How to Pass the CFA® Level 2 Exam

How to Pass CFA Level 2 ExamYou’ve passed Level I of the CFA® exam. Congratulations! Now it’s time to get ready for the notorious Level II. The reputation of Level II can be quite intimidating since many candidates consider this to be the most challenging level of the CFA® exam. A big mistake you can make is to study for Level II like you did for Level I. This next level covers much more material and you need to be more prepared than before. Follow my tips below to prepare efficiently for Level II so you can pass.

Start Studying for the CFA® Exam Earlier

To figure out how much time you will need to prepare for Level II, you will have to start much earlier than you did for Level I. By getting this overview done early, you will know what you have ahead of you with plenty of time to accomplish it. It is also important to take note of which topics will be weighed more than others. If the topic you’re struggling with is the highest weighted topic, you should get studying much sooner.

Make a Study Schedule

This is the most important step in order to pass any level of the CFA® exam. Everyone has a different learning style and personal/work schedule. Before you start studying, figure out what CFA® test prep materials you want to use and plan out how many hours a day you will set aside for studying. For example, my goal was to finishing reading all the material a month before the exam. My study routine came out to about 5 hours on weeknights and 16-20 hours on the weekends. By the time I read all the material, I would have a month to take the practice exams. I can not emphasize enough how important the practice exams are, so make sure you have plenty of time to take these and learn where you are making mistakes.

Don’t Forget the Basics from the Level I CFA® Exam

Many of the concepts in Level II build on the basic concepts tested in Level I. That’s why it’s essential to understand concepts instead of memorizing information to spit out on the exam. I recommend going back over the Level I concepts and make sure you have a solid grounding in these before moving on to preparing for Level II. Some test prep materials actually include a Level I refresher book specifically for this purpose. By solidifying your Level I concepts you’ll be ready to tackle the new and improved topics in Level II.


Understanding and Beating the Item-Sets

Level II is formatted differently than Level I. While Level I is 240 independent questions across 2 exams, Level II is 120 questions in 20 item-sets across 2 exams. One of the item-sets contains a vignette (also known as a case statement) with 6 questions on what is discussed in the case. You might be thinking, less questions is better. Sadly, this is not necessarily true even though you will have twice the amount of time per question compared to Level I.

Reading through the vignette takes up a lot of time since it is filled with redundant information. The vignette is carefully crafted to confuse you and make you spend additional time sifting through what is and isn’t relevant. With practice, you can learn how to quickly pick out the important information while disregarding the repetitive. I also recommend reading the questions before the vignette so you know what to look for while reading. I have found this helps a lot and significantly cuts down your time on the vignette item-set.

I mentioned before that Level I’s questions are independent. Unfortunately, that is not the case for level II. The questions are now part of a 6 member family, meaning you will see nasty interdependent questions. For example, question two depends on your answer for question one. Not only are they connected, they will be more in depth since they can reference the vignette.

If you discarded a question on a confusing concept in Level I, you could still pass the exam. This won’t work for Level II. If you don’t fully understand a concept, you will answer an entire group of item-set questions wrong, especially if the concept is central to the vignette. I should also mention that the 6 vignette questions are worth twice the points of a question in Level I. So take your time to fully understand as many concepts as possible.

Know the Weight of each CFA® Topic

It’s helpful to know the topic weightings for Level II to guide you through what areas need more study time than others. Here are the weightings for the topics:

  • Ethics: 10-15%
  • Investment Tools (Corp Fin, Econs, FRA, Quant): 30-55%
  • Asset Classes (Alt Invs, Derivatives, Equity, F. Income): 35-70%
  • Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning: 5-10%

The percentages vary because some questions can cover more than one topic. Clearly, investment tools and asset classes are the bulk of the exam. These are the areas you need to understand completely if you have any hope of passing Level II.  

Go and Crush it!

While Level II is known for being the toughest part of the CFA® exam, it actually has a higher pass rate than Level I. If you stick to your study schedule and continue, you are going to kick-ass on Level II. Best of Luck!


CFA® Exam FAQs

CFA Exam FAQsThe CFA® exam includes a series of three exams: Levels I, II, and III. Given that there are various different exams and registration dates, you must make sure to register for the correct exam on time. To help you keep track of all the important information and dates, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the CFA exam.

To become a CFA® Charterholder, you must pass all three levels of the CFA exam in order. Earning the CFA charter demonstrates that you have attained a specialized degree of knowledge and skills in investment analysis and decision making in the field of investment. You must also agree to follow a code of ethics and standards set by the CFA Institute, become a member of the CFA® Institute, hold the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, and have at least 48 months of professional work experience in investment decision making.

 Taking the CFA Exam (Levels I, II, & III)

-The exams are offered annually at test centers around the world on the first Saturday in June. The Level I exam is also offered in December.

-They must be passed sequentially.

-They are only available in English.

-You can take the exams as many times as you need to until you pass.

-The tests increase in complexity according to level. Level I tests basic knowledge of the standards and some analysis, Level II tests how to apply those standards to typical situations and involves more complex analysis along with valuing assets, and Level III tests how to synthesize and apply the standards in a portfolio management and compliance context.

CFA Exam Fees

CFA Program fees include a one-time enrollment fee and a registration fee for each exam. The CFA® Institute registration fee also covers some study materials and mock exams for you to use in preparing for each exam. Various scholarships are available.

There are substantial early bird discounts, so depending on when you apply, the enrollment fee can be discounted. To get the best deal you will need to apply 9 months before the exam date. Note that you will also need a valid, international travel passport to confirm your identity. You can also reduce the cost of your preparation for the CFA® exam with great discounts on the best prep courses available.

It essential for you to take a CFA® Review course to prepare yourself for this challenging set of exams. The CFA® Institute recommends at least 300 hours of study and about 6 months of preparation for each exam. This is difficult for many busy professionals with full-time jobs. The average time to complete the program is 4 years.

CFA Exam Registration Deadlines

All registration deadlines end at 11:59 pm EST.

June 2017 Exam (Levels I, II, and III)

Early registration


(ended 21 September 2016)

Standard registration

US$ 930

(ends 15 February 2017)

Late registration

US$ 1,380

(ends 15 March 2017)

The CFA® exam registration fee includes the cost of:

  • An eBook containing the complete curriculum*
  • An interactive study planner to keep you on track
  • Practice tests on various topics
  • Mock exams
  • A mobile app for study that can access all of the above

*You may purchase a print version of the curriculum (available for a non-refundable fee of US$150, plus any fees associated with shipping) at the same time you register for an exam, or later.

CFA® Exam Schedule

The upcoming CFA® exam dates are listed below for your convenience:

June 2017 Exam Calendar (Levels I, II, and III)

July 2016

June 2017 exam registration opens after 9 a.m. ET

21 September 2016

First fee schedule deadline for the June 2017 exam

January 2017

Mock exams become available

3 February 2017

Awareness scholarship application deadline

15 February 2017

Second fee schedule deadline for June 2017 exam

15 March 2017

Final fee schedule deadline to register for June 2017 exam

20 March 2017

Final deadline for disability and religious alternate date accommodation requests to be received by CFA® Institute

18 April 2017

Test center change request deadline

Early May 2017

Exam admission tickets become available

3 June 2017

Exam day

June–July 2017

Exams graded

Late July 2017

Level I and II exam results available

Early-Mid August 2017

Level III exam results available

There are many dates to remember and they are spread over the year. Make sure to keep your calendar updated and set reminders a day or two prior to each event (especially the registration dates) to make sure you have all required documents and applications filled out correctly for an on-time submission.

Getting all your ducks in a row can be overwhelming at times, but it should be a top priority. Make sure you are proactive about your study preparation, and choose the right CFA® prep course for you!


Chart Sources:

How Long Does It Take to Pass All Three Levels of CFA® Exam?

How Long Does It Take to Pass All Three Levels of CFA Exam?Before deciding whether or not to become a licensed CFA®, you must be willing to put in the hundreds of hours of work. Many of the benefits associated with becoming a CFA® charterholder are financial. But, remember: people in the field know that passing the three levels of the CFA® exam is an unparalleled achievement, so your dedicated efforts do not go unnoticed.

But, how long will it take you?

CFA® Exam Structure Affects Timing

There are three levels to the CFA® exam. Level I is given in the late fall and late spring and Levels II and III are given only once a year in the late spring. You must pass each level before moving on to the next, and the passing statistics are daunting. So, if you fail one exam, you’re going to have to wait a significant amount of time before trying again.

It’s about a 50/50 chance of passing for each level of the exam. This means that even with the most optimistic scenarios, less than 30% of those who began at Level I go on to pass Level III. If that isn’t enough to scare some people off, the amount of time and hard work required can be intimidating.

How Long Does It Actually Take?

Studying for the CFA® exam requires sacrifices and hundreds of hours of work. On average, it takes about 300 hours of studying to pass each level, a total of 900 hours for the whole test. That comes down to about 15 hours per week, especially since you’re likely working full time while studying.

The CFA® Institute says that it takes the average candidate four years to finally become a licensed CFA®. However, some people have said it took them up to seven years to finally pass all three levels. On the other hand, the most accomplished CFA ®candidates have passed all three exams in 18 months. So the amount of time it takes to complete the process varies on how well you stick to your study schedule.

Given the low pass rate, CFA® exam takers have to be prepared for the possibility of failure. This can be discouraging, especially since failing makes the process longer. That is why it is important to stick to the same rigorous study schedule for all three levels—if you power through, you’ll be rewarded!

CFA® Exam Study Schedule

Making a study plan and sticking to it is the most important part of studying for the CFA® exam. This also will help keep the whole process shorter. Experiment with different studying styles and schedules (and music!) until you find one that works best with your lifestyle and needs.

For example, if you’re working full time, do the majority of your studying on the weekends with shorter study periods during the week. It’s also a good idea to finish all the reading material a good month before the exam so you have plenty of time for the practice exams. Many people who have passed the CFA® exam say that the practice exams were a crucial part to their success since they were able to see the places on which they need to improve.

