10 Reasons People Fail in the Exams of CFA Program

Have you ever wondered what sets apart top-notch finance professionals from the rest? Well, here’s the scoop: it’s the Chartered Financial Analyst Program! 

So if you’re someone who’s looking to level up your finance career in CFA Program or have already attempted CFA and need tips then this blog could be your ultimate guide! 

Wondering why is understanding the reasons behind CFA exam failures so critical? It’s simple,  learning from others’ mistakes can save you time, effort, and a whole lot of frustration! By understanding these challenges, you can customize your exam preparation for a successful outcome.

So in this blog, we’ll reveal the 10 secrets to ace the CFA Program, some pitfalls to avoid, and practical tips from successful candidates. Let’s buckle up and embark on this insightful journey together!

The Challenges of the CFA Program Exams

Picture this: A series of 3 grueling exam levels that test your financial knowledge, analytical skills, and critical thinking,  that’s what the CFA journey entails!

It’s possible that you’ve heard stories that the level 1 tests make the Chartered Financial Analyst course relatively easy. However, the truth is that CFA tests are challenging from the outset. But don’t be scared because a lot of practice and mental clarity are the keys to passing this specific exam.

  • Although the exams can be taken as many times as needed, each exam typically requires candidates to study in excess of 300 hours. 
  • To avoid CFA exam failure a candidate requires months of intensive study, sacrifice, and late-night cramming sessions. 

One of the aspects that sets the CFA Program apart is its challenging pass rates. The exams are intentionally designed to filter out the truly exceptional candidates from the crowd. As a result, the pass rates for each level are a testament to the program’s difficulty.

Here’s a bonus tip for you: Certainly, the pass rates for the CFA exam can be daunting. However, you can enhance your preparation journey by enrolling in the CFA program provided by IMS Proschool. Did you know that this premium institution offers an exam pass Commitment and even provides its students with placement opportunities after completing Level 1. So make sure to checkout their website https://proschoolonline.com.

For Level I, the pass rate is typically modest, hovering around 40-45%

  • In February 2023 the exam pass rate was 38% 
  • In May 2023 exam pass rate was 39%

This means more than half of the candidates don’t make the cut on their first attempt. Don’t be discouraged because it just goes to show how crucial it is to prepare thoroughly.

For Level II, the intensity ramps up, and the pass rate drops to around 40-45% once again

  • In May 2023 CFA Level II exam pass rate was 52%

For Level III which is the ultimate test of your mastery, the pass rate usually ranges from 45-55%. 

  • In February 2023 CFA Level III exam pass rate was 48%

So, what does all this mean? 

The CFA Program is not for the faint of heart, but for those who are determined to excel. It’s a journey that separates the committed from the casual, and the experts from the enthusiasts.

But fear not! Remember that success in this program is a reward reserved for the relentless. So whether you’re considering the CFA exams for the first time or have faced failure before, fret not! The upcoming top 10 reasons in the following sections will prepare you to pass with flying colors.

Also Read – 6 Important CFA Updates & Curriculum Changes Announced in 2023

Reason 1 – Lack of Sufficient Preparation

Let’s be honest and begin with the most critical aspect of CFA failure, clearing the exams without full preparation which can become your worst nightmare!

Here’s why inadequate preparation is a leading cause of failure in these tough exams:

  • Overwhelming Content: The sheer volume of material to cover can be mind-boggling. If you’re not well-prepared, you risk drowning in a sea of financial concepts and theories.
  • Underestimating the Difficulty: Some may underestimate the complexity of the exams, thinking they can wing it. But sorry to burst your bubble – that’s a recipe for disaster! 
  • Lack of Practice: It’s not just about reading and memorizing. Without enough mock exams and practice questions, you won’t be battle-ready. 
  • Burnout and Procrastination: Trying to cram everything last minute can lead to burnout, stress, and, of course, procrastination. Let’s face it – we’ve all been there! 

Now, you might be thinking, “Okay, so how do I avoid these pitfalls?” Fear not! The secret to success lies in having a well-structured study plan and a consistent study routine. 

