Let’s Talk About: CFA Level I Results

Thirty-eight percent of the December™ Level I™ test-takers test-takers learn by email today that they’re one step closer to being able to guarantee investment results. As for your humble correspondent … he passed. Go team!

The good news: For 38% of you, this is the first step on a 4-year road to spectacular wealth and professional fulfillment. For me … struggling a bit. I’m not sure that 1/3rd of a CFA credential + blogging experience is the the first step on a 4-year road to anywhere anyone would particularly want to be, though as an experiment we’re going to start a Dealbreaker Investing Tips newsletter, slap CFA logos all over it, and charge $600 a month to subscribe. The main advantage for me is not having to write a post saying “I failed, have at it!”

The bad news: For 62% of you, this is the first step on a … 6-month road …. to taking Level I again? Or just give up? I don’t know, missing out on this particular prize doesn’t seem life-ruining, unless you did something dumb like predicting your likelihood of success to the internet. For me … does this mean I need to do two more of these? Because, that sucks. I’m sort of assuming that I can get by at Level II with somewhat less diligence than I devoted to Level I – true? Surely with Level I to weed out the no-hopers and Level III to maintain the high standards of Charterholdering™ with its, ugh, essays, Level II is just a soft creamy middle filled with fees for the Institute. But then they go and fail 57% of Level II takers, which seems harsh.

Anyway, the floor is yours: share your happiness/sadness/freaking out at passing/failing/not having received your email yet, or, if Level I is just a fond memory for you, give me advice on whether passing Level II will require me to ruin a whole week of my summer.

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157 Responses to “Let’s Talk About: CFA Level I Results”

  1. Bandersnatch says:

    Congrats Matt

  2. Anonymous says:

    congrats Matt

  3. Disgruntled Oil says:

    Hi, I'm Matt Levine and I'm in the 38%.

    Doesn't make your dick any bigger, son. I was fucking Trinidadian hookers on an oil tanker in the seventies for Marc Rich when your little exam was taking off.

  4. Richlams says:

    Level II requires a whole lot more study time. If you studied hard for Level I, then study triple hard for level II. Trust me, I've been there. I thought it will be easy so I slacked off. Now I'm joining the retakers club. Anyway, congrats on your achievement!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Glad they are making this harder again.

  6. Nonbeliver says:

    How about posting your results Matt?

  7. Alt_EST says:

    [Serious post]

    Level II is much different. Level I is basically, "Were you conscious while studying?" It is almost entirely conceptual, as I'm sure you noticed. As opposed to being asked to DO something, Level I asked you HOW TO do something (I used my calculator solidly less than 20 times in the whole thing).

    Level II is, from what I've heard and experienced from studying so far, much more valuation and doing. It still requires memorizing probably-useless things (current rate vs. temporal method currency translation, pension accounting…anyone?), but now you have to do them as well.

    Some probably need the CFA for bigger and/or better things (or just bump in pay), but honestly Matt, you worked at GS and have a ton of industry experience. I can't envision a situation where you get to an interview and they say no thanks because you didn't complete the CFA. The CFA is, from my point of view anyway, so people can go do the stuff you've already done.

    Then again, summer camp sounds awesome.

  8. Guest says:

    Congrats, Matt!


  9. Guest says:

    Congrats on passing.
    Best quote I ever read comparing Level I to Level II is:
    Level I = Germany's austerity plan for Europe in 2011.
    Level II = Germany's austerity plan for Europe in 1939.

  10. I have Great Thighs says:

    I knew you would pass. I just knew it. It was the tear away pants, right? The tear away pants put you over the top. I knew it!

  11. M_A says:

    I failed. 7th Band.

    I found the material not uncommonly hard but did not memorize the formulas well and did not dedicate enough time to the practice exams.

    I will say that the exam itself was easier than the practices I was stubbing my toes on (which took forever to do because I didn't know how to go thru).

    I was disenchanted with the test – I don't think I'm taking it again. I don't think its a test of aptitude (since its multiple choice) but rather ability to memorize…which I guess may just be every test.

  12. Guest says:

    @ Matt,

    Just forget about it. Never going to happen. You are almost guaranteed to have a question about insider trading on the ethics section of either Level II or Level III… And there will be lots and lots of essays… With a time limit! Plus, they are a little bit stingy with the blank paper allowance…

  13. VonSloneker says:

    Congratulations Matt!

    Also, you're going to love this…CFA Institute released new level III testing guidelines changing the essay requirements to include a Russian novel section. You're going to murder it!!

    – Von Sloneker Naipaul

  14. Whoops says:

    Congrats Matt!

    -Guy who blew off the CFA and kind of regrets it so he will live vicariously through Matt (in this regard only).

  15. Bilal says:

    Congrats Matt.

    I am also maintaining my blog I would be pleased to learn from your vast experience. Primarily I am sharing my experience over it as I am appearing for Level II this June. Good Luck for your next endeavor. Level II is way much deeper than Level I but that’s what make it a challenge and a learning opportunity.

  16. loquito13 says:


    As far as level II is concerened, it was one of the hardest exams i have ever taken. MUCH MUCH harder than LI. Pretty much every single topic is tougher, more detail, more formulas, and harder to apply. Not to mention the format of the exam makes it much more difficult. Some advice – if you are going for LII this summer, start studying tomorrow. Enjoy today, but you'll be happy you started as early as possible.

    Not trying to discourage you from taking it, in fact you should go for it. Just from personal experience, LII is very tough. I passed LI Dec 2010 and LII in June 2011, and it was a rough 10 months. GL!

  17. OPS Analyst says:

    Great. Six more months of this shit

  18. Im_a_Dude says:

    congrats Matt. looks like those midday tequila martinis helped.

