Does Your Financial Background Play A Role In Your CFA Exam Success?

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By Christine

We announced last week that we’ve completed our CFA Results Analysis, an analysis that includes the June 2013 exams.

In the analysis, we’ve covered many aspects that could only be answered with a large sample of results data, such as what is the key topics to focus on, our estimate of the Minimum Passing Score, actual differences between failing bands.

However we also answered questions that were less results-focused, but equally important: when do candidates start their studies, and how does it correlate to their exam success? How many practice exams should one attempt? And does a background in finance give you a significant advantage?

Being from a non-financial background, I always wondered how much of an advantage did the right work or educational background did for you in the CFA exams. If you were going into the exam without any financial knowledge, did you actually stand a chance?

And with the CFA Results Analysis, we could finally find out with hard data.

The December 2012 exam yields an interesting conclusion

We first investigated the effects of financial background in the December 2012 Level I exam. We asked all candidates that submitted their results in our Analyze Results tool to also indicate whether they had financially-related work and/or educational backgrounds.

When we did the analysis, we had some expected discoveries, such as the fact that candidates with both work and educational backgrounds in finance did the best. However there were also some surprises: we found out that the worst-performing group were candidates with financial education, but no financial work experience.


The 2013 analysis shows differences in Level II and Level III

Given the December 2012 analysis, we were very interested to see whether the pattern repeated itself in Level I, and what would the discoveries be at Level II and III. Given the difficulty, format and content is very different across levels, we also expected the performance of each individual group to vary. And we were right.

You can find full details in our CFA Results Analysis, but here are the few things I learnt:

  1. Just because you haven’t any finance background doesn’t mean you’re hugely disadvantaged. Your drive and determination is an important asset in the CFA exams, and anyone can summon these.
  2. Conversely, just because you have a finance-related education doesn’t mean that it will help in the CFA exams. The CFA exams are challenging, and it would be a very grave mistake to assume some background in finance will enable you to take it easy in your preparation. 
  3. Some CFA levels may suit you more than others. Depending on what you’re strong at and your contextual knowledge, you may find some CFA levels easier than others as the approach and content vary significantly, especially in Level III.

Your CFA insider knowledge tool: the CFA Results Analysis

The CFA Results Analysis gives you detailed insight into financial background influence, as well as a range of other essential insights to help your CFA prep approach. Being past candidates, we’ve approached the analysis by asking the questions that we would have wanted answers to as candidates. 

Having these unique inside knowledge to hand will reassure and inform you on how to best approach your preparation, as well as answer some questions that no other analysis will be able to give.

Have you gotten your report yet? Let us know what questions you’d like to be added to the next edition of the report in the comments below!
Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


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