The Level II CFA exam is widely considered to be one of the most difficult professional exams. Of the three CFA exams–Level II often claims the title of the most difficult level. However, candidates who dedicate time and effort to study can excel.

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How to Pass Level II of the CFA® Program Exam.

While the Level I CFA exam focuses on understanding basic concepts, the CFA Level II exam requires you to analyze lifelike situations and perform calculations based on the knowledge you have accumulated. In addition, you will need to memorize a significant number of formulae. Therefore, substantial practice is necessary to pass the CFA Level II.

How Is the Level II CFA Exam Structured?

Unlike the CFA Level I Exam, the questions are not free-standing–meaning they are not one-off multiple choice questions. Instead, candidates taking the exam must refer to the vignette before answering each question.The CFA Level II exam involves 88 questions organized into 4- or 6-question item sets across two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Each question in an item set draws information from a vignette describing various situations. Each vignette covers a specific topic area that will be examined randomly across the two sessions. UWorld offers an in-depth CFA Level II study guide and other resources to help you prepare.

Each section of the CFA Level II exam will have 44 questions, with each question worth 3 points.

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Each question is worth 3 points. Each question set will begin with a topic description and the total point value of the set in capitalized letters.For example:


How Long Is the CFA Level II Exam?

This exam, like the Level I and Level III exams, is a test of endurance, which adds to the CFA Level II difficulty.The Level II exam is split into two halves of 2 hours and 12 minutes each, for a total testing time of 4 hours and 24 minutes. Each section consists of 44 questions.

Candidates may receive an optional 30-minute break between the two sections.

When Can I Take the Level II CFA Exam?

The CFA Level II is generally offered three times per year. In 2022, the CFA Level II is offered in February, August, and November.However, there are also registration deadlines, scheduling deadlines, and rescheduling deadlines beyond the exam date. As of today, the relevant dates for 2022 are as follows:

Level II Exam Date Window

Registration Deadline

Scheduling Deadline

Rescheduling Deadline

Feb. 22–26, 2022 NA NA NA
Aug. 30–Sept. 3, 2022 May 3, 2022 May 25, 2022 Jul. 30, 2022
Nov. 22–26, 2022 Aug. 9, 2022 Aug. 17, 2022 Oct. 22, 2022

Learn more about the current CFA exam dates and schedule today.

Studying for the CFA Level II exam is self-paced, so candidates can prepare for the exam in a way that best matches their study methods and time constraints. While all levels of the CFA require hard work and adequate study time, setting a comfortable schedule can help ensure that first-time candidates successfully pass the CFA exams.

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Since successful candidates from a 2019 survey spent an average of 328 hours studying for the exam, a similar amount is recommended for upcoming candidates. However, those 328 hours may be spread over two months of full-time study or a year of part-time study.

Create a CFA Level II exam study plan to ensure you can walk in confidently, ready to pass on exam day.

What Is the Pass Rate for the Level II CFA Exam?

The CFA Level II consistently has the lowest pass rate. According to the CFA Institute, the pass rate fell to a record low of 29% in August 2021. The 10-year average pass rate for the CFA Level II is only 45%, whereas the pass rates for CFA Level I and Level III are 42% and 54%, respectively.Test results are available within 60 days of the exam window closing, which is the same for CFA Level I. Level III exam results are available within 90 days after the exam window closes.

Additionally, fewer candidates are sitting for the CFA exams in general. The CFA Institute puts much of the blame for recent down-trends on the disruption caused by the global pandemic.

CFA Level II vs. CFA Level III

Passing the CFA Level II exam is a prerequisite for taking the CFA Level III exam.All three levels of the CFA exam require precise time management skills.

CFA Level II exam difficulty is a good gauge for Level III difficulty. While the structure of the Level III exam includes both item-set questions and constructed-response questions, both have similar average pass rates.

The Level III exam requires candidates to apply skills previously demonstrated during the Level II exam. The CFA Level III exam also expects candidates to draw upon their judgment and writing abilities.

