Level II First Timer Pass Rate

After looking through the forums, it struck me What is the actual pass rate for first timers taking Level II?

The pass rate overall is 42%, sure, but this includes retakers. I don’t think retaking has an independent success rate compared to first attempts.

I imagine the pass rate will be a little higher for first-timers than it will be for repeat takers. I’ve not found anything from CFAI indicating the breakdown of pass rates for 1st time test takers vs repeaters, so all I really have is anecdotal evidence.

This is taken from CFP results located: http://www.cfp.net/media/survey.asp?id=9

Historical Overall %: 56.65

First Time %: 61.47

Repeat %: 41.99

There are about 3 times as many first time results than repeat results. Obviously this isn’t historical CFA results, but I would anticipate this statistic would be pretty standard across all types of exams.

Should be lower. Most charterholders I know failed L2 at least once.

It’s hard to say. The best candidates (those with high probability of passing) will probably pass in the first round. So other than a few stragglers, the second round will consist of mediocre to average candidates, thus potentially lowering the second round pass rate. Then again, the second round candidates will have had more time to study, so that might make up for their initial shortcomings. Also, the worst candidates are probably more likely to drop out after failing the first round, so that might increase the second round pass rate.

I imagine first timer pass rate is pretty subjective. But basically, it’s hard to pinpoint why Level II has an absolute higher pass rate (than Level I), even though the material is comparatively harder.

It should be lower for first timers. There must be quite some people who give up after their first attempts at L2. Plus, many people who reach L2 are smart enough but just fail to put in enough hours the first time around. Given additional hours, these people tend to do much better on their second attempt.

The largest factor has got to be the fact that so many people apparently try to “wing it” on Level 1, whereas that is much less likely on level 2…right?

I think the rate of First Timers will be lower, most people are stunned by the depth of knowledge L2 goes into.

Repeat takers usually know the difficulty and their areas of weakness… of course we have many drop out after repeated failures…

I think we can safely assume that the creme of the crop candidates will pass regardless and be a fairly constant percentage of candidates at each level.


Correct. I aced L1 with hands tied behind my back. One mock. WoW zombie-gaming marathon night before the paper. +70 in all sections. L2 just blew me away. It’s a whole new game. Of the 8 colleagues I know writing, only one passed L2 first time. It’s pure armageddon people. The notion that 1st-timers have higher pass rates is laughable.

Its laughable but not undoable, probably those who laughed were the ones not good enough to pass the first time round. For us (the group that passes the first time), we work hard.

I had a DOTA marathon the night before 2012’s Level II and i passed it first time…

I did say the Creme of the Crop will always rise to the top. For the average to above average group (far larger by numbers and therefore percentages), it’s not as likely. Kudos if you do it hte first time, it’s a real achievement.

There are lot of Band10 candidates who were probably 1-3 questions short of clearing. Given the same exam on a different day, I have no shame in admitting that I could have failed the exam as well, even though my status says passed. I think this actually puts the exam into perspective.

The whole point I am trying to make is that people who did not clear are not necessarily the ones who didnt believe they could not clear the first time!

“those who laughed were the ones not good enough to pass the first time round”

Claiming that you are superior / others are inferior only because you passed in 1st attempt is Ethics violation.

Does anyone know what % of candidates who have the CFA designation had to re-take at least one of the three levels?

Do the math. Lets assume the following pass rates: L1 38%, L2 42%, L3 50% .38*.42*.50 = 16% Approximately 16% of candidates who sit for level one will complete all 3 first attempt assuming they continue, and assuming current pass rates.

But many people who sit for level one never end up with the charter. There could be some people that pass all 3 levels on first attempt that never get the charter either, but I expect it is a much lower number than the people that sit for level 1 but never make it through. So I would expect the percentage of CFA charterholders that have never failed to be higher than 16%.

I would think it would be lower than the straight up math. I would think for level II there would be a lower pass rate among first timers. I just failed band 10 and feel that I would have a much greater chance of passing than your average candidate taking the test for the first time. I have already studied all of the material and basically needed a couple of more weeks of taking mocks to really be comfortable.


I passed Level I in December 2011, and passed Level II this June. I have a sales background (motorcycles and copiers), and a communications degree. BUT, I put in a ton of hours to study for both (in the nieghborhood of 1000 hrs, maybe a little north). I felt Level I was easy, but Level II I was 60-40 pass/fail, walking out of the exam. It really does come down to preparation, and I was lucky to have lots of time to devote to this. Of course, it would have sucked if i failed. i already ordered the Level III CFA material, time to get started again, see if I can go 3 for 3, in 18 months…