How To Prepare for the CFA® Exam With a Fresh Start

Retake the CFA Exam

There’s a saying that goes, “The only person who has yet to fail is the person who has yet to try.” Simply put, failure is a part of life. Naturally, failing the CFA Exam may leave you feeling disappointed or disheartened, but you shouldn’t be discouraged. In the grand scheme of things, failure is just a bump in the road. Here are four tips to help you get a fresh start on the CFA Exam. 

1. Have Some Perspective

Few experiences in life are entirely unique. Whatever the situation, you aren’t likely the only person who has experienced it and this couldn’t be more true when that situation is not passing the CFA Exam. In fact, with the pass rates for the first two levels remaining below 50% and the 10-year weighted average pass rate for CFA Level 1 being less than 40%, more candidates fail than pass. 

The CFA Exam is incredibly rigorous, but understand that CFA Exam results don’t predict how successful you’ll be in a career in finance or investment management. Many of those who’ve failed the CFA Exam have gone on to enjoy distinguished careers. They kept perspective and didn’t view their failure as permanent but rather a temporary setback. You can do the same. 

If you fail, it’s a good idea to:

  • Take a step back
  • Breathe slowly
  • Take a break
  • Reassess what you want to achieve

After overcoming the emotional letdown and finding the resolve to try again, dust yourself off and brace yourself for another attempt. But this time, try the CFA Exam again with a new strategy to get a fresh start.

2. Reevaluate Your Study Plan 

If you decide to take another shot at the CFA Exam, first reevaluate the study plan you used during your first attempt to identify gaps and develop a better plan of attack for your next go-round. Below are a few issues to consider:

  • How much dedicated study time did you give yourself? What study methods did you use? Were you focused or distracted? Answer these questions honestly and make necessary changes.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Figure out what went wrong in your study plan and focus on working on topics where you didn’t perform as well.
  • Did you retain the information or simply memorize it? As you prepare for your next attempt, make sure you thoroughly read and understand the explanations.
  • Hone in on your preferred learning style. Are you an avid reader, or do you retain information better when you listen to it? Are you a visual learner who likes to see diagrams and illustrations, or do you perform best when you practice? Identifying the best learning style for you while finding ways to incorporate the other learning styles would be an excellent strategy to implement this time. 
  • What materials did you use? Did you use the best available resources? Did you study using only the CFA Institute-provided curriculum, or did you supplement those materials with a third-party prep provider?
  • Repeat what worked. If you found success with a particular schedule, stick to it. If you found specific tools such as flashcards helpful in remembering the concepts tested, make sure to use them again.

3. Create a New Strategy

Like sports, life is a game of adjustments. As you prepare to take on the CFA Exam again, adjust your game plan and give yourself the best chance to succeed. Learn from your previous experience and don’t repeat the same mistakes. Implement a new and improved strategy. 

  • Leverage resources that help you focus on your identified weak areas. For instance, if you struggled using just the CFA Institute materials, consider using a third-party provider such as UWorld’s CFA Level 1 Exam Learning Platform.
  • Play to your strengths. If you were more productive in study groups, increase group study time with people you connect with. But if you were more productive alone, cut back your participation in group sessions.
  • Get active with your learning. UWorld’s learning platform is built around an active-learning method designed to help you learn by doing. Instead of watching tedious videos or lectures, try practicing thousands of CFA Exam practice questions.
  • Incorporate using advanced technology in your studies. UWorld’s flashcards incorporate spaced repetition, which helps boost memory retention using the spacing effect.  
  • If you are still in school, speak with resources available to you on campus, such as an academic support department, to evaluate your results and develop a new strategy.
  • Leverage your support system. Studying for the CFA Exam is a long and grueling journey, so make sure you have a supportive team at your disposal to lean on during the tough times. 

4. Consider Life Without the Charter

Remember that after failing the CFA Exam, retaking it isn’t the only next logical step. As an educated individual, you still have a lot to offer, even if you never become a CFA Charterholder. If you are a soon-to-be college graduate, know that employers will still value your finance degree or, if you are a non-finance major, whatever degree you hold. 

If you are an experienced finance professional, that experience remains enough to advance your career in the industry. For example:

  • Your research and analytical thinking skills are valued by many financial institutions and investment management firms.
  • Critical thinking skills and knowledge of financial markets could lead to a position as a financial analyst.
  • Knowledge of the investment markets and risk management could make you an exceptional candidate for an investment management executive position or a hedge fund manager role.
  • Knowledge of ethics and compliance and regulatory policies could make you an attractive candidate for regulatory bodies like the SEC.
  • Your understanding of finance, contracts, and business organizations could propel you to a career as an entrepreneur.

Ultimately, your finance education and experience make you a viable candidate in the industry, meaning you can and will thrive, with or without the CFA Charter. However, if you insist on taking another shot at the CFA Exam, are ready to get back to the grind with a fresh start, and want to boost your CFA Exam performance, we invite you to prepare with UWorld.

Get a FREE trial of our CFA Level 1 Learning Platform.

Scroll to Top