Tips to Get Your CFA® Faster

There are a couple things you can do to shorten the amount of time it takes earn that CFA® charter. It can be difficult to stay on the same weekly study schedule for 4+ months for each exam, but you will not be able pass unless you put in the study time. Discipline is an obvious requirement, but a lot of people try and skimp on their studying schedules and end up failing (see CFA® pass rates).

There is a lot of reading material that each CFA® exam covers, so make sure you do not skim. You might think some sections are unimportant or won’t be heavily weighted on the exams. You will realize that skimming was a mistake once you get your practice tests back. Again, make sure you begin studying at an earlier start date in order to have more time to complete your practice exams. Practice exams are the most beneficial part of the study process, in my opinion, so it is a good idea to ensure you have plenty of time to spend on these.

One of the biggest challenges to the whole process is the fact that you are doing it alone. There is no classroom or professor for you to ask questions to directly, which can make it difficult to stay motivated. That is why it is helpful to reach out to others who know what it’s like to study for the CFA® exam for support and help on certain topics. Heck, just shoot me a message and I’ll send along some words of inspiration!

If you can stay on track with your study schedule and give it your all, you’ll be able to pass all three levels of the CFA® and improve your career path. Your commitment and willingness to achieve something as difficult as the CFA exam will be greatly rewarded. If you’re ready to take that first step to success, take a look at the best CFA review courses today and find the perfect test prep for you!

Start Studying for the CFA® Now!

How to Pass CFA® Level 1 Exam

How to Pass CFA Level 1 ExamYou’ve decided you are ready to take on the challenge of the CFA® exam and become a Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®). Make sure you have thought this through because it’s going to be a tough couple years. Even though only 20% of the people who take Level I make it all the way to the end and earn their CFA® license, there is no secret to passing the exam.

You will need an organized and disciplined approach to conquer this beast. I’m here to help you through it, starting with Level I. Trust me, you don’t want to just dive in, as you want to have an idea of your overall studying strategy.

Start Studying Earl

You have about 300 hours of studying ahead of your for Level I, so I suggest starting 5 to 6 months before your exam date. There is a lot of material—an understatement if there ever was one—so it is important to pace yourself. This will help prevent you from burning out before exam day arrives. I also strongly recommend you use a CFA® test prep course to aid your self-studies, in addition to the CFA® Institute syllabus.

Make a Study Schedule

The material for Level I is generally not difficult to understand for any business-savvy person, but the amount is substantial—you’re going to see a lot of your basic econ 101 material, but also a ton of higher level concepts weaved into this mix. Some test prep guides will suggest 250, but the average amount of time spent studying for passing candidates is around 313 hours. Don’t underestimate the time and effort it takes to pass this exam. If you’ve already put in 280 hours of work, what’s another 20 or 30 in the grand scheme of things?!

A crucial step in passing the CFA® is setting a strict study schedule for yourself to tackle the mountains of material ahead of you. If you can stick to your schedule and really avoid skipping any planned sessions, then you have the self discipline to pass Level I and ultimately the entire CFA® exam. I thought about it like I was the kid who had to watch the other children play while I was inside doing homework—it wasn’t fun, but I knew there was a reason behind it all.

Don’t Forget About Ethics

After reading the curriculum, a big mistake you could make is to ignore the Ethics portion. This is a bad call since the Ethics material will extended to all three levels of the CFA® exam. You should be able to understand Ethics for Level I so when you move forward to the other levels you will have a strong base set in place.

It’s rumored that you cannot pass the exam without passing Ethics. This is technically not true because you can skip Ethics if you crush everything else, although that’s extremely rare. BUT, your score in Ethics will decide whether you pass or fail if you are close to the minimum passing score. The “ethics adjustment” will determine whether you crash or burn. It’s always a good idea to seek out additional CFA® test prep materials if the CFA® Institute curriculum is too dry for you.

Practice, Practice, Practice Exams

The most important part of your study schedule is the practice exams. Many will plan to study the material up to right before the exam day, but largely ignore the practice tests. This is a huge mistake and leads to a below-passing score. You should give yourself plenty of time (some say around a month) before the exam to take as many practice exams you can. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for 6 practice exams before test day.

The purpose of practice tests is to let you know if your hours of studying have paid off. Practice tests pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, telling you which areas need more work and what topics you have mastered. They will also help you gauge the time it takes you to complete the exam, which is a concern for Level I. Utilize the practice exams in your test prep course, and you will significantly improve your chances of success.

Keep an Eye on the Time

There are 240 questions in Level I and a limited amount of time. Level I is the most time restricted in terms of the volume of questions that need to be answered, so the risk of not finishing is always there. If this happens to you on test day, it is better to guess blindly for the rest of test than nothing at all. There is no penalty for guessing.

Shoot for 70%, But Don’t Worry if You’re Lower

The Minimum Passing Score (MPS) set by the CFA® Institute will never be higher than 70%. This means that the highest score bracket for passing a specific topic is 70%-100%, but you do not need to reach that in every topic to pass, as long as you can make up for losses in another topic.

You should aim for 70% or higher in your practice exams so on test day you will be confident that you are at least close to passing on the topics with which you are struggling and exceed that level in your stronger areas. Remember, 70% in the actual exam equals success, but below 70% does not always mean failure.

Get Ready for Exam Day

After months and months of studying, you might forget to give yourself time to prepare for the exam. You will need to sort out the logistics of exam day to avoid running into any surprises that can fluster you on test day. Read up on what to bring on exam day and you may want to check out where the test center will be beforehand. Don’t put your efforts in vain by forgetting your passport or some other logistical error. These details should be the least of your worries before taking the CFA® Level I exam. Best of luck!

Start Studying for the CFA® Now!

Your 2021 CFA® Exam Schedule (and Infographic)

There are a lot of dates to keep track of when you are preparing to take the CFA® Exam. I’ve made an infographic below that details the timeline for registering and paying for your exam.

The CFA® Exam includes three levels spread out into three exams. There are only two exam days a year–one in December and the other in June. The June exam date includes all three levels while the December exam date includes only Level I.

There are three different times you can register for your CFA® exam–early, standard, and final (late). The December exam registration opens in January while registration for June opens in July. The earlier you register, the cheaper the registration fee will be. For example, early registration for the June 2017 exam was $650 while late registration is $1,380. Also, you will receive your topic tests once you register. So register as soon as you can in order to take advantage of extra study time with the topic tests.

There are CFA® Program Awareness Scholarships available, as long as you apply before the deadline (either September 2nd or February 3rd). These scholarships are role-based opportunities available to qualified individuals in the media, academic, and financial communities. There are even scholarships for women who are interested in earning their CFA® charter.

Keep the following dates in mind during your CFA® Exam preparation and you won’t run into any surprises. Best of luck!

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So, you have read the infographic and now know the important CFA® exam dates. So, are you ready? Have you started studying? Take a look at all the CFA® Review course options by clicking the button below – we compare CFA® review courses so you can find the best one for your needs!


How to Pass CFA® Level 3 Exam

You’re more than halfway there! And you’ve just beat the the beastly Level II. It should be easy from here…right? While Level II has the most amount of material, Level III still presents its own challenges. I’m here to help you get past these so you can finally complete your CFA® exam process.

Don’t Lose Focus Now

After years of self-motivated studying, your mental strength to keep going is not as strong as it used to be. This is the time to remind yourself that it is almost over if you keep your focus. Look at it this way—if you stay strong and study right, this is the last time you are going to have to do this. The competition is also picking up, so put on your game face and utilize the best mock exams to really prepare yourself for the last section.

Different Format and Essay Questions

Things are a bit different in Level III, so I recommend familiarizing yourself with the format before you start studying. This will save you from getting caught up on exam day by the different format in the morning session, which includes essay-based questions. The afternoon session of Level III is similar to Level II with vignettes and item-set questions.

The essay format will be challenging in a unique way. There are two broad categories that make up the essay portion: calculation based answers and word based answers. For the calculation based answers, you will need to show all of your work to get as many points as you can. The word based answers require written responses to specific questions. The examiner is looking for key concepts, not a novel. Since these “essay” questions are pretty straightforward, it only takes a few minutes to jot down your response. Feel free to use bullet points and informal essay  organization, but make sure you’re concise and to the point. However, if you don’t know the answer, you will not get points for trying to get fancy with your response by writing about other concepts you know well.

I strongly suggest you practice these essay questions, especially if writing is not one of your strengths. You definitely want to utilize a study guide for this portion. This will help you get more comfortable with the essay format and save you time in the actual exam.

Don’t Worry if You’re Stumped

Exam questions can ask about literally any part of the CFA® institute syllabus. This might not be so problematic for the multiple choice questions since you can draw on some helpful guessing strategies. But for the essay questions, this could be a big problem if you do not know the answer.

Don’t worry, this is expected to happen. Even if you studied more than anyone else, there will always be a small section you didn’t cover that pops up on the exam. Keep calm and just move on to the next challenge instead of wasting anymore time.

Read the Question

This might seem obvious, but the essay questions are sneaky. The questions will be filled with irrelevant information about clients’ names, birthdays, and numerical payments that you will have to sift through to find the question you really need to answer. This is intended to test your confidence in your understanding of concepts and how you prove it on test day. Once you’ve read the question, make sure you know exactly where to write your answer. Answers not written in the proper place will not be graded. So if you have time to go back and double check your answers, make sure they’re in the right place too.

Take Your Time on the Afternoon Exam

The finish line is in sight, so it’s natural to speed up so freedom comes faster. By doing so, you might end up giving up your victory by not taking your time to answer questions correctly. The afternoon exam will be relatively less time constrained since it is essentially the same format as Level II. As long as you can resist the temptation to rush through the last bit of the CFA® exam, you will have time to make sure you avoid unnecessary errors and ultimately become a licensed CFA®.


Best Songs on Spotify for Studying

Best Songs On Spotify for Studying

For some people, music is a hindrance to studying. For the rest of us, however, it’s the only thing that can make slogging through study guides bearable. The science on whether you should be listening to active noise while studying is far from settled, but if you want to make your sessions a little more enjoyable, here are some song ideas. You’ll be amazed at the difference a good playlist makes in your study productivity and your study consistency while you dig through all your study materials.

Note that you can create a playlist in this order—I’ve outlined these tunes in a particular arrangement, as this is how I approach studying.

“Hallelujah”—Jeff Buckley

You probably know this song. In fact, if you’ve seen a movie with a sappy part or a commercial with a family scene in the past 10 years, you’ve likely been exposed to this tune. While it’s been overplayed in certain instances, “Hallelujah” is a somber, constant (there’s not too much variation), and poignant song. This tone makes it great for studying, especially to start out. Sit down, open your book, and get in a mental state that will allow you to relax and focus.

Often, people struggle to just sit down and unwind, so this song is perfect in that regard. Just push play and let the soft sound of Buckley’s famous voice get you in the mood for some deep mental awakening and learning.

“Someone Great”—LCD Soundsystem

After such a somber first song, it’s nice to speed things up a bit, but not too much. This great jam crescendos into quite an interesting blend of electronic beats and natural noises. Like many of the songs on this list, it’s got a constant beat, and it’s easy to focus on your materials while still enjoying the music.

The vocals are perfect for me when studying—nothing is overpowering, but it’s got enough lyrical value to make this a perfect studying song. You’ll be breezing through your material while this is playing, and as the second song in the playlist, it’ll get some momentum going.

“Open Your Eyes”—Snow Patrol

In the same vein as the first two songs, this is one that slowly builds from a constant beat to a dramatic, final, powerful crescendo. It’s the perfect thing to listen to while studying, as it’s not an overpowering vocal number, but you still get motivated and moved by the beautiful sounds produced by the band.

It’s got the perfect balance of a constant beat and enough vocal presence to keep you focused and awake. You’re going to be bobbing your head while reading and writing, but you’ll be able to retain everything. In fact, I used to use this song as one of my running tunes, so you know it’s got enough life to keep you alert and on topic!

“Hide and Seek”—Imogen Heap

There’s not a more relaxing song than this one—it’s got a great balance of evocative tones and a soothing, melodic vocal presence and bassline. It’s the perfect song for when you hit your studying stride and don’t want to be disturbed. If you listen to this one, it’s so smooth that you may not even notice how much time has passed until it’s over.

To me, this is an ideal study tune. You’re bobbing your head slightly to this song, but you’re not really even consciously listening to it. It’s just enough to keep you going, but not to the point where you are singing along instead of focusing on the task at hand.

“To Build a Home”—The Cinematic Orchestra and Patrick Watson

This song is… magical. It’s hard to say anything more than that about it. Hollywood and Madison Avenue have discovered the beauty of this tune, but no matter how many times I hear it, I still love it just as much as I did the first time. This is usually the song that makes me stop and smile while studying, then I hop right back in with a renewed sense of vigor and perspective.

The build-up in this song is one of the best of any, as it’s so gradual, and coupled with the great vocals, it leaves a powerful imprint on the listener. It picks up, slows down, and just reels you in for a truly amazing listening experience. Patrick Watson’s voice is indescribably beautiful. Okay, just listen to this one already!

“Canon in D Major”—Johann Pachelbel

There’s not much to say about this one… it’s just a beautiful song from one of history’s classical music giants. I actually heard this song being played outside of a bar in Paris, and the crowd that gathered for this simplistic rendition featured many people who were drying their eyes.

It’s calm, but will fill you with an effervescence that will make you get through that middle portion of your studying session. It’s the perfect song for when you’ve already started, but still have a bit to go.

“Gortoz a Ran”—Denez Prigent

It’s not often that you’re going to hear a song that’s sung in… Breton. Though that’s an “Insular Celtic language,” it is beautiful and deeply moving in this masterpiece. I find that songs in foreign languages are great for studying, as you can hear the words yet don’t have to pay attention to the content.

This is a motivational song, yet I have no idea what it’s about! That’s quite a gem, as usually you need to have some semblance of an understand of what the singer is speaking to in order to feel a deep connection. This song transcends language and will get you deep into a studying groove.

“Wasted Time [Reprise]”—The Eagles

Sandwiched in the middle of one of the top-selling albums of all time, this instrumental gem is short but sweet. It’s a great up-and-down song, with a full orchestra bringing you to the peak of clarity. If you’re studying and listening to this lovely tune, you’ll be pleasantly focused for the duration of your learning session.

It’s one of the better, yet less know, “dad-rock” songs that you’re going to want to listen to while studying.

“Fire on High”—ELO

This is another instrumental jam, but it’s got way more energy than “Wasted Time.” With this gradually building hit—you may recognize it from sporting events—you’re going to be catapulted back into studying high gear. That’s what a good study song should do; there should be a constant progression of music so that you’re never too bored nor too excited.

This song really reaches a rapid point of climax, but it’s going to coincide with a dip in energy coming from the last song.

“Many Rivers to Cross”—Jimmy Cliff

This is one of the classics, a powerful and poignant ballad from one of music’s greats. It’s a great studying song because it’s got a steady beat, a robust yet not intrusive vocal performance, and a solid progression.

You’ll probably notice some of the lyrics, but it’s not going to distract you. You’ll be gently bobbing your head to this one, but will be able to remain focused and motivated. The beautiful background singing will make you smile, too.

“Feel It All Around”—Washed Out

This is one of the more interesting songs on this list, as it’s tough to describe exactly what genre into which it would fit. I don’t know a lot about the song or the band, but I understand one thing: it keeps me going. It doesn’t overpower the senses, but it certainly gets the heart racing.

The beat is constant and full of life, and the sound will permeate your headphones or your sound system. This will give you the last final kick to get through the studying session.

“The World’s Greatest”—R. Kelly

This is a reward song for you as you get to the end of your study session. It’s letting you know that you are, in fact, the GREATEST. The chorus at the end of the song is the epitome of the word glorious; your spirit will be lifted to the clouds while you’re listening to this gem.

It’s really all about what you want to listen to while studying, but it’s tough for some people to find that great playlist. I prefer a mellower brand of music, with some exceptions, but you should be able to find, at the very least, some starting off points among these 12 songs! So get your playlist set up, and get after your CFA® exam preparation!


How to Recover From CFA® Exam Failure

How to Recover From CFA Exam Failure“Get back on the horse” is an oft-used expression, usually expressed by those who don’t experience the failure themselves. While it’s nice that other people express their condolences and support when we fail, overcoming this failure and getting back on the proverbial horse is a process that must start within.

Failing the Certified Financial Analyst exam is common—in 2016, the CFA® Institute said that the passing rates were 43%, 46%, and 53% for levels I, II, and III, respectively. So, odds are, you’re going to fail at least one of the levels in your quest to conquer the entire exam. The question is: how will you recover from your CFA® exam failure?

Put the Exam in Perspective

The first thing I would do is to remember that it’s not the end of the world. You’ve likely got a great job, or at least one that pays well, so take some time and think about your future and don’t take things for granted. It’s important to advance your career, but things could be a lot worse!

If you’re happy with your standing in life, but know that passing the CFA® exam will catapult you to the top of the corporate ladder, then saddle up for round two. However, if you really don’t need to take the CFA® test again, and it killed you emotionally, maybe it’s not for you.

Take a look at your life and appreciate the things that you have—if you’ve got a great family, a solid relationship with a significant other, or even just a hobby that keeps you happy and healthy, that’s a great start. Realize that failing wasn’t the end of the world. You can definitely pass the second time around, but think about how you can use your support system (whatever it may be) to help you do so.

Think about the exam and how it fits into your life. Do you need a little more space from friends and family to pass and become a CFA? Are you studying a lot, but maybe your hobby or your social life is taking up more of your time? Try to think about how you can balance all of the moving pieces in your life. If you think you can study effectively without losing any friends, damaging your relationship with your significant other, or killing yourself—literally, be wary of your health—then it’s time to hop back in!

Back to Studying Basics

You’ve decided that you can balance everything, but the test is still SO DAUNTING. With people spending more than 300 hours studying for each level of the test—I may have spent way more time—it makes sense that failing the exam is a devastating outcome. That’s why it’s important to keep your mind on the BASICS. I cannot emphasize this enough; on your studying journey for the CFA® exam, you’ll have one “North Star” in the process: a consistent study schedule.

After you get the news of failure, you should map out your months, weeks, and days down to the hour before you even start studying for the CFA® test again. Think about what you need to do differently the second time around. Did you spend too much time taking practice tests and not enough time learning the material? Or, did you just choose the wrong CFA® review course to begin with?

There’s a lot of things that you can do differently the second time around. This is one of those rare—and it’s not ideal to learn the lesson this way, but still—second chances to do something in life. Use your prior experience to understand what you missed the first time around. Choosing an ineffective review course is a common reason for not passing the first time, so make sure you choose from the top CFA courses before you begin preparation again.  Having CFA® study material that aligns with your learning style is critical to your success.

Another solution is to hire a private tutor to help you really understand the topics that you may find challenging. Understanding the key concepts is really important to ensure you will pass your exam and a private tutor is one way to ensure you understand the key concepts on top of giving you the support you need.

And finally, RELAX! It’s a long road to begin with, so what’s another try going to cost you? In 10 years, you’ll look back, count your money and see your current standing, and laugh about this moment in your life. Things will get better, you’ll pass the CFA® exam, and you’ll move on with your life!


Most Commonly Asked CFA® Exam Questions with Mike Carmody

We get a lot of great CFA® exam questions and want to provide you all with the best possible answers. To do so, we spoke to a true CFA® expert, one of the brilliant minds from AdaptPrep, a leader in the CFA® exam review space. Mike Carmody is a CFA® charterholder and Fellow in the Society of Actuaries. Over the past two decades, Mike has helped prepare thousands of candidates for actuarial and CFA® exams through study guides and live and online seminars.

