I know the pass rates are supposed to be about 50%-ish for each of the three levels... and I have a handful acquaintances who've had to resit levels 2 and/or 3. But a couple of others claim that the exams aren't really that hard and had first-time passes... Anyone here care to share their experiences? Just how hard is the CFA, compared to, say, a degree in finance/econs/whatever or an MBA? (I'm thinking of taking the CFA myself, hence my asking)
CFA exam difficulty?
As with most things, the difficulty of the exam is largely dependent on your background and your preparation. Some can get away with little preparation while others need a great deal of time to prepare. Our users shared their varying opinions below.
Some feel that CFA is very challenging in line with the failure rates...
Generally speaking, each of the three levels takes from 300-500 hours of studying. For Level I last December, the pass rate was 36%. Keep in mind that this number includes people retaking the exam, and DOES NOT include people who did not show up or left halfway without finishing. Factoring these in, I would imagine the "real" pass rate for first-time takers for Level I is 20% or lower. Pretty low considering most CFA candidates have degrees in econ, finance, accounting, engineering etc...
Unfortunately, Level II has similar pass rates to Level I, though Level III is a bit higher (mid-forties). Obviously, Level II and Level III are filtered to only those who have passed Level I (and include first-time takers as well as re-takers).
However, other felt that the CFA was not difficult with a finance background...
CFA is not that hard if you have some finance background. if you have finance and accounting and some knowledge of derivatives, you should be set for levels 1 & 2. Level 3 is a little less technical an d more qualitative - you need to be able to understand and synthesize everything instead of rote learning. I would think though the hardest part of the exams would be finding the time to actually study for it! if you're working 9-6 you should have time to study but if you're pulling 80hr weeks consistently, I do not know how one can cope (this is compounded if you have a family).
The difficulty of CFA is really exaggerated. It's pretty easy. I didn't spend too much time on all three levels. It's just an excuse lazy people use when they fail the exam. Also, just use the notes. That's all I did and I passed all three levels.
Should I Purchase Third Party CFA Prep Materials?
While the CFA does offer preparation materials - they are lengthy and detailed. Many users purchased outside materials in order to get guides that were shorter and more straight forward.
The overwhelming majority of successful CFA exam-takers will tell you that they used Schweser or Stalla and hardly/never used the CFAI books. Here's why:
- The CFA Exam will test your knowledge on "Learning Outcome Statements", or LOS. The material in the CFAI books go above and beyond the LOS while 3rd party-material will focus on the LOS. This may seem trivial, but when the CFA Institute books provide highly detailed calculations when the LOS is only asking you to understand a relationship without calculating, you can potentially waste a lot of time with the CFAI books. I'm not denying that it's possible to pass the exam with CFAI books only, but I've never met anyone who has (from a sample of a few dozen test takers).
- Any "penalty" you will incur from reading less detailed 3rd party information will be overwhelmed by my first point.
Decided to Pursue a Wall Street Career? Learn How to Network like a Master.
Inside the WSO Finance networking guide, you'll get a comprehensive, all-inclusive roadmap for maximizing your networking efforts (and minimizing embarrassing blunders). This info-rich book is packed with 71 pages of detailed strategies to help you get the most of your networking, including cold emailing templates, questions to ask in interviews, and action steps for success in navigating the Wall Street networking process.