A Story of How I Passed 3 Levels of CFA Exam

CFA Exam is a tough journey to challenge with the chances of success from begin to end are slender. You might be a little bit surprised that the ratio of successful candidates is less than 20 percent, but it does not mean you do not have the opportunity to pass three levels: CFA Level 1, 2 and 3.

cfa level 1 exam

Unless you make a right strategy with an appropriate plan, you surely lose in the first time. As a former CFA Exam candidate, I have understood how the exam hard and the feeling of the examinees, so I have decided to share my story of how I passed CFA Level 1, 2, and 3.  

The first battle – CFA Level 1

In fact, 2 out of 5 test candidates pass the CFA level 1 only. It means that the ratio of passed candidates is close to 40 percent.

By now, you could be steamed and irritated because of the pessimistic thought start. Nonetheless, once you realize the real challenge, you still go ahead your panic and tackle the battle if you have the right path to go.

In my opinion, the CFA Level 1 exam is not difficult at all. The entire knowledge and the formulas of this level are uncomplicated. Furthermore, the main knowledge of each study session is not problematic in ten topic areas. When you recognize the true problem, it is a piece of cake to handle.

You can practice the CFA program in a center to find an instructor and the previous candidates to support you make an accurate strategy as well as come up with a plan. If you enable to set up your real ones, then you could choose the self-study platform at home.

cfa candidate

For me, I choose both of two forms as my instructor helps me find my right path, and I could practice the key questions with my teams in the class. Then, I need to summarize all knowledge by using the mind maps of Way To Finance Success to preview them whenever I want to. I also do not miss out find the right materials to learn and practice.

Be patient and be inspired are the key elements for passing the CFA Level 1 exam.

Begin as quickly as you can

In general, I almost have six months to prepare for the exam, but it does not mean I wait for the exact period to start.

When I begin early, I enable to review and adjust how I understand the curriculum in the first month.

Set up weekly aims and design monthly schedule

Easier said than done, I could not get my targets if I do not have accurate strategies and instant plans.

In other words, I need to set my weekly goals initially, and then, arranging the monthly schedule to place objectives for each of next four or five months.

For example, if I aim to complete RFA in 30 days, I have to finish three or four readings a week. Here is an example that I have considered to set up my schedule for practicing the CFA Level 1 in four months.

Topic area Hours to estimate Days to undertake
Ethical and Professional Standards 45 20
Quantitative Methods 36 14
Economics 30 12
Financial Reporting and Analysis 60 23
Corporate Finance 21 8
Portfolio Management 21 8
Equity 30 12
Fixed Income 30 12
Derivatives 15 6
Alternative Investments 12 5


Pay close attention to the concepts

To focus on the concepts, I usually use a highlight marker and underline the main ideas or the concepts that I could not clearly understand in the Schweser Note and the curriculum.

In case I do not understand the concept or any term, I have to search these concepts in the Google and Wikipedia.

When I understand them completely, I do the exercise in each of Reading parts. Generally, each of Study Session has about three or four reading parts.

On the one hand, I often use the mind map method to summarize the knowledge in my understanding. If I had forgotten some parts, then I would have opened my notes to review again.

Practice lots of questions

After understanding each part of the reading, I try to solve lots of questions as many as I can. Even though I undertake about 30 questions a day, I would deal with 5400 questions when sitting the exam.

cfa level 1

Do you know that some candidates fail the exam just because they have not practiced a lot of questions? Thus, there is always a high opportunity that I would thank you for myself when applying this method.

There is not any provider enable to give you the proper material which will take you pass if you do not practice more and more. Practice makes perfect!

Arrange the right topic areas to learn and practice

For me, studying qualitative material is easier than other topic areas, and this is the fundamental knowledge of other subjects that I have to learn in the upcoming time. Therefore, I choose this subject to learn for the first time. Working on issues in the qualitative area is extremely important.

I have to study the concept firstly, and then, I learn some problems around this content over and over again. When I understand how to tackle an issue, I come back the material for further reading.

Thereafter, I completely enter other related topic areas such as ethics, corporate finance, fixed income, and portfolio.

After understanding these subjects, I learn other subjects in the last few months like Economics, Equity, Financial Reports, Derivatives, Alternatives and Ethnic.

Balance your life during the practice period

Focusing on the studying materials and the practicing period are so crucial and necessary, but I do not forget to make a balanced life during this time.

I still have the relaxing and resting time after studying and practicing. If not, I think I could stop playing this battle because of stressed and pressured all time.

The key point is arranging my schedule that fits my studying ability and my body clock.

The next battle – facing the CFA Level 2

My mistake in CFA Level 2 is assuming it is not harder than the CFA Level 1. The CFA level 2 exam is not exactly the same platform and questions as before in the level 1. It is said that CFA Level 2 was the most of challenging and contains the most of the materials, so I should carefully prepare beforehand if I want to pass the exam.

The first time I see the curriculum of the CFA level 2, I am surprised and feel a little bit exhausted because of the difficulties. Although a number of readings are not changed, knowledge of level 2 is much more difficult and more detailed than CFA level 1. Therefore, I have to spend much time to learn and practice.

I also ask some advice from instructors and other candidates to select my best methods and begin this tough journey. On the one hand, I must arrange my time carefully to focus on the concepts in CFA Level 2. As I have passed this level, I want to share my experience for those who will take the exam in the forthcoming time.

Start early

Start your journey as early as you can even if you need to begin earlier than you did for level I. Choosing and seizing the study materials is a crucial part to begin this trip. Then, draw attention to the weightings of the topics in one area. If one topic you are not sure its knowledge, it will be signed to get serious as soon as possible.

Review basic knowledge of level 1

Did you remember topic areas that you do not do quite well in CFA level 1? These topics are coming back all new, improved and more difficult in CFA level 2.

cfa level 1

Furthermore, several concepts in level 2 constructed on the fundamental knowledge of level 1, so having a solid training in level I supports. I review my previous notes in level I to make sure I remember all knowledge.

Practice the item sets

The platform of CFA level 2 is different than the level 1 as it has three of item sets. Each item set has a long topic includes six questions related to these questions. Thus, you should find the reading technique and how to discover the main ideas are totally important. This method will help you find the information quickly, but you should be careful to scan the information as you will be missed some important details.

Know and understand the topic weightings

When knowing and understanding the topic weightings, you will establish your strategy and plan clearly. They do not fully cover your score, but some questions may include more than one topic area.

Topic area Weighting (%) Item sets
Ethics From 10 to 15% Between 2 and 3 days
Corporate Finance, Economics, FRA, Qualitative From 30 to 55% Between 6 and 11
Asset Classes From 35 to 70% Between 7 and 14
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning From 5 to 10% Between 1 and 2 days


Do not forget to use the mind map methods as it always helps you to summarize all of the concepts in each of the topic area.

The final battle – CFA Level 3

CFA Level 3 is much more different than the previous exams in its platforms, so candidates need to draw attention to the formats while practicing and do the actual exams. On the flip side, think of the right strategy and aims the target exactly are also critical.

Establish two learning periods

I will be stressed if I do not arrange the time to learn as well as the period of time to challenge CFA Level 3. The first period I read the entire knowledge, and I review all concepts in the second period.

Select proper materials

There are several materials to practice in CFA level 3, but I still need to focus on the curriculum and the Kaplan Schweser as I might have the same situations and questions from two materials. When I have much time, I need to practice other mock papers.

cfa curriculum

Practice with a group

Learn and practice with a group is a good idea to boost your knowledge as well as save your time for learning. However, the discipline of a group must be placed at the top requirement to get the best result in this method.

CFA Level 3 requires a higher level of knowledge as well as the entire background. Therefore, it is a perfect selection when you know and chooses the right member for your group. In other words, you should know the strengths and weaknesses of each member in the topic areas to match together.

Fortunately, I get an opportunity to meet other candidates that have different strengths to make my group. One person has full knowledge of Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning, one member has the background of Financial Reporting and Analysis, one member knows Corporate Finance and Equity Investments. I am good at Economics and Fixed Income to share my knowledge for my group members as well.

cfa level 2

Final Opinion

Whether you are a candidate in the CFA program or you are planning to enroll, you still need to set a strategy, goals, and plan to succeed. Select your materials, study, practice, and review on a regular basis. By doing this, you should be well on your path to pass CFA Level 1, 2, and 3.


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