Which one is harder to pass CA or CFA?

I have my CPA license and just passed Level 3. Based on my experience, the CFA is much, much more difficult than the CPA exam. Not even close. I know a handful of others with both and they agree without exception. By the way, I know a lot of CPAs who don’t know squat about technical FASB standards or IRS regulations. All it proves is that at a point in time(probably years ago) they knew enough to pass what is a very general and broad curriculum of accounting, auditing, regulation and tax.

To the OP:

As a Canadian CA (Ontario), who has just passed the Level 3 CFA exam, I feel comfortable saying that the CA exams are much more demanding.

That said, its important to remember that we prepare academically and mentally for the CA exams for years… through University, through our firm experiences - everything you do is geared towards passing the UFE. The UFE itself should be mentioned. It is a 3 day exam - that you can only sit once you’ve passed all of the other qualification exams - which by themselves are on par with a single CFA exam. The 3 day uniform final examination is 100% case based - entirely subjective. There are no “questions”. No case tests a “single” competency. You sit 5 hours on day 1 and 4 hours on each of day 2 and day 3. The first day is a 5 hour case study. I remember reading 15 pages of block text about “Ostrich Farms” in the 2006 UFE… and I wrote nearly 10 pages in response and performed a 5 page cash flow and financial valuation. There is no “do over” in a month. You can only write the “one exam” which is done over 3 days, once a year.

Remember: there are no questions. You simply have to identify the problems, prioritize them, and address them - as your professional judgement guides you.

Contrasted against the CFA - yes, the curriculum is intense from top to bottom. The Level 2 is a nightmare. I failed it the first time through. The depth and breadth of material is staggering. Many concepts are abstract and counter intuitive (hello derivatives!). But most of us - me included - studied for it while living my life and working a full time job. I didn’t live and breathe the material for 5 years. So to compare the relative difficulty of the CFA versus the CA isn’t easy.

I stand by my assertion though. The CA exams required 5 weeks of intensive, 8 hour per day case study practice leading up to the UFE in September. And that was after months of weekends given up to firm-organized case study sessions and practice exams that were graded by fellow firm members. That easily trumps the 2 weeks of practice exams and 3 months of casual reading (2-3 hours a day) I did for each of the CFA exams. Sure, the CA knowledge helped me at level 1 and 2… but not at 3.

Both exams are rigorous, and personally, the CFA exam is nearer and dearer to my heart as my philosophy and aspirations are finance/wealth management focused. But that doesn’t say that one designation is in any way “superior” to the other.

I simply think that the mental anguish I went through to get through the CA exams makes the CFA exams a walk in the park. :slight_smile:

*Edit: The number of pages in the UFE on Day 1. Seemed high - so went and actually checked it.

I am a complete twit when it comes to accounting…I think i could never pass the accounting stuff…reading 20 pages of block text and writing 15 pages…good god…eventhough i failed L3, cfa does sound much easer…writing 2 sentences max for each mini question

notwithstanding my earlier comments, the discussion is moot, it’s like saying what’s more difficult, the tour de france or an ultra-marathon, or is an olympic sport harder than a non-olympic sport?

next up…is red better than blue? is green better than yellow.

I know a couple charterholders that also have CPA and they say pretty much the same thing that LawDog said.

I think thats where this conversation ends. Unless the CA is significantly different/tougher I can’t see the point in this debate. It seems pretty clear CFA is much more challenging.


who is more faster - Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee?

Bruce Lee

Harder can mean very different things. Some people think a long exam with several pages is hard, some people think that stuff where you’re doing repetitive useless things for a long time are hard, etc… Those two I mentioned I think should be categorized more as waste of time than as a challenge.

I would dare to say that hard should mean “number of hours of relevant learning needed for a lay person to pass the exam with confidence”

So a medical residence is hard, but also isn’t - performing the 3000th same shot doesn’t teach you much more than performing the 3000th DCF. Repetition usefulness stops at a time.

Pass rates are also a very weak measure in my opinion. I know someone who passed a public job exam (it’s like a contest - best score gets the job) in which the pass rate was like 0,1% and she didn’t even study. It was a challenging exam to some extent, but way less than the pass rates could lead one to believe - most candidates simply didn’t have a clue on what they were being tested on.

I don’t have an opinion on which exam is harder than which since I don’t even know what’s needed to past most exams.

However, certifications aside, it’s hard to beat the Putnam:


compare the size of the two charters.

Jackie Chan. Bruce Lee can hardly move nowadays.

anyone has perspective from india? CA in India is quite rigrous too. Anyone experience with both?

I have to agree with Nick007 and rk123 on the South African CA path. I went through the route at uni to become a CA and then decided to do CFA instead of doing a post-grad and all that jazz as I prefered the finance side of things. I do however regret it somewhat as what I’ve found is that most firms for which CFA is useful require university grads with like A aggregates, which I do not have, even though I’ve passed two levels of CFA. I’ve found it so difficult to get into asset management while studying CFA, purely because they take the top university students and we have a lil thing called affirmative action in my country which doesn’t help.

A lot of the difficulty with the South African CA route I think has a lot to do with South Africa being leaders in promoting the use of IAS standards across the world and they do have a good reputation for having high standards. In fact I recall quite a few of the commitee members responsible for setting IAS standards were from SAICA or something along those lines. I might actually persue a CA qualification in the UK when I’m done with CFA as I think it’s more beneficial to get your foot in the door at various firms.

I kind of agree with sean1194 and the benefit is that the CA route seems like it gives you almost automatic entry into an articled firm and the exp that comes with it and then you’re in good stead, where as to use CFA qualification, you need to get into a job by networking, researching, etc so in that way it’s more difficult with CFA. I wouldn’t study CFA to get a job, I’d study CA to get a job and then CFA to improve your options. In fact, if I must be honest I’ve seen more names with the “CA” designation after it from asset management firms than “CFA” which would lead me to think that they prefer people who are CAs, even though CFA is known to be geared towards asset management. It’s all just a thought when you’re thinking about where you want your career to go and if you plan on doing both, I’d recommend the CA route first.

indian CA is tuff

Its hard to judge without an appropriate benchmark

rather, it will be more interesting to know which path leads to a higher pay increment…

Like Stud will tell you, I wrote my dissertation on this.

I have taken both CPA (not CA) exams and CFA exams. Each level of CFA is harder than the entire CPA exam.

I guess this CPA thing is not comparable to a UK Chartered Accountant (ICAEW).

Seems like completely different weight categories.

The prof who tought me FRA for level 2 was CA (India) and CFA charterholder. He said CA is way tougher than CFA…

I had an Indian CA studying with me for CFA L 1 . He failed twice in this exam. Plus he said that the CA exam way much predictable and guidebook oriented and that it was possible to pass when given in group of 4 subjects in a go with only about 50% needed for passing in each subject and around the same needed in total.

This is certainly very less rigorous than the CFA exam and you cannot compare a subjective step-marking exam with an exam in which either you are right or you are most certainly wrong. Plus the CA guys dont even know many

stuff about structured finance, bonds and derivatives that CFA students do. CA people know more about Indian taxes and might be about costing but thats about it. There is not even a remote chance that CA is tougher than CFA even after discounting the fact that the difficulty level is compounded in CFA because most guys are doing a full time job.

I am saying this after seeing an umpteen no. of CA guys while working in banking industry in India in public sector

which itself is a monster to break into with entrance examinations and passing rate south of 5% ( all aptitude work) . The CA guys get a direct route here without examination, which they have introduced one just lately directly in a higher scale without any work ex. while the MBA guys are put at a disadavantage and these Banking people in India hardly know anything about CFA.

The CA holders are just on some kind of propoganda is what I have observed and they somehow learn how to

be a dominatrix and impose a unwritten doctrine plus they are supported with past alumni of CA who somehow pervade in every Indian financial institution and some fields like Audit and Taxation are their exclusive fiefdom in India. Somehow I managed to overcome their jinx and stick to my job but obtaining a job in Finance in India is even more geared towards a CA than CFA because these guys somehow only like to perpetuate a CA dogma i.e. If you are a CA and you failed while doing your job thats because there was not better way to do it, whereas, if you were a non CA but a CFA , MBA or of sorts even an ICWA you should have known better! Its almost like " Life is a dogma live by it".

That said I would say some CA know their stuff but there are certainly some I know who are total idiots but all are definetly overpowering by nature. This culture certainly doesnt help and is not reassuring when all the bosses in India are with the designation of CA and I dont even know where the penetration of CFA in India stands and what high positions do these guys actually hold because it is still young in India and most charterholders are not like old geezer CA with arcane high positions trying to flock the herd on a camel.

I’m pretty confident CA is harder and far more competitive.

FYI CA is a comparatively bigger deal than CPA in the respective nations.

Yes - CFA charthlders are not eligible for govt jobs in India :frowning: