In January 2009 I passed the CFA Level 1 qualification, using the method I elaborated for you before. This gave me around four months to prepare for CFA Level II.
Needless to say, CFA Level II is hard. In fact, it is very hard. To be frank, I thought I’d failed. I was mistaken.
So, what does it take to get through Level II? Fundamentally, my strategy was similar to that I used for Level 1 – I practiced – with a few differences.
The fact is that passing Level II is a completely different matter to passing Level I. The pass rate is typically higher, but this doesn’t mean the exam is easier – just that the candidates are stronger. The questions you face in Level I are brief and unrelated. At Level II, it’s all about case studies (so-called “item-sets”). Level II is all about digesting a large quantity of text and answering a set of far more detailed questions. You need to be able to digest information quickly and identify the key words and concepts. Most of the information you are given will be irrelevant: you need to be able to quickly identify the relevant phrases and passages.
Bear in mind that you will need to be familiar with quantitative methods for Level II, and that you need to practice these extensively. Recall the formulae in bed! Ensure too that you are familiar with the fundamental economic concepts. In my experience, the CFA Institute is especially keen on the economics of foreign exchange. You will need to know how to read company accounts and all the intricacies of pensions accounting. You will need to know valuation techniques for corporate finance. Big points can be scored in all these areas.
Rather than reading the text books, focus on learning the key words provided by the CFA Institute in their “Learning outcome statements.” This is what you need to know – emphasise learning this rather than getting bogged down in the detail of the text books.
Overall, you cannot expect to pass CFA Level II if you don’t put in at least 300 hours of preparation time. In a four month period, that amounts to around 20 hours a week. I spent a lot of time learning the keywords and practicing exams (to identify the gaps in my knowledge) rather than reading through the study notes and the textbooks. When I was confident, I tried writing exams under test conditions of 2.5 hours (even though the exams are actually three hours). When I achieved a score of 70-73%, I was satisfied that I was capable of passing. And I did.