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02/28/2012

The “Weight”iness of Level II Item Sets


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My last post, "Item Sets Define the Level II Exam," showed how the item-set format shifts the candidate’s focus and emphasized two additional test taking skills—reading speed and reading comprehension. This is because item sets contain vignettes, or large blocks of information, from which six multiple choice questions are asked. There are 20 item sets on the exam (10 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon), for a total of 120 questions. Despite having half the number of questions than the Level I exam, time management is still critical but it now takes a new dimension. The item-set format requires that the candidate read quickly and accurately in order to be successful. The item-set format also changes how questions can be structured and so impacts how things can be asked.

NOT ALL QUESTIONS CAN BE INCORPORATED INTO ITEM SETS

At Level I, questions are standalone, which means almost any piece of information or fact can be formatted into a question. But at Level II, there has to be enough information in the vignette to derive six multiple choice questions. That means the candidate needs to start thinking about what parts of the related study sessions (corporate finance or quantitative methods, for example) can be joined together to create questions within an item set. And alternatively, what parts of the curriculum, while interesting or important, don’t have enough in common with other topics to be included as a question in an item set.

CFAExamWeghts

LEVEL II TOPIC AREA WEIGHT RANGES

It has been estimated that the Level II curriculum contains enough information to create about 70 or 80 viable item sets. But remember, the test only contains 20 item sets. Therefore, not everything will be tested. The exam topic weight chart demonstrates this. Unlike the definite exam weights at Level I, the Level II topic weights are given in ranges. For example, investment tool questions can make up anywhere from 30% to 60% of the exam (36 to 72 questions), depending on what the examiners decide to test in any given year.

SUMMARY AND SUGGESTIONS

It is important to study with these points in mind. That way, you can be on the lookout for connections and organizing principles within the readings. At the same time, you can single out those important, but more obscure, pieces of information that examiners would most likely not be able to use in a vignette.

  • Be aware of how the curriculum (in the broad topic areas) connects. When reading, make notes on these connections and refer back to them when you start your home-stretch studying.
  • By taking practice exams, you will start to see how related material is pulled together into vignettes. This will help you see the organizing principals behind the questions.

–Linda Lam

Linda Lam has worked with a candidate review program since 2000.


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