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What do you do when you fail CFA Level III three times over?

Meet the Bulgarian analyst arguing that the CFA marking scheme isn't fair

What do you do when you fail CFA Level III three times?

Genadiy Georgiev, a financial analyst at civil construction firm Bord in Bulgaria, is a veteran of the CFA exams. Having passed level I in 2010 and level II in 2011, he thought he was on his way to passing level III and becoming a full CFA Charterholder. Four years later, this isn't the case: Georgiev has taken CFA III three times, and failed on each occasion.

Now he's taken to the internet with some very (very) lengthy diatribes arguing that the CFA's marking method is unfair. Georgiev is no closer to passing Level III, but he's certainly raising his profile in the industry.

For those not in the know, the CFA's Level III exams differ in structure to levels I and II. Whereas I is comprised of 420 multiple choice questions and II is comprised of 120 'item questions', III involves a combination of set questions and essays.

Georgiev's complaint revolves around the marks allocated to each Level III question. In an attempt to use his time efficiently, he says he deliberately left some questions unanswered after calculating that those he was answering would provide him with a score high enough to pass. However, on receiving the results to the exams Georgiev argues that it became apparent that his unanswered questions accounted for far more marks than were indicated on the paper. "This exam is an opaque black box," he says. "Nor do they give you any feedback or behave with the sort of the transparency they try to promote in the investment industry."

For its part, the CFA Institute says it's looked at Georgiev's complaint and found it to be groundless. In August, president of the CFA Insitute Paul Smith wrote to Georgiev stating, "Your recollection of your answers and/or the structure of the question sub-parts is incorrect." In September, the CFA's chief legal officer wrote to Georgiev saying it considered the case closed.

The Institute declined to comment further on the case for this article, but Georgiev is persisting with his campaign for redemption. "I am very stubborn," he says, pointing out that he didn't complain the first two times he failed. "I cannot withstand the unfairness and injustice."

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • DJ
    11 October 2015

    Each element of the curriculum (or CBoK in CFA terms) isn't particularly taxing and frankly, if the exams were more modular and could be taken more regularly (such as in accounting) then they would be simple. For all it's faults the CFA program does a few things very well. Firstly, It levels the playing field in terms of 'base knowledge' and gets practitioners speaking the same language; secondly, it proves to an employer that you can manage, what is a massive workload, alongside a job and that you've got the resilience to not choke under the pressure of only getting 1 shot a year.

    Mr Georgiev may be getting considerable publicity from his rant, but in the relatively small world of Funds Management not all publicity is good publicity. What he is really telling the world of potential employers is that rather than learn the material properly he is trying to 'game' the exam and that when that hasn't worked he is susceptible to 'chucking his teddies out of the pram' and blaming the system rather than working out what he needs to do to succeed.

    So work hard, learn the material, get better under pressure and pass without trying to game the system and in so doing show people you have the qualities that people are looking for when they see the letters CFA. Failing that, accept it's not for everyone and move on... There are plenty of important (and well remunerated) areas of the industry where the CFA is just not that big a thing.

  • Ge
    Genadiy Georgiev
    25 September 2015

    Thanks for your comments JIMBO. Probably you are right that the probability for getting a pass rate on this particular exam could increase with the amount of money one invests in the CFA Program. But here the issue is that the CFA Institute on the part of its graders assigns points on totally unanswered questions and detracts points from those questions that have been answered correctly. That's why I believe that the grading process has some shortcomings which the officials of the institute fail to admit deliberately following their verdict "NO GUILTY AT ANY CASE".

  • JI
    23 September 2015

    Just keep paying - you'll pass eventually...

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