You’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!