【CFA Exam Tips】How to pass CFA Level 2 in 3 months in first attempt?- Key facts, Free Resources and Tools, Exam Skills

How to pass CFA Level 2 in 3 months in first attempt? How difficult is CFA level 2? CFA level 2 Key facts, Free Resources, Tools, Exam Skills



11/3/20237 min read

  • As you are reading this, you’ve probably read my CFA Level 1 article and/or passed the exam.

  • First of all, congratulations on passing CFA Level 1! Now, if you have applied for CFA Level 2 already, you can write “CFA Level 2 Candidate” on your CV, which likely gives you an edge in job applications.

  • (Remember? As mentioned in the CFA’s Ethics section, you cannot make a partial claim like “you are CFA Level 1". But you can say ‘I passed the CFA level 1 exam’ or claim to be a ‘Level 2 candidate’ if you have enrolled in the next level.)

  • Just a warm reminder: Never think that the difficulty of CFA Level 2 climbs proportionately compared to Level 1. In fact, its difficulty rises exponentially!

  • One of the key reasons is that the question format of CFA Level 2 has changed. It is no longer formed of a series of short and straightforward MCQs. Now it contains 22 vignettes, each followed 4 MCQs.

  • This format is unfavorable to students who just mechanically practice the questions , memorize formulas and substitute numbers into formulas for calculations, as well as students poor in English reading comprehension. Because CFA Level 2 candidates must clearly grasp the context of the vignette case study questions to decide on which formula to use and which numbers to extract from the vignette to fit into the formula for your calculation.

  • As for whether CFA level 2 or level 3 is the most difficult level, the opinion is always quite divided. I would say, among the 3 levels, CFA level 2 obviously has the widest range of formulas and most complex calculations. Many people, like myself, think that CFA level 2 is the most difficult level.

  • On the contrary, some students very good at maths but weak in English often get through CFA level 2 but get stuck at level 3 because of essay type responses. While CFA level 3 does not ask you to write a beautiful passage with nice sentence structures and vocabularies like IELTS, and you can even use bullet points with complete sentences to answer, you still have to know how to properly express your ideas clearly in English.

  • Key facts of CFA level 2

    • Exam format: The CFA Level 2 exam consists of 2 sections, totaling 4 hours and 24 minutes, divided equally into two sections with a 30-minute break in between. It contains 22 vignettes, each with 4 MCQs , in other words, a total of 88 MCQs. Theoretically, each MCQ takes an average of 3 minutes to complete. For context, CFA Level 1 only allows 1.5 minutes per MCQ. But don’t forget that it actually takes a lot of time to read the vignette. So, after deducting the time to read, the net time for each MCQ should be similar.

    • Topics: It’s still the same 10 topics, but CFA Level 3 has a lot more about application. Portfolio Management alone accounts for 35%–40%. It is usually assumed that the candidate is a fund manager (PM) and applies the hard knowledge learned at the three levels. Apply it to actual situations to solve problems for clients.

    • Same for all 3 levels of CFA exams, they share the same 10 topic areas. However, in terms of weighting, the 3 most heavily weighted topics at CFA Level 2 become Equity Investments, Fixed Income and Financial Reporting and Analysis.

    • The former 2 topic areas require the use of a wide range of formulas to calculate, while the latter requires memorizing many differences between the two sets of accounting standards, namely IFRS and US GAAP.

    • Pass rate: The recent 10-year average pass rate of CFA level 2 exam is only 45% of candidates can pass the CFA Level 2 exam. It seems not too low? Please be reminded that this is a conditional probability, which is P(B|A), or P(passed CFA level 2 | passed CFA level 1), because all CFA Level 2 candidates have already passed the CFA Level 1 exam which passing rate is only about 36%.

  • Even if you could pass CFA level 1 with a month or two of preparation, or your university major was exactly finance, don’t underestimate CFA level 2. I’ve seen too many guys underestimated it, and failed it.

  • As the question format is no longer that straight forward, the devil is in the details, especially for the Ethics part. Therefore, it is recommended to complete all the questions (more than a thousand) in the question bank and practice exams to get immune to all possible traps.

  • Yet, unlike the CFA level 1 exam, the efficiency of ‘learning by doing’ or reverse engineering is largely reduced, because the practice questions are mostly also in vignette form, which are way less straight forward.

