The Ultimate Guide to Conquering the CFA Exams

A comprehensive guide from an expert's perspective on which level of CFA is the toughest and how to prepare for it.

The Ultimate Guide to Conquering the CFA Exams

As an expert in the field of finance and investments, I have seen many candidates struggle with the CFA exams. It is a rigorous and challenging process, but with the right approach and mindset, it is possible to pass all three levels and earn the prestigious CFA designation. In this guide, I will share my insights on which level of CFA is the toughest and how to prepare for it. Firstly, let's address the common misconception that Level 2 of the CFA is the most difficult. While it is true that this level requires a deeper understanding of the material and more practice, Level 1 is actually considered to be more challenging by most certificate holders.

This is because it covers a wide range of topics and requires a strong foundation in investment fundamentals. If you are planning to take the CFA exams, I highly recommend checking out our Investment Fundamentals Guide for a comprehensive overview of the key concepts. One mistake that many Level 2 candidates make is assuming that it will be easier from a time management perspective. However, this is not the case. In fact, time management is crucial for all three levels of the CFA exams.

As someone who has taken all three levels, I can confidently say that Level III was the most challenging in terms of time management. The exam questions were often ambiguous and confusing, making it difficult to allocate time effectively.


is a subjective criterion, but having a hierarchy of difficult and easy topics can be helpful in approaching the CFA exams. In my experience, fixed income, derivatives, and FSA are some of the most difficult subjects for Level 1.However, as we move on to Level 2, the difficulty level increases significantly due to the sheer amount of material and changes in weightage of topics. This is why it is important to have a clear understanding of the difficulty level of each topic to plan your study strategy accordingly. One aspect that many candidates struggle with is time management during the response section of the exam.

This was also a challenge for me during my Level III exam, and it almost cost me my CFA designation. Therefore, I cannot stress enough the importance of practicing time management techniques while preparing for the exams. Now, you may be wondering why I consider Level III to be the most difficult when I have already mentioned that Level 2 has more material and changes in weightage. The reason is simple - I failed my Level III exam. This experience has taught me that no matter how much you prepare, there is always a chance of failure.

However, it is important to learn from your mistakes and keep pushing forward. As we wrap up this guide, let's take a look at the difficulty level of each topic in Level 1.In my opinion, the top three most difficult topics are fixed income, derivatives, and FSA. However, this may vary for each individual depending on their strengths and weaknesses. It is important to identify your weak areas and focus on them during your preparation. Now, let's talk about Level 2.With the same number of topics as Level 1, this level goes into much more depth and requires a significant amount of reading time. In fact, many candidates find this level to be the most challenging due to the amount of material and changes in weightage.

If you are planning to take the CFA exams in 2024 or later, keep in mind that there will be some important changes to the topics and weightage, so make sure to stay updated. Finally, let's discuss the exam format for Level 2.Each session consists of 8 to 11 bullet points, which describe a given scenario, followed by 4 to 6 questions related to that scenario. This format requires a thorough understanding of the material and the ability to apply it in different scenarios. Therefore, it is important to practice with mock exams and past papers to get familiar with the format and improve your time management skills.