After failing Level I twice, Senior Financial Analyst John Kornacki underestimated the challenge of the CFA Program Exam. He regained his confidence, recruited Wiley as a study partner, and went “all-in.” Here’s a look at what happened next.
Tell me about yourself. Where do you live? What is your family situation? Do you have hobbies?
My wife and I both grew up in Connecticut and decided to move to Massachusetts several years ago for work opportunities. We are expecting our first child in June, which we are very excited about. As far as hobbies, I enjoy golfing and watching/playing basketball. Unfortunately, though, I take a break from my hobbies until after June, which I’m sure all CFA candidates can relate to.
What are you doing now for work? What are your future plans?
I’m a Senior Financial Analyst for a large credit union. My primary role is to lead our secondary market team as well as focus on our ALM strategy.
My immediate future plan is to pass Level III of the CFA Program. Aside from that, I have an interest in equity and fixed income research. I also enjoy reading about machine learning and data analytics. Once I am finished with the CFA program, I plan to devote more time to that interest.
How do you feel about the results of your first exam?
My journey in the CFA program has been rather interesting. I first took Level I without any study provider and unfortunately did not pass. I found Wiley shortly after that where I hopped on the Darren Degraaf learning train. Darren set me on the correct path, but unfortunately, I failed again.
After my second fail, I lost most of my confidence. I knew it was a difficult exam but it was frustrating to go through. To be honest, though, that experience of failing the second time really taught me a lot about myself as well as showed me that I needed to change the way I approached the entire program.
I took several months off and decided that for my next go around, I would be “all in.” I was on the Darren Degraaf train more than ever and was laser-focused on my goal. I eliminated all distractions from my life and held myself to daily/weekly study goals. The WhatsApp network that Darren built was a lifesaver. I met some amazing people from all over the world where I am still very good friends with many of them. We all helped each other throughout the process. With all of these changes, I was able to pass Level I on my third try.
Will you do anything different when preparing for the next exam?
My experiences in Level I prepared me for Level II. I knew what it would take to pass the exam and the dedication that was required. Again, I was “all in.” With this approach and the amazing leadership from Darren Degraaf and Peter Olinto, I was able to pass Level II on my first try. I owe a ton to Darren and Peter as those weekly classes were a perfect supplement to my studies.
What were your biggest challenges when preparing for the exam?
The biggest challenge is putting in the time necessary to pass. The biggest mistake candidates make is underestimating just how difficult the tests are. The CFA Institute does a tremendous job of really testing candidates on their knowledge of the material. In order to pass, people need to really put in the time and make sacrifices in their personal life. It truly is a commitment in order to succeed in this program.
Can you walk me through your study process? Which techniques do you feel contributed the most to your passing score?
For Level I and II, I used Wiley study guides, online classes, and practice questions from the CFA Institute. I found that repetition was the key to my success. The material is so broad and deep that candidates really need to make sure that they put in the time to work the material over and over.
What have you discovered about yourself after the first exam?
As I have kind of mentioned throughout, I learned a tremendous amount from each time I took an exam. I learned that with proper preparation, time management, and dedication, I could pass these exams. All of these things I’ve taken with me through the program.
John’s Top 5 Reasons a CFA® Charter is Important
1. The CFA® designation is considered to be one of the most coveted in the industry. I am always striving to improve my knowledge and skillset, so it makes sense to work towards this designation.
2. Ethics is a huge portion of the CFA® Program curriculum and I think it carries immense weight throughout the industry. Having this designation shows an overall commitment to upholding the integrity of the capital markets.
3. I have a strong passion for the material tested and the industry as a whole. This designation aligns perfectly with my career goals. I think the program can add great value to what I bring to a company.
4. Many companies seek out CFA® charterholders when hiring for positions. I think the designation has the ability to open doors that may not be available if I didn’t have the charter. Having the charter shows a commitment to the industry.
5. The desire to be part of a prestigious community of finance professionals. The network includes many well-known charterholders who have contributed significantly to industry innovation. I’d love to be part of that network.
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