Can You Fail One Section Of The CFA Exam But Pass The Exam?

One of the more common questions about the CFA is a very simple one to answer. Is it possible to pass the exam while failing one section? The answer is: Absolutely. You could even fail 2 sections and sometimes (although very rarely) 3 of them. There are all kind of theories regarding the way the exam is corrected but what is clear is that you can pass while failing one section.

The more important question is which sections can you manage to fail? I’d say that in level #1 for example, you will very rarely see someone pass the exam while failing either accounting or asset valuation. Those sections are just so critical given their huge weight in the exam. It makes it very difficult to overcome a poor score.

There is also a lot of speculation regarding the ethics section. How so? There are many theories but they all center around one theme  – the critical importance of ethics. It cannot be overstated how important it is despite the fact that its weight is not that big in the overall exam. Some say that you cannot pass while failing ethics (that is not true because I’ve seen several cases). But one theory which seems plausible is the idea that candidates on the line between a pass or a fail will be in part determined by your ethics score. How big of a factor? It’s almost impossible to say, but I would think that this theory does actually make sense.

Why the importance in ethics? The CFA stands for many things but one of those is certainly being ethical in dealings with all other parties. I think that any candidates or CFA charterholders would be able to tell you how important ethics is and how much of a core value it is for the group.

What Is The Strategy Now That You Know This?

I think it’s all about being strong in the big sections and spending enough time on ethics. There is no reason for you to fail a big section and to be honest, I think it’s fair to assume that candidates that fail one of the two should fail the exam. Spending enough time to feel confident about getting between 60-80% on these. As for ethics, it is difficult to guarantee yourself a good score. The questions are almost certain to surprise you and it’s always difficult to answer the questions. That being said, if you do prepare well enough, you should be able to get in all sections.


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