Hello everybody, this is my first post in AF, even though I’m following the discussion for some time now. After the release of yesterdays level 2 results, however, I’m totally shocked and perplexed: Band 7 fail like last year. I invested so many hours for preparation, and gained virtually no improvement compared to last year - it’s devastating. I’m willing to take another shot, but I’m not sure what to make different next time. In the following a quick summary of my CFA history, maybe you have an idea what to make different. CFA Level 1 in December 2011, preparation: Read CFAI books once, made own flashcards, did mainly EOCs (2 or 3 times), took month off prior the exam (fulltime preparation), where i did about 4-5 mocks and some sample exams & learning summary & more questions --> Exam: Pass. CFA Level 2 in June 2012, preparation: Started in Feb, read CFAI books once, due to lack of time made no own flashcards and based summary on Schweser Secret Sauce and own notes, did EOCs (2 times), started fulltime preparation in May with learning, doing questions, about 5 mocks (never crossed 70 mark) and sample exams. --> Exam: Band 7 fail (<50 Derivaties, Econ ; >70 QM) CFA Level 2 retake in June 2013, preparation: Started end of December, made EOCs (3 times), did (~40% of) QBank questions and watched the Schweser movies (focus on Ethics, AltInv, Econ, FSA), revised own summary, again May fulltime study (May-alone 250 hours!), did 15 (schweser, stalla, CFAI) mocks (omg >_ Exam: Band 7 fail (<50 Ethics, PM, QM; >70 CF) Especially the last item make make me think a lot. How can you do 15 mocks, virtually passing almost all of them and fail that miserably in the real exam? How is that possible? I’m totally in shock right now. Of course you can do and learn more next time (e.g. BBs), but I’m not sure, whether my problem lies on that field. The simple recipes (e.g. EOCs+schweser+mocks=pass) found here on AF seem not to work out for me. Any hints or suggestions are highly appreciated! Please help me!

It seems you’re spread thin across all the different materials. Also, IMO, there is zero correlation between mocks and the real exam. Mocks are good for practice, but nothing comes close to representing the real exam.

Have you analyzed where you fell short? For example, if you scored <50 in Accounting both times, that’s where you need to concentrate.

You can try dedicating more time to doing problems (not necessarily EOCs or even item sets) rather than reading… but don’t neglect reading.

Read a section, learn the main points, then dive right into questions from Schweser Qbank or Finquiz. Aim to spend 2x the time on questions as you do on reading, going back to the reading if you don’t understand something or keep getting the same type of question wrong.

Think of it as an asset allocation problem… your “assets” may look like the following:

  • Reading CFAI text

  • Reading or watching videos from provider

  • Doing practice questions from provider (i.e. Qbank)

  • CFAI Questions (EOCs and BBs)

  • Provider mocks

  • CFAI Mocks

What did your allocation look like when you failed? It’s likely you were underweight in the following areas: Practice questions and EOCs… consider weighing these more on the next attempt and cutting some from reading (but don’t go too extreme and only do problems at the expense of everything else.)

I second blackomen’s advice. Exactly how I would look at it. It’s striking to me that you have so few >70. Exams need to be attacked like a military campaign. Frontal assault on all areas is bound to fail. You do not need to score perfectly in all areas to pass. But you do need to pick areas of strength and concentrate on them to get more >70s. If there’s more time, you can focus on weaker areas too but I would say you need to focus on your strengths more first.

I think it’s time to move on. If you actually did all that work you say… it’s not for you

What was ur mock 2013 score?

I know one case where a girl with 80+ in 2013 mock got band 3

I feel like you focused a little too much on doing questions and not enough on understanding the concepts. You mentioned that on your first attempt at level 2, you read all the CFAI books but on your second attempt you didn’t do any readings?

You have to be able to grasp the concepts inside out because the exams will test your ability to apply the concept in a very unintuitive manner. My suggestion for the next attempt is to first read through the entire curricullum and focus on the blue box examples in the CFAI text. Instead of just reading through the blue box examples, try and attempt them first. This will surely strengthen your concepts and give you a fairly good representation of the difficulty of questions on the exam.

Personally, I would not recommend Schweser Qbank because the difficulty of the questions are not up to par. And focus your time on Equity and FRA.

Thank you all for you comments, really appreciate it. Even though you might say something that I don’t want to hear. It’s really important for me to figure out my major pitfalls.

Of course I figured out of my weaknesses. Especially during changes in material I had some troubles in economics and alternative investments in the beginning. Not the big stacks, but I put some extra effort in it (-> did all QB questions & watched the Schweser videos on that topics & some extra study). I noticed that I constantly perform poorly in ethics, but only on CFI mocks, in Schweser I did quite well. So you might be correct on your point concerning correlation of mock exams.

Concerning the process of learning: I’m a retaker, so I completly skipped reading CFAI books for the second time. I did it in the first time, but the effort/time ratio isn’t worth it at the second try. I rather did EOCs instead. We can argue now, whats more productive, but I would still say reading is too time consuming, especially if you know the material and get easily bored. Time is limited, so we have to make a choice here.

In the last month, the break down was as follows: 50% mock exams (15 mock exam, every day one with correction in the evenings), 25% EoC (1 run troughout all books), 25% QBANK&Schweser videos. For me this felt kinda good, constantly scored quite well, so haven’t really panicked. Noticed at some point, that I should have done BB as well, learned important concepts/twists quite late (maybe some I didnt notice till now). So this is definitely a shortcoming, I will correct that for the next time. My CFI2013 mock exam result wednesday right before the exam was 73%.

Further, I was overweighting a bit FSA and ethics, didnt worked out. Ethics fail.

Mission bad luck man

My mock score was just 65 in 2013 mock

Mission. If you still have the strength to take the test a third time then do check out Elanl. They offer quite a few of their videos for free and if you really want to UNDERSTAND the curriculum then there is no better thing than Elan’s videos. Best of luck with whatever you do.

Here’s your problem right here: “but the effort/time ratio isn’t worth it at the second try”

  • This is a learning process and you can’t cut corners. Delve completely into the CFAI material and don’t move on until you understand something. Learn ethics, FRA and equity as best as you can. Then add other areas. And you probably need to start earlier. Build the base the best you can, and then when you do pass L2 you will have a good foundation for L3.

Sorry to hear about your experience, you are doing everything you can and no one can say you didn’t try hard enough!

Honestly I am not sure why but here are some thoughts;

  1. how did you write those mock exams? did you time yourself? did you write the whole exam without using your books and mark them after?

  2. did you review the answers diligently enough? simply writing and marking them wouldn’t benefit you too much

  3. what did you struggle during the exam? ethics is pretty straight forward, perhaps you did not comprehend the questions well. but what about other sections - you can fail ethics and still pass the exam.

  4. were you too nervous during the exam? did you go blank? did you find the exam challenging or did you walk out thinking you should’ve passed?

I am trying to diagnose your problem. hopefully it helps.


It sounds like you really did a lot of work, so clearly its a question of working smarter not harder.

Though I passed, the places where my results were in the 50-70 band versus 70+ were those areas that I liked least while studying: econ, fixed income, and derivatives, as well as ethics where I frankly was a bit surprised. Those are the practice problems I wanted to do least, and review the least. The result showed.

I think based on the stats I’m seeing a lot of people got hurt on ethics this year, even those who passed. There were some real tough calls in the questions.

One thing I’ve learned: Schweser mock is good in all areas except ethics, their ethics questions are less like the exam than their others. This is where you have to max out whatever material CFAI gives you, that is the short ‘sample test’ and the CFAI mocks. Some people make the mistake of relying too much on Schweser, although I will say that it definitely helps you get a start on it.

If you did <50 in ethics you’d have to do extraordinarily well in all other categories to pass, based on what I’ve heard and seen. Also, it helps to have related work experience when you do the ethics material.

Outside of that I’d look into general issues with how you study best, retain material best, and your test anxiety or lack thereof.

When I take the mocks I simulate the testing experience as best as I can: give myself 3 hours in each section, sit upright in a desk at a library, use only the kind of paper that I’d have on the test. If I get an 80 I don’t let it get to my head any more than if I get a 60. I keep telling myself I have to keep improving until I take the exam. Its easy sometimes to get a bit too overconfident after having a good streak, and its easy to get paranoid after doing badly on the CFAI mock (I got a 63% on it just a week before the actual exam, freaked me out a little).

Last but not least, you also have to give yourself enough rest before the exam, stop studying after 12 pm on the Friday before. Make sure you get enough sleep not the night before, but the night before the night before the exam (in other words Thursday going into Friday). Many people don’t do that and get screwed because anxiety prevents them from sleeping Friday night.

Can you please participate in this short survey?

