Key Information Regarding the Exam
– Exam Duration: 7 hours
– Format: Written exam (answers don’t have to be long and similarly to level 3 of the CFA exam, short concise answers should get you full marks)
– Covered Topics: Economics, Accounting, Portfolio Management, Ethics
– Language: Japanese (ONLY)
– Exam Venues: Japan (Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Kanazawa, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Matsuyama, Fukuoka), U.S. (New York), UK (London), Hong Kong.
– Exam Date: Administered once a year in June
– Detailed Info: The official website provides a good explanation in English so I will post the link here.
Pass Rates & Exam Difficulty
Having taken the exam a month ago, I can say that level 2 is much harder compared to level 1. For level 1, candidates do not have to take all three modules at once which makes preparing for individual exams easier. There is also a change in the exam format from multiple choice to written (constructed responses) which might throw off some candidates. This makes the exam harder for non-Japanese exam takers such as myself who did not go through the Japanese education system. The questions are also more detailed compared to level 1. However, if Portfolio Management (Securities Analysis) is your forte, you might find level 2 easier since this topic bears a very heavy weighting.
Out of the total 420 marks that you can get on the exam, 210 come from Portfolio Management, 90 from Accounting, 60 from Economics and 60 from Ethics. This means that if you aim to get most of the marks on Portfolio Management, pass Ethics and score reasonably well on the remaining topics you can aim for a pass. The pass rate as shown below, has ranged between 48% to 53% in the past 5 years.
A Note on the Ethics Portion
I would like to highlight that passing the ethics portion is mandatory and that candidates who pass the exam but get an insufficient score on this section fail the whole exam, so be sure to prepare the Ethics portion well (unfortunately I did not prepare this part well so I will have to re-take the exam next year).
Similarly to level 1, TAC materials seem to be quite popular amongst candidates. This is because the institute materials might be too detailed and some of the answers to past exam questions might lack that additional insight that candidates need. I would say that TAC have done very well in taking past exam papers and adding additional explanations to make a product that sells. If you are preparing for the level 2 exam I strongly believe that this book will be essential in your revision. Please note that this book only includes past exam questions and if you want a summary of the materials you will need additional resources.
These are the summaries that I was talking about in the previous section. I have seen most candidates purchasing the below three books and the question bank for their exam prep. The information is presented in a more clear and intuitive manner compared to the institute books which has made this material a popular choice among candidates.
Some Final Words on my Strategy
Having read other blog posts about this exam, I saw that a general consensus on the preferred exam strategy is to aim for full marks on the Ethics portion and score decently in the Securities Analysis portion with a lower priority on Economics and Accounting. For Economics, there is a trend where one year Macroeconomics is tested and another year Microeconomics is tested so this might help narrow down the focus of your preparation in this topic. As for accounting, a lot of the calculations seem to be centred around corporate finance. This is a written exam but just like Level 3 of the CFA exam, for the theoretical questions, I strongly advise going for short concise answers and make sure to have key words, the rest are calculations and parts of the questions might allow you to show your workings so you can get partial marks should you get the final answer wrong. Overall, I think this qualification will continue to have a lot of value in Japan and if you are serious about a career in finance it’s definitely worth pursuing it.