The knowledge required to pass the Level III exam is both broad and deep. This is the final exam, and candidates are expected to demonstrate and apply an impressive amount of knowledge.

The CFA Level III may also combine multiple topics within a single question, whereas Level II separates each topic into a separate item set.

The CFA Level III exam morning session involves vignette-supported essay sets with three different methods of entering a response for each item: essay, numerical entry, or multiple choice. The afternoon exam features multiple-choice items structured into 4- or 6-question sets specific to a vignette.

These essay questions are the most challenging part of the CFA Level III exam for many candidates.

Topic weights are also different on each level of the CFA exam. For example, the topic “Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning” is weighted particularly heavily on the Level III exam, so candidates should overweight their study of this topic area.

Where the CFA Level II exam tests 10 topic areas, the Level III exam tests only seven.

On the CFA Level III exam, the three eliminated topics are:

  • Quantitative Methods
  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Corporate Issuers

The 10-year average pass rate is significantly higher for the Level III exam compared to the Level II. The average pass rates for the Level II and Level III exams are 45% and 54%, respectively. These figures include the test results from the last 10 years up to the November 2021 test results.

CFA Level II vs. CFA Level I

The Level I CFA Exam is the first of three CFA levels, with each being a requirement for the subsequent level. For more information on Level I exam difficulty, be sure to check out our helpful resource on how hard is the Level I CFA exam.While some topic areas may be unfamiliar to some candidates, the CFA Level I exam surveys concepts taught in undergraduate business school classes, such as introductory statistics, economics, finance, and accounting. The CFA Level I exam primarily requires candidates to recall basic information or interpret information in their own words or, to a lesser extent, apply or generalize knowledge to a new application.

The CFA Level II exam, however, contains more specialized content. Therefore, while undergraduate study alone may allow some candidates to pass the Level I exam, rigorous self-study is required to pass the Level II exam. The CFA Level II exam focuses more on application along with developing relationships among parts (analysis) and building relationships of parts into new situations (synthesis).

With both the CFA Level I exam and the CFA Level II exam, results are available within 60 days of sitting for the examination.

The 10-year average pass rates for the CFA Level I and Level II exams are relatively similar, with Level I having an average pass rate of 42%, compared to 45% for Level II. These figures include the test results from the past 10 years up to the November 2021 exam results.

Registration and Costs for the CFA Level II

Due to the pandemic, the CFA Level II exams for 2022 are being held in February, August, and November. In 2023 and going forward, expected exam dates will be in May, August, and November. Registration deadlines generally close three to four months before each exam.Registration costs can vary depending on when you register for the exam.

Candidates who sign up within the early registration deadline receive a $300 discount off the standard registration fee of $1,000 and pay only $700.

Keeping track of the CFA exam schedule, exam dates, and registration deadlines can be tricky. Learn more about the CFA exam dates and schedule today.

Study Materials for the Level II CFA Exam

Numerous companies can help candidates prepare for the Level II CFA exam. However, not all courses offer the same quality standards.

UWorld has the best preparatory course and study materials for the CFA exams. It offers numerous practice exams and mock exams for candidates to use. Its exam questions include mini-cases and cover all relevant topic areas, such as corporate finance and financial reporting and analysis. These practice questions help guarantee UWorld candidates are properly prepared on exam day.

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UWorld even offers candidates unlimited access to study materials until they pass the CFA exam.

Salary and Career Outlook for Level II CFA Exam Candidates

Passing the Level II CFA exam is a badge of honor for candidates. This qualification can help open doors into the world of capital market research and analytics, wealth management, or equity research.The average salary for a fresh CFA Level II graduate in the United States with no experience is around $45,000. CFA charterholders who also possess the MBA credential may also earn even higher salaries.

The more significant salary bump comes with experience and passing the final CFA Level III exam.

For example, a new CFA charterholder can expect an average salary of $47,000 to $52,000. Once that person accumulates two to three years of experience, they can expect to earn over $60,000. After gaining seven years of experience, that salary can quickly jump to six figures.

Give yourself the best chance at passing the Level II CFA exam with UWorld.