Sorry but I don’t like surveys where it says “Name: (required), Email: (required)”

Btw there is an excellent survey someone posted here that is even more rich in information and already has 300 samples:


I might give it a try, but honestly, I don’t think more material is the answer I need. Got here so many Stalla books, I hadnt even the time to unpack them.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m not rushing through the material. When I do not understand something, I surely look it up in the material. I’m not ignoring CFAI books, quite the contrary. I’m using them as primary resource. However, I doubt that reading the whole material in a row AGAIN would have made a big impact on the outcome. Partly looking up issues I haven’t covered thoroughly feels way more effective to me.

@NANA Hachiko

I was writing them for myself and graded them afterwards. Since I have taken the CFAI mocks on both preparations, the scores of them might be a bit inflated. I wrote the exam without notes, paying attention that I’m staying within time limits. When I’m finished, I’m reviewing both correct and incorrect answers. The review process can take 1-2.5h per session.

Concerning the actual exam: It feels like I’m falling short in all topics. I have never scored >70% in each sections in mocks, however, normally 3-5 sections are above 70 (they alternate, no clear pattern), rarely fail a section. At both real exams I took, almost everything is in the 50-70 area with 2-3 fail sections. This is something I don’t understand. Are the traps in the real exam different? Am I too nervous? Am I missing important facts? Since I’m not a native speaker, does stress detain my understanding? I really don’t know.

During the exam I had some concentration problems in the end, however, my result suggest that my entire performance was insufficient, so I don’t think this was the one and only reason. I was walking out of the exam with a mixed feeling, Had 2 questions from morning session I could not find any answer, and 4 out of the afternoon session (including that one derivative question NOT covered in the curriculum; had checked each of them at home, got 0/4 out of my guesses >_


I’ve observed the same. Some “unsuspicious” sections like QM, PM seem to have some very mean traps this year. Little bit sad, since I’m normaly doing quite well on those - failing both this time :(. Concerning bed time: did completely the opposite: get up early on thursday to be able to sleep at friday. Was okay…

Don’t listen to people telling you to move on, you must make that decision on your own.

At the end of the day, you didn’t fail by much, even at band 7.

I failed band 5 last year, and worked harder and passed it this year.

Just work harder, my advice to you is to make notes for each LOS, memorize all the formulas required for LOS and forget the other formulas (because if they come on, according to CFAI, those questions that are unfair are awarded to everyone). Ensure you do all CFA EOC and schweser. Do as many mocks as you can, CFA and Schweser.

dude seriously if you want to nail this exam, just mecanically doing the things you are supposed to do won’t get you anywhere!

you have to understand the shit, and for that you have to like it first and be passionate about it (it’s OK to hate one or 2 topics (econ or something) but you gotta be passionate about something else (equity, derivatives, FRA, CF, …)

after that, and what i think most people who fail don’t do is that you have to try to ask yourself WHY to every single thing you come across in the curriculum (why this way, where does it come from, can I explain it to a collegue without looking at the book ?, you will be surprised how many things you think you master but if asked to explain them to a friend you’ll just stand there)

I took the level 2 this year for the first time, i found the exam extremely easy and scored every section above 70, and if you ask me how i did it it’s the following:

  1. forget schweser unless you absofuckinglutely have to (for lack of time) / forget Qbank no matter what

  2. never skip anything you come across in the CFAI books before you ask yourself WHY is it this way and not some other way, where does it come from, how does it relate to the topic, and most importantly be able to explain it to a 5 year old (most things you think you understand but you don’t)

  3. do as many CFAI mocks as you possibly can (I think i did almost 5 years back worth of mocks + schweser mocks for 2013/2012/2011)

3)Do ALL the CFAI EOCs

PS: ALWAYS: while doing mocks and eocs have a sheet of paper where you write down the hard one, and redo them in the last weeks

4)keep calm and smiling during exam day, that is key!

they key is when you do the problems or see a problem can you explain to me or yourself what each variable/number means? that’s why i tell myself every problem or every equation I see. I apply what I read to each thing trying to understand it.

Level 1 you can memorize rate goes up price goes down. level 2 you should be able to understand it and explain to someone why when rates goes up price goes down.

I only used schweser + mocks.

Get elan videos. Élan videos are great for understanding concepts that schweser does not do well.

Focus on ethics. You need to do great (not very good) on everything else if you fail ethics. Do all ethics problems including qbank. Use schweser email facility to ask about ethics questions you don’t understand. Get soft dollar and ros on tape and memorize them.