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Failed For The 9th Time

I passed levels 1 and 2 on the first try and have tried since 2010 to pass level 3 (taking some years off in frustration), with no luck. I tried bootcamps, seminars, and study materials. Not sure if anyone else has this problem; might be ADHD, or my chronic depression, or just not being smart enough. All these things are possible.

Are there any radical suggestions? I can’t seem to land a job in finance anyway, so I could just find another line of work.

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if you cant land a finance job, what are u doing right now, and why do you want the charter? It probably wont land you one either.

I have the honest opinion that the charter isnt meant for everyone. They make it way too difficult for a reason.

I would start by analyzing your results: when looking at all of the information the institute provides, what seems to be issue? How far are you from MPS? Is it poor performance on AM, PM, or both? Are there glaring holes when looking at your performance on each topic? And then, when preparing, how are you scoring on mocks? What are your weaknesses when you answer practice questions / do mocks?

This exam is not rocket science, so you can rule out intelligence as a factor, especially if you’ve completed L1/L2. And on that last point, L3 is arguably easiest from a content standpoint. Seems like you need to assess your prep and areas that you’re weak in and then attack them. Also do as many timed mocks as possible.

+1

Tuchsford wrote:

I would start by analyzing your results: when looking at all of the information the institute provides, what seems to be issue? How far are you from MPS? Is it poor performance on AM, PM, or both? Are there glaring holes when looking at your performance on each topic? And then, when preparing, how are you scoring on mocks? What are your weaknesses when you answer practice questions / do mocks?

This exam is not rocket science, so you can rule out intelligence as a factor, especially if you’ve completed L1/L2. And on that last point, L3 is arguably easiest from a content standpoint. Seems like you need to assess your prep and areas that you’re weak in and then attack them. Also do as many timed mocks as possible.

+1

It must took you great courage to do that for 9 times. What a strong and persistent person! Agree with above, try more on analyzing your results and find the weak parts. For me, I didn’t use any materials or lectures, but I read the summary of each chapter carefully to make sure I know what they are talking about. That gave me a lot of clues on what CFA is going to test you on. And I summarized those “testing points” myself and make sure I read them again and again before the exam. It worked for me for level 2 & 3, hopefully it will be a little help to you too. But anyhow, if one way doesn’t lead you to where you want to be, sure there will be other ways. Just don’t get discouraged. You’ll be there. 

At least you made it to level 3. I know someone through passing who has failed level 1 six times since 2014. Only connected on Facebook and he posts the most enthusiastic and positive messages about challenging it one more time right on test day, only to inform everyone a month or so later after the sadness settles that he failed again. Considering how enthusiastic he is about sharing his journey on Facebook yet has not posted a “I finally did it” for this most recent attempt (I have come into the habit of checking it around this time of year since I started my own CFA journey, I honestly can’t help myself), I think we can change that six to a seven. Pattern will probably repeat this December. Point is, there’s always someone worse off than you so don’t get too down on yourself.

Also why I am revitalizing this thread I do not know. 

There was once a discussion whether it is easier or harder for retakers to take this exam. My first thought was, obviously it is easier for retakers as they already know the material at some level when starting to study again.

Not sure this is true for multiple retakers. I can imagine you starting the exam and already being overly anxious due to your past failures.

I took level I twice. The first one was just a try, as I have signed up for the exam (not knowing what it really takes) and until exam day I only read half of the material. Of course I failed, no big deal. Yet, when resitting the exam I was very nervous and I made quite a lot of stupid mistakes. Still I passed because I was prepared.

For both LII and LIII I sat down with much more calm and confidence and it turned out my exam results were similar or even better than my mocks.

YET: In your case, after 9 fails you should have a pattern showing your weak points:

Are you doing OK on the PM and just screw up the AM? Do you have some really weak areas which you just cannot overcome? Are you running out of time on the AM? Is maybe your writing so ineligible and dirty? When you sign up for the exam again and again, do you study the whole material from A to Z and do all exercises, or just look through it in the last 6 weeks thinking you already know this stuff? How is your performance on the mocks?

As for practice, I would put a greater emphasise on EOCs and BBs, because I think these are significantly more relevant as for the content of the exam, than the past papers. And the CFAI official mock. This always shows the areas you must focus before the exam - at least this is how I felt.

