CFA CFA General Reframing Failure

Reframing Failure

  • This topic has 28 replies, 13 voices, and was last updated May-17 by Alta12.
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    • Sarah
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      I was actually planning to post this up right after the level two results came out since I was about 99.98% sure that I had failed. But I decided against it because the people who did fail probably didn’t want to listen to me convince them that failing isn’t all that bad. Experience tells me that the worst time to deliver advice is when the wound is still raw.

      When I first received the e-mail that decided my fate for the next year I did my usual cranky routine and got back to life the next day, mostly because my best friend was visiting from America. She is still annoyed at me that I didn’t tell her I failed until after she left (I’m sure if she could come back and didn’t have to head to Japan I would be limping right now).

      The beauty of failure is that it highlights your flaws. I think because I have always performed decently in my exams and have never before had to face failure that I never had to assess the weaknesses in my study habits. Granted the biggest contributing factor to my failure what that I was miserably sick but still it does force me to look at myself and figure out what I can do better.

      What I Learned:
      I scored >70% on the sections I was struggling the most with before the exam
      Reason: I reviewed these sections to the point that it was overkill. So even when I was under the weather I didn’t need to think about the question. I had built an intuition on how to deal with them.

      I bombed the sections I was scoring the highest in practice exams.
      Reason: I have no idea. My working theory is that perhaps I knew it so well generally that I wasn’t familiar with it to the point I could do it in my sleep and couldn’t recall the finite details?

      Take Away
      While I am enjoying life without the CFA exam hanging over me I want to work on optimizing me study habits without starting to study prematurely. My goal is to work on my discipline and focus. I’ve started practicing my piano approximately 20 hours a week an equivalent amount of time that I would need to spend when I start studying.
      Perhaps the hardest part was to stick to a schedule and concentrate when I knew an awesome drama was airing with my favourite actors. And while that has worked for me for my whole life it is a very inefficient use of time. I know of a friend that actually maintained his social life while studying for his CFA exams (and he was working!). His secret is his strong work ethics. I remember when we decided to study he would be studying for our exams without even pausing for lunch while I’d sit and ponder how he did it.

      I really hope everyone that also faced that dreadful e-mail is just doubling down and not only study with a vengeance but also smarter.

      I’d love to hear what other people will be changing about their study habits for round two.

    • policedog
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      “Doubling down” describes my effort more or less! Great post @sarah.

    • Marc
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      Out of curiosity, did anyone from Toronto actually pass their exam?

      Their “organization” and “administration” was an absolute shit show.

    • AjFinance
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      @Sarah Great post

    • comicbookguy
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      Thanks for this post. I failed Level 3 with a Band 10. I spent a lot of money on a course that I used for Level 2, studied for 7 months, etc. I thought I had it, even though I struggled through the course and was distracted with a breakup for the entire 7 months of studying. I guess I know what I need to improve on now.

    • AjFinance
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      @comicbookguy I know how that feels. Considering that I failed Band 10 as well. Just need to get back up on your feet when you get knocked down.

    • comicbookguy
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      @AjFinance I saw your post in the L3 forum and was going to reply to your post there. Band 10 is very bittersweet; it’s a failure but of the best kind. The hardest thing to deal with for me is hearing my friends who passed, along with the fact that I have to cope with being anti-social for another seven months.

    • AjFinance
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      @comicbookguy Look at it this way. When you eventually clear the exam, it will be a lot sweeter because of how hard you had to work for it. Believe me you will feel great 🙂

    • Jwa
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      I can’t believe how laid back/philosophical everyone is being here. I just failed LIII, band 10, and absolutely hate it, but then again I hate the CFA, hate the whole system, the enitre shebang, forgetaboutit, and am basically forced into doing it for work.

      I also totally reject the idea that CFA won;t be hanging over one for a few months at least. The hangover starts now because I know that my life is going to be ruined again for another six/seven months.

      Here’s to “constructive failure” or similar nonsense…

    • Sophie Macon
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      Hi @Jwa – that’s a normal feeling though, thanks for being so honest about it. In a few months you’ll realise that you’re so damn close to get that dang 3 letters anyway and you’ll put your full effort into blasting the crap out of it. 🙂

    • comicbookguy
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      @Jwa Sometimes you have to be philosophical about it, because the alternative is to go crazy and do something irrational. You need to put it into perspective. This is a small roadbump in life. I honestly feel like studying RIGHT NOW. I could open up some PDFs and start re-reading the curriculum. I know people will say it’s nuts but I hated Derivatives last year, I might just start with that.

    • Sarah
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      I had a friend who failed level one tell me that he felt like jumping over a bridge but your life is worth much more than that and also failing is’t all that bad giving up is. But that is my take on life. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms.

    • Jwa
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      @comicbookguy I think the key difference is perhaps between those who want to do the CFA and believe it is a worthy means in itself or perhaps a way of furthering their career vs. those who are basically roped into doing it because their employers have bought into the whole “its’s the ‘gold standard'” of financial qualifications, regardless that I and II are essentially glorified accountancy exams and III is a portfolio management wet dream… like that is the entire industry… I applaud your enthusiasm and the strength of your convictions, don’t get me wrong, but I think there are a hell of a lot of us out there who are just made to do it, and, quite frankly, a close failure is not a “yes I’ll nail it next time moment”, but rather an “oh my God I’m going to have to hose away another significant portion of time on a completely irrelevant piece of crap” moment.

      For the avoidance of doubt, I am talking strictly about where there is little choice, i.e. I get that one could change career etc, but where there are mortgages, kids etc. involved and you can happily do your job without the finer points of performance analysis or whatever such nonsense is chucked at you by those in their Ivory Towers in Charlottesville, but your company is mugged into thinking that the CFA is the be all and end all, that is where it becomes problematic.

    • edulima
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      @Jwa, screw your company, go find a job where you’ll be happy. I’m sure you can find something that suits your lifestyle better and where you can still take care of your family. I know this is a bitter moment and perhaps your outlook might change once you pass LIII, but from your words, it seems to me that the pain is not worth the material benefits.

    • Jwa
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      @edulima – “go find a job where you’ll be happy” is enormously easier said than done and I refer you to my comments about financial commitments etc.

      Anyhow, I am not trying to make some point about my specific ase etc., but rather just present a slightly different point of view to the folksy “ah shucks, better next time” approach, that is all.

    • Zee Tan
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      @jwa definitely there is an element of frustration, so I do identify with that.

      I was originally one of the ‘roped-in’ ones – or rather peer-pressured into taking Level 1. I pressed on on my own with L2 and L3 though, and I’m really glad I pushed through my L2 failure too.

    • Jwa
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      @Zee 100% frustration! As you may have gathered, I don’t give a damn for the qualification so it is absolutely 100% frustration that it is not just done and dusted, and I can move on with my life.

    • sankrutimehta
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      @Jwa: Well if you are forced into it and I believe many other collegues may also feel the same…you all can put a word with your manager or someone who can do something about it. We also had a similar situation where our fixed income dept was to pass the IAQ exam which was pre-dominantly equity in nature.
      We did make some noise and conveyed that this did not add value and should be made optional.
      A change was made!!

    • Jwa
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      @sankrutimehta – we’ve just been bought and there’s a lot going on right now, but it is definitely something to raise.

      One issue that is going to be a significant problem for me if I were to do the exam again is that all areas relevant to what I do I scored >70% on and the remainder <=50%, and the odds of me remembering any of that bit in a year's time is negligible.... but maybe that would actually help to totally start from scratch; who knows!

    • Sophie Macon
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      @Jwa, one things for sure though, we’ll be here to go through the whole process with you!

      We have some good Level 3 Q&A style explanations curated so far, especially active 2 months till exam time. I messed up my L3 morning essay part, recovered just enough in the afternoon paper to scrape through with a pass years ago – hence wrote some comprehensive IPS guides there too to.

    • edulima
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      Agree with @Sophie, although I’m still in my beginnings and won’t be of much help on the LIII technical stuff.


      @Jwa
      , I know it’s easier said than done – changing jobs is a “risky” enterprise (but one with great payoff opportunity). But it’s doable, I’ve done it (also with a family) and will do it again, and sometimes it is worth considering it.

    • comicbookguy
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      @Jwa Interestingly I don’t fall into either of the categories you’ve outlined for CFA Candidates. I don’t need it for my career or for my employer. I’m just writing it as a personal challenge because I told myself I would do it when I finished my undergrad. Maybe that has made it easier for me to deal with this setback. It is also the first time I’ve failed a CFA exam. In any case, it is just as easy for me to quit knowing it will have zero impact on my career. But that would probably have some serious long-term effects on my psyche and confidence.

    • Jwa
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      @comicbookguy “I’m just writing it as a personal challenge” – that is remarkable, I thought you people were a myth. Chapeau, sir. For the record, this LIII was also my first fail. Band 10 also. Unbelievably bitter isn’t it!

    • policedog
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      @Jwa Interestingly I don’t fall into either of the categories you’ve outlined for CFA Candidates. I don’t need it for my career or for my employer. I’m just writing it as a personal challenge because I told myself I would do it when I finished my undergrad. Maybe that has made it easier for me to deal with this setback. It is also the first time I’ve failed a CFA exam. In any case, it is just as easy for me to quit knowing it will have zero impact on my career. But that would probably have some serious long-term effects on my psyche and confidence.

      That’s awesome @comicbookguy. What do you do for a living?

    • Maroon5
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      @sarah, amazing post. Although it’s not my round 2, but will be taking L2 next year. For me consistency was key I suppose, with the help of the community here, I just had to get use to the fact that most of my weekends are for studying, and I sent myself to different places from libraries to cafes to do that. Set some milestones to achieve by a certain date, and left the last month for the uber practice session like what @Sophie suggested. Gonna repeat that for the L2 which I heard is the beast!

    • Alta12
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      @sarah For me, I studied 300 hours for LII first attempt = Band 8. Got so traumatised that I waited 3 years to decide I am willing to give up my life until I finish the program. Studied over 700 hours for LII second attempt and aced it! I also have much more responsibilities at work when I attempted LII the second time so it was a great achievement just to be able to squeeze in more study hours. But I had to give up all my weekends and dedicate it to studies and basically I had no life.

      If I were you, I would really give up on watching dramas. The TV shows will be available on DVD or Blu-ray once you have written the exam. And why are you practicing piano 20 hours a week? I would say spend it on studying (if it is your ultimate goal to pass LII) and start early. I’m afraid to say, this program really requires you to give up your social life and including basic enjoyment such as watching TV. Because that is a distraction. Well at least for me.

      From experience, the second attempt is even more difficult because you start to doubt yourself. Trickery plays on your mind. Don’t let that bother you and go hard! Hopefully you will be rewarded with the right result. Good luck!

    • Sascha
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      @sarah Thank you for sharing your experience. Great post!

      This time around I have a more structured studying plan (which I actually enforce, as the plan never seems to be the issue, the implementation is where it always gets tricky for me) and try to be more consistent and focused.

      I still do not think that you do have to completely sacrifice your social life and recreational activities. Of course everybody works differently, but I find that small breaks are just as important as concentrated effort. I can really recommend Josh Waitzkin’s book “The Art of Learning” in this context.

    • comicbookguy
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      @policedog I work in Acquisitions for a real estate investment trust. The CFA curriculum is applicable but only to a small degree. It definitely helps with the bigger picture, but in terms of day-to-day it’s use is limited.

    • Alta12
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      @comicbookguy I totally agree with you!

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