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 that's 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 single 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.

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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 spent studying and racking my brains, every time I passed another level of the exam I would feel a great sense of achievement that assured me I was on the right track. Every time I would feel greatly 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.

My free time I spent with books, not friends or family.

My struggle with all the CFA policies, rules and regulations.

My savings I spent 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 how ready you are to take it and – to some degree – also on your aptitude and luck. Recently, CFA pass rates fluctuate around 45% (for each exam level). This suggests CFA exam is a rather serious decision.

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