I got 5 topics above 70%, 3 topics slightly below 70% and 2 topics between 50% - 70% for my CFA Level II May 2021 Exam. And I failed. Is this surprising?

[Topic Weights]

  1. FRA >70% [10 - 15%]
  2. Portfolio >70% [10 - 15%]
  3. Econs >70% [5 - 10%]
  4. Fixed income >70% [10 - 15%]
  5. Corp Fin >90% [5 - 10%]
  6. QM = slightly below 70% [5 - 10%]
  7. Equity = slightly below 70% [5 - 10%]
  8. Alternative Investment = slightly below 70% [5 - 10%]
  9. Ethics = between 50% - 70% [10 - 15%]
  10. Derivatives = 50% [5 - 10%]

Without more information, such as where all your peers scored on the sections, it is unfortunate but not super surprising. The pass rate of 40% was low but not super low. Ethics might have been the Achilles heel here. Did you score close to passing overall, or no? Honestly it all depends on how everyone taking the exam did compared to you, and how far above 70% your >70% scores were.

Without seeing more, it looks like you maybe came close, yes? About half your section points scored over 70% and about half scored under 70% with the overweighted Ethics section unfortunately being one of them.

Cheers you got this - stick with it! Awaiting my L3 results next week and I might be in similar shoes. Hope not, but it is what it is!

My overall score is just a thread below the MPS. The topics that are above 70% is nearer to the 70% line. Perhaps in the 70% - 75% region.

Only Corporate Finance was clearly way above the 70% line.

if i can pair them up, the overall average should be around 70%. i did a separate calculation on this and found that:

  1. FRA & Portfolio can pull up Ethics & AI (high weights)
  2. Econs can pull up QM (low weights)
  3. Corp Fin can pull up Derivatives (low weights)
  4. Fixed Income can pull up Equity (high weights)

**pull up to the 70% score.

Even getting near the 70% overall score, I still failed. Does CFAI always do relative grading? And not necessarily those who scored 70% is a pass?

I believe the MPS is set to the difficulty of the exam questions. Some of this is evidenced by how folks do on the questions based on their historical use, some is based on how the CFA team apparently rates the questions. To be clear, I am not involved in the inner workings of that process nor do I have special knowledge. If you scored close to or at 70% on a test where the exam questions are deemed by the CFA Institute to be easier, then it’s not the same as scoring close to 70% on an exam where the exam questions are deemed slightly harder. With the computer based testing, the questions do seem easier in the early iterations. On my L3 exam this past May, I would not be surprised if the MPS is at or above 70% at the end of the day. But who knows. Maybe I slightly misunderstood the exam and underestimated it, we will see.

If you came close but came up short, Ethics probably sealed your fate. It is over-weighted in borderline cases according to all public information. It is not the case that FRA and PM can pull up Ethics if everything they say is true. It is the opposite actually - if you are borderline then Ethics can pull you down if you score lower on it. And it can pull you up if you score higher on it. That section has a special status according to everyone. Cheers man you will get it next time surely!

If you think CFAI is adjusting the MPS depending on the difficulty of the exam, then i guess i’m the victim of relative grading.

If it’s a competition among each test takers to beat the rest of their cohort in order to gain the top percentile spots then the exam has do away with absolute grading (getting a 70% score to pass)

If they value competition for limited spots that can pass the exam, then I just have to get used to the game. Quite sad because I aim to get above 70% in all my mock practices and I got average of 75% - 85% in most of them.

Apparently the 40% candidates who passed the exam in my cohort aimed higher for perfection so, they got the spots.

Quite sad with this because this is my second take. My May 2019 exam results was definitely much poorer than this and the overall score was a thread below MPS too. Even though I improved a lot, I still failed. Well, that’s life and just have to get back on that bike and keep paddling.

I think it’s the relative grading more than peer competition. But some of the relative grading may or may not be based on historical question performance. Honestly it’s a bit of a black box. Regardless you definitely want to be in the top 40% of your peers to be on the safe side, I guess.

For what it’s worth, I really highly recommend Chalk & Board. I used them for L3 and it really impressed me how they explained things deeply but in layman terms. Good luck man you surely got it next time!!!


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Don’t give up mate. I have been there right there missed the mark by a thread. I know the feeling all too well. Ethics !

Need I say more.

Just digest this fact there will be a few ‘undeserving’ candidates who always get lucky at the cost of the deserving ones. It is relative and such if life. Swallow it and move ahead. You will rule the next attempt. Your matrix is way too good to be left out. Really unfortunate. Don’t give up.


