Things I Learned By Failing Last Year

Last year I failed the level 2 exam with a band 9, and it sucks. This year I feel 5 times more prepared than I did last year and thought I could maybe help some people out by sharing what I learned by failing so you can hopefully avoid getting that painful email

  1. Do 5+ Mocks

This will be an obvious point for most people but when you’re running out of time it’s easy to convince yourself that mocks aren’t important. You must do 5+ mocks to be successful on the exam and you must do the CFAI mock and all the online assessments. Last year I did one mock and I thought “well this is harder than the real thing so there’s no point in me doing anymore of them”. Big mistake. Mocks teach you what you don’t know and what kind of questions you can expect to see on the exam. When you go back to review after taking mocks you’ll gain much more knowledge than if you didn’t do any. Do at least 5 mocks no matter what

  1. Don’t Overlook Any Topic

Yes you should put more weight into the big topics like FRA and equity but do not overlook anything. A big mistake last year was I followed one of the schweser instructors advice of knowing the biggest topics really well and knowing “just enough” to get 50% on the smaller topics. Well here I am today re-taking this exam. There is no way to know “just enough” to get 50%. If you know that little on a topic you are probably heading towards a 1 or 2 out of 6 on an item set. And if that topic you thought would be only 5% ends up being 10% you are screwed because it will be too hard to makeup those lost points in other topic areas. Do not overlook anything. Focus on the big topics but strive to know the smaller topics just as well

  1. Don’t Try and Guess What They Will and Won’t Ask

This goes hand in hand with not overlooking any topic. Last year I found myself guessing what I thought they would ask and this lead to me not bothering to learn other material that eventually was on the exam. Example: This year alternative investments is 5-10%, so everybody assumes it will only be 5%, and the biggest topic area in alt is real estate, so some people might only learn the real estate and avoid the other topics like commodities. As soon as you do that you are setting yourself up for a nightmare item set (or two) on the exam. Sure can we guess that things like the H model in equity or pensions in FRA will be on there? Absolutely. But as soon as you try and convince yourself that smaller readings will not be on the exam because they are seemingly not important that is when CFA hits you with one of those items sets.

  1. Corporate Governance and Earnings Quality Readings

Both of these readings are easy to overlook. I get it, you have to learn a million formula’s and a bunch of other stuff for this exam so why spend any time on these fluff readings that you can probably figure out on the exam, right? Wrong. They will ask questions from these readings and they will be tricky. They test your understanding of the concepts and I guarantee there will be obvious looking answers for these questions that are the wrong answer to catch people that don’t put in the time to learn the fundamentals of them. These are the types of readings that cannot be overlooked.

  1. Use the CFAI Material

The prep providers are great. I used schweser last year and Elan this year. Elans notes are awesome, and the videos by Olinto are the best. Schwesers mocks are good also. But nothing can beat the CFAI material. You must do the blue boxes and EOC"s a couple times over and you must do their online assessments/mock exams. Last year (based on my foggy memory) I remember seeing things on the exam that I swear I had seen in the CFAI material (if only I had done more mocks/online assessments I probably would have recognized more!). You’ll read posts of people saying they passed only using schweser, you’ll read posts of people saying they only used CFAI. I think learning from the prep providers is great but you MUST know how to answer all the CFAI material’s questions they give you. They give you those questions for a reason. They want you to think a certain way. Make sure you focus on their material first and then the prep providers once you’ve exhausted the CFAI questions.

Those are the biggest takeaways I can pass along from failing last year. Trust me that you don’t want to get that fail email and have to wait another year to write this thing. Hopefully even a bit of that can help someone out and maybe turn a fail into a pass. Hit the books hard the last week there’s still lots of time

Thank you very much for that insight Bobby. Hope we can achieve what we set out to do.

Bobby, you’ve got a Good Heart.

That would’ve been a lot more helpful a few months back.

Seriously though, thanks for the tips.


Kind of you to take the time and type it out for first timers

Very enlightening…I’ll be reviewing that private equity and your-strategy-needs-a-strategy sections today

Master Bobby,

I was planing myself a one day 20*SS questions to target blanks using Schweser. Now I’ll also hit the CFAI on the 20s.

Thanks Bobby, Sure you’ll do great at the exam,

By the way Bobby - 3 Schweser and 3 CFAI mocks enough?

I think so. I mean I am in no way an expert as I haven’t passed this exam but the more mocks you do the better your chance is going to be. I’ve done 5 so far and will do one more today. For me personally I feel that is enough and the rest of my time is better spent reviewing and doing the BB’s/EOC’s once more

Cheers mate - appreciate your advice. I have time to do more but the fact is that returns are diminishing at an accelarating pace, so its probably better to start consolidating things now.

Thanks man and good luck this year. I’m doing my 7th mock today. Have this upcoming week off of work so I’m planning on doing all of the CFAI online assessments.

Thanks a lot for that very insighful post. Good luck to you this time and hope you pass this time.

Appreciate your insight, best of luck on the exam!

Good write up man.

Hope you get 70s all around…all the very best!!

Well.thanks for the advice and inputs. For people like me time is over to go back to CFAI material…Hope i would be able to clear…But i have completed CFAI Assessments. EOC, and Mocks/

Am with you Bobby mocks gives confidence, have done CFAI mocks from 2010-2015 and have treated them like EOC and am totally confident and i see no reason for me not to make it

Did you study using CFAI material last year? Or Schweser? Or any other provider?

Thank you Bobby for such a great post…

Have to agree with 2+3+4 all together at once. I can’t imagine ever thinking anything in those enormous books wasn’t in play. You all passed Level 1 right? I distinctly remember questions that were just flat definitions from one sentence of one page of one book. I can’t believe how many topics on this board over the past few months I’ve seen asking whether full readings could be ignored or trying to guess that Econ will only be 5%, etc.

Also keep in mind those CFAI online assessments are like 3+ mocks worth of material. They are a little light on AI, FI and multinational operations but otherwise you’re getting a LOT of exposure to CFAI exam questions. I had been putting them off as I ran through EOCs and Schweser review until the other day thinking I could just roll through them all in a half a day. Did not realize how many item sets were available… which is a good thing! Still working on wrapping those up today. Extremely helpful resource, especially for FRA. Very challenging.

I feel like at this point I’ve easily hit over 350 hours of prep and I still don’t feel the slightest bit confident. This final week is gonna be mayhem!!!

You sir are a good man. Thank you!! Best of luck. Let’s get it.