Given how daunting the CFA® exam is, how can one plan ahead before they start studying?

Most Commonly Asked CFA Exam Questions with Mike Carmody

With most major goals in life, you need to start with the end in mind. For candidates studying for a CFA® exam, the “end” is passing the exam. You need to make a detailed plan, starting with that end goal. To do so, I would:

  • Build a plan that incorporates all the activities you need to pass, such as reading the material, watching video lessons, and working practice problems. It’s important you make a daily schedule, beginning with the first day you will start studying and ending on the exam date. Adjust it for known activities, like vacations or busy work weeks. [See our CFA® Exam Schedule to remember all the important dates]
  • Be realistic in your plan. If you have a full time job, don’t assume you can study 8 hours every day. That just won’t happen. Also, leave some cushion in the schedule for unexpected events. You don’t know when they will occur or what will be the cause, but you know something will come up that impedes your study process. You need the cushion in the schedule so you won’t fall too far behind.
  • Then you need to stick to the schedule. You can’t allow yourself to skip days here and there. Eventually the days will turn into weeks, and you won’t be ready on the exam day.

Is it worth it to become a CFA®?

Before you start the process of taking the CFA® examinations, you need to do a thorough assessment of your career goals and whether or not passing the exam is essential to your future success. You will spend many hours studying, and there is a real chance of failure. You need to know the CFA® Charter is worth the effort.

In the past, a college degree helped differentiate you in the job market. Now those degrees are a dime a dozen. It’s difficult for employers to know how much you learned in college, because academic standards across colleges varies tremendously.

So you need something that is objective and recognized to set you apart. A CFA® designation meets that criteria. The exams have rigorous passing standards that are recognized around the world. The designation proves you have the ability to digest a massive amount of material on varied topics, which is critical in many financial roles.

The Charterholder designation won’t guarantee your dream job, but it will help separate you from other applicants. You need something to give you an edge in competitive job markets.

What is the ideal study schedule for someone who is working while preparing to take the CFA® exam?

The ideal study schedule is unique for each person. It depends on your familiarity with the topics tested and your ability to perform well on exams. You certainly don’t want to study too little, but you also don’t want to study too much.

It’s probably best to study over a three to six month period. If you study more than six months, then it’s hard to retain what you learned at the beginning. If you study less than three, then it’s really like cramming for a huge exam, which seldom turns out well. You should also spend more hours in the last month compared to the first month. That is when you are bringing everything together for the exam day.

Here are some other study tips:

  • If you are not familiar with some of the topics, then you may want to pre-study those before the six month schedule begins. That will allow you to keep the pace when you read through the curriculum.
  • You have more going on in your life than just studying for the exam. Many hours will be dedicated to work and family time. So you must somehow fit quality study time into the schedule.
  • For most people, the best times to study are early in the morning, late in the evening, and on the weekends. That means you will likely have to give up some fun activities during those times, but at least it is for only a season.

What accounts for the low pass rates for Level 1 (when compared to Level 2 and 3)? Is there any trend upward or is it going to hover around the 43% rate?

Many people take the Level I exam just to try it out. Unfortunately, that’s not an effective way to pass the Level I exam. There’s no real commitment to put in the time and effort necessary to prepare for the actual exam. Some candidates probably assume it will be as easy as their college exams—that’s just not the case.

The pass rate for Level II is not much different than Level I. Level II is a more difficult exam than Level I, and many of the candidates just aren’t prepared. Level III pass rates are higher, but still pretty close to 50%. But the competition for Level III is stiffer, so that more than offsets the higher pass rate.

The CFA® Institute wants to maintain the value in the designation. One way to do this is keeping the pass rates low. They’ve been pretty stable for the past decade, and I expect they will continue to stay in this range. [There are minor adjustments you may want to make when preparing for Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3]

What is the typical career path for a CFA®?

I don’t think there is a “typical” career path for a Charterholder. The portion of the career spent studying for the exams is very small relative to the entire career. But, you don’t stop learning after you obtain the designation. The financial industry is constantly evolving, and you must keep pace to stay relevant.

As you progress through your career, you will likely migrate into various areas. That’s a big benefit of the CFA® Charterholder designation. It is valued in many financial functions, so it provides credibility for you as you move into different areas. [Learn how much CFA’s can make with our CFA® Salary Breakdown.

What are some unique study tips for CFA® exam candidates?

  1. Many candidates spend too much time studying the material, and too little time studying the exam. You have to do both. Make sure you understand how they ask the questions on the exam. That will dictate how you need to learn the material.
  2. Most of the exam questions test very specific concepts. They are not too involved, because you have time constraints (90 seconds per question on Level I). Don’t overcomplicate the questions.
  3. Don’t try to master all the material. You will run out of time. You don’t have to know everything to pass the exam.


CFA® Mock Exams and Practice Exams

CFA Mock Exams and Practice Exams75% of CFA® Exam candidates use mock exams as their primary way to prepare for the CFA exam, and for good reason.