How does luck play in CFA exams leading to undeserving candidates passing at the cost of deserving candidates? :thinking: Weird.

Luck does play a role in every Exam
Starts with questions being from areas you are more strong at.Not having any disturbing incident on exam day.Not being sick etc In CFA exam it may have to with your getting a question right by choosing an answer to a question of which you have no clue and there is no negative marking.Or committing a calculation error,and choosing one of the answers which tallies with it( I guess papers setters do than on purpose:). Or getting unnerved on not being able to crack a question in an area you are actually good at.Or forgetting one of the points in descriptive section.
But I guess a truly well prepared candidate should pass nonetheless!

But I don’t think it is possible for someone to pass by luck in the CFA exam… luck will play a role FOR ALL CANDIDATES with regards one factor or another from what you’ve mentioned. But for someone to have all of these factors playing in their favor to magically pass without preparation, not possible.

5 of the 6 exams in the program are MCQ. How often have we come across the statement “ I guessed 7 qs which I am not sure of at all. I am lucky to pass” or “ I just barely scraped through the MPS for the essay section . I don’t know how but I had left 27 points on the table “. So yes some candidates do get lucky. Happens in every sphere in life. Not just the CFA program.

The point was all candidates around borderline( around MPS)have roughly equal chances of passing,and some candidates got a question or two correct,while someone else didn’t .
Those who are far below far above will also have luck playing a role,but that won’t decide final result.
In any case ,no one can prepare for luck!
So the dictum us,the harder you prepare,the luckier out get :slight_smile:

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May I ask what strategy or content material did you use?
Did you feel that you had a pretty good grasp of the concepts when sitting for the exam?

I studied using schweser notes mostly. I attended weekend classes to cover the broad topics in the curriculum. I started my studies back in December 2019. Exam got delayed until May 2021 due to covid.

Because this was my second attempt, i spent my attention to practicing questions on CFAI website and other mock exams. I completed more than 5000 practice questions. Mostly i got above 80% for these practice questions.

I repeated the practice twice and scored 75% for the CFA mock exam. I was very confident that I can pass the exam before attempting it. I thought the real exam was easier than expected.

Despite all these efforts, I still failed though. I retook a similar diagnostic practice exam and scored 80% after 2.5 months of stopping my momentum. I do think I retained a lot of knowledge from my previous hustle.

I was perplexed why I failed despite putting all these efforts. Owh well, time to try again. Already registered for February 2022 exam. Please wish me luck.

Buddy you got this.

I am more interested in your band. You have the sky colour light blue band given. If it is not an embarrassment can you post that ?

The reason I am asking is it is evident you missed the mark by a qs. or two. I am certain having seen your matrix. But the band holds another importance. It is a intriguing message from the CFAI that delves into your overall preparedness. Please post that ONLY if you are comfortable sharing in this platform. I may want to take a deep hard look at that.

This was my band. My colleage said my score was like 1 pixel away from the MPS. I believe i’m just 1 question away from passing or maybe the Ethics discount got me. Ah well, life goes on.

Now a few pointers:

  1. The MPS ( courtesy 300hours.com) is believed to be 66.5%. I find it extremely hard to believe you have scored less than that. But the MPS estimate is no longer as reliable as earlier for variety of reasons:
    Sample set differs ( With the window there
    are different papers for different test takers)

        Reporting bias would have magnified 
  2. Overall still you are a solid performer the thin band says it all. Even in your worst day you would have scored very near the MPS. But surprisingly the upper band of the cloud does not quite engulf the MPS line.

So if I had conclude it seems you have a well rounded performance that deserves a comfortable pass but you don’t seem to be excelling one topic area over another. There is no good or bad to this. Just pure luck.

I am very confident you would ace in your next attempt. Your cloud does not suggest any specific topic area where you are weak but just that you need to just a push a little more. Aim higher.

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Best of luck, you got this! I am going to sit for L2 in 2022

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Yes, I reached out to 300hours too about their estimated MPS. As they collect candidates’ score report, they found that candiates are getting different MPS and they think CFAI is now benchmarking each MPS according to each test sets.

The 66.5% is the overall average for all sample tests. Perhaps I got the easiet test set and many people scored well in that test set so the overall MPS was higher. Maybe around 70%. If this is true, then candidates not only compete with other well-prepared candiates but we’re also subject to difficulty of each test sets. And this year’s exam had the lowest passing rate in history of CFA over the past decades. This didnt help my case either.

Well, only CFAI knows the internal workings. For us candiates, it boils down to preparedness and luck.

Good luck buddy you got this :+1: