CAIA is purely focused on alts and for this reason it covers far less total material than CFA; therefore both level 1 & 2 CAIA exams are relatively easier to study for than CFA exams 1-3. The pass rates reflect this - the exams are tough but the material is less in quantity, so the pass rates are higher. People are studying for them obviously, they just don’t give out passing grades to anyone and the exams feel difficult when you take them - at least they did to me.
If you passed Level 3 CFA you can probably even skip level 1 of the CAIA exams now, due to their “stackable” program. So you can get with high likelihood the full accreditation in about 200 hours once you get the CFA. The exams are not easy but they are not very quantitative either. Lots of soft information and you get tested on lists and elements rather than using the calculator much. The material covers very useful concepts to understand the workings, strategy and modus operandi of how private equity and hedge funds work. On real estate it is still a bit “soft” in my view, if you knew nothing about real estate going into CAIA you will know slightly more than nothing going out.
Recently it seems like CAIA is positioning itself as a quick add-on accreditation to CFA. You can skip the level 1 exam, CAIA Assoc now says if you have the CFA you are just one exam away from becoming a full blown CAIA Association member. Two months of work if you like, and boom you have an accreditation. I am not sure this was a smart strategic move by the CAIA board. But they decided to do it, so CAIA is now a fast possibility (or afterthought?) for CFAs. For those of us who value our accreditations by how much learning time we invest into getting them, well, it is what it is.
I view the CAIA Association as a very decent and committed group of people who are trying to do the right thing. But they do seem to be in the middle of a strategic blunder with this stackable thing - they should (and could) further enhance their learning program instead of watering it down in my opinion. I think it is pretty consistent from posts on this forum that people are either disappointed or holding their noses politely through CAIA’s big announcement about the stackable program. But who knows, maybe all the fast new CFA members will become value added members of the CAIA community, not just absentee accreditation hunter-gatherers. For folks who study both CFA and CAIA - seriously they do not compare in terms of time investment, and CAIA seems bent on widening the gap at this time. They basically outsource the “hard skills” (in depth financial formulae, econ, accounting, etc.) to the CFA charter and skip them for the most part in CAIA. They also now outsource their entire Level 1 curriculum to CFA like CIPM (a certification not a charter) does. CAIA focuses instead on valuable “soft skills” plus interesting general topical knowledge that becomes increasingly important with the rise of alts in finance generally.