Failed Level 1 three times, help / destroyed

Hi all,

I got my results yesterday and am completely shattered into 1000 pieces. Upfront as information: I had no experience or anything to do with finance before I started the CFA journey. No Masters degree what so ever. I am a simple IT-Engineer.

The first time i went to the exam i had no idea what I was dealing with. Learned not really that hard. Knew quickly that I would fail. Got a band 5.

The secound time I put more effort into it and was learning hard but with weak spots. (I do not like FRA at all). I got a band 8.

Now the last time I took 2.5 weeks off and studied really hard, took 2 weeks vacation to learn 8 to 10 houres a day. Went out of the exam with a good feeling. Got my results with a band 10. (The only weak spot was FRA)

I know Lvl II and III are harder, is it time to throw the towel and say “I did my best” ? Spent so much time and money. I feel like the biggest failure at the moment. I guess retab will not help.


  • Alternative Investments 10 - - * - Corporate Finance 17 - - * - Derivatives 12 - - * - Economics 24 - * - - Equity Investments 24 - * - - Ethical & Professional Standards 36 - - * - Financial Reporting & Analysis 48 * - - - Fixed Income Investments 24 - - * - Portfolio Management 17 * - - - Quantitative Methods 28 - * -

We have divided the group of candidates who did not pass into 10 approximately equal score bands. Your score band below shows how your overall score on the exam compares with the overall scores of candidates who did not pass this exam. Your score band: 10

Wait. For the 3rd attempt, you only studied for 2 weeks? You should’ve started fresh, like you haven’t taken it before.

But his life has been cut into pieces. It was his last resort. It’s like suffocation - no breathing.

As a “simple IT-Engineer” what’s your motivation for pursuing the charter?

Thought he meant he took 2.5 wks off from work, etc to study , not that that was all the prep he did. Big difference

I studied months before. I took the time off to drill the questions.

Our company programms software for banks. I got a job as Consultant in my company. Good mix between IT and finance was my idea. Strong knowledge of IT and finance was my goal.

Going for a 4th would ripp my nerves, but holding the thought of failure for my life kills me.

Between two lines of hard time.

^ Your value isn’t determined by the cfa exam. If I were you, I would stop. Level 2 and 3 are a lot harder. Focus on something else and excel at that.

It looks like your marks were pretty good besides FRA and PM. What were you scoring on those in mocks and topic tests? I’m curious as I am taking the exam for the first time in June. I’m also a finance major, and it makes perfect sense to me a non-business major would struggle with the amount of material. I would put additional focus on FRA, watch videos, and get those topic test scores above 70 for the next go.

'Cause he’s losing his sight, losing his mind, wish somebody would tell him he’s fine.


During the exam, were your palms sweaty? Knees weak? Arms were heavy? Was there vomit on your sweater already? Mom’s spaghetti?

Dude…you only get one shot…do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, you better

You can do anything you set your mind to, man

if you dont study at LEAST 300 hours for each level then you are not really giving it a fair chance… dont even consider the first and second try as a real attempt… this year it sounds like you were more serious and the result was that you were close. no reason to pass judgment on you about your IQ or commitment if you only really tried 1 time and failed… there are no short cuts… even the smartest people will fail “every time” if they dont study sufficiently. if you go HARD for June you will pass… and then you have to go HARDER for level 2 and even HARDER for 3 … 300-400 hours minimum.

people that dont study for CFA think of 400 hours as something absurd but it actually goes by very quickly… just doing 6 practice exams and correcting/reviewing the answers will take at least 45-50 hours… in the month of May last year I studied 200 hours for level 3

personally my advice for level 1 is to get the Qbank and literally “memorize” all ~2500 questions… got through all of it multiple times and then to 6-10 practice exams…

Don’t pay for a retab, it’s a waste of time and money - it was a multiple choice exam.

Is it time to throw in the towel? It depends on how much time you have:

I don’t have a finance degree, I took sciences in university.

I failed Level 1 twice. I failed Level 2 three times.

I am currently stuck on level 3 and I am retaking the exam. Why do I continue? Because I have time.

I am young enough to be continuing with the CFA program without it affecting too much of my family life and plan to work for another 30 years so the long time commitment of the program is still a lot shorter than my working life. I like investments and these are the hardest exams I have ever taken in my life, it challenges me to try harder. I won’t be the star analyst or portfolio manager, but there are other areas of interest I can do such as compliance, performance or risk analysis. Maybe even one of those useless high fee investment advisors, retail investors seem to still gravitate to, I know I can do a better job than most of them.

If I had to do all over again, I would have used the CFA textbooks [exhibits, examples in volumes and end of chapter readings (EOC)]+ Schweser videos [(I can listen or repeat the videos on my schedule whenever I am the most alert), stay away from the Qbank] for levels 1 and 2, then some type of tutor/seminar to help with the morning session for level 3, along with lots of practice morning exams.

I also have made the mistake of taking too much time off or trying to cram. I am a slow learner and get stressed easily near the exam date, the last two weeks before the exam would not help me learn anything new, that time should be used to learn how to complete questions as fast as you can within the 3 hour time limit.

I found taking long weekends (3 - 4 day weekends) instead of the full week off from work and starting earlier than later worked better for me, don’t listen to everyone on analystforum, not everyone is going to pass the exam by studying 2 months before the big day.

Before continuing with the program ask yourself:

  • How many YEARS am I willing to spend in this program? even if you pass this year, you still have at least 2 more years of harder levels, where you may need to take the exam more than once to pass each level; _ the earliest you will finish is 2019, with the more likely scenario being 2020 or 2021. _
  • Will I get a job in the investment field? you have to get the proper work experience and you need 4 years of that to use those 3 letters after your name, also a lot of people were attracted to the program because of the money they _ may _ make in the industry: first, not everyone will make that much money; second some areas of the industry have very long hours so when you average out the number of hours a person work to what they make, it may have been cheaper to be in another industry; last, if you like finance but don’t really need a graduate level education in investments maybe a CPA would be a better and less time consuming option
  • Am I willing to give up more time away from family and friends? the CFA program takes a lot of time away from family and friends, if you are successful and complete the program then the sacrifice was worth it, if not, there were other things you could have being doing with that time you will never get back

_ If you are still willing to go through with the program _ I would not worry about the money you are burning through now, you should be able to recoup your losses and then some in the future. But you do need to create a better study schedule to get the number of hours you need in to pass the exam, without relying on studying longer hours near the end to help you pass the exam.

PS whenever I did pass, I usually felt like I knew most of the exam e.g.greater than 70% of the exam or 6 out of 7 or 7 out of 7 for a section, at minimum 5 out of 7 for a section. You can pass by failing certain topics but they can’t be topics that are worth a lot on the exam.

Best of Luck,

^dude, you’ve spent 7 years on this program? I’m not trying to be insensitive, but do you even work in the industry currently?

I’m in finance, but not directly in the investments industry right now, the economy in my country is favouring part-time work over full-time work, and right now I prefer to be employed full-time than worry where my next job will come from. Luckily the CFA is not as strict as some other designations where you must complete your work experience in the industry by a certain time frame - life happens, it takes longer than you think to complete a designation while working full-time.

Taking this long to finish the program is more common than you think:

  • I met people who have taken years off between levels for family and/or to build relevant work experience
  • The CFA mentions it takes on average 4+ years to finish the program but they don’t state what the median, mode or average years spent in the program is
  • Only 1 in 5 candidates who start the program ever finish (CFA podcast said so), so even if I am at the tail end of how long it takes to finish, having passed all 3 levels would be one less hurdle I have to get to the designation and I really do have another 30+ years to work before retirement, so the delay is not a big deal to me
  • I didn’t know anyone in the program when I first started, I have actually met more people who dropped out of the program than have finished it. There was no one to help direct me as to how to study or what prep material (other than CFA text) to use, people on analystforum talk a lot about this and that, brag about not having to put in the study hours to pass, but most of it is just talk, no action on how the rest of us can finish the program
  • Took me a while to realize how many hours it really takes to pass the exam, sometimes I still can’t believe the amount of work I have put in to pass one level

Not to take any wind from your sails, but Level III will be the hardest. Use that for inspiration.



I was like you… absolutely no educational background in finance or econ. On top of that I am borderline retarded when it comes to memorizing a lot of detailed facts and figures. How hard this test is to prepare for is highly contingent on talent for being able to retain information quickly and efficiently. It took me 1000 hours (not an exaggeration!) and two attempts to pass L1. I am not continuing the program since I have decided to go in a different direction. If that was not the case, I would for sure keep going with it. I now know what makes it difficult for me so I would accommodate by starting prep early and making sure I set aside the time and energy it would take. Just because it is difficult should not be a deterrent. Just have to work harder at it.

For you, I don’t necessarily think Levels 2 & 3 will be harder. There is a steeper learning curve for the first exam that makes your situation unique. You are learning the broad strokes and the other levels are the finer details. Think of if like a kid learning to walk. Learning to walk takes a while, but learning to run takes a lot less time. Keep at it, don’t give up, and in 5 years post that you have earned the right to use the CFA designation. (Assuming you change careers in that time and have the work experience).

I can add some validity to this. I was not yet working in finance when I registered for L1, and passed on my second attempt.

I’m about halfway through the material for L2 and am not finding the prep to be significantly more strenuous that that of L1.

Put another way: The jump from essentially 0 finance knowledge to an L1 pass has been, in my experience, similar to the jump from L1 to L2.

Yo. Sucks man, I passed level 1 first try with no background as well and found it roughly the same difficulty as prepping for level 2… I just really wanted to share my score matrix though because yours was much better overall. You mustve really gotten rekt on FRA though.

Alternative Investments 8 - * -

Corporate Finance 20 - * -

Derivatives 12 - * -

Economics 24 * - -

Equity Investments 24 - - *

Ethical & Professional Standards 36 - * -

Financial Reporting & Analysis 48 - * -

Fixed Income Investments 28 - * -

Portfolio Management 12 * - -

Quantitative Methods 28 - * -

you should really hit the FRA. Gotta master FRA for both level I and level II to pass.

What do you mean by “i am in finance but no in investment…” - this can mean lot of different things for lot of people.

I hear “yeah i am in finance” from people in operations, auditing, tax IF they work for a bank or some fund. Look if you are an HR for Goldman Sachs, you are not in finance…you are in HR…If you are in operations or fund accountant at a hedge fund you are NOT in finance. You are in accounting. Just wanted to say this.

Remember CFA is about mastering FRA man. Master the accounting books in the CFA.