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Primary Study Source and why?

There is the CFAI Curriculum. Then there is the Kaplan Schweser products. Then there is the Elan Guides and Stalla and others. In Schweser, there is Schweser videos, notes, audio notes and Secret Sauce. What on earth am I to study from primarily and then secondarily if any? and why? 

What I have been doing is Going though the Secret Sauce first, then going to a university CFA prep class, next reading the Schweser Notes immediately after class and then hammering questions from then on. If I come across one I can't do, I would then go to the CFAI Curriculum to find the answer to it. 

Please be kind and explain the method you used and if you used a different method, why you used it instead of what I do. 

Answers from Level 2 candidates, Level 3 Candidates, Level 3 passed finalists and Charter holders only please. Basically, anyone who have passed at least one CFA exam. 

Should I replace the Schweser Notes phase with the CFAI Curriculum? Because I can change to it with minimal opportunity cost. However, the Schweser's books seams advantageous being it that they are a condensed version of the CFAI Curriculum. 



  • SophieSophie Posts: 2,010 Sr Partner
    Hello @surangasa‌, welcome to 300HC, congrats on your recent pass!

    It's a good question, but one that depends on individual learning style. There is no right or wrong, but rather what works for you.

    I passed L1-3 years ago using just Schweser notes (only available at my time), glancing through Secret sauce at the end after I finished going through the notes, and then hitting practice papers to no end. It's largely 'offline' I suppose, I don't absorb video lectures or in-person classes very well (I slept in university lectures, that may explain why), and I'm quite a pen and paper person. I rarely used the CFA curriculum then, except for the occasional extra practice questions at the end of each chapter - but I've heard good things of how the curriculum has changed today vs. a few years ago.

    What did you do for Level1? I'm trying to understand the rationale of the question here, since your method worked for L1 after all.

  • edited July 2014

    @Sophie‌ I am trying to figure out what works for anyone who passes. So, I can tweak my own method. Honestly, I am not a big believer in learning style. I think what ever that works should be my learning style. By the way, I did a Level 1 exam two years ago not recently. I took a hiatus after that and that explains why I am not a Charter holder yet. 

    Its good to know that Schweser Notes and Secret Sauce coupled with questions was enough to pass for you. It might be so for me as well. The reason why I am taking a University Prep class is because my parents told me to (Giving an indication to my age) do it as it won't be disadvantageous if at all. 

    My method may have worked better for Level 1 if I see a pattern in the study sources used by many candidates. Thus the rationale for this question. 

  • I used Schweser for my first attempt at level 2 and I felt it did a poor job of covering the material, which was a common complaint by other candidates. For level I, Schweser was amazing. For level 2, not so much.

    For level II I would recommend a combination of Elan Guides and the CFAI texts:

    - Elan Study Notes
    - Elan Lecture Videos (especially those given by Peter Olinto)
    - CFAI End of Chapter Questions
    - CFAI Blue Box Examples
    - Elan Practice Questions (but prioritize CFAI EOC's)
    - CFAI Mock Exams
    - Elan Mock Exams

    This is by and large what I did for my recent success with level 2. Peter and Basit of Elan do a great job of explaining the concepts (especially pension accounting) and letting you know which topics to focus on. 

  • Here's my history:

    L1 (passed in first attempt in Dec 2013): Started in May. Read the CFAI text and did EOC problems religiously. Made my own flashcards after each chapter for review. Last month: used Schweser Q-bank for practicing questions and more serious mock exams (probably did 4 or 5 in total, between Schweser and CFAI exams).

    L2 (passed in first attempt in June 2014): Started in December. Read the CFAI text, did EOC problems, read Schweser notes and did EOC problems religiously. Used Schweser flashcards but wrote my notes on top of them (and even added cards when ran out of space), after each chapter for review. Last month: used Schweser Q-bank for practicing questions and more serious mock exams (probably did 6 or 7 in total, between Schweser and CFAI exams).

    Strategy for L3 (for June 2015): Will start in December (will do FRM Part 1 in November). Will do similar to what I did in L2.

