Level II CFA Exam Quick Facts

  • You must pass the Level I CFA exam before you can register for the Level II CFA exam.
  • The Level II CFA exam fee is $700 for early registration and $1,000 for standard registration.
  • After your registration payment is processed, you will see the “schedule your exam” option in your CFA Program tile. This allows you to register for a specific date within the next exam window.
  • The Level II CFA exam 10-year average pass rate is 45%.
  • The exam is 4 hours and 24 minutes long split into 2 equal sessions, each with 44 vignette-supported multiple-choice questions for a total of 88 questions worth 3 points each.
  • Results for the Level II exam are available within approximately 60 days of the exam date or 6-8 weeks after the close of the exam window.

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How to Study for the Level II CFA Exam

Here are 5 key steps on how to study for and pass the Level II CFA exam.

1. Plan your Level II CFA exam date

Once you know you passed the Level I CFA exam, plan your Level II CFA exam date. You will have to schedule your Level II exam for at least 6 months after your Level I exam and you want to make sure you have enough time to adequately prepare.

The 2022 Level II CFA exam is offered in February, August, and November.

Learn more about the current CFA exam dates.

2. Register for the Level II CFA exam date

Level II CFA exam registration can be completed in two steps. First, register for the exam and pay the Level II CFA exam fee ($700 for early registration or $1,000 for standard registration). Second, self-schedule your exam date and location via your CFA Program tile.

3. Schedule regular time to study

You will need to study even longer for Level II than you did for Level I. Recommended study time for Level II is at least 328 hours (compared to 303 hours for Level I). Make sure to spread out your studying so you don’t burn yourself out.

Wiley offers numerous CFA Level II Study Supplements to keep your study schedule on track.

4. Invest in course materials that help you pass the Level II CFA exam

Level II is harder than Level I (and some contend that it’s the hardest CFA exam). Don’t take any chances with passing the exam; invest in a CFA review course that will help you understand the exam material and pass the first time.

Wiley CFA review courses reliably prepare you for the Level II CFA exam with features like video lessons presented by expert instructors, 30-45-minute bite-sized lessons, expert mentors, practice exams, a Score Predictor, and more!

5. Expect to pass the Level II CFA exam

A positive mindset can go a long way in helping you prepare for the exam. If you study for over 328 hours, use Wiley CFA study materials, and pace yourself, you should feel confident going into exam day and expect to pass. You’ve got this!

Level II CFA Exam Pass Rate

According to CFA Institute, the 10-year average pass rate for the Level II CFA exam is 45% compared to 44% for the CFA exam overall. It is considerably harder than Level II because it introduces vignette-supported questions, it introduces material that may not have been introduced in many college and graduate business programs, and it tests at a higher skill level.

In August 2021, the Level II CFA exam pass rate hit a historic low of 29%, but that is likely due to test schedule disruptions resulting from COVID-19, and pass rates are expected to recover. Regardless, if you make the time to study for over 328 hours and use the right test prep service, you can be part of the percentage that passes.

Level II CFA Exam Weights and Reading Materials

Where Level I primarily requires candidates to have knowledge and comprehension of topic areas with some application of the material to investment problems, Level II focuses much more heavily on application and analysis with some synthesis of knowledge across topic areas. The vignette-style exam format helps to test a candidate’s ability to synthesize required learning, and topic areas are tested in no particular order on the Level II exam.

According to CFA Institute, candidates who passed Level II in 2019 spent an average of 328 hours studying. Make the most of those 328 hours (or more) by reviewing the CFA program curriculum and/or investing in a CFA exam test prep service.

Learn more about the current CFA exam weights by topic.

Level II CFA Exam Weights:

CFA Exam Topic Area

Level III Topic Weight (%)

Ethical & Professional Standards10-15
Quantitative Methods5-10
Economics5-10
Financial Statement Analysis10-15
Corporate Issuers5-10
Equity Investments10-15
Fixed Income10-15
Derivatives5-10
Alternative Investments5-10
Portfolio Management & Wealth Planning10-15

Level II CFA Exam Passing Score

CFA Institute’s Board of Governors sets the minimum passing score (MPS) for the Level II exam based on recommendations from groups of CFA charterholders who review the exam questions to establish how a minimally qualified candidate would perform.

Instead of focusing on the Level II CFA exam MPS, make sure to get in at least 328 hours of study time and aim to score 70% or higher on mock exams.

The Level II CFA Exam Structure

The Level II CFA exam is 4 hours and 24 minutes long with 88 vignette-supported multiple-choice questions. The multiple-choice questions are divided into 4-or-6-question “item sets” related to a single vignette. The exam is equally divided into two sessions with an optional break offered between sessions.

The Level II exam tests all topic areas to some degree but focuses on ethical and professional standards, financial statement analysis, equity and fixed income investments, and portfolio management and wealth planning. The exam questions require candidates to apply learned information to investment situations, analyze assets and their value, and synthesize information to develop new approaches to solve investment-related problems.

Level II CFA Exam Format:

  • Level II CFA exam, Session #1:
    • 2 hours and 12 minutes
    • 44 vignette-supported multiple-choice questions

  • Level II CFA exam, Session #2:
    • 2 hours and 12 minutes
    • 44 vignette-supported multiple-choice questions

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The Level II CFA Exam Curriculum

The Level II CFA exam curriculum tests the same 10 topic areas as the Level I CFA exam, but it expands on that knowledge and requires candidates to demonstrate their ability to apply concepts in new situations and, in some cases, in new ways.