  19. JDOT says:

    Prove it.

  20. TomTerrific says:

    At least people will stop talking about the Giants in a couple weeks. We have two more levels of Matt's test taking to suffer through.

  21. Brain Sensei says:

    CFA Haiku:

    The test was quite hard.
    What capital do I have?

  22. Put_Option says:

    Nothing more stimulating than understanding and utilizing Monte Carlo to simulate potential interest rate paths while incorporating interest rate volatility. And binomial trees? Probably about as fun as finding out an employee 'released' himself in your water bottle.

  23. Mike says:

    Wohoo.. look at that Matt.. you have your own group of blow jobbers who are falling over each other to congratulate you on your trivial achievement. Enjoy it.

  24. Cat Fancier Assoc'n says:

    According to the 2011 financials of the CFA Institute, the CFA institute has $22mm of operating revenue. It has about 450 employees according to its web site. Clearly they spend a bunch of money on marketing, but if even 2/3 of their operating revenue goes to compensation, then they are paying their employees an average of $300,000+. I wonder how that compares to CFA charterholders…

  25. Matt Fan says:

    Congrats, Matt. Please take LII and drink more at lunch, I went back and reread your previous posts and all comments. Fun stuff.

  26. Guest says:

    The calc of 300k avg comp above is consistent with what I've heard – family friend works there, it is a very sweet place to work (high comp, loads of vacation, first class travel to overseas events, etc).

  27. Guesto says:

    Trademarking December is the NKI

  28. NKI Cap Compliance says:

    Any idea how a subscription to the Dealbreaker Investing Tips newsletter would factor in to whether one was liable for "sophisticated insider trading" as opposed to regular insider trading?

  29. cfa III candidate says:

    level 2 demanded more prep than level 1, for myself and for most cfa-examinees i know

  30. Guest says:

    I don't believe there's a chance in hell you only studied for a week and passed. One of those two things is bullshit.

    Assuming it's the former, congrats.

  31. Charterholder says:

    Must echo everyone's comments on the increase in difficulty from LI to LII. I'd budget 2.5 weeks of studying.

  32. Greg says:

    Congrats Mat. I am also a Level I passer as of this morning, but just barely. Its going to take a gigantic leap starting soon to be able to pass Level II in June. But this definitely gives a big boost in motivating me to work hard for the next one. Good luck.

  33. LIKEABOSS says:

    Ah now it is clear why Romney hesitated to release his taxes: HE'S UNEMPLOYED AND RICH AS FUCK

    Hasn't been in politics in over 5 years and hasn't been at Bain in over a decade, yet clocks $21,661,344 a year. Unreal.

  34. PaulAllen says:

    @ M_A

    Of course it's not an apptitude test; you're not taking the SAT or an IQ exam you dumbfuck. Are you retarded?

  35. Kouwe says:

    Should I have taken CFA Level 1? Would it all have been different?

  36. Elliot Rosewater says:

    hurrah hurrah.

  37. Guest says:

    Great job Matt

  38. Dink says:

    Congrats. Can't wait to grade your L3 essays that are 10,000 words plus a hand drawn chart

    -exam grader CFA institute

  39. Patrick. says:

    Level 2 was the hardest exam I've ever taken

    Somehow I passed all 3 on the first try, but I must have been the low-water mark on thqt year's level 2

    Level 1 was simple. Finished the second half after only 45 minutes. But I studied for weeks in advance.

    Level 3 was not difficult, but tbere is no way to pass it w/o a big time commitment.

  40. Sherman McCoy says:

    Despite the fact that a CFA designation does not prove any competence in the art of investing(for that matter, neither does a Phd, Myron), it is a hard exam that many give up on and few pass. You're doing your bit to line the pockets of the CFA organaization, and perpetuating the myth that you should trust a certified CFA with your wealth the same way you'd trust a board certified surgeon with your life.

    Well done!

  41. barman says:

    Read the books, show up and write the exam. Pass. I don't want to hear anything else.

  42. takloo says:

    assuming one doesn't have industry experience, level II is more difficult than levels 1 and 3… lots of material and you need to be interested in the material otherwise there is no way to master it…

    i'm a level 3 candidate and i'm still not sure why I'm doing it…

  43. Sherman McCoy says:

    You're doing it because you would be unemployable in the asset management field without one-that's a pretty valid reason. I took it 20 years ago, that ethics section is a B1TCH!

    Barman, if it was easy for you, that probably means you're too intelligent for the business. Consider changing careers – academia needs more people like you!

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  46. level III candidate says:

    as a fellow candidate (wrote level III in June)I just wanted to congratulate you, it is definitely challenging.

    However, I feel the need to note that the program is not meant for you to "guarantee investment results" as your indicated above. This is a clear contradiction to the code of ethics of the program. With that in mind, good luck on level II as you apparently need it.

  47. MSOPSslave says:

    I just passed L1. I thought I knew the major parts of the material quite well, but was still kinda nervous to see my results. In prepping, i skimmed through the reading and focused on the q bank and practice tests. I used both Kaplan and Analyst Notes. Analyst notes is a lot harder but they have questions that aren't entirely true, for example when you compute PV of a zero coupon bond, you still need to treat this as semiannual periods. Analyst Notes only treats it as annual. Overall I would say take both Kaplan and Analyst Notes practice tests they really helped me. I got above 70 in every category except alternative investments (only 8pts).

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  95. detrOit345 says:

    You start by saying

    " Thirty-eight percent of the December™ Level I™ test-takers test-takers learn by email today that they’re one step closer to being able to guarantee investment results"

    You can never guarantee investment results. Read the ethics .. . .. This is CFA 101