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08/20/2012

My CFA Experience (Level II): Vy Bui


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After almost eight weeks of waiting from June 2nd to July 24th and another five terrifying hours of waiting on the day results were released, it was a great feeling to know that I passed the CFA® Level II exam. I couldn’t be happier knowing that all my hard work and support from family members, friends, instructor, and coworkers paid off in the end.

Following up on my previous two articles about my CFA Level I exam experience, this article will emphasize what did and did not change in my study strategies that helped me successfully overcome the daunting challenges of moving from the Level I to the Level II exam.

WHAT CHANGED?

The hours I spent preparing for the exam. I put in approximately 350 hours studying for the Level I exam and 450 hours for the Level II exam. Even though there are 240 questions in Level I and only 120 questions in Level II, I spent 100 more hours because the exam format and required knowledge differ greatly between the two levels. At Level II, you have a total of 20 item sets with six multiple-choice questions per item set. It means that on average you have about three minutes to answer each question including reading the vignette. The Level II material is more challenging. It demands a deeper understanding of concepts than you learned and developed in your Level I studies. According to CFA Institute (CFAI), Level I requires "knowledge and comprehension," while Level II demands "analysis and application."

The materials I used to study for the exam. For Level I, I relied 100% on Schweser study materials which included the Notes, QBank, and practice exams. For Level II, I used both CFAI curriculum and Schweser materials. I did all the QBank questions for Level I but completed less than half for Level II. With the limited time I had, instead of doing QBank questions, it was better for me to focus on reviewing all the examples and end-of-chapter questions in the Schweser books, and practicing as many full-length practice exams as I could (I finished a total of nine exams—seven from Schweser and two from CFAI). Having a firm grasp of the concepts and doing so many practice questions made me well prepared me for the Level II exam.


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I joined a study group. This was one of the many advantages that I had from going to NYSSA review classes. I was lucky to find a good group of people who are smart and have a strong work ethic. Not only did we help each other study, we also motivated and supported one another throughout the Level II exam process. My group did not meet regularly since we all had different schedules; we mainly communicated via emails and phone calls. However, when we met, our meetings were productive because we already discussed what topics we wanted to go over ahead of time and asked people to come prepared with questions they had for the group. I’m very happy that all my group members passed the Level II exam and will continue to be with me in this process to conquer the Level III exam. There is no doubt that our friendship will carry on and even grow after the CFA exams.

WHAT DIDN’T CHANGE?

My work ethic, faith, persistence, and drive for success. I wanted to follow the shortest road to complete the CFA Program and it was not easy. I invested countless hours in the Level I and Level II exams from August 2011 to May 2012. I remember getting up at 5 a.m. in the dead of winter to get in a few hours of studying before work or staying up until 12 a.m. to study some more. I also gave up my Saturdays and Sundays just to study for the CFA exams. I must say it was difficult and tiring; however, a strong belief that hard work pays off in the end and a commitment to becoming a CFA charterholder kept me going every single day during this process.

Having a good study plan and following it strictly. I spent at least 25 hours per week (3 hours per weekday and 5 hours per weekend) over a four-month period to put in over 400 hours of intensive study for Level II. I was fortunate enough to be able to take some days off from work before the exam day for final review, which was very helpful. I studied hard, but I occasionally took breaks in-between to keep myself from burning out.

As you can see, my study strategies changed from Level I to Level II to adapt to the Level II exam format and more challenging material. However, the keys to successfully completing the CFA Program are having an organized, disciplined approach and, most importantly, the motivation to achieve the CFA designation—the most widely known and respected investment credential in the world.

I hope that CFA level II candidates will find this article helpful in preparing for their exams and congratulations to all of you who passed the June 2012 CFA exams.

–Vy Bui, passed June 2012 level II CFA exam


As an impartial, nonprofit forum for the finance and banking industries NYSSA encourages discussion and debate among its member and other professionals. Commentaries, however, should be taken as the sole opinion of the author(s) and not of NYSSA. If you would like to submit a commentary to the Finance Professional's Post, send your article to the editor.

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