If you want to go on with pursuing the designation and you have the money and the time, I would analyze my past failures very deeply, and then build up a strategy. Maybe skip a year or two, and then go for it again.

Actually I know two people who failed LIII 3 times, and then gave up for good. One of them is even working in finance (actually banking). I think it’s a shame, why not give it another try, I’m sure they have the mental capacity to pass the exam.

call bull**** on this. No one fails L3 9 times. And just in case that were true, I’d call it quits. In a situation where you have trouble entering the industry in the first place and bomb L3 9 times, it’s better to start looking for another career. 

If you're the first out the door, that's not called panicking

125mph wrote:

if you cant land a finance job, what are u doing right now, and why do you want the charter? It probably wont land you one either.

I have the honest opinion that the charter isnt meant for everyone. They make it way too difficult for a reason.

I don’t mean to be rude or underestimate your achievement (at the end of the day, I am a L3 candidate , so I’ve got no reason to underestimate the CFA charter), but this whole thing of the Charter being too difficult and not for everyone is just not true. If someone with avg intelligence (most people) work hard to earn it, they will. The real reason people fail to get it is not the “difficulty’, per se, but the lack of determination. 

rellison wrote:

I passed levels 1 and 2 on the first try and have tried since 2010 to pass level 3 (taking some years off in frustration), with no luck. I tried bootcamps, seminars, and study materials. Not sure if anyone else has this problem; might be ADHD, or my chronic depression, or just not being smart enough. All these things are possible.

Are there any radical suggestions? I can’t seem to land a job in finance anyway, so I could just find another line of work.

I find it difficult to ask someone who passed L1 and L2 (not even on first try like you did, but who just passed them!) to call it quits at L3. I know 9 times is A LOT, BUT, it doesn’t make the slightest sense that there is something wrong with your ability to pass. Just reaching L3 definitely means that you are the kind of person who can do this. I very much doubt that you are not smart enough. If you can make it to level 3, your intelligence level is just fine dude. Given the information you’ve mentioned, I can almost guarantee you that your surroundings, your depression etc. is what is slowing you down. Try to fix your physical and mental health, work yourself first, and come back and face L3 again, i am very sure that you will make it.

@ Codtrawler 87:

I don’t know, I remember there were people who passed level II on their 7th or 8th tries. At least they posted about it. Why would one post such a problem if it didn’t exist?

I somehow believe these people don’t really study before the exam, they just flip through the material and go sit for the test. Plus they are a nervous wreck already and commit similar mistakes. I can just imagine they lose so much of their confidence that they even screw up the PM session, where in many cases you just cannot be 100% sure of your answer (and I’m not talking only about Ethics), and they notoriously go for the wrong answer.

And if you look at the result graph what we got, on the PM session even the 10 percentile candidates were above 50% correct in their answers. So if for some reason you don’t score at least 36/60 (or close to this), I think there is no way to pass the exam because you just won’t be given 100% on the AM.

Just think of athletes who can never even get close to their personal best performance in a championship. Eg. figure skater who can jump the triple Axel (or whatever) when training, and then never in the championship.

Entering the industry is another thing. OP must already have a career (unrelated to finance) so I agree, he/she should probably stick with it, but if it bothers him/her to pass the Level III exam, then should go for it - only after very careful and thorough analysis of the reasons behind the failure.

Ask yourself, why are you pursuing the charter? It won’t guarantee a job in finance.

Similar to passing the other levels, it just gets your foot in the door for an interview.

Did you land any invitation for an interview? I thought that passing level 1 or 2 would be sufficient for an entry job. 

Are you trolling? Because if you are, this has got to be the most legit troll post i’ve ever seen. 

But if you aren’t, PM me. I failed twice for L3. Got it on the third.

Big Dreams Require Big Sacrifices - VWJETTY

Best thing is you didn’t quit ! 

LadyMacbethStrategy wrote:

I don’t mean to be rude or underestimate your achievement (at the end of the day, I am a L3 candidate , so I’ve got no reason to underestimate the CFA charter), but this whole thing of the Charter being too difficult and not for everyone is just not true. If someone with avg intelligence (most people) work hard to earn it, they will. The real reason people fail to get it is not the “difficulty’, per se, but the lack of determination. 

