How to analyze CFA level I result and what to do after the result?

Only 2 things are possible. Either you will pass, or you’ll fail. You’ll get an e-mail from CFA Institute stating either of the two statements:

Congratulations. I am very pleased to inform you that you passed the December 2012 Level I CFA exam. You are one step closer to achieving your goal of earning the globally respected CFA charter.


We sincerely regret to inform you that you did not pass the December 2012 Level I CFA exam.

They will also provide you the breakup table of your score in ten areas of the exam. Scores will be broken into 3 columns:  ≤50%, 51-70%, and >70%. For each subject, your score will lie in one of the three mentioned regions. In case you have failed, you would receive the score band as well which will vary from 1 to 10. The higher is the band, the closer you’re to the passing marks.

It can happen that you score less than 50% marks in 2 or more subject but still get a favorable result as the pass or fail will depend on the net score and not on the individual score.

Analysis of result:


You’ve passed the exam. But you won’t get to know about your standing. Everyone is equal even if one has just crossed the passing hurdle or has topped the exam. However, one can feel confident by looking at the above 70% score. Generally, the passing score remains around 60-65% of the maximum possible score, and it keeps on varying depending on the toughness of exam. With a little bit of guesstimate, you can tell whether you just crossed the passing marks or passed the exam quite comfortably. It’s important to know that because, at the next level, you’ll have to compete with the guys who had cleared the level I exam.


Max Pts.




Alternative Investments


0 to 5


6 to 8

Corporate Finance


0 to 8

11 to 14

15 to 20



0 to 6

7 and 8

9 to 12



0 to 12

13 to 16

17 to 24

Equity Investments


0 to 12

13 to 16

17 to 24

Ethical and Professional Standards


0 to 18

19 to 25

26 to 36

Financial Reporting and Analysis


0 to 24

25 to 33

34 to 48

Fixed Income Investment


0 to 12

15 to 19

20 to 28

Portfolio Management


0 to 8

7 and 8

9 to 12

Quantitative Methods


0 to 14

15 to 19

20 to 28

You will get your marks in one of the above three columns for each of the subjects. Now, you can approximately calculate your marks. If the score is above 70% in Quantitative Methods, and you are aware of the fact that you had on an average marked 22 questions correct, then you can give yourself 22 marks. But if the score is 51-70%, then you can give 18 or 19 marks to you depending upon your exam performance, and if it is below 50%, then you need to examine such a downfall in performance and can give yourself 13 or 14 marks. For all the ten subjects, you can come out with your best case score, worst case score, and most probable score. Take the average of the best case score and the worst case score. Take the average of that score with the probable case score. That will give you the approximate score of yours in the examination.


If you have failed the exam, then you’ll get a score band. Suppose the result is 40% pass. They will assign the score bands to rest 60% failed candidates. The bands are from 1 to 10. 60% will be distributed equally among 10 bands. The 10th band means that you are the top 10% of the failed candidates and very near to the passing marks. The 1st band means that you are the bottom 10% of the failed candidates and you really need to put a lot of effort next time if you plan to appear for the exam again. You can also analyze your results and come with the total score and also can analyze the weak links and why you have failed to score well in those topics.

The Road Ahead:


Congratulations. You can celebrate the result. All the efforts have finally culminated into a success. Rejoice and enjoy the moment. You have cleared the first hurdle. But still there are some more hurdles left, and the next hurdle is considered as the toughest hurdle. You need to decide whether you should write the June CFA Level II exam and try that exam in next year. Registration for the next level will open from next day of the result.

The level II curriculum is much tougher than the level I curriculum. The competition makes it even tougher. Analyze your strengths and see whether you can manage the required time to cover each topic and practice plenty of questions before the exam. The road of level II won’t be smooth. For working professionals, they need to submit financial year-end work or reports and then need to plan for investments and tax savings, etc. These all little events take considerable time. Similarly, for final year post-graduate students, they need to sit for the annual exams. So, the time available to you will be less as compared to the level I exam. But it is also possible that in level I, you would be studying finance related subjects for the first time and can catch the curriculum of level II at a faster speed.

There are two kinds of thoughts. One is that you can wait until the second deadline for registration for the June exam and prepare for the CFA level II exam in the meantime. If you think that you can manage it, then go for it. One important point you need to consider is that while applying for level II exam, you need to enter your graduation details. At least access your account once and fill all those details so that you get a link to register for the level II exam. Otherwise, you might get into trouble if you try to register on the last date. There is one problem with the above thought. The problem is that some guys don’t feel serious unless they have registered for the exam. It can happen that you won’t be able to study well in next 20 days (assuming that you start preparations from coming weekend). You might decide that you shouldn’t sit for the exam. But actually you could have the capability to clear the exam this time as well, and you might end up delaying one more year.

We will discuss the strategy about how to clear the CFA level II exam in more detail in another post. For the time being, you can refer to this post about the CFA level II exam.

Make a decision. The earlier you make a decision, the better it would be for you. After making the decision, work towards your goal.

You can download 4 months study plan for CFA level II from here.

You can download sample tests for CFA level II from here.


You’ve failed the examination. There is some reason behind your failure. However, it doesn’t make you a different person. You’re almost the same person which you were just before the announcement of result. The changes occur gradually and not instantaneously. It is better to try and fail rather than never try. Just read this post. Take few days rest. Sleep adequately and then analyze the result.

