Are you preparing for the CFA Level 2 exam and looking for a comprehensive guide to help you through? You’ve landed at the right place. This blog post will discuss every facet of CFA Level 2, covering topics from the exam structure to registration, preparation strategies, and more.
Buckle up and let’s delve into the world of the CFA Level 2 examination-
Understanding CFA Level 2
CFA Level 2 is the intermediate level of CFA program and plays a pivotal role in your journey to becoming a CFA charterholder. It’s the bridge that connects the foundation built in Level 1 with the higher-level concepts you’ll learn in Level 3.
CFA Level 2 concentrates on the application of investment tools and concepts with a focus on the valuation of all types of assets. Each of these concepts is covered more deeply and practically compared to Level 1, expecting candidates to demonstrate a higher level of competency and understanding. It tests your ability to analyze a situation given a set of circumstances, often presented in the form of mini-cases or scenarios, and apply the appropriate tools and concepts.
CFA Level 2 Exam Dates
Since the move to computer-based testing, the CFA Institute now offers the Level 2 exam thrice a year – in May, August and November. This change is significant because it offers candidates greater flexibility in planning their studies.
Another critical factor to consider is the result declaration date. CFA Level 2 results are typically announced 40-45 days after the exam window is over.
CFA Level 2 Registration and Fees
The process of registering for the CFA Level 2 exam is conducted entirely online through the CFA Institute’s official website. It involves creating an account (if you haven’t already done so for Level 1), logging in, and filling out the registration form for the Level 2 exam.
An important aspect of the registration process is the fees. The CFA Institute employs a tiered fee structure for exam registration, meaning the cost varies depending on when you register. Here’s a brief overview of the fee structure:
|Registration Period||Approximate Fee|
- Early registration typically opens about 9-10 months before the exam and offers the lowest fee, making it the most cost-effective option if you can commit to the exam date this far in advance.
- Standard registration follows the early registration period and lasts for several months. The fee for standard registration is higher than early registration.
Your exam registration fee covers several items, including:
- Access to the digital CFA Level 2 curriculum (an option to purchase a print version is available at an additional cost)
- Practice tests
- Mock exams
Note: You should also factor in any additional costs, such as purchasing supplementary study materials, potential travel or accommodation costs if your test center is not in your home city, and any potential exchange rate fees for non-U.S. candidates.
CFA Level 2 Exam Structure
Understanding the structure of the CFA Level 2 exam is crucial as it can significantly impact your preparation strategy and exam day approach.
Unlike the CFA Level 1 exam, which consists entirely of standalone multiple-choice questions, the CFA Level 2 exam uses a case study or “item set” format.
In the CFA Level 2 exam, each item set comprises a vignette (or case study) and a related set of multiple-choice questions. The vignette describes a scenario, which can be anywhere from half a page to a page and a half long. Following the vignette, you will be presented with four to six multiple-choice questions. Each question relates to the vignette and requires you to apply your knowledge to answer based on the provided scenario.
The entire exam is divided into two sessions, with each session lasting for 2 hours and 12 minutes (or 132 minutes). Here’s a breakdown of the exam structure:
|Morning Session||Afternoon Session|
|No. of Item Sets||11||11|
|No. of Questions||44||44|
|Duration||132 minutes||132 minutes|
In total, you’ll have 88 questions to answer in 4 hours and 24 minutes. Each question carries an equal weight in the exam’s score.
The item sets are not evenly distributed across topics. Some topics might have more item sets than others, which reflects their weightage in the exam.
|Financial Statement Analysis||10-15%|
CFA Level 2 Marking Scheme
Understanding the marking scheme of the CFA Level 2 exam is essential as it directly impacts your preparation strategy and approach to the exam.
Minimum Passing Score
Unlike some exams, the CFA Institute does not disclose the precise minimum passing score for any of its levels, including Level 2. The minimum passing score is decided each year by the CFA Institute’s Board of Governors after the exam has taken place. Although it is not confirmed by the CFA Institute, many believe that achieving a score above 70% in each topic area will put you in a strong position to pass.
- No Penalty – There is no negative marking for wrong answers in the CFA exams. Therefore, it’s always better to guess an answer rather than leaving a question blank if you’re unsure about it.
- Equal Weightage – Every question in the CFA Level 2 exam is worth the same amount of points – that is, each question contributes equally towards your final score. It means that a question from a “smaller” topic has the same value as a question from a “larger” topic.
- Scoring – Here’s a breakdown of the exam scoring:
The CFA Institute provides a performance summary after the exam. The summary does not give an exact score but provides a broad range of your performance in each topic area.
NOTE – Out of 22 Vignettes, Twenty are scored, and two Questions will not be scored, since CFA institute is trialing them.
CFA Level 2 Syllabus
The CFA Level 2 syllabus covers ten core areas, building on the knowledge gained from CFA Level 1. However, the Level 2 exam places greater emphasis on analytical skills and the application of investment tools and concepts, particularly as they relate to asset valuation.