The power of a well structured study plan:

  1. Create a sync between all the topics and design a mind map to enhance your retention and understanding.
  2. Break down the vast syllabus into manageable study sessions, focusing on one topic at a time. 
  3. Set realistic study goals and deadlines, ensuring you stay on track throughout your preparation journey.
  4. Organize study materials, practice questions, and resources to make your life easier and your study time more effective.
  5. Stick to a regular study schedule that suits your pace and lifestyle. Avoid last-minute cramming.
  6. Allocate specific study hours daily, even if it’s just 30 minutes.
  7. Do not skip any topic merely due to its perceived difficulty. 
  8. Make sure to seek out to diverse resources and experts who can present the CFA topic in an easily understandable manner.

Remember that the fear of CFA exam failure should never deter aspiring professionals.

Wondering why? Well, IMS Proschool offers a solution. 

  • With enrollment at IMS Proschool, candidates gain access to over 250 hours of comprehensive training for CFA Level 1. 
  • The program includes 5 mock exams and an extensive collection of 2000+ practice questions, ensuring thorough preparation. 

This way this institution is committed to guiding candidates through challenges, emphasizing their success above all else.

Reason 2 – Underestimating the Exam Complexity

It is often seen during CFA exams, that candidates find themselves in a maze of complexity they never saw coming! Underestimating the depth and difficulty of these exams is a common trap that can lead to stumbling blocks along the way. 

  1. The Deceptive Familiarity: Some candidates assume they already know a lot about finance, so how hard could it be, right? But once they dive into the exam questions, they realize they’re dealing with a whole new level of intricacy. 
  2. Interconnected Concepts: Finance is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and CFA exams love to mix and match the pieces. Candidates might understand individual concepts, but the real challenge lies in connecting them to solve complex scenarios.
  3. Challenging Areas within the CFA Curriculum:
CFA Level 1
  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Fixed Income
  • Quantitative Methods, 
  • Derivatives
  • Economics
CFA Level 2
  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Portfolio Management
  • Ethics
  • Derivatives
CFA Level 3 exam
  • Derivatives
  • Fixed income
  • Ethics
  • Equity investments
  • Alternative investments.

The key to overcoming these challenges lies in thorough understanding and practice. An institution like IMS Proschool is here to fortify your understanding and ensure comprehensive coverage of all these crucial topics. Their CFA faculty members collectively possess over 30 years of industry experience as CFA Charter holders and they teach by simplifying concepts for students through the use of real-life examples and case studies.

Also Read – Tips on passing CFA Level 1 with ease

Reason 3 – Poor Time Management

Time is of the essence in the CFA exams. Efficient time management can make all the difference between CFA exam success and failure.

Here are some tips for effective time allocation:

  1. Scan Before Diving: Glance through the entire exam quickly to gauge question difficulty and plan accordingly.
  2. Budget Your Minutes: Allocate time for each section based on the number of questions and the allotted time. Stick to it!
  3. Stay Mindful of Time: Keep an eye on the clock and pace yourself. Don’t get stuck on one question for too long.
  4. Flag and Move: If a question stumps you, don’t dwell. Mark it for later and move to the next one.
  5. Partial Solutions: Don’t leave challenging questions completely blank. Try to provide partial answers for partial credit.
  6. Prioritize Easy Wins: Start with easier questions to gain confidence and secure some points early on.
  7. Manage Essays Strategically: For essay questions, outline your response before writing to stay focused and organized.
  8. Review and Adjust: Keep some time at the end to review your answers and make adjustments if needed.

To overcome challenges in time management, IMS Proschool’s CFA course brings in top-notch professionals with backgrounds including Ex-CRISIL experts, current CEOs, and individuals with extensive Equity Research and FPA experience. 

  • They’re here not only to guide you but also to help you craft personalized study plans.
  • IMS Proschool also offers a comprehensive 6-month study plan encompassing all 10 subjects, followed by a dedicated 3-month revision period.”

So by enrolling in the CFA program at IMS Proschool time management could be your secret weapon to conquer the CFA exams. Whether it’s your first attempt or a retake, practice it diligently in preparation for success on the big day!

Reason 4 – Inadequate Understanding of Concepts

Picture this: A candidate who’s memorized every formula, term, and definition in the CFA curriculum. Impressive, right? Well, not so fast! 

While memorization might seem like a smart shortcut, it can be a risky game when it comes to the CFA exams.

The key to this exam is understanding the underlying concepts.

  1. Application is Everything: The CFA exams demand the ability to solve real-world problems using your knowledge. So memorizing without understanding leaves you ill-equipped to tackle complex scenarios. 
  2. Connecting the Dots: Finance is a web of interconnected concepts. A comprehensive understanding helps you connect the dots and see the bigger picture.
  3. Analytical Thinking: CFA exams assess your analytical skills. Knowing the “what” is not enough,  you need to know the “why” and “how.” This deep understanding allows you to dissect complex problems and devise creative solutions. 
  4. Long-Term Retention: Simply memorizing might work for short-term recall, but for long-term retention, comprehension is vital. A solid understanding lays a sturdy foundation for continuous learning and professional growth. 

As per Viveka Anbukarasan, a standout in the CFA exam, her grasp of vital concepts was thanks to IMS Proschool’s CFA program which went beyond her anticipations.

  • The faculty’s expertise and dedication ensured she grasped each concept before moving forward. 
  • Doubts were resolved on the spot, making learning effective. 
  • All this, at an affordable fee. 

So what are you waiting for? Join IMS Proschool today as its new batch starts every month and excel in finance like never before.

Here are some points that professionals at IMS share to foster comprehensive understanding: 

  • Explain it to Yourself: Pretend you’re teaching the material to someone else. Simplify complex concepts in your own words to ensure you truly grasp them.
  • Practice: Apply your knowledge to practice questions and mock exams. Real-world scenarios reinforce your understanding.
  • Seek Clarity: Don’t hesitate to seek help from instructors, peers, or online resources if something isn’t clear. Deepen your understanding through various perspectives.
  • Connect Concepts: Understand how different topics relate to one another. The beauty of finance lies in its interconnectedness.

Also Read – Top Job profiles & 5 tips to get a job after passing CFA level 1

Reason 5 – Lack of Practice and Mock Exams

If you want to conquer the CFA exams, practicing is very important.  Practicing questions and mock exams are not just for boosting your confidence, they play a vital role in shaping your success.

  1. Familiarity Breeds Confidence: Practice questions expose you to the format, structure, and style of the actual CFA exams.
  2.  Fine-Tuning Your Approach: Tackling practice questions helps you fine-tune your exam strategy. You’ll learn how to manage time effectively, prioritize questions, and handle different question types with ease. 
  3.  Identifying Weak Spots: Practice highlighting your areas of weakness. These weak spots might have slipped past you during regular study sessions. Knowing your vulnerabilities allows you to strengthen them before the big day. 
  4.  Realistic Exam Simulation: Mock exams offer a realistic simulation of the actual CFA exam conditions. The pressure, time constraints, and intensity mirror the real experience, preparing you mentally and emotionally. 
  5. Enhancing Performance under Pressure: Just like a marathon runner trains on tough terrains, practicing under exam-like conditions builds your resilience and performance. When the exam pressure kicks in, you’ll be well-prepared to shine.

In fact feel free to explore IMS Proschool, a compelling option that provides 5 mock exams and an extensive pool of 2000+ practice questions, all aligned with the updated CFA curriculum until March 2023. What’s more, the program incorporates Financial Modeling and Python training, adding to its comprehensive nature.

Did you know, 84% of our students recommend that you join us for your CFA journey

Reason 6 – Neglecting Ethics and Professional Standards

In the world of finance, ethical principles are not just a box to tick, they are the very heart of what it means to be a CFA. It’s a substantial section that carries significant weight in the exams which reflects the vital role ethical conduct plays in the finance industry. 

The Importance of Ethical Principles in Finance:

  • Protecting Investors
  • Long-Term Success
  • Building Credibility
  • Legal Compliance
  • Personal Fulfillment

Judging you based on this section is a testament to the integrity and moral compass that define the true essence of a CFA charter holder. Embrace ethical principles, and you’ll not only excel in the exams but also shine as a beacon of trust and professionalism in the finance industry.

Also Read – Top 5 trending CFA jobs in India

Reason 7 – Burnout and Exam Anxiety

As you prepare for the exams, it’s crucial to take care of your well-being.

After conversing with experts and students who have successfully cleared the CFA exams with remarkable scores at IMS Proschool here are some strategies for managing stress and maintaining balance:

  • Plan with Realism: Create a study plan that’s challenging yet realistic.
  •  Take Breaks: Stepping away from the material can refresh your mind and prevent burnout.
  • Engage in Physical Activity: Regular exercise can be a powerful stress buster. Even a short walk or workout can boost your mood and energy.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness techniques like meditation or deep breathing to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Seek Support: Talk to friends, family, or study partners about your feelings. Sharing your worries can provide emotional support and perspective.
  • Sleep Well: Ensure you get enough rest. A well-rested mind is more alert and focused during study sessions.
  • Maintain Hobbies: Don’t let your entire life revolve around studying. Make time for hobbies and activities that bring you joy.
  • Visualize Success: Picture yourself succeeding in the exams. Positive visualization can boost your confidence and alleviate anxiety.

