Finding the Motivation the Second Time Around

We’ve had a lot of emails about finding the motivation to review the same material after you’ve failed the exam. This is a tough one because you’ve already spent a ton of time and the material doesn’t really change much from year-to-year. If it wasn’t interesting enough to stick the first time around, what’s a candidate to do the second time?
As for motivation, I wish I could tell you that repeat testers have a higher pass rate than first-timers. You’ve got to think it’s probable but there isn’t much data to go on. I recently conducted a poll on the LinkedIn group asking candidates on which subsequent try did they pass. Of the 17 votes, 55% of the retesters passed on the second attempt with another 11% on the third attempt.
The best advice I can offer, for anyone studying those arduous 300 hours per exam, is not to think of it as an exam. Going into this as an exam, where you rationalize the hard work just to get through the next test, is a sure recipe for boredom. You’re not really enjoying the material, just muddling along thinking of it as a job.
I’ve talked on the blog a few times about the reward to your professional ability that comes with the CFA curriculum and I think that’s really the way you need to approach the exams. Looking for the quick payday or job opportunity from achieving the CFA designation is going to leave you surprised when you realize that even us charterholders have to work for it. Yeah, you will have more opportunities and will probably see a higher income but the charter isn’t something that is going to set you on easy street.
When you accept that the time you spent studying becomes ‘research’ after you pass the exams, the idea of covering the curriculum becomes a little easier and a lot more interesting. Embrace the fact that time spent learning about asset classes, risk management and portfolio management is just a part of your career. Time spent covering topic areas outside the narrow view of your current job or the job you think you want will make you a stronger professional and open up tons of opportunities in the future.
As for the practical side of studying the material, the best way to avoid boredom and frustration from covering the same material multiple times is to focus on practice problems and question banks.
Coming up to the final month of studying, this is also the method I’d recommend everyone wrap up their study plans. Time is critical at this point and no one can afford to keep covering material that they already understand. Complete at least 30-60 problems at a time to give yourself a good idea of how you are doing within a specific topic area.  By keeping track of your score within the individual topic areas and even down to the reading level, you can focus your reviews where you need it most.
Five weeks left. Stay strong and push through to the end. You’re almost there!
‘til next week, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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