You need to think about the reasons for your failure and learn from those. Otherwise, the failure won’t help you at all. The reasons can be the lack of time devoted to the exam preparation, lack of understanding, mismanagement of time, some unfortunate incidents which were out of your control just before the exam like illness, or unfocused approach during preparation.

If you’ve scored a band of less than 5, then you know that you really need to do lots of catching up. If your band score is 9 or 10, then you have just missed the bus. A little bit of luck and little more preparation would have sailed you through. However, you shouldn’t be complacent for the next attempt even if you have scored the band 10. I’ve seen many guys scoring a band of 9 or 10 for consecutive attempts only because of complacency. Prepare well for the next attempt. Success will be yours.

You have to think about the next attempt. There are two options: One is that you don’t attempt at all and other is to attempt the exam again. If you think that you can’t pass the exam and it is way beyond your capabilities, then it’s alright to leave the exam. You gave it a try. You failed miserably even after putting all the efforts. Sometimes, it’s okay to change the tracks. Maybe the CFA is not a thing for you, and you need to go for the thing which really interests you.

However, if you really liked studying the curriculum, then you should go for another attempt. No one is going to stop you. It will take some time. But finally, you will succeed. No one tells it in a better way than James Altucher: “There are no gatekeepers in life, preventing you from doing what you want to do. You are your only gatekeeper. You are your only prison warden. You can choose yourself to do anything. You might not be good at it at first, but if you study your failures, you will get better. You will keep choosing yourself. Finally, you will choose yourself for success. And finally, you won’t need to choose yourself anymore. Things will just happen.”

Taking into consideration all the factors and your band score, you should decide whether you should go for the next attempt in June or in December. It’s always better to attempt it as soon as possible. If you attempt it in June, then you will have one full year for level II preparation. But there can be various reasons favorable for December attempt as well. Just check the time required for preparation and apply for the exam again. Analyze result for each of the subjects. Improve upon your weaknesses. Practice a lot. I’m sure that you’ll clear it next time.

You can download 4 months study plan for CFA level I from here.

You can download our sample tests for Financial Reporting and Analysis, Fixed Income, and Quantitative Methods from here.

Wish you all the best and success for future.


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9 thoughts on “How to analyze CFA level I result and what to do after the result?

  1. Cyrus September 2, 2013 at 8:47 am Reply


  2. Marie Marie Marie September 14, 2013 at 9:09 am Reply

    thanks, say I Pass the exam in December for level 1, but I don’t want to take the level 2 in June 2014 yet, and planning to do it in June 2015, is that ok?

    • konvexity September 14, 2013 at 9:27 am Reply

      Yes. You can definitely do that. But still it is better if you clear the levels in one go. Momentum takes a break whenever one takes a break. But everything depends on the time availability. If you won’t be able to devote sufficient time for level II, then you should go for June 2015. If you are planning to write the exam in June 2014, you can also apply for the scholarship ( The last date for application is tomorrow. Good luck for Dec exam and everything else in life.

  3. Joe Naz October 28, 2013 at 5:51 am Reply

    i got band 5 last december with like 125 hours of study – here i am cutting it close again started studying oct 16th and only have about 30 hours of study – going to crank it up from here on out – just getting done with FRA, then on to Ethics/Quant, and Fixed Income

    I think my strategy from there is Secret Sauce and work as many practice exams as possible (first 2 i am going to do open book).

    I don’t know how i failed so bad last time but i think it was because i did 3 practice exams the week before the exam and i was burned out…

  4. KHYS November 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm Reply

    I failed the L1 back in Dec 2012. My score was bad (below band 5), and I know the problem = not prepared! This year I come in again and wishing to get it, however, due to life problems and other goals I wanted to achieve this year, I just can’t make it in to do my studies as planned. I was in the Final Review class (mind you I only signed up for the review) and I am lost. Should I withdraw or else? My question is, if I fail again (not to say even I pass and who knows about L2 and L3), what’s the impact on me as a candidate? Mind you my situation is different, I am not in the industry and I am just below 35 (Godamnit!)

  5. AK005 December 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm Reply

    Don’t you think 60 to 65% MPS is a little low? I’ll take it if it is…

    • konvexity December 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm Reply

      Over the years the passing percentage marks have increased. It used to be around 60% few years back. But now it is around 65%. At 60%, one will get a band of 9 although it depends on the toughness level of exam as well. June 2013 exam was a little tougher than Dec 2013 exam. But the difficulty level rarely rises or falls sharply. So, the passing percentage marks are always around 64% with a standard deviation of 1-2%.

      • AK005 January 15, 2014 at 10:55 pm

        Thanks for replying. Wow, 64%? If so, I think I might have a shot at passing Level 1 on the first go.

  6. zest4alpha August 14, 2014 at 4:57 am Reply

    Reblogged this on zest4alpha and commented:
    2 weeks since receiving your level I result, are you ready to move on and take the challenge one more time? This post is for you.

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A blog of the NYU Colloquium on Market Institutions and the Leipzig Colloquium on the Market Order

Fundoo Professor

Thoughts of a teacher & practitioner of value investing and behavioral economics

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