Remember aspiring CFA champions, taking care of yourself is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. 

With Proschool’s CFA course, you can take advantage of unlimited revision and doubt-solving sessions if you don’t pass your exams.

Reason 8 – Lack of Review and Feedback

We know it’s tough to face the disappointment of not acing the exam on your first attempt. But fear not! There’s a silver lining in those results, and it lies in the power of learning from mistakes and feedback.

So make sure to embrace the Power of Learning:

  1. Discover Your Weaknesses: Use your exam results as a roadmap to discover your weak spots. Each mistake is an opportunity to grow stronger.
  2. Aim for Targeted Study: Analyze your scores section-wise and pinpoint the areas that need extra attention. A targeted study plan can make all the difference.
  3. Learn from Solutions: Review the correct answers and understand the explanations for your mistakes. Let each lesson guide you toward improvement.
  4. Track Your Progress: Keep an Excel sheet to record your mock exam scores and performance by section. It’s your personal growth tracker.
  5. Identify Patterns: Look for patterns in your mistakes. Are there recurring topics or question types that need your focus.

Dust yourself off, and let the power of learning from mistakes guide you to victory. 

Also Read – CFA Scholarship – Are you eligible for it?

Reason 9 – Overconfidence and Complacency

Congratulations on conquering previous CFA exam levels! It’s a remarkable achievement, but remember, the journey is far from over. 

Here’s why staying vigilant is crucial

  • Passing previous levels might lead to overconfidence, where you underestimate the challenges ahead. Remember, each level is a new battleground.
  • As you ascend, the exam complexity evolves. Complacency blinds you to the need for continuous improvement and deeper understanding.
  • Overconfidence might tempt you to take shortcuts in preparation, jeopardizing your chances of success.
  • Complacency can lead you to underestimate the difficulty of new topics, leaving you unprepared for curveballs.
  • Overconfidence might make you gloss over critical concepts that deserve closer attention.

So you must approach each level with:

  • Humble Confidence
  • Ensuring continuous Learning
  • Staying Committed and grounded
  • Using Past Experience wisely 

Your journey as a CFA charter holder is a testament to your capabilities. Don’t let overconfidence or complacency hinder your pursuit of becoming an exceptional financial professional.

Also Read – What Salaries Can You Expect In India As a CFA?

Reason 10 – Not Seeking Professional Support

Do you know that seeking professional support can be a game-changer in boosting your exam performance and increasing your chances of success?

Here’s why expert guidance, like joining a study group or enrolling in a CFA exam prep course, is a smart move:

  • Mastering Complex Concepts
  • Personalized Study Plans
  • Invaluable Insight
  • Addressing Weaknesses
  •  Enhanced Study Materials

Now guess where you can find all these benefits? Well, IMS Proschool is a premium institution with experienced faculty who are CFA charter holders themselves and their in-depth knowledge and experience can be a tremendous asset to your preparation.

  • With IMS Proschool, you have the assurance of expert support as they have many IIT/IIM/ CA/CFA Charter holders as faculty.
  • In case you fail any exam, they offer unlimited classroom and doubt-solving sessions, ensuring you receive the assistance you need.
  • They even have an impressive 84% of their CFA course students recommend joining IMS Proschool, a testament to their commitment to student success.

Remember that investing in professional support is not a sign of weakness but a testament to your dedication to excellence. With expert guidance, you’ll gain the knowledge, confidence, and skills needed so, consider enrolling in a prep course like IMS Proschool, and unlock the true potential within you. 


In this journey to conquer the CFA exam, understanding common pitfalls is crucial. So don’t fall prey to underestimating complexity, weak time management, insufficient prep, or skipping mock exams. Ethics can’t be ignored either. Make sure to guard against burnout and anxiety, and always review and seek feedback by associating with institutions like IMS Proschool.

Let’s stride towards success while keeping CFA failure at bay, aiming to conquer it on our very first attempt

Don’t miss out on this transformative opportunity, as your success story begins here!