I truly believe the charter is not for everyone. Either you’re not smart enough, you dont have enough time to do the required studying, you dont have the determination, or … many reasons..

If it was for everyone, why are there only 250K charterholderse and why is the statistics so gloomy… 1 in 4 people get it after starting the journey?

Rellison

Did you ask for suggestion after your fifth unsuccessful try? If I were you i would have quit way before. My suggestion is if you still dont want to quit then at least take a break for an year or two and free your mind. Then decide if you want to continue afterwards. 

125mph wrote:

LadyMacbethStrategy wrote:

I don’t mean to be rude or underestimate your achievement (at the end of the day, I am a L3 candidate , so I’ve got no reason to underestimate the CFA charter), but this whole thing of the Charter being too difficult and not for everyone is just not true. If someone with avg intelligence (most people) work hard to earn it, they will. The real reason people fail to get it is not the “difficulty’, per se, but the lack of determination. 

I truly believe the charter is not for everyone. Either you’re not smart enough, you dont have enough time to do the required studying, you dont have the determination, or … many reasons..

If it was for everyone, why are there only 250K charterholderse and why is the statistics so gloomy… 1 in 4 people get it after starting the journey?

This is the case with most professional qualifications, not just CFA. There is only 200K members in my professional accountancy body, and I am almost sure that the number of candidates who attempt these accountancy exams every year is  a lot more than the number of CFA candidates, simply because it is easier to get into accountancy than into investment. 

I very much agree with you on the determination and time factors, and if you’ve got the determination you may as well beat the time factor. But as far as “intelligence” and “level of difficulty” are concerned, I truly believe that the level of difficulty in CFA exams is set for avg intelligent people and that’s most people (I am one of those, I know myself, I am no genius!), and the key to passing is a lot of practice (in all professional exams not just CFA)  which doesn’t require you to be extra smart, just a hard worker and determinant person.

I honestly believe that professional exams require “exam taking skills” a lot more than being smart.

What is the return on investment you are expecting from getting the charter?  How much money and more importantly time have you already put into this exam?  What has the opportunity cost been to your career?  I am not trolling you…   

That being said, let’s say for arguments sake you think it is worth going for it a 10th time.  I suggest you take or retake a video or class teaching course like LevelUp (not just bootcamp), Kaplan’s classroom, or Mark Meldrum.  I say this because you passed L1 and 2 which means you are plenty smart…but you don’t work in finance or more accurately investment management.  Therefore many L3 concepts are totally new, there is loads of industry jargon, and industry specific topics.  The video guys TEACH, and at least for LevelUP and Meldrum they teach quite well.  

Rellison, 

I totally relate to your hope, frustration and human toll incurred.  Until 20 days ago, I was there with you.  It took me a few tries put level 3 to rest. 

Conquering level 3 is akin to a pilgrimage, with plenty of trials and tribulations. The slow burns start in late October and around Thanksgiving.  A few hours a week get one back to the familiar rhythms.  By the Holiday season passes, it becomes couple of hours a day.  Hope makes it a happy time.  Adapting a study approach, signing up for a new paid prep program and learning new knowledge stimulate the brain. As March arrives, it is time to steam rolling through chapter end problems.  Sure the answer keys use different verbiage, but my answers are close enough.  A matter semantics, of course. GF/BF/wife/husband/closed ones are put on noticed about your upcoming absence.  Late April is here, so is information overload.  The brain draws a blank except on the most recent two or three chapters.  Mid of May is a time for panic attack with mock exams behaving like roller coasters.  Last two weeks before the big day is a blur, frantic, losing weight, neck pain from sitting too long and quiet protests from those feeling ignored.  The ugly realization of possibility of another fail comes out of no where.  On the actual exam day, like a prisoner on the death roll too long, it was a surreal sense of relief.  The exam is a human robotic reaction under the gun without emotions.  The next agonizing 60+ days are full of self doubts, “would, could, should and what ifs” and “f*ck it”.  At the end of August, the infamous email arrives, with familiar verbiage of “FAIL”, “sincerely regret to inform” and “encourage you to reconsider registering”.  The numb feeling, not much of disappointment, sinks in. 

