How Hard is CFA Level 1, 2 & 3

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Do you want to take CFA Level 1, 2, and 3? If so, now you may be curious how hard CFA Level 1, 2, and 3 is. It is important for you to know so that you are able to prepare well. Which one is the hardest? The answer for this question may vary for each person, but according to the 300Hours site, there are a lot of CFA charterholders who may agree that the answer is between CFA Level 2 and Level 3. So, here is the explanation about Level 2 and Level 3 according to the 300Hours site.

It seems that a lot of CFA charterholders agree that CFA Level 1 exam is the easiest if it is compared with Level 2 exam and Level 3 exam. Basically, CFA Level 2 is Level 1 on steroids where both are multiple choice questions. However, the main difference is that in CFA Level 2, there is a significant step up and the content is four times more to learn compared to Level 1. Meanwhile, in Level 3, you will find a more unpredictable essay format and it generates subjectivity in your studies. You may agree that it is harder because it is hard to measure progress precisely.

So, according to the 300Hours site, here are the reasons why CFA Level 2 is the hardest and also the reasons why CFA Level 3 is the hardest as well.

The Reasons of CFA Level 2 Is the Hardest

Some people may think that CFA Level 2 is the hardest. If you agree with them, you may agree with the reasons below about why the CFA Level 2 is the hardest.

  • CFA Level 2 is a big step up in content if it is compared to Level 1

Never imagine that CFA Level 2 is like year 2 in university because it is different. It is because if you do the same approach, routine, or degree of effort that you made to go through CFA Level 1, it will not be enough for going through Level 2. It is important for you to note that even though Level 1 has the same amount of topics, CFA Level 2 goes into each topic in significant depth. It means that to go through it, you need to read more.

  • Even though Level 2 has less questions than Level 1, but level 2 vignettes need more time.

In CFA Level 1 exam, all questions which are multiple choice are independent of each other. They are also often shorter and more direct if they are compared to Level 2 and Level 3. So, you have 1.5 minutes per question. However, in CFA Level 2, each of the two exam sessions consist of 8 to 11 vignettes where there is a passage that describes a certain scenario and it is followed by 4 to 6 questions about that scenario. In 4 hours and 24 minutes, there are 88 vignette-style questions and each question in level 2 is given 3 minutes, in theory. And in fact, answering vignette-style questions can consume more time than Level 1’s style of questions. In the Level 2 exam, before you answer every question, you have to read a passage and often it is longer than a full page. You have to understand the scenario and digest important points. When you are answering questions, often you need to refer back to the passage and then you have to read certain areas again so that it can take up a lot of time.

  • Vignette questions are more challenging if compared to Level 1’s independent questions.

CFA Level 2 questions are more detailed than level 1 because Level 2 uses vignette format. The questions can test a lot of concepts and need more thinking or calculation.

  • It is important to know which topics to focus on rather than even Level 2.

You may agree that in Level 2, there is a lot more material than Level 1 and the recent topic weight changes made it trickier to focus on certain topics only. It is better if you use a study plan and follow a sensible study order to maximize efficiency to make sure that you cover all key topics first.

Reasons of CFA Level 3 Is The Hardest

If you agree that CFA Level 3 is the hardest one instead of Level 2, you may agree to the reasons below.

  • CFA Level 3 exam is less calculations, but more reading and no guessing.

You will find the endless paragraphs of texts and it makes your study session less efficient because you may have to read them again later when you do the practice exams and realize that you do not know anything. Also, you cannot guess it since the written section requires you to remember concepts that you have learned.

  • In essay practice papers, it is difficult to measure progress.

In Level 1 and 2, you can measure your progress objectively when you progress through all the practice papers, but in Level 3 you cannot measure it. In level 3, your answers almost always will not exactly match the ‘model answers’ given and it is hard to take a fair judgement in marking them because you want to ensure that it is a fair representative of the exams marking guidance as cited from 300Hours site.

  • You did not practice doing constructed response questions under timed conditions.

It is hard to self-grade essay questions at this level, so there are a lot of candidates who chose not to do the essay practice questions under time-based conditions. However, it is a big mistake. Candidates usually focus on making sure that they understand the answer style which is required and learning how to apply the principles that they learned in CFA Level 3 syllabus without over stressing themselves about scores. Let’s say that you lack of time management practice during the constructed response section. If so, it may be able to lose your CFA charter.

That’s all the explanation about reasons why Level 2 and Level 3 can be the hardest exam among 3 levels in CFA according to the 300Hours site. I hope that this explanation helps you to know more about CFA level exams and you can prepare better.

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