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What to do if you've just failed CFA Level I

CFA Level I results are out. This time, the pass rate was 37% - 1% lower than June 2012. We've gone through a few failures ourselves, so we understand how crappy it is to push yourself through all this hard work only to not get through.

Here are the steps you should take if you didn't manage a pass this time around:

Feel sorry for yourself for a while. It's normal and allowed, and you should go through this phase. You've put a lot of effort, so it would be absurd if you weren't disappointed. Allow yourself a week or so to mope.

Pick yourself up, and realize that in the grand scheme of things this is just a blip in your path to greatness

A useful trick I've learnt is to think of yourself 10 years ago, and at that age, what crisis were you going through that made it seem like the world was ending. Chances are your 'crisis' 10 years ago seems very silly to you today. That's how you'll look back on today 10 years from now, so really, it's not a big deal.

In telling your friends, family and colleagues, the best way to approach it is straight up, frankly, and without shame

No one is going to belittle you or judge you any worse for not managing to pass one of the toughest professional qualifications there is. This time. Try not to brush it off as a small thing, or like you didn't care - normally it has the opposite effect to outside observers. You will elicit respect.

Analyze your results

Look at your results and see which Band were you in - Band 10 would mean you were closest to passing. Knowing how close you were is important in deciding how/when/if you want to retake.

Properly decide if you're going to continue or give up

Personally, when I failed, I got raving mad and decided I wouldn't rest until I wholesomely kick this CFA level's ass. The good news is that if you register and retake immediately, revising again is going to be much easier than the previous time, so your chances are greatly improved!

If you've not passed this time around, don't beat yourself up too much. It happens to most of us, it's just that some of us prefer to pretend it didn't.

Christine is a member of the 300 Hours team. She spent 4 years in investment banking and picked up her CFA charter along the way. She left banking to ponder life & experience the world, one city at a time. If you've just received results to your CFA exam, you can analyse them using the 300 Hours results tool, here. 

AUTHORChristine Martinez, 300 hours Insider Comment
  • ro
    23 January 2013

    As it's a global exam given in English, for those with English as their first language the pass rate was surely higher than 37%. Years ago, I was told the pass rate for the London test centre for Level 1 was 70% - though I've no way of verifying this. The challenge with the CFA examinations is finding the time to get through the curriculum. You know if you've put in the work so more than likely, you shouldn't feel disappointed by how you've done.

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