Here’s an overview of the ten areas and a brief description of what they encompass:
- Ethical and Professional Standards: This area focuses on the CFA Institute’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct, which every CFA candidate is required to understand and follow.
- Quantitative Methods: This section covers the quantitative techniques needed to analyze the financial data candidates might encounter in investment decision-making.
- Economics: This area covers macroeconomic and microeconomic principles, monetary and fiscal policy, and topics related to currency exchange rates and international trade.
- Financial Reporting and Analysis: This section explores the financial statements companies produce and the different ways analysts use this information.
- Corporate Issuers: This area focuses on how corporations raise capital, select investments, and manage resources.
- Equity Investments: This section covers equity markets and instruments, tools and techniques for valuing companies, and various equity investment strategies.
- Fixed Income: This area looks at fixed income markets and their derivatives, the tools used to manage interest rate risk, and the valuation of fixed income securities.
- Derivatives: This section covers various derivative instruments and strategies that might be used for investment and risk management purposes.
- Alternative Investments: This area explores alternative investment options, such as real estate, commodities, hedge funds, private equity, and infrastructure.
- Portfolio Management: This section covers portfolio concepts and techniques for managing individual and institutional investor portfolios.
CFA Level 2 Difficulty
There’s a common perception among CFA candidates that Level 2 is the most challenging level of the CFA Program, and pass rates over the years seem to validate this. According to CFA Institute historical data, the pass rate for Level 2 has often been lower than for Level 1 and Level 3.
While difficulty can be subjective and varies from candidate to candidate, there are several factors contributing to the perceived increased difficulty of Level 2 –
Depth of Knowledge
The CFA Level 2 exam goes into greater depth than Level 1, particularly in the areas of Financial Reporting and Analysis and Equity Investments. Candidates are expected to develop a deep understanding of complex concepts and analytical methods, often requiring more rigorous study and understanding.
The Item Set Format
The item set format of the Level 2 exam presents a unique challenge. Each item set includes a case statement followed by multiple questions, which requires candidates to apply several concepts concurrently to answer questions accurately. This format is considered more complex than the standalone questions in Level 1 and the essay format in Level 3.
Volume of Material
The sheer volume of material covered in Level 2 is daunting. While the number of learning outcome statements (LOS) is similar to Level 1, the complexity and interrelationship of concepts in Level 2 make the amount of study time required significantly greater.
Level 2 requires a high degree of practical application of knowledge, unlike Level 1, which tests more on the understanding of basic concepts and tools. Candidates must not only understand the theories but also apply them in real-world scenarios, which adds another layer of difficulty.
How to Prepare for the CFA Level 2 Exam?
Preparing for the CFA Level 2 exam is a significant undertaking. Given the complexity of the Level 2 curriculum and the practical nature of the exam, it requires rigorous and disciplined preparation. Here are some strategies and tips that can help you prepare effectively for the exam:
Start Early and Plan Your Study
Given the volume and complexity of the material, starting early gives you enough time to cover all the topics thoroughly. Develop a study plan that spreads the material over the available weeks leading up to the exam. Remember to leave some time for revision and practice tests.
|Studying the curriculum||250-350 hours|
|Practice tests||50-100 hours|
Note: These are broad estimates. The exact amount of time you need will depend on your background, learning speed, and other factors.
Understand the Exam Format
Familiarize yourself with the item set format used in Level 2. Practice reading and understanding vignettes and answering associated questions.
Use a Variety of Study Resources
While the CFA Institute provides comprehensive study materials, you might find it helpful to use supplementary resources. These can include study guides, online tutorials, flashcards, and forums where you can discuss topics with other candidates.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Solving practice questions is one of the most effective ways to prepare. It helps reinforce your understanding, improves your speed and accuracy, and gives you a feel for the exam format. Make sure you complete all the end-of-chapter questions in the curriculum and try to solve as many mock exams as you can.
Regular review is essential to consolidate your understanding and retention of the material. Try to revise the material you have covered every week.
Understand Your Calculator
The CFA Institute allows only two models of calculators: the Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional) and the Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige). Understand the functions of your calculator, as you will need it for time value of money calculations, statistical measurements, and more.
Take Care of Your Health
Maintaining your physical and mental health is equally important. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep can enhance your ability to concentrate and absorb new information.
Preparing for the CFA Level 2 exam can seem daunting, but remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep a steady pace, stay disciplined, and approach your study systematically, and you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of success.
Tips to Pass the CFA Level 2 Exam
Passing the CFA Level 2 exam is a significant milestone in your journey towards becoming a CFA charterholder. Here are some tips gathered from successful candidates, common mistakes to avoid, and strategies for handling difficult questions or topics.
Advice from Successful Candidates
- Understand, Don’t Memorize: Many successful candidates advise against rote memorization. Instead, strive to understand concepts and their applications. It will help you solve complex problems and case studies that demand the application of multiple concepts together.
- Practical Application: Apply your knowledge to real-world scenarios whenever possible. This could mean relating the material to your current job (if you’re working in a related field) or even reading financial news with your CFA “lens” on.