Ethics and Professional Standards

Ethics and Professional Standards make up 10-15% of the Level II CFA exam. Candidates will be tested on their ability to recall how ethics and professional standards relate to the investment industry.

Quantitative Methods

Quantitative Methods makes up 5-10% of the Level II CFA exam. This topic covers concepts and techniques related to financial analysis and investment decision-making.

Economics

Economics makes up 5-10% of the Level II CFA exam. This area tests the ability to analyze and apply concepts related to basic supply and demand (as it relates to individual consumers and firms).

Financial Statement Analysis

Financial Reporting and Analysis make up 10-15% of the Level II CFA exam. Candidates will be tested on their ability to apply and analyze information related to financial reporting procedures and financial reporting disclosure standards.

Corporate Issuers

Corporate Issuers make up 5-10% of the Level II CFA exam. This area tests the ability to apply and analyze information related to corporate governance and investing and financial decision-making.

Equity Investments

Equity Investments makes up 10-15% of the Level II CFA exam. Candidates will need to apply and analyze information related to equity investments, security markets, indexes, and basic equity valuation models.

Fixed Income

Fixed Income makes up 10-15% of the Level II CFA exam. This section tests the ability to apply and analyze information related to fixed income securities, yield measures, risk factors, and valuation measurements and drivers.

Derivatives

Derivatives make up 5-10% of the Level II CFA exam. Candidates must be able to apply and analyze information related to derivatives and derivative markets.

Alternative Investments

Alternative Investments makes up 5-10% of the Level II CFA exam. The alternate investments tested in this area include hedge funds, private equity, real estate, commodities, and infrastructure

Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning

Portfolio Management makes up 10-15% of the Level II CFA exam. Candidates must apply and analyze basic concepts related to portfolio and risk management.

Taking the Level II CFA Exam

As you prepare for the Level II CFA exam, it’s a good idea to brush up on new CFA exam rules and your plan for the night before the exam and the day of.

New Level II CFA exam rules

With all CFA exams having transitioned to computer-based testing in 2021, there are some new rules affecting the exam. Instead of the Level II exam being offered once per year on one day/time, it is now offered 3 times per year and can be taken during an exam window (up to 10 days). Because of this, there is now a rule that candidates can only take 2 CFA exams per year, and they must be at least 6 months apart.

The night before taking the Level II CFA exam

The night before the exam is the perfect time to pay extra attention to your self-care. Make sure your brain and body are ready for the big day by planning to relax, eat healthy meals, and get plenty of sleep.

Learn more about last-minute CFA exam tips.

What to bring into CFA exam

As with the Level I CFA exam, you are only allowed to bring a few items into the CFA exam testing center like your approved calculator, glasses, passport, and necessary medical devices.

You will be required to leave all other items in your car or in lockers, if provided, at the testing center. For more information on what you can bring to the CFA exam, see CFA Institute’s CFA Exam Personal Belongings Policy.

After You Take the Level II CFA Exam

After taking the Level II CFA exam, you await your results and then either start preparing for Level III if you passed or prepare to retake Level II if you did not pass.

When do you get your scores back from the Level II CFA exam?

Your exam results for the Level II CFA exam will be delivered to you via email within approximately 60 days of your exam date. Results are typically released 8-10 weeks after the exam window has closed.

What if you don’t pass the Level II CFA exam?

If you don’t pass the Level II CFA exam, you’ll want to retake it as soon as possible. CFA Institute only allows candidates to take 1 exam every 6 months, so the earliest you’ll be able to retake it is 6 months after your original Level II exam date.

First, you’ll need to register to retake the exam and pay the exam registration fee again ($700 for early registration or $1,000 for standard registration). Then you’ll self-schedule the exam.

Once your retake exam is scheduled, you should resume studying immediately and focus on practice questions and mock exams to evaluate your preparedness.

Prepare for Level III CFA exam

If you pass the Level II CFA exam (congratulations!), your next step is preparing for the Level III CFA exam. The soonest you can schedule your Level III exam is 6 months after your Level II exam date. This is to adhere to CFA Institute’s policy of only allowing candidates to take 2 exams per year at least 6 months apart.

According to CFA Institute, candidates that passed Level III in 2019 spent an average of 344 hours studying, so sign up for your Level III Wiley CFA Review Course and start studying!

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CFA Level II Exam – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are quick answers to some frequently asked questions about the Level II CFA exam.

  • Yes. the Level II CFA exam is hard because it introduces vignette-supported questions that require analysis and application.
  • You can take the Level II CFA exam 6 months after passing the Level I CFA exam.
  • You can pass the Level II CFA exam in 4 months by studying for at least 328 hours and using a CFA prep course like Wiley CFA. That means you will need to budget at least 19 hours of studying per week for 4 months and use Wiley CFA to keep you on track and aware of how you’re progressing through the material.
  • Based on pass rates, the Level III exam is the hardest. However, the Level III CFA exam has the highest pass rate of the three exam levels (53%), and Level II has the second-highest pass rate (45%). This could be due to less qualified candidates self-selecting out of the program after failing a previous level.