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Advice To Those Who Don’t Pass the Level I Exam

By Arif Irfanullah, CFA


Posted on 23-01-19 at 5:16 pm


Dear December 2018 Level I Candidates,

The moment of truth has come.  I’m sure you have been anxiously waiting for your Level I result.  You will experience the agony of failure or the thrill of victory.

If you have failed the exam; always remember failure is not fatal.

If you are interested in my thoughts on what to do next please read on.

I did not make it. What next?

For those who do not pass the Level I exam, the typical advice is to keep trying; however, I suggest a more thoughtful approach.  Put the result on the side for a moment and ask yourself whether you really enjoyed the subject matter?  Do a post-audit on why you did not make it.  Was it because you did not have enough time to prepare for the exam? Or, did you have a very hard time understanding the concepts.  Is the CFA Program aligned with you career aspirations?  Carefully thinking through these questions will help you decide whether or not to continue with the program.

Here are a few scenarios to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Scenario 1: You are in an industry where the CFA Program is recognized and respected.  You enjoyed studying the material but due to work or family commitments could not dedicate sufficient time… and ended up with a Band 9.  If this describes your situation, then it clearly makes sense to continue.  Just try to plan your studies a little better for the next attempt.

Scenario 2: You’ve taken the Level I exam several times and keep failing! You need to ask yourself whether you are still enjoying the material. Also look at your results and evaluate whether you are getting closer.  This might sound harsh but if despite tremendous effort you keep failing with a low band then you should ask yourself whether you have the aptitude to complete the program… and whether it is worth your time, effort and money?

Scenario 3: You entered the CFA Program because of external pressure and did not really enjoy the subject material.  Unless circumstances have changed, it probably does not make sense to continue.

Clearly, every situation will be a little different. Ultimately you need to objectively evaluate your circumstances and make a decision that is right for you.

Let us say that you entered the CFA Program for the correct reasons, and the reasons are still valid.  You should then define a schedule and start studying.  Plan to complete the course at least one month (two is ideal) before the exam so the last four to eight weeks can be spent on review and practice. Furthermore, ensure that your learning is as active as possible and that you practice with lots of questions.

The final word of advice: work hard and create your own luck.