CFA designation / FAQ / How Hard Is the CFA Exam?

CFA designation / FAQ / Chapter 4


CHAPTER 4: How Hard Is the CFA Exam?

CFA exam is quite a challenging but at the same time quite a pleasant experience.

Why do I say so?

The hard thing was absolutely the bulky material that took me hundreds of hours to acquire. And 3 times hundreds of hours is even more hundreds of hours, I’m afraid.

Yes, CFA exam prep was really time-consuming. But also thought-provoking.

Though it was a painful lesson, when I failed my level 2 exam I had to learn that every level differs from the previous and requires different skills.

How Hard Is the CFA Exam?

CFA level 1 is very theoretical. There are many new concepts and much has to be learned by heart. Perhaps this is why I studied long enough and with great diligence.

CFA level 2 is very detailed. Analytical skills are developed and then examined. Also the form of testing changes from unconnected multiple choice questions to item sets. Well, I wish I had paid my attention to all this earlier...

CFA level 3 is much evaluative. This is why test-takers are asked to construct essay responses to some open-ended questions.

All this makes the CFA exam as a whole a real challenge but a stimulating one.

So, here comes the pleasant part.

After hundreds of hours I spend studying and racking my brains, every time I passed another level of the exam I could feel a great sense of achievement that assured me I was on the right track. Every time I felt satisfied with what I accomplished. And when I passed my level 3 exam, I was on the top of the world... so proud and happy...

This feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment paid me back for all I had to give up and go through when preparing for the exam.

For my free time spend with books, not friends or family.

For my struggle with all the CFA policies, rules and regulations.

For my savings spend on my level 1 exam.

Back then, also the financial aspect of the CFA exam proved difficult to me. I even had to borrow some money from my parents because I couldn’t afford to make a one-time payment of over USD 1000 when I first registered for my level 1 exam.

But the fault was mine.

I should have analyzed the CFA calendar more closely before I decided to register. I think I was very likely to qualify for the CFA Access Scholarship which would reduce my CFA exam cost to the amount I could afford myself.

CFA exam definitely has its hard points. Whether it is difficult as a test depends on preparation to take it and – to some degree – also on aptitude or luck. CFA pass rates fluctuate around 45% recently (for each exam level). This suggests CFA exam is a rather serious decision.

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