  • Starting from CFA Level 2, you must first learn the concepts and formulas well before starting to do the questions. Or else, you will feel quite frustrated if you have no idea which formula and data to use in calculation after reading such a long passage.

CFA Level 2 Exam tips, Shortcuts, Free Resources:

  1. Youtube tutorials on financial calculator (Recommended ★★★★★)

  • CFA Level 2 requires the most calculations among all levels, so mastering your financial calculator well becomes more important than ever. You need to use your BA II Plus to calculate NPV, IRR, annuity, etc. just like CFA level 1, and you also have to master some more advanced methods, for example, to calculate the PV of an annuity due which cash flow occurs in the beginning of the periods, you have to press “2ND” and then “ENTER” to set “BGN mode”.

  • There are plenty of free tutorial videos on Youtube teaching you how to use your BA II Plus for CFA exams. I like the video below as it explains clearly, if you don’t mind his accent.

2. CFA Official Practice Question Bank and Mock Exams (Recommended ★★★★)

  • Provided for free in the CFA official portal, the practice question bank contains more than a thousand MCQswhich formats are similar to the exam — one vignette followed by a few MCQs which difficulty are close to those in the real exam. Best of all, answers and detailed explanations are provided for each question.

  • It is recommended to complete at least 70% of the questions and review questions and topics with higher error rates. Different from CFA Level 1, CFA Level 2 has multiple questions per case, making it more difficult to learn by doing. You must learn the formulas and concepts before you start doing it.

  • The official mock exam is an absolute must-do! There are 2 free complete sets of practice exams in your official portal account. If you don’t have enough time to complete the entire question bank, I suggest you at least jump right into a practice exam to get a feel for what the actual exam is like. In the last week before the exam, I strongly recommend that you time yourself and try to do at least one complete mock exam to test your speed.

3. Free CFA Mock Exam (Recommended ★★★★★)
  • The official mock exams are definitely a must-do!

  • In your CFA online portal, there are 2 full sets of mock exams, each of 2 sessions of 135-min just like the actual exams.

  • If you don’t have enough time for the whole question bank, I suggest you at least directly jump into the mock exam to have a taste of the exam.

  • A large proportion (if not all ?) questions in the mock exams are directly extracted from the practice question bank. So, if you have completed all questions in the question bank, then you’ll see the old questions again.

  • In your final week before the exam, I strongly suggest you set a timer and try at least one full set of mock exam. You have to test your speed.

3. CFA Level 2 Schweser’s Quicksheet (Recommended★★☆☆☆)
  • More than a thousand pages of the official cirriculum is condensed into only a few pages. It serves as a general formula sheet, perfect for a bird view during your final rush in the last 30 minutes before entering the exam venue to boost your short-term memory.

  • However, it only serves this single purpose. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can pass by just memorizing these few pages. You can buy it from the Schweser official website, or download it somewhere in your own way, you know what I mean.

4. CFA Level 2 Schweser’s Secret Sauce (Recommended★★★★☆)

  • More than a thousand pages of the official cirriculum is condensed into a few hundred pages. Suitable for reviewing all the formulas/concepts in the final half month before taking the mock exam. Feel free to buy it from the Schweser official website or download it your own way.

5. IFT CFA Level 2 Paid Tutorials (Recommended★★☆☆☆)
  • IFT put their CFA level 1 tutorials on YouTube for free as a promotion, but they start charging a fee for level 2.

  • Although his English had a bit of an Indian accent, the instructor was very exam-oriented, straight to the point and capable of explaining concepts for the CFA exam.

  • You can try to use your own methods (such as from some telegram groups) to purchase unofficial old versions, but of course, you do so at your own risk and consequences.

6. Schweser Notes (Recommended★★☆☆☆)
  • A simplified version of the official cirriculum, still a thick book of over a thousand pages.


  • Never underestimate the CFA Level 2 exam, especially those who lack finance/accounting/statistics/economics knowledge. Better spend more than half a year to prepare for it.

  • If you have only 2–3 months left, it is recommended to first read the Secret Sauce or watch tutorial videos to quickly learn the formulas and concepts, and then jump to practice the questions. If you don’t understand a certain topic even after reading the solutions, revisit the Schweser Notes and official cirriculum.

Good luck! Hope this article is helpful to you.