I failed in December CFA level I exam. Now what to do?

Ist conversation:

A: How is your result for CFA level I exam?

B: Couldn’t clear. My graduation exams finished just two weeks before the CFA exam. I had to prepare for those exams as well.

A: Oh. That’s sad. Sorry to hear that. Yes, it’s always difficult to prepare for the CFA exam along with the other exams.

B: No worries. Anyway there is not much use of the CFA certification. It’s a money minting process by the CFA Institute.

A: Is it?

B: Yup. I wasted my 6 months preparing for this certification. I don’t want to waste 3 more years preparing for that. There are many better alternatives to get a break in the finance industry. I will now prepare for GMAT and hopefully would be able to join some B-school in the next season.

A: Nice. All the best.

2nd conversation:

C: I flunked in the CFA level I exam. 😦 What about you?

D: Same here, man. Couldn’t clear the exam.

C: 😀 How much band did you get?

D: 5. What about you?

C: I got 6. I was better than you. 🙂

D: Cool. So, what’s the plan now? Are you sitting for the exam again?

C: Didn’t think about it. I guess I would take some days rest and then will ponder over it. What about you?

D: I am also in dilemma whether I should go for the next (June) attempt only or should wait for the December attempt. I think I would go for the December attempt. I am planning to try some other certifications in between. I might go for the FRM level I certification in the month of April or might try some other. Need to explore options.

C: That’s nice, man. Do tell me about your plan. I’ll also follow the same. Hey, I’m booking tickets for the movie ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’ for Friday show. Do you also wanna join?

D: I’m game. See you on Friday.

3rd conversation:

E: Hi dude. Results are out for CFA level I. How is your result?

F: I couldn’t clear. 😥

E: Oh, man. That’s so sad. How much band did you get?

F: 9

E: That was close. Missed by a whisker. Now, what are your futures plan? Again applying for the certification?

F: Yes. I am registering for the next (June) exam only. I analyzed my mistakes and now know what needs to be done. Second registration deadline is 13th February. I will be again needing you credit card for submitting the fee. Hope that’s fine with you.

E: You can use my credit card. Nice to know that you’re going for the next attempt only. That would give you a good time for the level II preparation as well.

F: Thanks for the card. Yes, but the first goal is to cleat the level I exam in June.

E: That’s so nice to hear.

The above are the few of the conversations that occur on or after the CFA exam result date. Most of the guys start blaming circumstances for their failure. Few candidates take consolation for the fact that they performed better than their friends. Some candidates even start doubting the credibility and usefulness of the certification although they were the same candidates who were gung-ho about it before the announcement of the result. Only a few candidates show the courage to go for the very next attempt and that makes all the difference.

These questions always loom in front of the unsuccessful candidates: What should I do now? Should I quit or persevere? When should I go for the next attempt?

Generally, candidates fail to make good decisions. The failure makes them make such decisions. It’s always difficult to make a rational decision while confronting failure. Few candidates depend too much on others’ opinion and don’t think for themselves. Those finally end up living a miserable life, always adjusting themselves with the opinion of others. The person who maintains the same composure in success and failure generally wins the race.

What should I do? Should I quit or persevere? : This question is too subjective. Still, there are some parameters to help the candidates in making a right decision. Just ponder over the below-mentioned points:

  • How many hours did you spend for preparing for the level I exam?
  • What is your score band? Do you think that you can perform well after putting a little more effort?
  • Did you enjoy reading the curriculum and learned many new things?
  • Are you really enthusiastic about working in the finance industry for a long time?

If you answer all the questions honestly, you will know what is the right decision for you. If you have given enough hours (more than 400 hours) for the preparation of the exam and still able to get a band less than 5. Then, it would be really difficult for you to pass the exam. I am not saying that you can’t. You can do what you think. But still, the path would be hard. If you can understand what is demanded from you, then you must go. But if it looks like that it would be too much for you and you might lose your focus in between and you are not that eager to join the finance industry. Then it’s always better to quit and pursue your other dreams. There are many things which you can do.

But in case you really enjoyed the learning and are very interested in joining the industry and think that you can pass the exam with some additional effort, then you should not quit. Do not ever make a decision in anger, frustration or pain so that you have to repent it at the later stage. Very few candidates manage to pass all the exams in one attempt. The average time taken for passing the certification is around 3.5-4 years.

Remember that you are at least better than 25% of the candidates who do not even sit for the exam. You at least showed the courage and sat for the exam. It’s not that bad to fail in such comprehensive exam. But if you do not study your failures and do not learn from those, it would not help you at all. Analyze the reason for your failures and see if you can work on those reasons and then make a decision. Just do not make a decision thinking that you will lag your friends by 1 year or so in getting the charter holder. Do not think for the short-term. Think for the long-term. Failures and successes are the part and parcel of life. These will keep on coming. One should never lose hope in case of failure. Accept your failure. You failed. Now you’re sad. You’re dejected. You have to start it all over again. That’s what you have to do.

When should I go for the next attempt? : You have finally made a decision to sit for the exam. You are wondering whether you should go for the very next June exam or at some later period (December or next year). This can be easily tackled. If you have nothing major thing to do in next 4 months, then you must go for the very next attempt in June. You had finished the course just 2 months ago. You can make a better strategy now and can work on your mistakes in a much better way. If you do not attempt now, then you might again have to start from the scratch as everything would seem new with the passage of time. There is one additional benefit of sitting for the June exam. You would get enough preparation time for the level II exam which is considered as the toughest level among the 3 levels.

What are you waiting for? Make a decision and act on it. I’ll leave you with few quotes that can inspire you to make long-term and correct decisions.

“Leaders make decisions – all the time. Followers make suggestions. Making suggestions is easy because it requires no action or fear of failure. Making decisions is tough. It takes guts because there is always something at stake.” ~ Ruben Gonzalez

“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” (Just do not miss the opportunity to sit for the next CFA exam)

“Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.” ~ Ayn Rand

“It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you’ve forgotten about.” ~ Lester Burnham in the movie American Beauty

“When I grow up I’m gonna fly the fastest planes ever built, make the biggest movies ever and be the richest man in the world.” ~ Howard Hughes in the movie The Aviator



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


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

%d bloggers like this: