Exam Results, What to Tell the Friends and Family

Exam results are out for the level I and II CFA exams and chances are that your day has just been ruined. If you are part of the approximately 50% of candidates that do not pass the exams each year, there are a thousand questions and doubts swimming through your head right now.


What did I do wrong? Should I try again? Is it worth it?


We talked about these questions in last week’s post, but one of the most stressful questions is going to be, “What to tell friends and family?” You have sacrificed so much of your time with them leading up to the exam and they have supported you all the way. How do you face the embarrassment of telling them you failed the exam? Most likely, few have faced anything as challenging as the CFA exams and do not understand how half the candidates taking a test could get washed out.


With any disappointment, I like to remember a few of things.


1)      Never feel bad about trying something difficult and not reaching the summit. Goals are meant to be almost unattainable. If they were easy, they would not be goals but simply things on your ‘to do’ list. Too many people set their goals too low and lead a life of mediocrity for it. Sir Edmund Hillary did not reach Everest’s summit on his first attempt either!


2)      Yes, it is going to be a little awkward telling friends and family that you did not pass the exam but it is a not going to change your relationship with them. If anything it is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship as your true friends (maybe after a few jokes at your expense) empathize with you and offer support. Few lives go exactly as planned, and who would want to lead them.


3)      Identifying which sections kept you back is a big step. I’m reminded of one of the behavioral characteristics in level III that analysts do not review the reasons for good performance, which turns out to often be simply a matter of luck, and it never drives them to process improvement. The next time the use the methodology, and are not as lucky, they are dumbfounded as to the results. Use the test results to learn about yourself, your study habits (or lack thereof), and in which financial topics you need to study harder to become a more well-rounded professional.


Resist the temptation to make light of the fact you did not pass or to belittle the exam. I have heard people shrug it off because the exam ‘didn’t represent their practical experience’ or ‘the charter is not that important anyway.’ You made a hard decision to seek probably the most difficult designation in our industry, understand that it will not be an easy path but stay firm in your convictions. If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that the industry is extremely unforgiving when it comes to those that cannot dig deep and prove themselves as an asset to their employer.


It is an extremely tough process. I know as do hundreds of thousands of others. None of us that have made it through did so with a perfect score and most have at least one test very close to the fail band. So, take some time and let the questions rush through your head but understand that it is all part of reaching your goal and earning your charter.


We’ll be here to help when you start next year. Good luck.
Joseph Hogue, CFA


P.S. Feel free to pass this along to anyone that might need it. Thanks.


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