4 Reasons to Still Sit for Your CFA Exam (Even If You’re 100% Certain You Will Fail)

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By Mike

Exam day jitters yet? Perhaps thinking that it may not be a good idea to show up on exam day at all?

Almost every CFA candidate I know have considered not showing up for exam day at some point. Quite a few actually did it. And I think it’s a terrible idea that doesn’t have any upside.

I know that things can look pretty bad, and you may have times where you think that you have no chance of passing. Regardless of whether this is true, it is still a good idea to show up on exam day, assuming you’ve not given up on the idea of getting a CFA charter.

It’s valuable experience.

OK, let’s assume you have no chance in hell in passing this time, and you’re already thinking of retaking the next time. So what is this exam day to you then? Only the mother of all mock exams – a true, CFA-Institute-authored exam, held at the actual test center, monitored by actual exam proctors. The full experience, available to you for free (exam registration fees are a sunk cost to you at this point).

So why are you passing it up?

You could still pass. Stranger things have happened.

This is probably an annoying statement that almost everyone will say, but it doesn’t make it less true.

If you don’t show up, you’re guaranteed not to pass. If you give it a go, there is a chance that things might go your way. You’d have studied a bit, and some intelligent guessing could tip things in your favour. At worst, you’ll have a useful data point to inform future CFA preparation – you’ll learn how well/badly you did given your current level of preparation.

There is no real reason not to show up.

Please don’t consider not showing up to ‘avoid embarrassment’, ‘avoid a fail’, or because it’s ‘wasting time’. That just doesn’t make any sense.

In the CFA Institute’s eyes, you’ve committed to the exam the minute you registered. If you don’t show, that doesn’t mean you didn’t fail. And compared to the time you’ve taken to prepare for the exam, exam day is nothing. The valuable experience you get from experiencing the exam far outweighs the time you’ll spend over the day, so the ‘wasting time’ excuse holds no water.

If you’ve previously done a no-show, you’re much more likely to never get a CFA charter.

I mentioned earlier that I knew of a few candidates that decided not to show up to their CFA Level I exam day. This was about 5 years ago. You know how many of them have gone on to getting a CFA charter? Or even retaking CFA Level I?

None. Zero. Nada. And if you ask them today what happened, they’ll tell you ‘I’m still thinking about it’.

Look, if the CFA exams are not for you, then by all means, throw in the towel. Don’t persist doing something that doesn’t necessarily suit you or your situation.

But if you’re serious about getting the CFA charter under your belt, you should show up for every exam you’ve registered for, however ill-prepared you think you are. A no-show on exam day is the first significant step towards falling off the CFA wagon. “I’ll get it next time” is wishful thinking – hold yourself accountable to your efforts for every exam cycle. Knowing that you have to show up makes you take your studies more seriously.

Are you having serious doubts about showing up on exam day? Share your thoughts in the comments below and we’ll help you out.

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan

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