Failed CFA Level 1 Exam? Here’s What to Do Next

failed cfa level 1 exam sign says now what

Worried about a failed CFA Level 1 exam? You’re not the only one. According to the CFA Institute’s website, barely more than 40% of CFA Level 1 candidates passed the exam in the last few years.

So, what should you do next? I get this question all the time from the students that I tutor. In this post I’ll take you through three things you can do to get yourself back on track and seriously boost the odds of a pass on the next time around.

So I Failed CFA Level 1 Exam… Now What?

First, confirm that you actually failed. Many people feel awful about the exam afterward but still pass. Don’t worry for nothing. Wait for the confirmation.

After a failed CFA Level 1 exam you can expect to get an email from the CFA Institute. They send out the email (whether you pass or fail) about 1.5 months after the exam. If you confirm that you have indeed failed CFA Level 1, then take a look at where your performance lagged. The CFA Institute will tell you how you scored in each section compared to the passing grade, and other students based on percentiles.

So how can you interpret your results? Simply look at which topics you scored lowest – the ones with the highest weightings are especially important. Generally, I’ve found that if a student was not too far below the minimum passing score, there is a good chance that with a little more studying they could pass the second time around.

If you have a score that is well below the minimum pass score, then don’t fret! All hope is not lost! It likely means that either: 1) You didn’t study enough, or; 2) You didn’t understand the material. Be real with yourself and decide which it is, because there are solutions to both (more detail below).

The CFA Level 1 exam is offered twice a year so sign up as soon as you can once you know you failed the last one. You get a cheaper rate the earlier you sign up, and chances are that you haven’t forgotten that much of the material. This brings me to my next point.

I’ve Accepted My Failed CFA Level 1 Grade…What Can I Do About It?

Get back to studying. I’m sorry to break it to you, but that’s the reality. Give yourself a week or more to relax, but then get back to the books.

Before you start studying too hard, be sure to review the email that you received from the CFA Institute. Notice what sections were your worst. If they included Ethics, Financial Reporting & Analysis, and/or the Quant section, be sure to start with whatever was your lowest score among them. These three cumulatively make up over 40% of the CFA Level 1 exam. So, chances are that a failed CFA Level 1 exam includes a poor performance on one of those sections. It’s possible to pass the CFA Level 1 exam without acing those sections, but the lower your score on those, the higher your score needs to be on the others.

The earlier you start studying the better. With enough persistence I really believe anyone can do better than the CFA exam pass rate.

What Should I Do Differently to Avoid Another Failed CFA Level 1 Exam?

Refer to the old adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over, and over again, expecting a different result.

If you genuinely feel like you did all you could to pass the exam, and still failed, then reconsider your approach. You probably fall into the “didn’t understand the material” bucket. Don’t move ahead in big sections like FR&A, Quant, or Ethics, unless you really get the material. You can afford to do this in Derivatives, but the bigger sections you’ll need to learn. There aren’t shortcuts.

If you ran out of time studying, then depending on your background, reading all of the text might not be necessary. You can save a lot of time by getting Schweser’s CFA QBank and learning topics as you do questions.

Lastly, one of the surest ways to save time is where we come in at Professional Exam Tutoring.

Warning: Another shameless plug follows!

If you can’t study more because you just don’t have the time, consider getting a CFA tutor. Whether you decide to work with me or not, in all seriousness a CFA tutor will help shave down the amount of time you spend learning concepts. If you need an online CFA tutor, or an in-person tutor, we offer both. Feel free to reach out, and don’t be discouraged about failing! After all, maybe you’re the next Warren Buffett (he doesn’t have his CFA designation 🙂).

CFA Level 1 Study Guide: My Top Recommendation

Looking for a CFA Level 1 study guide? With the exam fast approaching you’re right to prepare early. The right study guide won’t ensure you pass, but it will certainly help you on your way.

In the thousands of hours we’ve spent tutoring, the best resource when it comes to a CFA Level 1 study guide is clear: Schweser.

CFA Level 1 Study Guide: Schweser

Why Schweser? I humbly submit that the resources on this site (at least as of this writing) don’t compare to the plethora of tips and tricks you can get from Kaplan/Schweser. That said, our online CFA tutor services or private CFA tutor services are much more reasonably priced, in my opinion, and the resources we offer on our site are free…but I digress.

What Do They Offer?

Kaplan Schweser is by far the industry leader when it comes to a CFA Level 1 study guide. The company has virtually every possible resource you could need from an exam prep company. Some of the most popular resources that I see students purchase when it comes to a CFA Level 1 study guide include: 1) Schweser’s “Secret Sauce”; 2) Schweser Notes; and 3) Schweser’s Formula Sheet.

Secret Sauce

The secret sauce is a very condensed study guide that hits on key terms, and major concepts for the exam. It is far from comprehensive but if you are really crunched for time, or want something to review on your commute, it’s a really good resource. It’s only about 200 pages (plus, or minus) so you’ll be able to get through it multiple times over the course of a few months of studying.


Schweser’s Notes are another nice CFA Level 1 study guide. They are also a condensed version of the CFA Institute’s texts. The notes are a middle ground between the CFA Institute’s text and the Secret Sauce. Schweser’s Notes offers much more detail in their explanations of concepts than the Secret Sauce, but don’t overdo it as the CFA’s text does, in my view. The notes can be purchased as a hard copy printed or in eBook form. I would recommend both if you can afford it, but if not, eBook form is best. You will be able to search and find terms in the text much more easily.

Formula Sheet

Lastly, the formula sheet offered by Schweser is a must. It is a nicely organized consolidation of formulas, concepts, and definitions that you’ll need to know for the exam. You can buy it for under $40 and it is a great study tool when you are on the go.

If you are looking for a CFA Level 1 study guide for the upcoming exam, I highly recommend many of Schweser’s resources. Schweser’s CFA QBank is my personal favorite, and the only resource I used for studying (when I passed on my first attempt). That said, everyone is unique. I encourage you to use the resources that make you most the comfortable (and confident). The CFA exam is hard enough, and you don’t want to end up as a statistic with another failed CFA Level 1 exam.

The 5 Best CFA Tutoring Services in NYC

Looking for help beyond textbooks? Well, we did it again. Similar to our post highlighting the best Series 7 tutors NYC has to offer, we’ve compiled a detailed list of the best CFA tutors in NYC.

The CFA tutors NYC boasts range from private tutors working on a part-time basis, to full-fledged education providers with large staff. Some companies even get recognition from the CFA Institute as “Commercial Approved Prep Providers.”

Without further ado, here are our picks for the best CFA tutors NYC has on hand:

CFA Tutors NYC: Professional Exam Tutoring (P.E.T.)

Of course I’m biased on this one. I truly believe that P.E.T. adds the most value when it comes to CFA tutors in NYC. Our head tutor, and founder, Jim has developed some of the best CFA Exam tutoring and FINRA Exam tutoring services for all educational backgrounds in the NYC area. Every lesson is personalized, and we take extreme care in every session to make sure to maximize as many “aha” moments for the student as possible.

P.E.T. has tutored graduates of Princeton, U Penn, Yale, Columbia, Villanova, American University, GWU, and the list goes on. With a team that has decades of combined experience, Jim has developed a curriculum that gets to the meat of where most CFA candidates have issues. Professional Exam Tutoring will save you time, and help get you closer to passing the CFA the first time.  P.E.T. charges competitive rates with online tutoring sessions as the cheapest option.

CFA Tutors NYC: ParkPrep CFA Tutoring Service

Another private tutoring company that offers one-on-one CFA tutoring services in NYC is ParkPrep CFA Tutoring Service. ParkPrep focuses solely on CFA tutoring, and is a little pricier than some of the private tutors you will find at Professional Exam Tutoring or Wyzant. ParkPrep charges roughly $200 per hour but also offers a Pre Fixe service offering. The Pre Fixe CFA tutoring includes five 3-hour sessions for $2,500 (or $500 per session). In addition to one-on-one CFA tutoring, ParkPrep also offers group sessions. Although the company is a little more dear than other CFA tutoring services, students that don’t pass after using ParkPrep will have half of their cost refunded. Tip: This puts their prices closer in line with other tutoring services.

CFA Tutors NYC: Wyzant

Wyzant is a popular choice among many CFA candidates. The company is a platform from which candidates can search among consolidated private tutors. Most of the tutors on the platform are freelance. There are a number of CFA tutors NYC has to offer on Wyzant’s website. The best indication of competence lies in the reviews from customers and number of hours spent tutoring. Of course, prices are at the discretion of the freelance CFA tutor and can range from $40 per hour to $200+ per hour. Also keep in mind that there is a service charge, in addition to the tutor’s fee, when you book with them. Wyzant takes a percentage of the hourly rate charged by the tutor so many tutors ask their customers to go off the platform and use PayPal or Venmo for payment.

CFA Tutors NYC: Sharp Seminars

Sharp Seminars are less of a CFA tutoring services company and more of a CFA class provider. The company is led by Dr. Franklin Sharp. Sharp Seminars has been offering CFA classes in NYC for over 25 years. Sharp Seminars also offers an attractive “pass or money back” guarantee. But, we would caution folks to read the fine print before getting too excited over that offer. The full refund is only applicable after meeting fairly stringent terms and conditions. That said, the offer of a refund is still enticing for those willing to make the commitment. The Sharp Seminars are held in different locations in Manhattan and cost over $1,200. The company also charges $550 for the sample questions review sessions. There is a bundled offering combining the two for just over $1,600.

CFA Tutors NYC: Kaplan/Schweser

Kaplan may not have CFA tutors per se, but it certainly is a name brand educational resource with which most will be familiar. If you are looking for a regimented approach to studying for the exam, Kaplan is a good source. On top of all of the study material you can buy from them (see discussion above), they also offer classes. While there is no one-on-one tutoring, a significant number of our students supplement tutoring and self-study with Kaplan classes. However, be prepared to spend a little money. In-person classes tend to run over $1,300 while online weekly classes are closer to $1,100. Most of the in-person classes take place in midtown/Times Square, but Kaplan also has a downtown option.

I hope this summary has been useful if you’re in the market for a tutor or class! A failed CFA exam is clearly not the goal. Contact us to book a CFA tutor or just reach out if you have more questions about our services, or any of the above mentioned services.

CFA Level 1 Practice Questions: What is the Best Resource?

As a CFA tutor I have worked with all sorts of candidates for the CFA Level 1 exam for years. Almost every student has the same question: What is the best resource for CFA Level 1 practice questions?

While I do have a favorite “go-to” that I recommend, ultimately you’ll find that there are a few respectable choices. In this portion of the guide, I’ll cover the resources that I believe are worth exploring and a couple others that can be a help.

CFA Level 1 Practice Questions: My “Go-To” Resource

The Schweser Qbank. I’ve discussed Schwesers CFA Qbank in another post. It deserves a specific shout-out because it is what I believe to be one of the most important pieces of your study repertoire. With thousands of questions, at varying difficultly, it provides a great sample of what the exam is like. When starting out, I recommend taking CFA Level 1 practice questions “open book” while you learn. Specifically, reference your notes but also “include explanations” after every question on your QBank to ensure quick feedback and understanding. After at least two months of studying, then try a “closed book” practice exam to test your speed, and simulate a test scenario.

The Schweser Qbank is the best resource for CFA Level 1 practice questions in my opinion because it provides such a broad cross-section of questions. Not only does the Qbank touch on every major topic, but it asks different questions on the same topic in different ways. This is extremely helpful and cannot be understated. This varied approach ensures candidates have to tackle problems in different ways (and helps minimize surprises on the actual exam).

CFA Institute Practice Questions

You’re not likely going to run out of questions on the Qbank. But, if by some chance you do, or if you just want to change it up, try the practice questions on the CFA Institute’s website. The CFAI posts practice questions for various topics. These questions tend to be more difficult than average, however. More than anything, they are another great way to experience different types of questions. If you can score well on these CFA Level 1 practice questions, then you’re making good progress.

For the extra diligent among you, check out the questions at the end of each section of the textbook as well. You’ll likely find these questions a little easier than those in the Qbank although they can be a good way to test your retention as you learn the material.

