Embracing the Horror of a CFA exam Fail

By now everyone that took the recent CFA exam in December has received their results and the news was not good for 63% of the 48,981 candidates.
Only 37% of the Level I candidates passed the exam in December, close to the ten-year average of 38% but well under the average pass rates for the other two exams.
While it might be of little solace to those that did not get through this time, try to remember that failing one exam is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Few people will know or remember that you didn’t pass so resist the trap of being your own worst critic. Believe me, if not passing one of your CFA exams is your biggest regret in life, you are doing exceptionally well!
Many that receive the disappointing news start to question the worth of the designation or wonder if they should register for the next exam. These are valid questions but not to be made lightly or as a knee-jerk reaction to bad news. The industry has been extremely unforgiving over the last few years and you need every advantage to stay competitive. Don’t decide against the designation just because you think it will get you out of some study time. If you want to be successful in the industry, you need to keep your skills strong and the CFA curriculum is the best around.
On the bright side, the curriculum doesn’t change much from year to year and you should do well on the next exam. The additional time studying, especially in the Level I curriculum, will give you a strong base from which to work on the other two exams.
Use the experience to strengthen your resolve and evaluate your study plans. Did you start too late or not spend enough time studying? Every year, successful candidates report an average of 300 hours spent studying for the exam. Did you do well or poorly on any particular topic areas? The topic areas are consistent throughout the three exams and build upon material learned in Level 1. Don’t think that barely squeaking by on a topic is going to help you moving forward.
Take a look at our Level I CFA Program Strategy and at the basic study plan. Use it to improve your own plan and you should have no problem come June. We will continue our 21-week study plan next week with study session five across the three levels.
A failure can be the best teaching tool. Learn from it and be a stronger professional.
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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