- Utilize the CFA Institute’s Learning Ecosystem: The Learning Ecosystem is a personalized online learning tool provided by the CFA Institute. It offers practice questions, mock exams, and performance tracking, all of which can be valuable in your study process.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Leaving Topics Unstudied: Given the depth and breadth of the Level 2 syllabus, it might be tempting to skip topics you find challenging. However, each question carries equal weight in the exam. It’s better to have a broad understanding of all topics than to be very knowledgeable in a few.
- Ignoring Ethics: Ethics is a significant portion of the CFA exams at all levels. Don’t ignore this topic or leave it till the end. Some candidates believe the ethics questions to be largely common sense, but this section actually requires careful study and understanding.
- Not Practicing Enough: Practice is key to success in the CFA Level 2 exam. It’s important to practice enough questions and mock exams to become familiar with the vignette format and to reinforce your understanding of the material.
Strategies for Handling Difficult Questions or Topics
- Break Down Complex Concepts: When you come across a challenging concept, try to break it down into smaller parts. Understand each part individually before trying to understand the whole.
- Use Additional Resources: If the official study materials aren’t helping you understand a topic, don’t hesitate to use other resources. Third-party study guides, educational websites, and online forums can provide different perspectives and explanations that might make the topic clearer.
- Skip and Return: If you encounter a difficult question in the exam, don’t spend too much time on it. Instead, mark it and move on to the next question. You can return to it later if you have time. Remember, each question carries the same weight, so it’s more efficient to answer the questions you are sure about first.
The CFA Level 2 exam is challenging, but with the right preparation strategy, dedication, and a clear understanding of the exam’s structure and requirements, you’ll increase your chances of success.
Post CFA Level 2 – What Next?
Passing the CFA Level 2 exam is a momentous achievement and a significant milestone in your journey towards becoming a CFA charterholder.
So, what can you expect after passing CFA Level 2, and what does the journey towards CFA Level 3 look like? Furthermore, what are the career prospects and opportunities after completing CFA Level 2? Let’s explore these questions-
What to Expect After Passing CFA Level 2?
- Relief and Satisfaction: First and foremost, you can expect a significant amount of relief and satisfaction. Passing Level 2 is a testament to your hard work, dedication, and knowledge. Celebrate your success!
- Continued Commitment: Passing Level 2 brings you one step closer to becoming a CFA charterholder, but the journey isn’t over yet. CFA Level 3 awaits, and this level demands a continued commitment to learning and professional development.
The Journey Towards CFA Level 3
- Registration: As with Level 2, you will need to register for Level 3. Make sure to do so before the registration deadline to avoid late fees.
- Study and Preparation: The CFA Level 3 curriculum focuses more on portfolio management and wealth planning, and it also tests your ability to apply your knowledge in a practical manner. Make sure to revise the Ethics material from Level 1 and Level 2 as Ethics is an integral part of all levels of the CFA Program.
- Exam: The CFA Level 3 exam includes both item sets (similar to Level 2) and constructed response (essay) questions. Therefore, part of your preparation should include practice with essay-type questions.
Career Prospects and Opportunities After CFA Level 2
Passing Level 2 of the CFA Program demonstrates a solid understanding of complex investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills. This can significantly enhance your career prospects in the investment industry. Here are some opportunities that might open up:
- Higher-Level Roles: With the knowledge and skills gained through Level 2, you may qualify for more senior roles within your organization or elsewhere, including senior analyst and portfolio manager positions.
- Broader Industry Recognition: The CFA charter is recognized globally. Even passing Level 2 is a notable achievement that can make you stand out in the job market.
- Networking Opportunities: The CFA Institute and local CFA societies provide numerous networking opportunities. These can help you connect with other finance professionals and potentially open up new career opportunities.
- Specialised Roles: The CFA Level 2 curriculum covers a wide array of topics, allowing you to explore different areas of finance and potentially specialise in areas such as equity analysis, fixed income analysis, or derivatives.
Navigating through the challenging journey of the CFA Level 2 exam is not a simple task, but with the right preparation, strategy, and commitment, it is undoubtedly achievable. CFA Level 2 is not just about passing an exam; it’s a step forward in your career, opening doors to opportunities and giving you a competitive edge in the global finance industry.
However, the journey doesn’t end here. With Level 2 under your belt, it’s time to look forward to CFA Level 3, the final step towards earning your CFA charter and joining the elite group of investment professionals across the globe.
We hope this comprehensive guide on CFA Level 2 has provided you with valuable insights and will assist you in your preparation. Good luck with your studies and on your path to becoming a CFA charterholder!
Frequently Asked Questions
Unlike Level 1, which has standalone multiple-choice questions, Level 2 exam uses item set format. Each item set consists of a vignette followed by 4 to 6 multiple-choice questions.
Passing Level 2 enhances your career prospects in the investment industry. You may qualify for more senior roles, including senior analyst and portfolio manager position