  • There is a clear pattern emerging. Everyone here who replied said they did the EOC questions. Pattern recognised. 

    Since the curriculum is just three thousand odd pages after all I think its best for me to read the curriculum as opposed to the Schweser Notes. Pattern recognised.

    CFAI Mock Exam is the most difficult exam which some say is more difficult than the actual exam. So I will do that plus Schweser Practice Mock Exam Volume 1 & 2. Pattern recognised. 

    The Q-Bank is quite useless in my opinion and I take it that you think so too as none of you cared to mention it because its more calculation oriented and not tough enough compared to the actual exam. Pattern recognised. 

    I would like to see more patterns emerge so if you please, tell us your primary study source and why?

  • edited July 2014

    Good summary, @surangasa. But I actually see some value in the Q-bank (and I did mention it in my description). I don't think it's "calculation oriented", not much more than the exam is calculation oriented... 

    My reasons for using the Q-bank:

    1) Comprehensive: It includes a whole bunch of questions on all of the exam LOS, so you'll never have the excuse that you ran out of questions to practice

    2) Flexible: You can assemble a problem set using parameters (number of questions, topic & level of difficulty), or you can do questions for each LOS within a chapter

    3) Useful: It serves as a "confidence building" warm up before you tackle full mock exams (assuming you already did the EOC questions)

    In summary, it's not the Q-bank that will get you over the hump, but it can be instrumental in your preparation in my opinion.

  • @edulima‌ @DollarsToDonuts‌ quick question here: is the CFAI material, by itself, sufficient? say one studies from CFAI curriculum and solves all the questions provided by them, mocks, practice questions, EOC etc., would that be "good" preparation for L2? or supplementary material/questions from Elan/Schweser are essential?

  • @edulima‌ The problem with the Q Bank is that it is a bit more easier than the other sources of questions. 

    Partly because its questions are calculation oriented (I actually broke one button on my calculator doing them for overuse) and partly because I always get over 90% for those questions. While I do that, I get about 75% for the CFAI mock exams quite consistently. So, there is something wrong with the Q bank. Because when I ask everyone, they say that the CFAI mock exams are more indicative of the actual exam and I feel so too. 

    I will do the Q Bank questions only if I run out of questions otherwise and still feel less confident in answering them after about a hundred questions of the same topic. Which is likely for some topics. So, I am not entirely discrediting the Q Bank. 

    Being it that this is all about primary sources, I think it isn't going to be a primary source for me. 


  • Makes sense @surangasa. It's true, the Q-bank should have a label "use with care".

    @Pranav, to answer your question: the CFAI material is self-sufficient, by design. That's not to say that it is perfect: the explanation of many concepts could definitely be improved and even shortened. On the other hand, the 3rd party providers are also far from perfect, but they offer an opportunity to review & summarize, and they offer other tools like the flashcards and the q-bank, which can be useful if used appropriately (i.e. don't take anything for granted!). In fact, the main drawback I find in the 3rd party materials is that sometimes it is a bit too summarized - maybe it's the paranoid in me who doesn't want to run the risk of seeing a question in the exam about something I've never heard of. While I believe you can pass the exam using a 3rd party provider and without using the CFAI text at all (@Sophie is a well-known example), you've gotta be surgically accurate on the stuff that you studied, so as to compensate for the few pieces of information that you'll have missed. Other than that, it's also a question of personal preference; I like to learn from original sources even if that means spending more time reading, while I know that others prefer to "cut to the chase" and be 100% exam focused... Hope this helps!

  • Friends , this is my first post. Really appreciate how you guys help each other (y)

    I am planning to start prep for L2 2015 by septmber end- october start.
    by now i am comparing different study notes and videos lectures. 

    can any one sugest should i go for Kaplan or Elan notes? or any combination etc

    I used Kaplan Videos for L1, some lectures were outstanding , others were below average.. :(
    Have read some good reviews of Irfanullah videos. have any one used it for level 2 , ?  How was it? 

    thanks and best regards


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