Sam is our first CFA exam blogger. He was born and raised in Illinois, currently working in New York, and took the Level 1 exam this past June.
OK. The bad news: I am in Band 9 with the following results:
- <50 in FRA and Econ
- >70 in Quant, Equities
- 50-70 in Ethics, Corp Fin, Fixed Income, AI, PM
I knew I bombed FRA, but Econ? Thank goodness I didn’t tell you where I gradated from.
Good news. At least it’s not Band 10. I would have run into a wall.
I Knew I Could Fail, but it’s Hard to Accept the Reality
I couldn’t help but did some research on how people pass or fail CFA Level 1. First of all, around 20% didn’t show up to the exam. This is appalling considering we’ve paid at least $650 to get registered (in my case, $870 + review course materials).
Does it mean that the low Level 1 pass rate has been distorted by these no-showers? No, because these people weren’t even counted. In other words, among those who did take the exam, 58% failed.
I can’t change the reality but I feel better that quite a few of these candidates are with me. That the CFA Institute deliberately keeps this exam difficult to main the prestige. I’d like to see the exam to be a tad easier, but if I were a CFA charterholder now, I can see how I would like to keep the high standard.
In other words, I wouldn’t blame them. But I have to work on how I can join the passing side.
So here is my own analysis based on John’s self-evaluation for retakers:
1. Putting Enough Time?
I didn’t clock my study hours diligently, but I am quite sure I studies more than 300 hours, which is the “standard”. The question is whether they are all quality study hours.
I don’t really have the bad habits of turning on Facebook and Twitter. I mean, I tried my best to focus. But I knew it wasn’t optimal and that’s because of the time of the day I chose to study.
I have a relatively demanding work as a financial analyst. It isn’t crazy but I am tired after work. I didn’t want to stay too late, so I would sometimes flip the books while having my (unhealthy) dinner. Though I would save time this way because I could work on the EOC questions right afterwards.
Turns out that this wasn’t a great strategy because I knew my health is slowly but surely taking a toll with this unhealthy habits, and really, it’s hard to concentrate on either eating or reading.
If you read my story, I didn’t feel like running out of time, but I have been inefficient and ineffective.
2. Did I Lose My Motivation?
Honestly, not really, because I am late in the game and I have this huge incentive to catch up with my peers in terms of getting the CFA designation. I NEED this title for promotion and survival professionally in longer term. I forgot to mention but I did spent most of my weekends studying as well. That’s a good proof that I have all the incentive to nail this beast.
The one thing that may have eaten up my motivation is my relationship with my girlfriend. She isn’t in finance and understandably, there have been complaints etc. Wouldn’t blame her. She didn’t know she had to go through this with me especially in the weekends.
I guess I will try the other approach suggested by Stephanie’s newsletter — that I should “align my interest” with Sally. I have to figure out a way to do this, because she isn’t exactly a family member (yet), I mean, it’s harder to convince a girlfriend vs wife because she isn’t as committed to stay with me long term. But I am serious about this relationship and will work hard towards that.
If you guys have any suggestions, please drop a note below. I need help on this.
3. Did I Have Enough Family Support?
I suppose I cover this one… in terms of my core family — my parents — they are supportive. But they don’t live in another state so the impact is not as strong as that with Sally in my case.
4. Did I Use the “Right” Review Course?
As you know I was hesitant to get the third-party review course until late in the game, so this could be a reason.
It is not entirely Schweser’s fault — I used an old version, and I wasted time comparing my 2016 Schweser book vs the 2017 CFAI curriculum. Wiley has a handy comparison here but it’s still confusing as hell.
Bottom line: unless you start early, get the latest version and give yourself a peace of mind. Studying is stressful enough.
Anyway, I don’t think I like Schweser enough. People are right that I shouldn’t follow the crowd. I knew I like Wiley more at the beginning.
Since budget is not a big concern I’ll give Wiley a try. No more hand-me-down, second-hand old version. I will find a free morning on Saturday and take advantage of the 24-hour free trial to check it out.
My To-Do List
To keep organized and hold myself accountable, here are the tasks to complete in this month:
- Eat healthy food and stay physically and mentally strong
- Find a way out with Sally – that she will be happy to see me studying and passing this exam
- Sign up for free trial from Wiley CFA
- Answer this question: should I take the December exam?
I’ll give this last item a thought and update you all next week.
Note from Stephanie
Oh, Sam, sorry to hear that. It was close at Band 9! We are all disappointed, but in a way your performance is quite predictable as you were under-prepared in FRA while very comfortable with Quant and Equities. Econ is a surprise, I know. But if you had the time to review it just a bit more, you would have scored much better.
This is pretty much an exam on project management vs the knowledge itself.
For other readers, this is the article that Sam based his self-evaluation on: