One common misconception about the CFA stems from the insanely low passing rate that we witness every year. Having a 30% passing rate or so could lead some to believe that they have a 1 out of 3 shot at passing the exam. I’ve even seen some say at the beginning of CFA candidates meetup to look at their left and their right and only one of them will end up passing the exam. That is misrepresentation in my opinion. The fact is that there are many different reasons why candidates fail the exam and most of them are very possible to avoid. If that is the case, you could boost your actual odds to much closer to 75-85% or even higher!
#1-Not Really Interested In Taking The Exam: You might be surprised to hear that many candidates simply sign up and never really think seriously about passing the exam. Some of these candidates do end up taking the exam without much preparation, others quit before getting there, etc
#2-No (or insufficient) Planning – This one is critical It doesn’t matter how much time someone spends studying or how smart (or not) they are if the studying is not carefully planned. We have written quite extensively about this over and over, it’s amazing that so many people fail at this.
#3-Bad Mock Exam Strategy: If you have not done at least 1 mock exam 6-8 weeks before the exam, you are making a very serious mistake. Honestly, nothing could give you a better understanding of where you are and what is left than taking an exam. It will give you a sense of urgency which is a good thing.
#4-Not Willing To Make Compromises: Sure, we’d all love to be able to take the CFA exam and also have quality time with loved ones and friends, some good nights out, etc. In reality, a major commitment is required in order to maximize your chances. It does not mean taking 12 months without a life but certainly a couple of those are necessary.
#5-Focusing On The Wrong Stuff: I’m sure you know some of these that can spend hours on a single program and will not stop until they get it right. That is all good and fine if we are talking about critical material but if it’s something that is unlikely to even be tested on the exam, it’s probably unwise for you to spend too much time and energy. Being able to focus on the critical parts is one of the most important parts of passing the exam.
#6-Lack Of Consistency: It’s easy to study with intensity for a few days or a couple of weeks, but what about doing it for 12 weeks or even more? I think that is a big part of the difference between those that end up making it and those that don’t.
#7-Managing Your Studying Time: I always like to say that I personally studied for several weeks in order to give myself a fair shot when starting my “intense week”. Each person can certainly succeed using different methods but I think that taking a full week (at least) 2 weeks before the exam is the perfect setup.