AuthorTopic: How to run the table on the CFA Program
@2014-09-03 17:16:40
I have never posted on AnalystForum before but frequently during the course of my study I would drop in to look at comments and laugh at times about the paranoia. I completed level 3 this year and passed all three tests consecutively. In this, my first and last post I will try to shed some light on what worked for me. Please note I took Level 1 in June 2012, Level 2 in June 2013, and Level 3 this past year in June 2014 therefore it is quite possible the tools and curriculum are different. Ignore the spelling and grammar as I am trying to post this quickly in the middle of the work day.

My backgroud - I was a economics major in college and started taking the exams approx 7 years out of school. (therefore I remembered little from college) I work in trading so I don’t feel any of my education nor work experience was particularly helpful in understanding major aspects of the exam.

Level 1 (June 2012) - In my opinion the easiest and most straighforward of the exams. If you are a repeat test taker on level 1 and you believe you have put in an adequate amount of time you may need to rethink the CFA program. With 240 multiple choice questions your margin for error is huge. You can get 72 questions wrong and still pass the exam. If you understand the material you should be scoring very well on Level 1.

Level 1 Prep - I spoke with a college freind who took the exam and he basically said Schweser helped him pass. He highly recommended I take a look at the Qbank. I read through the Schweser Texts (I never read the CFAI texts), did the end of chapter questions, then did the Qbank questions. I repeated this for all the material. With about 3 weeks left I took one week and did every question in the CFAI end of chapter sections. With 2 weeks left I started taking the practive exams. With level 1 the key to the exam is doing question after question after question. I repeated sections in the Qbank that confused me or I had trouble with and I made sure I was comfortable with all the calculations. If you are pressed for time or are behind do not even worry about reading the Schweser Texts just do questions over and over and over again. When you get into the exam you will look at questions and think they are verbatum what you studied. You should be scoring at least in the mid to low 80% on the practice exams.

Level 2 (June 2013) - Much more difficult then Level 1 due to the nature of the item set questions. Your margin for error is much smaller with only 120 questions. It is quite possible you will look at an item set or two and get very confused or seem unfamiliar with the material. The biggest misnomer about this exam is that it cannot be “gamed.” By “gamed” people are inferring that you cannot guess with a high probability what will be on the exam. This I found to be the furtherest from the truth and the biggest misconception about the CFA exam. After reviewing all the material and looking over the topic weights I had an opinion that I could figure out what about 70% of the exam was going to focus on. Given the ethics guarantee and the focus on FSA and Equity investments you could estimate what you thought was going to be on the exam to really focus your study (i.e. currency translation, Control/Proportionate control).

Level 2 Prep - After scoring very well in Level 1 I took a siimilar approach in Level 2. I spend most of my focus going over the item set questions from the QBank (Qbank is not as good for level 2, focus on the item set questions in the Qbank), practice exams, and the end of chapte CFAI texts. I took notice to the topics inside the sections that seemed to be tested most frequently in the practice questions and exams. Playing to the weights is very important in this exam. If you see four item sets that you are weak in show up you may already be behind in points. About 4 weeks out I started doing just questions, over and over and over. About 2 weeks out I started the practice exams. I took off the week before the exam to really cram for this exam. While the pass rate for level 2 is higher then level 1 you must remember that the level 2 test taker is a much better candidtate then the level 1 pool.

Level 3 (June 2014) - What I felt was the most difficult and frustrating exam. Level 3 was painful due to the morning writing section. The problem for me came from the gray area of what is an adequate written answer to the question. Even Schweser is quite vague as to what is expected of the candidate on the morning writing section. The texts have a “For Full Credit” reply that is very short and to the point but much debate is given if that would constitute receiving all the points. The other issue with the morning exam is time management. I ran out of time in the morning section and spent the last 20 minutes feverishly writing quick responses and trying to do speed math calculations for the final three questions. Monitoring and budgeting your time is essential in the AM section. The PM section I found to be very straightforward as you are famliar with the style from level 2.

Level 3 prep - I spent more time on Level 3 reading the Schweser texts. For level 1 & 2 I would read them but really spend more time working through questions. For the Level 3 exam I spent more time reading and trying to think through how to craft my written responses. The material is much more enjoyable as it focuses on PM. I ran through all the problems on the Qbank with 4 weeks left until the exam. I spend the majority of the last two weeks preparing for the AM section through the CFAI and Schweser practice exams. When doing the exams I timed myself to ensure I would have enough time during the exam. I did this for the first 4 practice exams and was completely fine with time however during the exam I still ran out of time. Time management is key for the AM section. I did not touch the CFAI texts for level 3. I’m not endorsing that but it worked for me.

Other tips

Use Schweser, I’ve met too many people who said they like the form of the CFAI texts better but ended up scoring poorly on the exam.

Make sure you have the time for the exam. Many people say its fine I was busy this year, I’ll sit this year to learn more about the exam and pass next year. The CFA generally doesn’t work that way. Level 2 and 3 are only given once a year, if your the person who needs 300 hours to pass you can’t split it 100 this year and 200 next year. The material needs to be fresh in your mind.

If you are completely lost in accounting take one of John Harris’s accounting workshops. I had a close freind you failed level 1 and he said that helped him drastically improve and pass.

Best of luck to everyone and I hope you all can run the table!

CFA Discussion Topic: How to run the table on the CFA Program

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You have a wonderful website and definitely should take some credit for your members' outstanding grades.
Colin Sampaleanu

Colin Sampaleanu