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I am four days away from sitting for the Level 2 CFA exam for the third time. Am I prepared? I have no way of knowing. All I can say is that I'm better prepared than I was last year. (And last year, I was better prepared than I had been the year before that.)

I am humbled by how challenging this exam is. I don't have an MBA and I have relatively little work experience in finance. Still, I never thought that I could prepare for an exam for the better part of two years and not pass it. This is what motivates me--that when I finally do pass, I will have achieved something quite special. And if, perish the thought, I were to fail again, I will sign up for next year's exam, and the one after that, and the one after that--as many times as I need to until I pass.

Each year, I come up with a new strategy to attack the exam. This year's strategy was to focus more of my attention on the CFA Institute readings and questions.

The CFAI materials provide a nuance and a flexibility of thought that are not replicated by Stalla, Schweser, etc. Last year, I managed a 70 on the Stalla mock exam morning session. Then I got 23 out of the first 24 questions of their afternoon mock and was feeling good about myself. (This was the same test that I struggled to get a 55 in the previous year.) I was also testing well with Schweser's Q-bank. Yet I failed the exam that really counted, finding myself in the fifth band and having gotten one passing score--Ethics--and six topics in the dreaded 50% and under range.

For a few days, I was discouraged. I knew that if I had given up on Level 2 at that point, I would feel discouraged and frustrated and miserable forever.

Even though I think of myself as being calm under pressure, I've come to realize that I'm not. When I would confront a long vignette that was math intensive, I was always tempted to shrug my shoulders, and if I didn't remember the formulas or was unfamiliar with the material, I would make a half-hearted guess for each question and move on. I would then be affected for the next vignette, even when the subject matter was known to me.

For the next few days, I plan to relax. I'll do some questions, like a pitcher warming up out of the bullpen before he enters the game. I'll review the Schweser QuickSheet (I've noticed that practically every candidate has a Schweser QuickSheet with him/her the morning of the exam) and look at AnalystNotes for a quick summary of the material.

Good luck to everyone in the wallstreetoasis community who will be taking this exam with me. Let us hope we all have good news to report in eight weeks when we find out the results.

4

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Comments (39)

  • MiddleofNowhere's picture

    I'm taking Level II as well. I'm down to the point where I know that I can and should pass, but there are so many times I can make a tiny mistake that could screw me up and prevent me from passing. It'll really come down to concentration.

  • Ravenous's picture

    You have a good attitude. Good luck on the exam.

  • FutureBanker09's picture

    Third time level 2 taker as well. It's a beast for sure, and anyone who got their charter after 2000 should truly be lauded. Out of all of the standardized tests offered, MCAT, Med Boards, LSAT, The Bar, Actuarial, I can safely say only the actuarial exams are tougher. I was a band 8 last year, and that was because of half assed studying. I hope that I've got all my bases covered this year, but with the breadth of material you honestly can never be safe. Stop on by analyst forum, as there are a lot of people sweating this test as well.

  • kingtut's picture

    You can never go wrong with the CFAI curriculum. L2 is a very difficult exam and is the obvious hurdle for most candidates. If you struggled with L1, L2 is not going to do you any favors. If you put in the study hours and are able to peak at the right time then you shouldn't have trouble with the exam come Saturday.

    Eat a nice dinner, drink a beer, watch a movie, and relax...

  • FutureBanker09's picture

    Oh and I really should have said after 2003, before 2003, the test was a different format and the pass rates were in the 60s and 70% for all 3 levels. Nowadays you're lucky if the pass rate is under 40%. Completely different beast. So if you're getting your charter today consider yourself superior to those who got it before (even if it's a CFA violation to say that it's true).

    To the OP how have your Schweser Mocks and CFAI Mocks been? I'm still hitting high 60s low 70s. Not comforting....

  • yhp2009's picture

    Great piece. Good luck.
    Education is a lifelong pursuit, so keep at it and you'll be certified soon.

  • syntheticshit's picture

    l2 has an unreal amount of material....i underestimated how hard it would be to do the december l1->june l2 transition. i hope to dear god i can remember all of this by saturday

  • WTFinance's picture

    Thanks for the post.

    I'm also taking the level II in a few days. I am dreadfully nervous, as it will be my first time. I hope I pass too, but I have the same attitude as you; I will persist until I succeed. Level II is definitely very overwhelming. At this point, I am feeling burnt out from studying. The weather right now at 30 degrees is also making it difficult to concentrate. Hopefully it will all pay off. All the best.

  • duffmt6's picture

    Level II is tough as hell. Wish you the best of luck. Don't let one question get you flustered. Just keep steaming ahead. When something looks foreign, take a step back and see if you can use reason to figure it out (or at least eliminate wrong choices).

    "For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

  • oreos's picture

    Good motivation! It has just passed midnight in the UK, still got a few more hours left in me, can't fathom the embarrassment of telling all those to whom i've rejected invitations of drinks that it was all for nothing.

    Yeaahhh buddaay! Light weight, ain't nothin' but a peanut!

    "After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

  • In reply to oreos
    GetOnTop's picture

    Oreos:
    Yeaahhh buddaay! Light weight, ain't nothin' but a peanut!

    Everybody wants to a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy ass weights! I'm taking Level 1 on Saturday for the first time...consistently scoring in the high 70s on the practice exams and mock but naturally a bit nervous still.

  • blueslord2910's picture

    I started like 3 weeks ago due to internship hunting. Look at here what ppl were doing, I am going to fail this lv 1 for sure.

  • lax88's picture

    good luck everyone. '08 charterholder here. there is light at the end of the tunnel and no better feeling than walking out of the exam room. memorial day weekends and summer mean so much more now and bschool and work are such a walk in the park in comparison.

  • syntheticshit's picture

    i feel like this is going to be a terrible game of topic roulette. if i get consecutive vignettes about valuing a hyperinflating EM stock, IRP/RPP nonsense and implied triangular arbitrage, work out a currency swap position, and current versus temporal method in the statements, i just might die

  • sadboy's picture

    3rd time level 3 here. i have never studied this hard for an exam before. wish me luck :(

  • MoneyTalksMonkeysWalk's picture

    I'm in crazy cramming mode for L2.

    Wed+Thurs a lot of mock/practice tests..little sleep

    Good sleep from thurs->Fri.

    Fri, no more questions just look over notes and formulas.

    Decent sleep Fri-> Sat. A couple hours of looking over formulas before walking in...then game time

  • oreos's picture

    Word on the street is that the CFAI online mocks often contain questions that are copied (albeit slightly altered) straight into the exam.

    I just made the CFAI $80(times a lot).But seriously, this is what L3 told me (he did the onlines before every exam)

    "After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

  • Unforseen's picture

    I'm going to destroy this level II exam.

  • hansgruber's picture

    Good luck everyone. Not sure if any of you have had the pleasure of watching Stalla's videos with Peter Olino and David Hetherington but here are a few gems from the best CFA instructors out there:

    You write, you read it, you remember it, you pass it, and then you forget it.

    You don't wanna be at the bar with your friends. You don't wanna be at home watching tv. You want to get your charter and make some money.

    You gotta know this INSIDE AND OUT!

    I don't do coke, I just like the way it smells.

    Don't worry about your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend... you'll find someone better when you get the charter.

    Good luck studying, I'm with you. Stay in. Go to to the library. No fun, no happiness - they're not going to equate to success. So stay in, be lonely, be bored, break up with your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend. Just study.

    There is an inverse correlation between your happiness and the probability of success on exam day.

    NO EXCUSES!

  • In reply to hansgruber
    oreos's picture

    hansgruber:
    Good luck everyone. Not sure if any of you have had the pleasure of watching Stalla's videos with Peter Olino and David Hetherington but here are a few gems from the best CFA instructors out there:

    You write, you read it, you remember it, you pass it, and then you forget it.

