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CA v/s CFA - Which is more difficult?

On the left side we have one of the toughest exams in the world, an exam whose results are agonisingly brutal. On the right side we have, the "Mount Everest of Finance", an exam billed as 'the toughest of wall street'. Which one is more exhausting? It is time for a showdown.

Subject Matter -

CA - Core focus is on Finance, Accounts and Taxation
CFA - Core Focus is on Finance

A) PASS PERCENTAGES

1. Chartered Accountancy - Let us assume 1000 people enter the CA course. This is what will happen, assuming empirical passing data -

Sr. No.

Exam Level

Applicants

Pass Percentage

People Passing

1.

CPT

1000

40%

400

2.

IPCC

400

12%

48

3.

Final CA

48

8%

4

Therefore, result - 4 candidates out of 1000become successful in the first attempt. Pass rate - 0.4%

2. Chartered Financial Analysis - Let us assume1000 people enter the CFA course. This is what will happen assuming empirical passing data -

Sr. No.

Exam Level

Applicants

Pass Percentage

People Passing

1.

Level 1

1000

42%

420

2.

Level 2

420

46%

193

3.

Level 3

193

53%

102

Therefore, result - 102 people out of 1000 become successful in the first attempt. Pass rate - 10.20%

B) TIME REQUIRED TO STUDY

1. Chartered Accountancy - Unfortunately no survey is available telling us the exact number of hours candidates study. Let us go by assumptions. An average CA final student during his 1st attempt puts in - 10 hours of study daily for minimum 4 months, that is, his leave time. Basically Time required to clear Final CA generally - 10 hours * 135 days(including exam days) = 1350 hours. I have not even considered CPT and IPCC which too require loads of time and effort.

2. Chartered Financial Analysis - As per the CFA Candidate Survey 2017, candidates spend 320 hours per level on average. Therefore, total hours required to clear ALL 3 exams = 320*3 = 960 hours!! Around 29% Lesser than what is required for FINAL CA ITSELF!

C) PAPER PATTERN

1. Chartered Accountancy - With the new format kicking in, it is written throughout - for CPT, IPCC and Final CA. Element of luck reduces in such cases. Though keeping in mind the ICAI, element of bad luck is always there!

2. Chartered Financial Analysis - MCQ's without negative marking. 33% probability that a random guess can be the correct answer. I may just cross the line due to my good luck. Obviously, this accounts for a very small percentage of people.

D) Exam Days

1. Chartered Accountancy - It is spread over a period of 16 days. Even though you have 1.5 days before every exam, revising is an uphill task. The good part is you have only 1 paper on 1 day.

2. Chartered Financial Analysis - The biggest challenge of CFA is revising all 10 subjects before the exam day. It is hell. You have to know all the subjects together. This can be a daunting task.

E) CONCEPTUAL CLARITY

1. Chartered Accountancy - Subjects like Law and ISCA involve quite a lot of mugging up. Even in practical subjects, a plethora of formulas are asked. The paper is not very conceptual in nature.

2. Chartered Financial Analysis - CFA is based totally on concepts. It does not have a lot of mugging to do. More than formulas, their application is important.

Keeping these factors in mind, CA trumps CFA easily on level of difficulty with a 3-2 lead. The first 3 rounds are won fair and square by CA, & CFA has a slight edge in the 4th and 5th rounds.

I am not saying that the CFA exam is easy. It is one of the toughest exams and needs a lot of smart work. It is well respected throughout the world. However, to compare it with CA is an exercise in futility. CA is much tougher.

P.S - All said and done, why do 1 when you can do both? CA and CFA together is a lethal combination.

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Category Career, Other Articles by - Akshay Sirsalewala 



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