Taking CFA Level 2 after passing Level 1 in December

A Beginner’s Guide to Corporate Bonds
Exiting a few positions on the continued Trump rally
What is the fall in pending home sales telling us?

If you found yourself among the 43% who passed CFA Level 1 in December, CONGRATS! It’s always a relief to receive the e-mail that says “We are pleased to inform you” rather than the one that begins with “We regret”. I received both over the course of my CFA Exam journey so I can empathize if you received the latter.  So if you passed CFA Level 1 in December, should you take CFA Level 2 in June?

It’s a common question I see posted in the LinkedIn group for CFA candidates. Many worry about the time constraints since the December results are released towards the end of January. That means you only have February through May to prepare. Let me tell you it can be done. I know because I did it. The answer in a nutshell is simply YES, you should roll right into preparing to take CFA Level 2 in June. Here’s a few reasons why.

CFA Level 2 is only offered in June

One of the benefits of taking and failing CFA Level 1 in June (if there is a benefit) is the opportunity to test again in December. The material is still fresh and you can brush up on your weaknesses. You don’t receive that luxury with CFA Level 2 since the exam is only offered one time per year.

If you decide to skip taking CFA Level 2 in June, you would end up waiting a year and half for the next time the exam is offered. How much of the material from Level 1 will you retain after that long? For me, many of the formulas and concepts I didn’t use regularly began to fade as soon as I left the test center and drove to the nearest bar (I recommend Abita Amber, a local Louisiana brew).

CFA Level 2 Exam Therapy

In addition, you don’t want to spend a year and a half studying for Level 2. It’s already miserable enough. Don’t do that to yourself! Studying too long before the exam can also lead to material retention problems and you would end up having to re-study the material closer to the exam date anyways.

If you develop a plan to cover the material, review, and leave time to take multiple practice exams in May – there is plenty of time to be prepared to take CFA Level 2 in June and pass. You just have to be dedicated to the cause and spend your time wisely. 

You Have Nothing to Lose


Most CFA candidates receive some kind of monetary support from their employer. Either the employer will front the bill or offer to reimburse the expense if you pass. If not, the fees range from $650 to $1,380 depending on how soon you register. In the grand scheme of things these exams are not too costly. You should be looking at this as an investment in yourself. Is there anything better to invest in? No, not FANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google). Have you seen the EV/EBITDA of those companies?

Yes, there is a potential to lose money on the fees but you still gain the invaluable experience of taking the CFA Level 2 exam, becoming aware of your weaknesses, and then developing a plan to correct things for the next attempt. It also softens the blow if it is your employer’s money and not your own.


Time is a valuable commodity due to its limited supply. You are going to miss out on fun opportunities to spend with your friends and family. You will have to say “no, I’m studying for the CFA exam” when people invite you to go check out the <insert pop band here> concert.  It sucks. But if you don’t do it now, you will have to do it next year. Get it out of the way now. Do you really care about the Lady Gaga concert or do you want to make more money and advance your career?


If you’ve ever watched Pulp Fiction you know what Marcellus Wallace says about pride. Don’t let your pride or the risk of being embarrassed of failing get in your way.

Pride only hurts, it never helps. – Marcellus Wallace

You didn’t choose a career path in the investment area to be afraid of risk. We respect risk, we manage risk, but we don’t run from risk. The huge upside to succeeding and passing CFA Level 2 in June THIS YEAR is you get to take the 2nd half of the year off and begin Level 3 in January. To me, the upside of moving on to Level 3 is like buying an out of the money option. If the call expires out of the money then all you lose is the cost of the call, but if it’s in the money you win big. Limited downside, huge upside. Don’t worry you will learn more about options in the dreaded derivatives section.

Maximize your time on Earth

Shortly after I took CFA Level 3, I read the tragic story of Emiel Mahler who was a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that was shot down over Ukraine. Emiel sat for CFA Level 3 in June of 2014 but died before receiving the news he passed the exam. The CFA Institute presented and awarded the CFA charter posthumously to his family which I thought was a nice gesture considering the hard work and dedication it takes to pass these exams.

Maximize your time on this Earth by setting goals and completing them timely. If you set out to earn the charter and have completed Level 1 then obviously your next goal is to pass CFA Level 2. Commit to do it now rather than later.

Get to Work!

I hate to tell you this but CFA Level 1 was the easy part. Now it’s time to get to work on the slightly more difficult challenge – CFA Level 2. There’s really no reason to delay until next year. Get started and pass CFA Level 2 for all of the reasons I mentioned above.

After failing CFA Level 1 in June of 2013, I took it again in December and passed. I began studying for CFA Level 2 around the first week of February 2014 and passed on the first attempt. It wasn’t easy, but it can be done and you can do it too! Get to work and good luck!

Have questions about the CFA Program or preparation for the exams? Please reach out in the comments section below.