    You don't wanna be at the bar with your friends. You don't wanna be at home watching tv. You want to get your charter and make some money.

    You gotta know this INSIDE AND OUT!

    I don't do coke, I just like the way it smells.

    Don't worry about your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend... you'll find someone better when you get the charter.

    Good luck studying, I'm with you. Stay in. Go to to the library. No fun, no happiness - they're not going to equate to success. So stay in, be lonely, be bored, break up with your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend. Just study.

    There is an inverse correlation between your happiness and the probability of success on exam day.

    NO EXCUSES!

    This is excellent because I'm stressed and frustrated and very unhappy. That means I'll pass right?

    p.s. if the CFAI want to test me on the equity method when your income from associates is reduced due to the amort. of the excess purchase price attributed to assets they can DO ONE!!!

    "After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

  • Tolland15's picture

    I myself am sitting for the Level 1, which, from what I've heard, is far and away the easiest (least hard, I should probably say). The other two analysts at my firm are sitting for their Level III, and god damn do I admire them. Good luck folks.

    I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it's a very poor scheme for survival.

  • TopDGO's picture

    Best of luck to everyone! I signed up to take Level 1 and after 4 months of studying, I came to a comforting realization that I had no interest in getting my CFA. I have a great respect of the charter now and my admiration for charterholders has increased exponentially.

    My favorite test taking preparation method is taking the day off before the test and going to bad movies. I've found the darkness and the low intellectual level of the movies is relaxing and takes my mind off of the test the next day. I will never forget watching Fast 5 the day before I crushed the GMAT. Vin Diesel will get you ready for anything.

  • aempirei's picture

    Good luck to everyone sitting for exams this weekend. I am sitting for Level II Saturday in Philly. I don't feel entirely prepared, but I don't feel entirely unprepared either. I studied exclusively from Schweser and am taking 2 mocks, one tomorrow and one Thursday.

    I feel pretty comfortable in any given section and score well on the concept checkers, but when I go back and review stuff I find myself forgetting things. I don't think the exam is overly challenging on any given concept, but I think it's damn near impossible to have every LOC memorized, which is probably why the pass rate is in the mid-30%'s.

    I haven't put as much time as I would have liked in, but I've still put in a ridiculous number of hours and will be disappointed if I don't pass. I studied in a more conceptual manner for Level 2 as compared to a quantitative approach for L1. Hopefully, the exam stays true to the form.

    My name is Nicky, but you can call me Dre.

  • UncleKevin's picture

    The best part of the CFA is that summer starts when you exit that test. There is nothing you can do from June - August so sit back and enjoy the stress free life. Even if you're cranking out the hours at work, it is liberating to have to not worry about anything when you get home!

  • kingtut's picture

    I registered for L3 back in December, which feels like a decade ago now. Since then, I have changed jobs, got engaged, and I am also buying a house next month. Needless to say, I decided to take a year off from the CFA grind. I'm still undecided about actually going to the test center and sitting for the exam. If I do, I can guarantee that I will be the calmest sob in the entire room. Maybe I'll kick back a few beers at lunch and then christmas tree the entire afternoon scan-tron sheet all in an effort to play my role in lowering the MPS for my L3 comrades.

    For whatever level you are attempting, I salute you!

  • In reply to Sylverlee
    bullbythehorns's picture

    Sylverlee:
    Here's a list of things that you should know for the exam. It was produced by an instructor that used to be a CFA grader, and later became an instructor. Focusing on the CFAI end of chapter questions and ditching qbank is definitely a good strategy.
    http://www.4shared.com/office/r9faloin/List_of_thi...

    Can someone PM me that? I don't have a 4shared account and don't want to register for one.

    Here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, you are the sucker.

  • Sylverlee's picture

    hmm.. I took it like 2 years ago, but I'm 99% sure it's for level 2. haha. I didn't need something like this for level 1. Cold means.. you gotta know that shiz like the back of your hand.

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  • In reply to blueslord2910
    oreos's picture

    "After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

  • ItsJustNumbers's picture