5 Ways To Move Forward After Failing the CFA® Level 1 Exam

A CFA Level 1 candidate looking sad after receiving their exam results

The Chartered Financial Analyst program, managed and administered by the CFA Institute, is a rigorous three-part exam that tests your knowledge of financial management, investment tools, and wealth planning. Many who enroll in the program have backgrounds in finance, economics, business, and accounting. Common reasons for wanting to earn the Charter include its prestige within the industry and the higher salaries those with the designation typically achieve. 

The exam is notoriously difficult. Historically, around 43% of test-takers pass the Level 1 exam on average. Recently, the pass rates have been much lower than that. Some people take the test numerous times before they are successful. If you fail the CFA Exam on your first or second attempt, you may feel ashamed, confused, and defeated. However, failing the CFA Exam is not the end of the world, and it is essential to keep things in perspective.

Here are five things you can do to overcome failure on the CFA exam

Step 1: Acknowledge the Failure and Allow Yourself Time to Work Through It 

You’re only human. Failure is a normal part of life and a normal experience when taking the CFA Exam. The test is tough, and many people fail it on their first attempt. You may have put a lot of effort into studying, so your disappointment is easy to understand. Your first reaction may be to run away and forget you ever took the test. However, this is not the right way to go about it. Reacting based on emotions usually leads to suboptimal decisions. Instead, acknowledge the failure, look at it as a way to learn something new, and give yourself time to work through the feelings. 

Step 2: Think About the Bigger Picture

Achieving the CFA designation may have been a goal, but it is not the most crucial thing in your life. Although the sting of failure feels overwhelming right now, it is critical to pick yourself up and put things into context. Reframe the situation, put the experience behind you, and look forward to your future successes.  

Step 3: Consider How To Tell People 

You likely shared your plans to take the exam with your support system—family, friends, and colleagues. Naturally, they may ask you how the test went. When telling your loved ones about the failure, the best way to approach the situation is to be honest, without shame. No one will judge you, and many will admire you for attempting such a challenging goal. Don’t brush off the failure, but be honest with friends and family regarding the exam results. 

Step 4: Analyze Your Results and Make a Plan 

Analyze your results and identify the areas for improvement. You need to understand your results and where you should focus your study efforts. Decide if you want to retake the exam. Carefully consider if you have the time to devote to studying and how you might feel if you fail the test again. If earning the Charter is an important goal, it is likely worth the effort to try again

Step 5: Move Forward

The best thing you can do is put the failure behind you and move forward. Do not dwell on the test. Dwelling on failure is never healthy and can make you feel bad about yourself and your situation. Accept the reality, make a plan to be better next time, and move forward. 

Prepare For the CFA Exam With UWorld Finance

Are you ready to retake the CFA Exam? Study for the test with the help of UWorld Finance. We offer an active-learning approach to CFA exam preparation to help you master the most critical exam concepts and help you pass the exam the first time. 

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