Long winded; yes.  I have been there way too many times than I care for.  I am glad I am finally out of golden birdcage and feel liberated once more.  The celebration is sober, subdued and private.  It is not earth shattering or an elated thrill, because multiple fails erase the rights to brag about intelligence and dance after scoring the final touch down.  And, here comes my two cents. 

Hopefully, my experience will somewhat and somehow support your endeavor. 

  1. Control narcissist tendency: CFA brings lots of knowledge and builds lifelong skillsets, no denial about that.  And, it is also yet another exam.  The subtile difference metamorphoses into spending too much time and energy on low topic weight yet extremely challenging topics like bond interest options and paying too little attention on lower hanging fruits like CME and equity. The former appeals our narcissist self and makes us feeling smart, and the later involves repetition, hence boring.  We think too much about our own perspective, less from a relative scale of others.  If a topic is difficult to you, so is to others.  Don’t kill yourself for it. After passing level I, all exam takers are smart and in the one percentile range on finance knowledge of general population.  So please don’t question about your intelligence, but do spend it strategically.  

  2. An exam prep classes installs discipline:  Except the last attempt, I never paid for any prep classes.  However, I did buy Schweser mock exams couple of times.  In my opinion, the $1K course helped me in the following ways. 

    • First, it drills repetition by topics instead of a whole exam.  My AM scores were always just a hair below the minimum passing average. I used to practice all 10 year AM exams once in a sequential manner.  However, all becomes a blur at end, I remembers little.  This year, the course forced me to practice all 10 year exams by topics, like doing all individual planning question of 10 years. And, most importantly, practice each topics 3 times.  That really made a difference. Instead of evoking the analytical side of the brain, it relies on a machine like instinctive recall.   Think fast, not thinking slow. 

    • Secondly, the course I used rank other peers by their progress.  Keeping up with the paces of others makes easier than sticking to our own “perfect” plan.  It is particular true during hardest months of March and April.  A team environment keeps each other motivated. 

  3. Teaching others is the best way to learn: Conceptually understanding is completely different from knowing it cold.  So watch those class videos! Remember Singer Terhaar and Grinold-Kroner? Each component is simple and intuitive, but putting all the exact details together is extremely hard.  And CFA loves to confuse us with substituting look alike values, such as current year yield instead of expected yield of next year.  Teaching others or debating with others fluently is a sure way to fortify my brain with lasting memory.  

In close, hopefully you won’t give up.  Sure, you suffer from losing 60% of a year to CFA, but you save a ton from unable to do  crazy random things or wondering around aimlessly.  Like schools, CFA is a refuge from the real world.  In my opinion, CFA is an adverse selection tool for employers.  It shrinks candidate pool to a manageable size and increases likelihood to find the most ideal candidate.  

Get it through and get on with your real life. 

i am quite interested to see the results.of the past exam. it appears u strugle AM heavily… based on the post trais it appears that it’s not “trolling”… but who do i know…

i attempted it multiple times too but i did it consecutively… *luckily for me, i did it… Agreed with everyone’s suggestion above.

What are doing now if you don’t mind me asking? 

AGREE 1000000%

This is false.  The charter is for absolutely anyone that wants to work for it, regardless of how many times it takes them to complete all three levels.  Whether you pass all level in your first try or need to take a few more runs at it, the result and charter are identical in the end.  I do not believe there is any benefit in trying to teardown people for whom the format and/or testing environment may present a particular challenge.

Never die easy.

Booner wrote:

This is false.  The charter is for absolutely anyone that wants to work for it, regardless of how many times it takes them to complete all three levels.  Whether you pass all level in your first try or need to take a few more runs at it, the result and charter are identical in the end.  I do not believe there is any benefit in trying to teardown people for whom the format and/or testing environment may present a particular challenge.

Never die easy.

+1

back against the wall. no retreat no surrender.

rellison wrote:

I passed levels 1 and 2 on the first try and have tried since 2010 to pass level 3 (taking some years off in frustration), with no luck. I tried bootcamps, seminars, and study materials. Not sure if anyone else has this problem; might be ADHD, or my chronic depression, or just not being smart enough. All these things are possible.

