Feels real good

#CFA After taking some time after receiving the results last Tuesday, I’m still on cloud 9 over here. It’s been a long 4 years since I decided to first go for the charter in 2008 right after getting my MBA and MS in Finance. At the time the goal of passing all 3 exams seemed daunting and very unlikely for someone like me who wasn’t coming from a traditional finance career path. I knew I could do it but worried about the time committment necessary to get here. Well, I’m 3 for 3 and after I apply this week and get everything verified, I should have my charter in hand. 

So how did I do it? Well I will definitely update my guide to passing level 1 to now include all 3 levels as well as some tips on actually applying for the charter, getting work experience verified, etc. The quick summary is

1) Set a goal

2) Work hard at it

3) Don’t give up

It’s really that simple. I set the goal of obtaining charter and going 3 for 3. I worked hard at it, 10-20 hours per week for up to 6 months for each level and more the month before exam. And I didnt give up when work, personal life, or my own fears were getting in the way. There was a point where I even questioned whether the cost in time and money was worth the effort, especially if I didn’t have a Wall St career lined up already. I’m glad I pushed thru all of that. 

The first name of this blog was called My CFA Adventure as many long time readers may recall, and this was quite an adventure. The most important thing I learned wasn’t about fixed income, or how to use a swap to hedge a mortgage portfolio or what behavioral characteristic an investor fits into. I’ve forgotten most of that already anyway. The most imporant thing I learned was about myself. I learned that I could set a goal and achieve it after hard work and dedication. I learned I could prioritize, balance and manage a high workload alongside doing something on the side to better myself. I learned I could become disillusioned with a goal yet  not give up. I learned I could push myself in new directions and away from my comfort zone. All of these lessons will stay with me much further than any financial theory I learned from the curriculum, many of which will change over the course of my working career. The growth I experienced these past 4 years has been immeasurable and I’m a better person for having gone thru this. 

Thanks to everyone for the support over the years. It’s been quite a ride. 

This is what victory tastes like



Well I did it.  Level 3 is done. Words cannot describe. Setting a goal and seeing it thru to completion is quite an experience. This is just beautiful. Will post more thoughts later.


Dear James Michael Morales,

Congratulations! We are very pleased to inform you that you passed the June 2012 Level III CFA exam. 52% of candidates passed the June 2012 Level III CFA exam.

Now that you have passed Level III, you must be a regular member of CFA Institute to be eligible for the award of the CFA charter. Log in now to verify your current membership status or complete the application process.

A summary of your exam results is provided below. The three columns on the right are marked with asterisks to indicate your performance on each topic area.

Please contact us if you have questions or comments about the CFA Program.


Q# Topic Max Pts <=50% 51%-70% >70%
1 Portfolio Management – Individual 27 *
2 Portfolio Management – Individual 9 *
3 Portfolio Management – Execution 21 *
4 Portfolio Management – Individual 17 *
5 Economics 24 *
6 Portfolio Management – Institutional 34 *
7 Fixed Income Investments 23 *
8 Derivatives 13 *
9 Derivatives 12 *

Item Set

Q# Topic Max Pts <=50% 51%-70% >70%
Alternative Investments 18 *
Equity Investments 18 *
Ethical & Professional Standards 36 *
Fixed Income Investments 18 *
Portfolio Management 18 *
Portfolio Management – Asset Allocation 18 *
Portfolio Management – Individual 18 *
Portfolio Management – Performance Eval. 18 *
Portfolio Management – Risk Management 18 *

Exam Day Recap

#CFA Had to take a few days to myself before I posted my recap of the exam. It’s always like running on a treadmill for a while, once you get off you almost have to reorient yourself to the real world again. 

OK, here’s my recap of the exam. I arrived to conference center early to avoid any last minute issues. Was held in local convention center and it had all 3 levels taking exam in same room. I would guesstimate there were over 500 people total. 

Two sections for Level 3, not all filled, I would say maybe 75% full. Always amazed at people who register but don’t show up. 

I was sitting right in front of proctor. HAd my usual gear with me, both BA-II’s, lots of pencils and 4 pens I always bring way more than I need for the exam. 

AM session starts, I immediately look at the Table of Contents to get a sense of what I was looking at. I immediately see my strong areas are being tested so my confidence grows. 

I skipped the 1st question as I knew it’s designed to cause candidates to lose time which endangers the rest of the AM session. I immediately hop into a problem I knew well to build up the confidence. I worked back and forth thru the exam and was able to put an answer down for all but 1 question and do a decent review of my answers afterwards. While I know for sure I got some things wrong I hope to get at least partial credit and the fact that some L3 candidates said they didn’t finish gives me some hope I did ok in the AM session. Overall it was not as bad as I feared. I had enough knowledge to take stabs at each question which is all you can ask for with those essay questions. I used the entire 3 hours. 

Lunch break followed my usual routine. I brought my own lunch and ate it at car. Used the extra time to bone up on topics not covered in AM session. A little harder to drill because it’s harder to know what was covered and not covered in terms of the published percentages but you know what was tested and what wasn’t so you just focus there. Was feeling decent after the AM session, gave myself a quick pep talk that I was 3 hours away from finishing this for good and went back in. Studied some last minute formulas until I walked in the door so I wouldn’t leave anything to chance. 

