What Not to Say to CFA Candidates

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By Christine

Warning: this is a ranty post.

This article has a go at well-meaning friends, family and colleagues, whom probably only want the best for me and are just concerned about me when I was tearing my hair out as a CFA candidate.

But sometimes the stuff that people say to me as a CFA candidate makes me want to bash my head against a wall. Or bash theirs instead.

Here are my top 10. What are yours?

#1: “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll pass.”

This is by far the number one offender for me. To be fair, this is the default option when you can’t really think of anything else to say. Which is usually the case. But still – I’ve not used this comment for anyone else taking the CFA after taking it myself.

​Derivatives include:

  • “Oh, you’re so smart! You’ll do fine.”
  • “You always worry about exams and you always do well.”

#2: “It’s only Level I! It’s easy!”

Oh for God’s sake, shut up.

This isn’t actually restricted to just Level I. Comments I got in Levels II and III include:

  • “It’s Level II! You’ve already passed Level I, so you know you can do it!”
  • “It’s Level III! You’ve already passed 2, it’ll be easy!”

#3 : “Oh, the exam isn’t until June/Dec, you have PLENTY of time.”

I know they’re trying to reassure me. But hearing this from someone who’s never taken the CFA, I’m gonna think: You have no idea what you’re talking about. Hearing this from someone who’s taken the CFA before, I’m gonna think: Easy for you to say, you’re done. Then proceed to continue freaking out. It’s a guaranteed no-win situation.

#4: “You’ve studied so much already. There’s NO WAY you’ll fail.”

I do beg your pardon, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. No, strike that, you’re right. The ones that failed (more than 50% of them) must have just sat on their asses then.

#5: “Maybe you’re overstudying? Be careful not to overstudy.”

What the hell is overstudying? Oh, I might do too well, so I should remember to slack off? This makes no sense at all.

#6: “Hey, it’s only an exam.”

Damn, you’re right. Why didn’t I realize this before? Why am I bothering with hundreds of hours of studying? Screw this. In fact, why bother with anything at all? It’s only ‘things’.

#7: “So what’re you doing this weekend?”

For the last time, I’m studying. Yes, the same as last weekend, and the weekend after next. You know when the damn exam is.

#8: “You’re taking a week off? Just to study?”

Yes, I am. No, it’s not an excuse to enjoy myself. Far from it. Believe me, I would rather be working than spending all my time trying to figure out whether Jack LaChance from Jiminy Bob Asset Management should long this put option or short this call option. 

If your co-workers are not the CFA-taking type, it can be terrible. Other cheeky remarks I’ve heard:

  • “Enjoy your time off!”
  • “At least you’re going on holiday next week.”

#9: (After your study leave and exam) “Had a good rest?”

This is sometimes said with a smug or patronizing tone. If it’s right after my exam, I’m usually too exhausted from taking the exams to choke the offending person to death.

Other derivatives include:

  • “So how was your ‘holiday’?”
  • “Feeling regenerated?”

#10: (If you passed) “See? I KNEW it.”

I’m normally so elated from passing that I rarely care about this. But I could cheerfully wring this person’s neck anyway.

I know, I know. Almost everyone who says these things to me are people who just want to know if I’m alright. The CFA prep process makes me pretty stressed out and cranky, and takes up loads of my time, so naturally it comes up in conversations. But being in a cranky state of mind is exactly what makes these statements so annoying.

OK, rant over. Do you have your own pet peeves to vent? Let us know!


24 thoughts on “What Not to Say to CFA Candidates”

  1. For those who are commenting frantically like you are a Saint about how annoying people are, rethink, whether you have said those words at some point in time in your life. You can just ignore those remarks, but saying them as annoying, is plenty a big slap of yourself. Those people just can’t feel you but yet they are concerned about you and trying to cheer you up. If you do not need those friends or family, give them to me. *roll my eyes* of these bunch of commentors. P/S: Dear owner of this blog, I do apologize to drop by and say something like this to your readers. I feel you, and you mentioned it’s a ranting post, so it’s good to have a laugh. 🙂

    • No problem – I know our friends and family do care about us (like we mentioned in the post), but it is hard to think rationally after hours of cramming 🙂

  2. This is exactly what the doctor ordered o/ ahahahhaha….I’m writing Level 1 in June,….people at work, actually very morning have been saying all the above “Dude you need to take a break, you face looks tired”…. I dance with a thought of giving someone a Round-House-kick of death inspired by Chuck Norris…..

  3. I love all the comments, they are so so true. I also got one.. when i told someone how much i study and that im worried i will fail, the pearson replyed… ‘well, you can only blame yourself’ …Thanks that helps…i feel so much better now. 🙂

  4. “Dont tell me you are studying all weekends? Why cant you spare a weekend for your friends”.. Hardly do I spare a weekend for my kid now 🙁 “Knowing you at work and the way you work with numbers, I was sure you would pass Level 2..” Thank you for the confidence, but I am not being tested in arithmetics in level 2 🙂 Hilarious post and so very true 🙂

  5. #11: why CFA? this and that person has failed even they are finance students? it doesn’t help you get a job? you will be overqualified. #12: did you pass? (If you passed): See, I knew it (If you failed): why my friend didn’t study anything still pass? most of people loves to see others’ failure than success, i guess…

  6. My ‘favourite’ during studying has to be: “What do you mean you can’t come to [xxx] ? It’s only one evening / day / weekend” Of course it’s only one evening / day / weekend, everything is only one evening / day / weekend! Ps no I still can’t come

  7. I have had people say #1, #3, #4, #7, and #10 probably 1000 times through I and II. The idea of #5 cracks me up. Great post.

  8. Great post I must say, every candidate should find his/herself in @ least 6 categories, else level of preparation is in doubt. I have read read lots of article on CFA and I don’t think I have ever come across anyone speaking about “right after reading I prayed and it turned out well”. I can tell as a candidate we barely have time for any other thing except reading. But share in my school of thought, after hard prep, solving 3000 questions and trying everything possible and things doesn’t turn out well, I wanna believe a higher force should be involved. Not preaching, just adding a step to all the numerous ones we must have tried or will try in preparation for the exams. After we have done our part as a student , let’s learn to whisper a word to God.

  9. these are so true! thanks for this post, haven’t smiled And thought about the CFA for quite a long time!

  10. This “ranting post” made my day. I’m glad I’m not the only who finds these patronizing remarks REALLY annoying! I got few more that irritates me: “What have you been up to lately?” or “What’s new?” I usually get this question from friends who exactly know what I’ve been up to lately. What’s new is that I’ve been living dejavu every single day for the past 2+ years, working for 12 hours, studying for 6 hours and sleeping for another 6. That’s what’s new! Another one is: “Doing anything fun over the weekend?” “Just studying…” “No, I meant doing anything fun in the evening?” “Studying…” “At night too? Wow, so what are you doing on Sunday then?” “STUDYING!”

  11. Hahaha great post! If I had a nickel for every time I heard one of these, I’d have my hedge fund seed capital!

  12. By far one of my most favorite posts! Every singe statement in this post is soooo true as sad as this may sound. I do get annoyed when people ask me about my weekend plans every single week although they know what the answer will be because they’d asked this questions for 20+ weeks already. I’ve personally received every comment listed on this post and every time I just clench my jaws!


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