A good CFA® mock exam will help you become familiar with the structure and content of the exam, allow you to figure out what you still need to study, and give you an idea of how much time you will have for each question.

The more CFA® practice exams you take under similar conditions to those of the actual exam, the more comfortable and prepared you will feel on your official test day.

To skip ahead and see the complete CFA® mock exam provider rankings, click here.

Top 4 Best CFA® Practice Exam Test Banks

Top 6 Reasons To Take A CFA® Mock Exam

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Test

Mock exams are often based on actual exams from previous years, so you will get a feel for the structure and types of questions that typically appear on the CFA® Exam. Being familiar with the content and structure of the exam will help you answer questions more quickly and accurately.

2. Learn Which Topics to Study

Certain topics are emphasized more than others and tend to appear more often on the exam. By taking mock exams, you will get a feel for which topics are tested more frequently and be able to concentrate your studies more on those areas.

3. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Practice exams will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. If you frequently tend to get a certain type of question wrong on your practice exam, you will know what to go back and study. You’ll also know which areas you’ve mastered, so you can save time by not spending any more time on those topics.

4. Retain and Apply Knowledge

Practice exams give you a chance to apply what you’ve studied. Many of us learn by repetition and use. You are more likely to remember what you’ve studied and be able to answer questions correctly if you practice them repeatedly.

5. Spread out Your Study Sessions

Research shows that “chunking” information while you are studying makes it easier to retain. By spacing out your studies and taking practice exams at regular intervals, you can study, take a practice test, see your progress, and go back to studying some more. This will help you avoid cramming at the last minute, which is much less effective.

6. Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Practice exams will make you feel more prepared on the day of the exam and reduce test-related anxiety. You won’t waste time reading instructions you already know or trying to figure out the structure and content of the test if you are already familiar with it from taking practice exams. Studying with many practice tests will also give you the experience to know if you need to move more quickly through questions, or if you are on track with your current pace.

How Many Mock CFA® Exams Should I Take?

As the saying goes: practice makes perfect. The more exams you take, the better, but we recommend you try your hand at least 5 or 6 exams, if not more! That may seem like a lot, but research shows that the more practice you get, the faster and better you will become at answering CFA® questions correctly, which is the key to passing the exam.

Most commercial review courses do not offer that many practice exams in their bundled course, but fortunately, you can buy mock exams individually or in sets from many test prep companies. For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of companies that will let you purchase mock exams below.

CFA® Mock Exam Providers

There are several companies who offer CFA® practice exams along with the software to score and analyze your answers, simulate the actual test’s computer screen and the timing for each question, and help you identify areas of weakness that will require further study. Here are some of the best CFA® practice exams:

#1 – Analyst Prep Test Bank

analyst prep cfa

Price: $129 – $149

CFA® Levels Covered: Level I, Level II

Number of Practice Questions: 1,500+ (premium version)

Format: 12 mini-mock exams in printable PDF format

Can you create custom practice exams? Quizzes can be customized.

Design & Content Evaluation of Online Test Bank: Analyst Prep offers a free trial as well as a premium version. For just over $100 you get access to over 3,000 practice questions, 4 full-length printable Level I mock exams (or 2 Level II mock exams), performance stats, video lessons, Q&A forum, curriculum summaries, formula sheets, and unlimited custom quizzes. Furthermore, you can keep it until you pass. The goal from the company’s founders was to create extremely affordable yet quality exam prep materials.

The user interface is extremely easy to use and the questions are organized by topic and were written by the company (you won’t find that they’ve appeared on previous CFA® exams). Additionally, users can compare their score with other users in their dashboard where they can also adjust their study schedule.

Bottom Line: Analyst Prep provides more than enough practice questions and exam simulations to ensure students are prepared to pass Level I or Level II of the CFA exam. And while they don’t offer Level III mock exams, they have plenty of supplementary study aids for this test as well.


#2 – AdaptPrep CFA Test Bank

adapt prep cfaPrice: $49-$199 depending on access time. Choose from three days to unlimited access with various options in between, depending on how long you it.

CFA® Levels Offered: Level I, Level II, Level III

Number of Practice Questions: 3,000+ (Level I), 600+ (Level II), 11 Essay Questions (Level 3)

Format: Generate unlimited, custom practice exams and quizzes with the Exam Engine.

Can you create custom practice exams? Yes

Design & Content of Online Test Bank: AdaptPrep recommends you take at least 7 practice exams on which you score 70% or higher, which will get you an Earned Level of 7 (levels are based on your skill level and the difficulty of the exam). AdaptPrep states that this will give you the experience confidence to sit the exam and pass. You can customize the difficulty of the quizzes, and exams get more difficult as your scores improve.

Bottom Line: AdaptPrep earns its name by offering impressive adaptive learning technology implemented into their CFA mock exams. This allows for a nearly unlimited amount of practice quizzes and exams.


Top 3 Best CFA Mock Exams of 2021

Ranking CFA Exam Provider
#1 Analyst Prep CFA Review
#2 Adapt Prep CFA Prep