I’m not sure if I should be more embarrassed or proud about this. In reality it’s probably a little bit of both. I apologize ahead of time if this post is a little long, but I thought it necessary to share my experience through the CFA program. As a little backstory I’ve never been good at taking standardized exams. I’m not sure if it was my focus or nerves, but I’ve never been the best test taker and it’s always kind of been a struggle for me. On top of that I was a marketing major in college, so I only took one finance class and a couple of accounting classes. A lot of this material to me was brand new and I had to try my best to teach myself. Teaching yourself derivatives is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. I decided back in 2008 that I wanted to take the CFA exams cause I wanted a career in the investment industry. I figured getting the charter would be more helpful than getting an MBA. Now for those that don’t know when I took level I in the December of 2008 that was the last exam to have four answers for multiple choice. The following spring they went down ot three choices. That’s how long I’ve been taking this exams! lol Here’s a recap of my results and in my opinion reasons for my lack of success or lessons I learned:

Level I

Dec. 08 - Fail

I had no idea what I was getting myself into and didn’t prepare properly even in the slightest bit. I didn’t use any supplemental material and literally read every single page of the CFA books. I didn’t do any mock exams and didn’t do nearly enough practice problems. This is probably a text book example of how to not study for a standardized exam. Looking back on it now, I just laugh how terrible my plan was.

June 09 - Fail Band 9

This time around I used schweser to help me get prepared for the exams. I did no more than 1-2 practice exams which didn’t help. I also think I spent too much time focusing on the Q-bank. I don’t think I understood the theory and concepts of what the LOS were trying to teach and ultimately it cost me.

Dec. 09 - Fail Band 10

I believe it was the lowest pass rate in the history of the level I exam 34%. IMO I feel like the low rate was to make up for the high rate (46%) that was in the spring when they went to 3 choices instead of 4, and they wanted to make it harder in the winter. Either way it was crushing to get a band 10 after getting a band 9. At this point I started to question if this was the program for me. Because I’m a stubborn son of a bitch I pushed on.

June 10 - Pass

It’s about damn time!

Level II

June 11 - Fail - Band 2

I had gotten my first job in the investment industry and didn’t have proper time to prepare. In the end I probably just had a really bad game plan and got psyched out on hearing all of the horror stories of level II

June 12 - Fail - Band 2

It’s hard to remember what went wrong here. I think I probably did a lot of the same mistakes I did in 2011, which seems ridiculous when I think about it. I guess if you keep doing the same things you did in the past, but expect different results that the definition of insanity?

June 13 - Fail - Band 4-5 I think


June 14- Pass

So close. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! At this point in my life my girlfriend and I had moved to Seoul, South Korea so I ended up taking this exam overseas which was quite the experience.

Level III

June 15 - Fail -Band 2-3

The essay part was something that I didn’t prepare properly for. I did wrote too much and didn’t use my time wisely. Again my game plan on preparing for the exam was bad. (Do we see a reoccurring theme here??)

June 16 - Fail - Band 7

In all honesty I thought I had passed. I’m not sure if I was over confident or what. I think this was the hardest results day because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and when you think you got it or to come up short was killer. For a brief moment I thought about giving up. That lasted for about 1 hour, because I’m a stubborn SOB.

June 17 - Pass


If you’re still reading this, I appreciate it. I just wanted to share with others my journey because there may be others going through the same thing I did. I’m still in shock and keep waiting for the institute to contact me to say they made a mistake and that I didn’t pass. This journey that started in the summer of 2008 is now coming to a close. I know a lot of people on here probably took a lot less time than me and maybe even went 3/3 on the exams. If I had to give any advice to people who are that close to finishing or just starting this is what tips I would give them.

  1. Have a detailed plan from the beginning and stick to it. There were numerous times that I think was just piling up hours of studying (which is still necessary), but I didn’t have a real game plan on what I wanted to accomplish each day.

  2. Do as many practice exams as possible. Don’t wait until the last month to start. Start 2-3 before the exam. You won’t know what you don’t know until you try to simulate the real thing.

  3. Try to really understand what the concept is and don’t just get caught up in the number crunching and getting your answer. The better you truly understand the material the easier it will get on exam day.

  4. Never give up! I had many a dark days and times where I questioned if I was smart enough, or ahd the fortitude to push on. I knew this was important enough to me that I was going to get through this no matter what.

Again my apologies for this super long post, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on this beast!


First of all Congratulations my friend! You have really earned this designation. Go out and celebrate and treat those loved ones who have supported you through out this process… I have to say your post made me feel so much better just now as I failed L3 this year for second time. First time was 7 years ago band 10 and this time band 8 both due to time management (so yes I made the same mistake as you did in doing the same thing and expecting different results). I was so gutted in 2010 when I failed 3 first time that I took 7 years off the program; when I decided to come back last year I under prepared compared to average candidate here. I did feel I could have pulled it through had I finished all AM questions but left 3 blank and that definitely haunted me at the end. I did not expect to pass but still gutted this morning when I saw the email not because I felt I had done enough to deserve the pass but because the journey has been so long and even though I took 7 years off this exam has always been on the back my mind eating away at me. I probably do not even need the Charter for my work but is a personal accomplishment that I need to achieve. Why I say this is that I have mixed feelings about having to put many things on hold in the next year to dedicate more time to this but reading your story made me realize Victory will taste so much better after such a long journey.

Thank you for sharing and best of luck in everything else in your personal and career life.


Congrats! You are not the only one who took so long to complete CFA. I am still a Level 3 candidate (didn’t pass in Jun’17) who started in 2007 and I am a Chartered Accountant who passed all exams at first attempt. For me, CFA was a work in progress from my marriage to my first kid and now my second kid; and besides my work is very challenging where I head a team of 4. I will not give up till I am done with this.

NVC, thanks for sharing your story. I understand what you’re going through. Believe me! There were many times I knew what the result was going to be, but it still gutted me on results day because I knew how much I sacrificed. (Missing family functions, friends weddings, etc…) You’re right there. Just hammer away on the practice exams and start early. I think I did a total of 12 mock exams prior to getting the pass. Most importantly is attitude and belief! I don’t know you, but I know you can do this! Keep grinding and find a way my friend!


Thanks! Sorry to hear the news. Love the determination! It’s grit that got me through this beast! Best of luck to ya!