Muschamp Rd

Another CFA® Exam is Finished

June 4th, 2017

And after approximately six hours of actual exam test writing, numerous hours of stress, one emergency surgery and having followed a nine month study plan, I fear I may have done better last year. Last year I managed to get Band 10 on the CFA® Level 2 Exam. Self appointed online experts hypothesized my mid-band scores in Financial Report Analysis and Fixed Income were too low, so I dutifully studied those topics and every other topic again. I carefully tracked my performance in practice exams and I did certain sample problems over and over. I still fear it was not enough.

Update: Apparently the final nine months of studying for the Level 2 CFA exam was enough, as I passed. I then persisted another twelve months and passed the CFA Level 3 exam as well. Finally, I wrote out a few more thoughts on what a long, hard, slog, the CFA Program is.

Being a a CFA Candidate is Hard

Being a CFA Candidate who blogs is harder. I don’t recommend it. I also don’t recommend downloading content from a CFA Candidate’s website, uploading it to another website and then claiming copyright of the Excel files, something Abhishek Chaudhary decided to do. This seems to be a violation of Standard I(C) Misrepresentation, don’t be like Abhishek Chaudhary. Don’t be like me either spend your time studying, not blogging.

Make and Review Flashcards

Just prior to actually writing the exam, I posted about which flash cards random Internet surfers were reviewing. Now I have to update that data yearly or at least I did for 2019 which saw the most extensive revision of this blog in history. I had always planned to reveal the material I was most concerned with, but I had to wait until after everyone had a chance to write the exam to avoid even the appearance of writing about what actually appeared on the test.

You can never study too much

My actual study schedule

Although I studied a very long time, I don’t think I am as focussed as I used to be, it is harder and harder to sit alone in room doing practice problems or reviewing hundreds of flash cards for the thousandth time on your lunch break. I’ve done a good job writing out flash cards and memorizing formula but sometimes even when you have the formula memorized you choose the wrong numbers to plug in, or you make a keystroke error, or you misread the question and choose the best instead of the worst answer.

Do multiple practice exams

This year I did seven practice exams and my scores improved. I have been tracking my practice exam scores carefully for Level 2 and there is a positive correlation between your average practice exam score and your actual CFA exam score in my experience. This gave me some confidence as I only needed to make incremental improvement having gotten Band 10 last year. However on the actual exam day, I think stress likely lowers your score, so even passing the official mock exam is no guarantee of passing the actual final exam.

Practice Exam Scores

70% is your target score

I assume a score over 70% in an individual section is good enough to pass, not quite as good but still progress was getting a better average score than I previously averaged which is shaded yellow. I tend to put a disproportionate amount of effort into the hardest material and during the actual exam this can cost me as I spend five or more minutes on a single question, you have to learn to circle an answer and move on. All the questions are equally weighted, but all CFA Exam questions are not created equal. The sections are definitely not equally weighted and how much they are weighted varies, always consult the official CFA Institute curriculum and weightings. Prior to the 2017 exam I put extra effort into my weakest areas as revealed by my carefully tracked practice exam scores.

So, in the final two weeks I focussed on:

  • FRA
  • Fixed Income
  • Quant
  • Derivatives
  • Ethics

Redo Practice Problems

I redid all the online official practice item sets in these categories in the last week. I do think doing individual practice problems over and over has merit but since the Level 2 exam consists of nothing but six question vignettes, you really need to try to master that format as sometimes while in a hurry or while unfocussed you make mistakes you wouldn’t make if you do just a single question the way they are in Level 1. I actually wish all the practice problems in the official books were in the official vignette style, some extra supplemental problems were released part way through this year, I think to address the fact some material didn’t have enough or possibly any exam style questions in the official material.

Consider Third Party Materials

If I have to rewrite Level 2 again and I just might I would buy more practice problems and mock exams, numerous third parties sell this material. Although I only did the online sample problems 2 or 3 times, eventually you can remember some answers, which isn’t cheating, especially considering it is just a practice problem, but you need to know how to solve the problem in the actual exam or if asked online or in a job interview, not just memorize a single answer. That said I created flash cards for very specific problems I encountered.

Keep Reviewing your Flashcards

I added to and revised some flash cards in the final two weeks. I have always physically sorted all my cards into ones I was “good” at and ones I needed to review more and I made a final collection of the material I was most worried about and/or I thought had a high probability of appearing on the exam. Some material I do know well so it was not a concern even though I may have previously ranked it as among the most important formulae or theories to know. If I was a new candidate I would start with the flash cards and blog posts tagged “Vital”.

Worrisome CFA Level 2 Material

I’m not sure if this next list is helpful to anyone, I’m not sure if this was the optimal material to review the day before or the morning of the exam, but this is the material I reviewed:

Final Thoughts

That was way more work and time than I wanted to spend in front of a computer today. This was definitely my last post on the CFA Program for a while. A few weeks before the exam I thought I was going to pass, I definitely prepared longer and better than the previous year when I got Band 10, but the actual exam seemed harder and the day went far from smoothly. I answered all the questions, guessed a couple times, made a few mistakes that will haunt me for a while, but the above was what worried me going in, now I have a new list of things to review if I have to do Level 2 again. Overall I would definitely concentrate on the same topics, maybe try to do even more mock exams.

I’m still looking for a new job so I can finally complete the work experience necessary to earn the CFA Charter so if you have any thoughts or advice you can leave them below. You can also view my resume.

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