bought Schweser again and used a good 1.5 months or so to go through all the notes (which I found was the most importance part for Level II preparation). Q bank questions aren’t as useful as Level I just because Level II has a different exam format. But Q bank is still a good tool to make sure you understand the basic concepts. I did all 6 mock exams and the sit-down mock. I also spent two days going through Youtube videos about Level II preparation a few days before exam. I really appreciated those videos, they gave me a good memory boost last minute. (I don’t remember the name of the videos exactly, but it was an Indian professor).
Level III: I started Jan 2018. Honestly, I felt most nervous for this level. I knew that the passing rate is the highest, but knowing this was the last exam ahead of me, it made me feel scared of failing more than anything else. I basically didn’t read the actual books (I very briefly went through in 3 weeks). I spent a good two months going through Schweser notes. Last two months before the exam was all practicing. I personally like printing out the essay mocks and do it on paper (it feels more real). After a few mocks, I kinda grabbed the tricks for essay part - bullet points, short answers, no BS, just get to the points; this will save you lots of time (turned out the real exam was pretty tight for time, lots of people didn’t even finish); the afternoon part is basically the same with Level II, if you passed previous level, you should already know the tricks. Again, I watched some videos last minute. I didn’t find it as useful as level II. But still, better than nothing.
A lot of CFA preparation part is to understand HOW TO DO the exam. You can get this by practicing, practicing and practicing. However, knowing exam tricks is not everything. You need to understand materials as well, and this is the most important. I’m glad that I did my CFA exams. It’s not only for getting a prestigious title, I did also expand my knowledge a lot by preparing my exams.
Hope you guys get some values out of my posting. All the best to your CFA journey!