Are there any radical suggestions? I can’t seem to land a job in finance anyway, so I could just find another line of work.

You are unreal man. Hats off to your determination even if you just walk to the center without any preparation !

I created a meme out of your situation. I’m guessing it will offend a few people - but maybe in your case it might motivate you?.. IDK man. If you passed level 2 you’re clearly capable of passing level 3. Level 3’s curriculum is 10x easier, however, the test is 10x as hard.

You probably just suck at the morning session. So work on that, and start asking around on how to actually answer the question the way the grader is looking for.

I decided I will post the offensive meme anyways.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It be like that sometimes.

Why would you really want the CFA charter? I am in a similar boat, failed 3rd time and finally decided to quit for the following reasons :

1. spending 400/500 hours studying at the age of 40 is a big opportunity cost

2. I read a lot and I have gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom reading those books, I would rather focus on these that would help me in my career as well as personal goals

3. At the age of 40, experience matters more than holding an MBA or chartered holder, If you are 28, yes it does matter as employers would be looking at these additional degrees 

4. Whether its personal or professional, you have to make decisions that help you in achieving your objectives. I thought a lot about it and I would encourage you to do the same. Why would you really want a CFA charter. Think like taking a bet, If you are not a CFA chartered holder, how does your career and your life get impacted? IMHO, it shouldnt much, your practical experience, your hard and soft skills should help you to reach where you want.

Hope that helps.

Regards

Saurabh

Regards,
Saurabh

saurabhm wrote:

Why would you really want the CFA charter? I am in a similar boat, failed 3rd time and finally decided to quit for the following reasons :

1. spending 400/500 hours studying at the age of 40 is a big opportunity cost

2. I read a lot and I have gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom reading those books, I would rather focus on these that would help me in my career as well as personal goals

3. At the age of 40, experience matters more than holding an MBA or chartered holder, If you are 28, yes it does matter as employers would be looking at these additional degrees 

4. Whether its personal or professional, you have to make decisions that help you in achieving your objectives. I thought a lot about it and I would encourage you to do the same. Why would you really want a CFA charter. Think like taking a bet, If you are not a CFA chartered holder, how does your career and your life get impacted? IMHO, it shouldnt much, your practical experience, your hard and soft skills should help you to reach where you want.

Hope that helps.

Regards

Saurabh

I feel for you both. I feel bad. But if it can give any Solace to you, I am on the wrong side of 40 too. But nobody can take away my Charter from me. I am going to apply soon and hopefully get it. Truth be told, I am going to be double crown holder with both CFA and FRM under my belt.  Nobody can make the decision for you if you want to give it one last try. And absolutely every story is unique. Did I have any career aspiration while I did my CFA and FRM? No. I was not going to benefit and that was not how Iooked at it. But who knows what is there in store for all of us. If I may advice- I conquered because I never felt my age was a hindrance. I was and am still as agile as I was in my early 20s. And though my mental faculty have taken a slight deterioration in terms of recalling and remembering , they never really are obstacle. I knew the material all too well to fail. I took only 6 past AM papers and 6 PM mocks including the 2 institute’s.  My topic tests and mock exams held me at 75th percentile. Saurabh, I am elder to you. I can do it, you can do it. CFA is not BIGGER. My DETERMINATION  is BIGGER THAN THAT. I don’t want to give the CFA institute or its standardised tests any more respect than it deserves. THEY ARE NOT BIGGER THAN MY COMPOSURE AND RESOLVE. Get it ?

back against the wall. no retreat no surrender.

If it helps, the head of one of the local CFA societies tried 11 times before getting his charter.

HerbsDelite wrote:

saurabhm wrote:

Why would you really want the CFA charter? I am in a similar boat, failed 3rd time and finally decided to quit for the following reasons :

1. spending 400/500 hours studying at the age of 40 is a big opportunity cost

2. I read a lot and I have gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom reading those books, I would rather focus on these that would help me in my career as well as personal goals

3. At the age of 40, experience matters more than holding an MBA or chartered holder, If you are 28, yes it does matter as employers would be looking at these additional degrees 

4. Whether its personal or professional, you have to make decisions that help you in achieving your objectives. I thought a lot about it and I would encourage you to do the same. Why would you really want a CFA charter. Think like taking a bet, If you are not a CFA chartered holder, how does your career and your life get impacted? IMHO, it shouldnt much, your practical experience, your hard and soft skills should help you to reach where you want.