PM session starts and I follow the order of the questions beginning with the Ethics questions. As always, it’s easy to eliminate the obviously wrong answer but those last two really make you think thru the scenario again. I think I did OK, but wouldn’t be surprised if I got a bad score. Rest of exam was tough but fair I thought. As always, CFAI is GREAT at giving you just enough information to make you think you may be leaving something out or question if the answer was really that easy. They also have a habit of taking a problem YOU JUST KNOW HOW TO SOLVE inside and out and giving it a slight twist so you spend 15 minutes BECAUSE YOU JUST CANNOT GET THIS ONE WRONG. They had one on there that I spent way too much time on. I was able to get thru the rest of the exam in 2 hours and give myself an hour to review and redo some questions I skipped over or guessed at completely. I feel I did ok in the PM session too. 

Overall, I feel less confident than I did coming out of Level 1 where I knew I destroyed that exam and more confident coming out of Level 2 where I felt lost and thought I had no shot at passing. I passed both on 1st try so I guess this is a good sign and based on some feedback I heard after the exam maybe the curve will help me. 

Since I can’t control anything at this point, I’m going to take the summer to spend some time with the kids and plot my next move. I’m happy with my preparation and performance on exam day. I really felt like I was well prepared and mentally this was definitely as relaxed as I’ve ever felt taking the exam. There was a certain calm and peace I had. Now just need to see what the final results were. 

After 3 CFA levels, I have to give them kudos, you don’t get this charter easily. These exams are a beast and definitely separate the men from the boys. I’m a better person for having undergone this adventure no matter what the result is. 

I’ll take some time off from posting and will finally get to working on the Secret Sauce. Hopefully I’ll be able to do a final posting showing how I passed all 3 levels on 1st time!!!

Drop me a line on how you thought the exam was. 

Exam Day Tomorrow….

#CFA Well tomorrow is almost here. After what seems like 1000 hours of study these past 6 months I’m as ready as I can be. Yes, there are areas I am weak at still. Yes I feel like I could use another 2 weeks and some more mock exams to drill on the weak areas and yes, at times I feel like I won’t pass but none of that matters now. I’ve put in the work and now it’s time to see how it all shakes out.  I spent today reviewing the CFAI AM exams from past few years and I reread thru the Secret Sauce one last time. About to wrap up by reading GIPS again

In the end, as it always does, it comes down to what topics they test and how they test them. You can feel as in command of the material as possible and one small wrinkle you didn’t see before nor anticipate will throw you off completely. At the end of the day though, everyone is in the same boat and I feel like I’m ready. I think I have a decent handle on how CFAI structures these exams and what they hope to accomplish with them. 

As I did before the last two exams I’m posting up a video I’ve used in the past to motivate me during hell week and right before the exam. It always gets me going as I feel it’s the perfect indicator for what I’ve been doing the last six months and for that matter the last 6 years when you add in the Master degrees I collected. 



I have all my stuff ready and laid out. Admission ticket printed, clothes ironed and ready, supplies ready.  Will be going to bed in an hour for a good night’s rest. Exam center is only 15 mins away from me so I’ll probably get there an hour earlier and do some last minute flashcard/QuickSheet review on formulas before I walk in. I already scoped out the location so no surprises should come up tomorrow morning. Will follow my normal exam day routine, bring my own lunch and use the lunch break to bone up on stuff not covered in the AM session. 


Almost There

#CFA Only a few days left before the exam. Feeling confident. Spent today redoing all of Ethics and SS3 and 4. Taking a CFAI mock tomorrow and Thursday and finalizing weak areas. Not spending too much time on areas I just don’t get as it’s too late to nail everything. Goal is to pass exam not score 100%. It’s easy to get in the mode of trying to nail absolutely everything but once you accept that’s impossible it’s time to focus on the areas most likely to be tested and hope they don’t test the areas you’re weak in extensively. I’m only taking the CFAI mocks and samples from here on out and will selectively use the last 2 Schweser mocks to drill on specific areas or look up answers in the text in case I don’t know. I’m cool with that approach given the time I have left. 

I’m getting up at 5AM next three days to get in as must studying as possible before exam. 

Almost there, almost there. 

Schweser Book 2 Exam 1 Results


AM – 102/180 = 57%

PM – 117/180 = 65%

Total 219/360 = 61%

Just as with the prior levels, Schweser ratchets up the difficulty in the Book 2 exams which I expected. Had to leave a few questions on the morning exam almost completely unanswered as I didn’t even know where to start. A little encouraged by PM score, I thought I was going to bomb that while I was taking it. Would have scored higher if I reviewed the exam before scoring it. 

I’m thinking of doing one more Schweser mock in an exam setting. Then take the last one, answer what I think is correct, and if I get stuck or unsure, I’ll go thru the material to look up the answer. Goal is to have all of my weak areas nailed down as much as possible and then use next week for all CFAI mocks, a read thru of the Secret Sauce and a final review of Ethics/GIPS. 

This material is a bear. Just so much to know and have down. Sometimes I wonder how I’m able to retain as much as I’ve been able to.