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Chartered Financial Analyst - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The CFA designation:
The CFA designation is a qualification for finance and investment professionals, particularly in the fields of investment management and financial analysis of stocks, bonds and their derivative assets. The program focuses on portfolio management and financial analysis, and provides a general knowledge of other areas of finance.
From 1963 (when the CFA designation was first awarded) to 2006, approximately 78,000 people from at least 126 different countries have been awarded the right to use the CFA designation, 68,000 of them in the years since 1990. As of 2006, more than 116,000 people are currently enrolled to take one of the examinations. Some eminent finance professors have stressed on the importance of the CFA designation.
The predecessor of CFA Institute, the Financial Analysts Federation (FAF), was originally established in 1947 as a service organization for investment professionals in its societies and chapters. In 1990, in hopes of boosting the credential's public profile, CFA Institute (formerly the Association for Investment Management and Research or AIMR) was created from the merger of the FAF and the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts (ICFA). Many Financial Analysts (FA credential) were "grandfathered" into CFA charterholders without taking any of current levels as a result of 1990 merger between the ICFA and FAF.
The CFA program began in the United States, but has become increasingly international with many people becoming charterholders across Europe, Asia and Australia. By 2003 fewer than half the candidates in the CFA program were based in the US and Canada, with most of the other candidates based in Asia or Europe. India and ***** have shown some of the highest growth from 2005-2006 with increases of 25% and 53% respectively in the total number of charterholders.
The basic requirements for participation in the CFA program include holding or being in the final year of a university degree (or equivalent as assessed by CFA Institute), or having four years of qualified, professional work experience in an investment decision-making process. To obtain the charter, however, a candidate must have completed a university degree (or equivalent) and four years of qualified, professional work experience, in addition to passing the three exams that test the academic portion of the CFA program.
The CFA exam:
Candidates generally take one exam per year over three years. Fees as of December 2009 for all three exams range from $710 to $955, depending on the date on which the candidate registers to take the exam, plus an additional $400 to $480 for program enrollment for new members. Exams are challenging, with only 35% passing the Level I, 46% passing Level II, and 53% passing Level III exam in June 2008. In 2006, Europe achieved the highest average pass rate for the Level I, II and III of the exam with an overall success rate of 57% of candidates versus 54% for the USA and 49% in Asia and Pacific.
Year Level I Level II Level III
2009 46%/34% 41% 49%
2008 35% 46% 53%
2007 39% 40% 50%
2006 40% 48% 76%
2005 35% 56% 55%
2004 35% 32% 64%
2003 41% 47% 68%
2002 44% 47% 58%
2001 49% 46% 82%
2000 52% 54% 65%
All three levels have a strong emphasis on ethics. The material differences among the exams are:
* The Level I study program emphasizes tools and inputs, and includes an introduction to asset valuation, financial reporting and analysis, and portfolio management techniques.
* The Level II study program emphasizes asset valuation, and includes applications of the tools and inputs (including economics, financial reporting and analysis, and quantitative methods) in asset valuation.
* The Level III study program emphasizes portfolio management, and includes strategies for applying the tools, inputs, and asset valuation models in managing equity, fixed income, and derivative investments for individuals and institutions.
All three exams are administered on paper on a single day; the Level I exam is administered twice a year (usually the first weekend of June and December). The Level II and III exams are administered once a year, usually the first weekend of June. Each exam consists of two three-hour sessions. Level I is multiple choice - all information required to answer the question is contained in the question. Level II is item set - a vignette followed by selected response questions. To answer each question, the candidate must refer to the vignette as there is insufficient information in the question stem. Level III consists of a session of short-answer questions and a session that is item set. On the multiple-choice/item set sections, there is no penalty for wrong answers.
Candidates who have taken the exam receive a score report that is intended to be fairly unspecific: there is no overall score for the test, only a Pass/Fail result. However, candidates who fail are informed of how well they did compared to other candidates who failed; e.g., top 10% of candidates who failed. For each topic area (e.g., ethics, corporate finance, derivative securities, and so on), each test-taker is given a broad range within which his or her performance falls: below 50%, between 50% and 70%, and above 70%. The passing grade for the exams had been defined as 70% of the top percentage of exam papers until 1989; since then, the grading method is not explicitly published and the minimum passing score is set by the Board of Governors after each exam. The Board of Governors reviews the results of the standard setting process and input from psychometricians.
Standard setting is a process that defines the passing score of the exam. The CFA exam utilizes the modified Angoff method, which is a commonly-used approach to setting standards for certification and licensure examinations. Subject matter experts review the exam and recommend, for each question, a minimum passing score for the "just-qualified candidate". The minimum passing scores for each question are aggregated and presented to the Board of Governors as a recommended minimum passing score for the entire exam. The Board of Governors is not bound by this recommendation, but does recognize it as very important information.