Combine this with the fact that there needs to be a minimum of ~6 months gap between CFA exams taken, many candidates – in particular CFA Level 2 candidates – find themselves with just 4 months to prepare for the next level.
With CFA Level 2 increasing in scope and depth compared to Level 1, studying for CFA Level 2 in 4 months is no mean feat. And certainly not something you want to repeat.
I’ve done this years ago with a full time job and just about scraped through. Here’s what I learned from my experience and how you can hopefully do it too with less stress.
- 1) Enjoy your brief time off after Level 1
- 2) Check that your study plan actually works
- 3) Set specific targets on finishing books, and stick to it
- 4) Use your study materials wisely
- 5) Don't fret too much about study order
- 6) Start studying earlier, if you can
- 7) Start the studying machine up slowly
- 8) Don’t take Ethics for granted
- 9) Practice, practice, practice
- What's your plan to prepare for CFA Level 2 in 4 months?
1) Enjoy your brief time off after Level 1
It can be tempting to rush straight in to prepare for CFA Level 2, even if you’re relatively confident of a Level 1 pass.
However, this strategy is likely to backfire as there is an increased risk of burnout without a a break from studying. It also gives you an opportunity to spend some time with family and friends whom you may have neglected a little during your Level 1 preparations.
Relax, read (non-CFA) books, hang out with family and friends, or do some gardening or DIY projects. It may seem like a ‘waste of time’, but it all contributes to your resilience later when you start studying. Trust me 🙂
Aim for 3-4 weeks of proper, no-studying-allowed break before you move to the next planning step. Why 3-4 weeks? See further insights below, in particular tip #6.
2) Check that your study plan actually works
You already know that CFA Level 2 covers the widest and deepest knowledge among 3 levels. So you definitely need a solid study plan.
First thing you need to do is create and assess if your study plan is feasible. We have an awesome, customizable and free study planner you can use here.
On average, CFA Level 2 candidates logged 328 hours of studying time. In my experience, I think 350 hours of studying time is more realistic for a good chance of passing, especially if done in 4 months.
Using 350 hours as a guide, this means you’ll need to aim for 20 hours of study time a week to complete it in 4 months.
It is more challenging for candidates with a demanding full time job, but a typical set up is to aim for studying 2 hours on a weekday (either early morning or at night), and 5 hours per day on weekends.
Assess if you can carve out 20 hours a week consistently. If not, figure out ways to rearrange work and life commitments to explore what works for you. Some examples:
- Can you arrange your work schedule to leave 1 hour earlier?
- Can you concentrate on your studies if you study during your long commute?
- Can you work from home on certain days to save commute time for studying?
- Can you study before and/or after work?
Once you are happy that you can make 20 hours of weekly study time, let’s move to the next step.
3) Set specific targets on finishing books, and stick to it
With the typical advice of leaving the last month for review and doing practice questions, this leaves you 3 months to complete your first round reading of 6 books.
That means you need to finish reading 2 books a month, or a book every 2 weeks or so.
Set very clear goals of where you need to be in the curriculum by when.
And never deviate from this plan, blitz through them if you find yourself running out of time as long as you finish.
Don’t worry about not reading thoroughly for sections you have had to rush, because you’ll hopefully catch those during the last month of review and practice sessions.
Your mistake of deviating is more serious, as it will compound over the 4 months and you may find that you’re 1 book behind by the end of 3 months of reading, which would heavily impact your chances of passing.
OK, once you’ve created your study plan and sworn to stick to your timelines no matter what happens, let’s move to the next strategy.
4) Use your study materials wisely
Given the short study window, it is unlikely you have sufficient time to read through CFA Institute’s books in 3 months.
My recommendation here is to use a reputable third party provider to help go through the study materials succinctly, and use CFA Institute as a good source of reference and supplement when you’re doing the end of chapter (EOC) questions.
Although an additional cost, it does save your study time, which is handy if you have to do CFA Level 2 in 4 months!
Check out our latest offers page to see if there are any good deals for your preferred CFA study provider.
5) Don’t fret too much about study order
With a goal to finish reading 2 books per month for 3 months (see tip #3), you may wonder if there is any particular order of topics you should study first, or last.
The typical recommendation is for candidates NOT to start reading Ethics first, leaving it towards the end of their studies. This is also reflected in the latest 2023 curriculum whereby Ethics readings is moved to the end.
Other than that, you can study in the order of the curriculum, or follow what we think is an optimal order of topics to study for Level 2, or decide your own based on what motivates you to get the ball rolling.
6) Start studying earlier, if you can
Even if all the study planning and juggling work/life commitments work, it can be useful to try to start studying earlier after 1 month of rest (see tip #1).
This is because you can build up an emergency buffer, just in case something happen in life/work that may derail your very tight schedule. Having an emergency buffer if you can just makes sense as it increases your chances of passing.
How do you start studying earlier if you don’t even have the new books?
A good practice is to check out the latest CFA curriculum changes, and start studying sections from the old/existing Level 2 syllabus that don’t have much changes. You can probably get existing syllabus cost effectively or borrow from a colleague.
7) Start the studying machine up slowly
When I got my study material, the last thing I wanted to do was open the books.
This may be different for you, but it can get hard starting the studying routine again after a lovely break.
The point here is to get started, even if it is just one page.
Increase the pace as you go along while keeping an eye on your study plan targets to ensure you meet those goals you have set yourself.
8) Don’t take Ethics for granted
Given the similarities in Ethics for CFA Level 1 and 2, it may be tempting to save some time by skipping this section for Level 2.
This is a mistake, as it is likely you have forgotten some of it by then, and there are some new stuff added between the two levels.
Do check out our CFA Level 1 Ethics cheat sheet for a quick refresher reading.
9) Practice, practice, practice
Each mock exams takes 4.5 hours to write and almost as long to check.
With my work schedule, I found it hard to do a full exam in one day and then check the answers the next.
Instead, I would do half an exam at a time during the evenings one night and then grade and check it the next.
This allowed me to get through an exam during the week and to check it as well. On the weekends, I would write a full mock exam in one day and check it the next.
This allowed me to complete 7-8 sets of mock papers from various study providers during the last month, interspersed with reviewing sections I’m weaker in with CFA Institute books.
The variety offered by the different exams really helped sharpen my skills. If finances are an issue, I would put my study dollars towards buying practice exams exams vs. paying for notes – you can also see the latest offers on CFA materials here.
What’s your plan to prepare for CFA Level 2 in 4 months?
Having gone through it myself, studying for CFA Level 2 in 4 months is challenging but not impossible.
With commitment, specific goal setting, and the right resources, you can pass this challenging level in a short window.
I hope you found these CFA Level 2 tips useful and I wish you the best of luck! If you have any questions or further tips to add, please just drop them in the comments below.
Meanwhile, you may find these related articles of interest:
- CFA Level 2 Tips: Top 10 Advice from Previous Candidates
- CFA Level 2: How to Prepare & Pass CFA in 18 Months
- Free and Upgraded – 300Hours CFA Study Planner
- CFA Level 2 Topics: What Is The Best Study Order?
- The Latest Free CFA Study Materials List
- How to Study Effectively: Proven Methods That Work for CFA, FRM and CAIA Exams
- CFA Mock Exams: How Many Practice Papers Should You Be Completing?
- 18 Actionable Ways to Improve Your Memory When Studying