CFA Exam Results

CFA® exam results are out! If you didn’t pass, try not to feel discouraged. The CFA® exam is crazy hard. It’s an accomplishment just to have sat for it. In the meantime, check out these 6 things you can do right now to be ready for next time.

Keep Things in Perspective

This is a super tough exam. LOTS of people have to take it more than once. In fact, successful candidates take an average of four years to earn their CFA® charter. In the CFA readings, Michael Porter describes how a lower threat of new entrants often leads to higher ROIC and growth opportunities. The same goes for candidacy in the CFA Program. These exams are difficult. The barriers to entry are high. This is why the Economist referred to the CFA® Program as the “gold standard” for measuring ethical conduct and competency in portfolio management and investment: 

“ [The] qualification is roughly equivalent to a specialized postgraduate finance degree, including a mixture of economics, ethics, law, and accountancy… Whereas there are tens of thousands of finance degrees available around the world, ranging from the excellent to the worthless, there is only one CFA, managed and examined by an American association of financial professionals, the CFA Institute.” – The Economist

Hang in There, It’s Worth It

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

In other words, try to think of this temporary setback as an exercise in character building. Seriously. You’ll be better for it in the end, and chances are friends, colleagues and family will admire you all the more for sticking with it and seeing the task through to completion—no matter what it takes.

Get Support from Friends, Family and Colleagues

The CFA® exam is one of the hardest exams there is, so be honest and make sure those who know you understand how hard you worked and that you’re disappointed. They should be able to offer the emotional support you need right now.

When it comes to colleagues, you might want to think twice before sharing your results. It is not uncommon to experience jealousy and anger from colleagues for taking the initiative to become a candidate. We’ve also heard of instances where bosses either directly or indirectly indicated they would rather their subordinates put in overtime than prepare for these rigorous exams.

For those you do tell, manage expectations up front. Despite the rising popularity of the CFA® Program, many family members and friends will not truly grasp the level of commitment preparing for these exams entail. Be open to your partner, your friends. Tell mom that you won’t be able to contact her every day like she is used to :-).

Analyze Your Results and Review Your Study Schedule

Remember, there is a strong correlation between study hours and pass rates. On average candidates need to study 300 hours, so if you spent less time than this you may be in a stronger position to pass with a little more preparation time. If you studied more than 300 hours, make sure you review your results so you can focus and adjust your study schedule next time around. The correspondence from the Institute will read something like this:

| < 50 | 50-70 | > 70

Ethics *

QM *

Econ *


CF *

PM *

Equity *

FI *

Derivatives *

Alternatives *

Believe it or not, the above results would not likely result in a pass.


Because Ethics, QM, FRA, and Equity make up about 60% of the exam at LI and LII.

Level I: Ethical and Professional Standards (15%), Quantitative Methods (12%), and Financial Reporting & Analysis (20%) and Equity Investments (10%)

Level II: Ethical and Professional Standards (10-15%), Quantitative Methods (5-10%), Financial Reporting & Analysis (15-20%), Equity Investments (15-25%)

Make sure to focus on these high weightage topic areas next cycle.

Another piece of advice is to resist the temptation to improve in low weightage areas.  Your target is to get > 70% in these 4 areas.

Commit and Get a Plan

After evaluating your results, if you decide to re-sit make sure you get a study schedule quickly. The sooner you have a plan and start, the fewer hours each week you will have to do – which means you’ll be able to maintain a healthier balance of work, life and study. Look for a prep provider that offers you the ability to plug in your next exam date and lets you choose when and how you want to study, and create a personalized plan down to the day to suit your busy schedule.

Dust Yourself Off and Get Back Up Again

The sooner you actually start studying, the easier it will be as the content will be fresher in your mind. Remember, if you’re on a Wiley course you can start studying at no extra cost. We partner with you until you pass. You continue to have full access to your course, including all updates and upgrades, until you pass. That even includes access to all online live classes and mentoring if you purchased our Platinum or Gold course.

So what are you waiting for? Get started and cross the finish line next time.