Hope that helps.

Regards

Saurabh

I feel for you both. I feel bad. But if it can give any Solace to you, I am on the wrong side of 40 too. But nobody can take away my Charter from me. I am going to apply soon and hopefully get it. Truth be told, I am going to be double crown holder with both CFA and FRM under my belt.  Nobody can make the decision for you if you want to give it one last try. And absolutely every story is unique. Did I have any career aspiration while I did my CFA and FRM? No. I was not going to benefit and that was not how Iooked at it. But who knows what is there in store for all of us. If I may advice- I conquered because I never felt my age was a hindrance. I was and am still as agile as I was in my early 20s. And though my mental faculty have taken a slight deterioration in terms of recalling and remembering , they never really are obstacle. I knew the material all too well to fail. I took only 6 past AM papers and 6 PM mocks including the 2 institute’s.  My topic tests and mock exams held me at 75th percentile. Saurabh, I am elder to you. I can do it, you can do it. CFA is not BIGGER. My DETERMINATION  is BIGGER THAN THAT. I don’t want to give the CFA institute or its standardised tests any more respect than it deserves. THEY ARE NOT BIGGER THAN MY COMPOSURE AND RESOLVE. Get it ?

Congratulations on having CFA and FRM under your belt, whats next CAIA? :)

I think you misunderstood my point, its not about age, its about opportunity costs. One needs to practice finance in real life too. I am not quitting because of my lack of DETERMINATION but because I could use these 400 hours where I get a better return.

So how can I use these 400 hours :

1. I run my own boutique corporate finance consulting in Life sciences area, was on the verge of collapse in 2013 when I decided to take CFA journey in case I had to look for a job. Finally my hard work paid, started getting clients and now I travel across europe to get clients, help CEOs in making decisions, provide CFO services and so on. I am an expert at valuation and am invited at didfferent forums to speak on these in life sciences domain. I could use these 400 hours to grow my business. 

2. I read a lot, I buy more books than I read. Thanks to my reading habit, I apply these lessons in my practical life. Were you in a situation where your clients never replied to your email? I read a lot about about behavioral sides of the humans and used it to let clients reply to my emails. I nudged one CEO who was reluctant to our proposals to sign the proposal through understanding behavioral side of him. I enjoy these practical aspects of finance as it allows me to see the results and these has happened because of my reading habit. I can read more and leverage it in both professional and personal life.

3. I have a 3.5 year daughter and one more on way. I would spend more time with them and my family. I get emotional dividends

To summarize, and strictly speaking on corp finance terms - I get more ROIC ( return on invested capital) if I use these 400 hours on the above parameters than I sit in the exam. 

I would have been  happy if I had cleared this time, my situation having cleared L2  and trying L3 for 3 times currently is tantamount to a company who has invested 2 billion USD on a technology that is getting obsolete but the company still wants to finish the project by putting 0.5 B more. For me, the value of CFA at this point of my career is diminishing for the above reasons, for many its NOT. For many, it adds value, so good for those, They should hang on till they clear it.

So, based on your priorities, you make decisions. As per your argument regarding uncertainties in future, you didn’t have career aspirations when you took CFA and FRM, for me I did. For me, every decision we make is like taking a bet, we do not know what holds in the future, but I always look that if I take path A where it could lead than if I take Path B. I could be wrong in the future as no one knows it, but thats how we learn and adapt for next decisions.

Last but not least, every cloud has a silver lining, having prepared for CFA for all these years has made me more disciplined, because of my family, I started waking up at 5 am to study, now I wake up regularly at 5 am, read for an hour, go to the gym , then to my office early and am back home early.

I have no complaints. I did get a good return by preparing for it ( sans flashing CFA on my linkedin and business cards :) )

All the best!

Saurabh

Regards,
Saurabh

You have a point. I know what sacrifice our family make for us seeing through journey. The family dividend are much higher than an idiotic test . Good luck to you. 

back against the wall. no retreat no surrender.