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"The CFA exams have destroyed my mental health"

I want to share my story about the CFA  ® exams while remaining anonymous. I'd love to know whether other people are in the same position as me.

I've taken the CFA Level 1 exams twice, and both times I've failed. It's excruciating: the CFA exam qualifications have taken over my life.

It's not that I'm lazy. CFA Institute recommends that you spend 300 hours studying for each exam. So far, I have spent over 1,000 hours studying CFA exam material alongside my job in an investment bank, and I've only had two sittings.

The issue is that the CFA exams have become almost impossible to pass. The pass rate for level one in November 2021 was just 27%. In July, it was just 22%. Before 2021, the pass rate was comfortably above 40%.

I'd like to give up studying for the CFA Level 1 exam, but I can't. My boss is not happy that I've failed twice, and my career is at stake as a result - the expectation is that I will study again, and pass. But I have no idea what's required to get a pass - there's no transparency on how these exams are graded. 

I don't want to go through this again.  I have gained weight and lost my social life. Studying for the CFA exams has taken away my last vestiges of free time, and I now have no time whatsoever to do the things I really want. It's making me depressed and at times I have felt almost suicidal. I'm reaching out because I want to know if anyone else has had the same issue. Please let me know in the comments box beneath this article.

Adrian Moore is a pseudonym

If you're in the UK, you can contact call Samaritans for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit In the U.S., dial 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). In Singapore, contact the Samaritans of Singapore. In Hong Kong, contact the Samaritans of Hong Kong. 

Photo by Akshay Chauhan on Unsplash

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AUTHORAdrian Moore Insider Comment
  • Mi
    8 August 2022

    Honestly, I belive you need to take a break just o relax your mind, it doesn't matter how long it takes and don't pressure your self to feel better cuz it's gonna do the opposite. I think if your really passionate about finance in general having a degree o prove how good you are at it is not a measure, I know many people who are excellent in the finance world and they don't even have a CFA. If your learning everyday and have a stable job that can keep you fed and satisfied I belive that's all that matters. You can climb the corporate ladder ( if you want ofcource) with things other than the CFA, and practice is way more valuable than a certification in my opinion.
    I hope you feel better and know when it's time to stop and when you want to continue.
    Even if you decided to not take the CFA, that for sure and absolutely doesn't define how smart or good you are and you probably are but you just need to take a break to see it completely.
    Hope this helps ❤️

  • CK
    10 July 2022

    I pass my CFA level 1 last year by keep praticing end of chapter question, and discover the crush course on youtube is a great help. Just search "cfa crush course" a Indian guy pop up.They are free and really contribute most to my success in passing the exam. i guess i spend about 450 hours for my CFA level 1 exam. BTW, anki is a great app to use too for looping end of chapter question.

  • Fr
    30 May 2022

    @adrian, Hi.

    A few things of note:
    1) If you are feeling suicidal from the cfa exam and pressure at work. You may need (it sounds like a well deserved one) to rest your mind and your soul. You can use the break to evaluate your goals, workout, and get yourself back to where you want to be

    2) The CFA exams are a standard test and may not be fitted to your testing style. It took me 3 tries to pass some of the exams even though I understood the content well. It was the actual way of testing that tripped me up

    3) When preparing for the next exam, try a test prep course and trying to find a study buddy who you can study with

    4) The pressure from your boss does not sound good regardless of your stead results. Relationships can be complicated or even just unfair. I hope you can find a working arrangement where you feel respected - sometimes that requires a move or realigning with those around you

  • CF
    CFA Hopeful
    22 May 2022

    Sorry you're feeling this way. I'm studying for level 3 now and I completely understand your frustration. These exams sucks years of fun out of your life but I do think it is worth it if you're looking for a profession where you can apply the designation. If that is the case for you then I would encourage you to find perhaps a different learning method; reading is not enough, you must do around 2,000 timed practice questions (including the mock exams), watch videos, and so forth. I used Kaplan Schweser for every level and I do find that's the only way to do it, I need all the resources I can get. Give yourself at least 5 months of study and 1 month for review (this means around 15-20 hours a week of serious studying). Having taken levels 1 and 2 I can tell you exam 1 is the easiest of all, level 2 is brutal and it's where most people get stuck and give up. If you're serious about getting the designation know that it's a tough road ahead with not guarantee payoff, you just have to take one step at a time.

  • so
    someone speci
    18 May 2022

    #cfasuicide is real

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