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Can I Reuse Study Materials for the CFA Exam?

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“I am studying for the CFA Level II examination again because I did not pass it the first time. I bought all the curriculum readings and I have last year’s prep provider’s study notes. Can I use these materials again or do I need to buy everything a second time?”


It is not uncommon for CFA candidates to fail the Level I, II, or III exam on the first try. I did not pass the Level II exam on the first attempt, despite having read the CFAI curriculum readings and a prep provider’s materials. To say the least, I was crushed—it was the first exam I ever took in my life that I studied for and did not pass. Such is life!

That being said, the CFA curriculum does change yearly at each level, sometimes significantly, sometimes not. Since each exam question is based explicitly on the curriculum, any candidate should emphasize mastery of the most current curriculum content in their study program. That means that all CFA materials, be it the CFAI curriculum readings or the prep provider’s materials, have a shelf life of one year. 2011 Level II and III materials are good for the 2011 exam; if you failed the exam you should purchase the 2012 materials for the 2012 exam and put the 2011 materials away.

Everyone knows that the costs of the materials are not cheap. It may be tempting to save some money on books. Do not be penny-wise, pound-foolish! The savings you make by not purchasing the current materials can result in the more expensive cost of retaking the exam the following year because questions asked on the exam were based on new readings or new Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) that were not in the previous year’s curriculum.

Note: For Level I candidates taking the exam in June of any year, the curriculum and materials do not change for the December exam of that same year. So, you can reuse your study materials. However, if you take the exam in December and fail it, you will need to purchase new materials for the following year.

–Nathan Ronen, CFA

Have a CFA prep question? Send it to the editor, and we will ask one of our CFA Prep Instructors. Please include your name and whether or not you are a Level I, II, or III candidate (if applicable). Questions can also be kept anonymous.

O. Nathan Ronen is the lead CFA instructor at NYSSA and has helped over 20,000 candidates to pass the CFA exams. He has been teaching CFA Levels I, II, and III for over 16 years and has a unique understanding of each level. Ronen’s knowledge and real-world finance experience helps bring the theory to life. Ronen worked as a supervisory analyst training government regulators, an accounting analyst, and a corporate finance analyst. Ronen has also taught in-house CFA seminars at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and many other major financial institutions. He holds an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Chicago.

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I would make a couple of points:
1. As Nathan points out, the yearly changes are sometimes significant, sometimes not. So look into that first. Spending a couple of hours to compare LOS' is not a waste of time, and is actually a nice way to get the big picture.
2. For those of you who make your own handwritten notes in the margins of CFAI / prep provider material, having to do that on brand new material that is 90% same as last year's, is a waste of time.

I am a HEAVY note taker on the margins of any study material. I underline and highlight with abandon on every single page. This made the study material extremely personalized for my learning needs. They were my flash cards, my cliff notes, and my primary retention tool. So when re-reading something in May, that I last read in Feb, the a-ha moment was a lot easier to come by.

Well i took the level 2 exam and didnt pass it last year
so i am thinking of siting for the exam again this year but all my notes and summary selections are on the 2010 edition cfa books,so should i study the material again in my current books or should i get the latest edition having to say that mine are last year`s books

thank you

Hi Amer,

As my article suggested, it would not be a good idea to reuse any prior years' CFA books or prep provider's materials. All materials have a shelf life of one year, no more.

There have been changes in the CFA Level 2 program (different readings, LOSs etc.) since 2010 so I would recommend getting the 2012 materials for the 2012 exam as your materials are already two years old.

Hope that helps.


Hi I am taking the june 2012 exam but i have used the december 2011 material. have i take high risk?

What about using study materials for 2011 Level 1 for this December's test?

Hi Tim,

As Nathan mentioned, the curriculum changes yearly. Using 2011 materials for the 2012 exam may not be as helpful as purchasing the 2012 study materials.

Good luck!

Hi guys,

I have never studied or enrolled for CFA programme before. My friend bought the cfa book level 1, however he went back to his country suddenly as his visa run out. He left me the books, i am currently studying for the exam in June, i was wondering if i can just register for the exam only, and if so how much will it be?

Thank you,


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