Other Third-Party Offerings of CFA Level 1 Practice Questions

As a CFA tutor myself, I have seen many students try to juggle different resources for CFA Level 1 practice questions. There’s nothing wrong with this approach but it doesn’t often provide much in terms of any marginal tangible benefits. The QBank’s massive database of questions is so expansive and so representative of questions on the exam, that it’s more than sufficient to help you pass. A few third-party resources for example, such as 300hours.com, analystprep.com, Bloomberg, and efinancialcareers.com offer practice questions. While they have some utility, the QBank remains our favorite.

Ok so I’m clearly a little partial toward the Qbank. And to be fair, I haven’t reviewed every single question from each provider. Nevertheless, I’m more of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” type of guy when it comes to CFA Level 1 exam prep. I know what works personally, and have seen what works for our students. The QBank is an investment worth making.

Five Reasons Why Schweser’s CFA QBank Can Help You Pass the CFA Level 1

Now that I’ve highlighted Schweser’s QBank as the best resource (above). I’m going to go a little more in-depth to tell you why. For starters, I’m very selective on the study material that I suggest for my students. And, when it comes to studying for the CFA Level 1 exam, Schweser’s CFA QBank is hard to beat. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to focus your attention, start by getting Schweser’s CFA QBank. Below, I will break down the five reasons why this study aid is so crucial to your success.

1. Schweser’s CFA QBank: It Tracks Your Progress

The most important part of Schweser’s CFA QBank is the fact that it tracks your progress. Specifically, it will track your progress at great detail. It does this by evaluating your performance across a plethora of practice questions. As you take practice questions, the QBank will track your score by section. Even better, the QBank will track your score by subtopics within sections. For example, if you are not testing too well in the Economics section, you can drill-down further and find out the part of the Economics section where you’re coming up short (e.g., currencies, demand and supply analysis, etc.).

2. Schweser’s CFA QBank: Practice, Practice, Practice

I also like Schweser’s CFA QBank for the sheer volume of questions. There are thousands of questions in the QBank. I’ve found that if a student can get through about 3,000 questions (presumably learning from their mistakes while doing so), then they have a good shot at passing the exam. Taking a few thousand practice questions should provide you with a valuable breadth of exposure to the various types of possible questions you might see on the real exam. In conjunction with this approach, focus on sections with the highest weightings first. The Financial Reporting and Analysis, Ethics, and Quantitative sections, for instance, should be a major focus when you take questions using the QBank.

3. Schweser’s CFA QBank: It Can Help You Organize

Schweser’s CFA QBank can also help keep you organized. If you start studying shortly after the new year (or at least five months before the December exam), that leaves you with about twenty weeks of study time. Break the number of questions down that you need to get through on a per week basis in order to hit 3,000+ questions. To do this, you would have to take about 150 questions per week (150 x 20 = 3,000!). To break that down further, it can take about 5 minutes per question (on average). That includes taking the time to read, think about, and answer questions and also review their answers. Some will take longer, and some will take shorter. But on average, this might take about 750 minutes (or about 12 hours) per week. You ultimately want to be studying about 12 to 16 hours per week, so this should fit well within your study plan.

Note: Keep in mind that in the final few weeks your study time will include almost no reading of the text, and all your time should be dedicated to taking practice questions.

4. Schweser’s CFA QBank: It’s a Time Saver

Let’s face it. Nobody typically gets through reading all of the curriculum, taking all of the questions, and consistently absorbs the information, enough to score 90%+ on every section. In most cases, I see candidates struggle more in some sections (Quant) than others (Ethics). If you’re stuck on some of the harder sections and find yourself crunched for time, focus more on taking practice questions from Schweser’s CFA QBank for lower-weighted sections. Make sure to view the answers after every question so you can study along as you go. This strategy is ideal for sections such as Portfolio Management and Derivatives. These two sections have a small weighting for the CFA Level 1 exam so you can afford to less thoroughly review these assuming you do well with questions on the higher weighted sections. You may need to fill in the gaps not filled in by just studying via the QBank by doing short spurts of reading as you go, but that is totally fine and will save you from having to read whole chapters.

5. Schweser’s CFA QBank: You Can’t Help but Improve

I have yet to see a student’s knowledge base deteriorate after using the QBank. The questions from Schweser’s CFA QBank have a solid mix of challenging questions and easy ones. The database of Schweser’s questions is unparalleled with any other study material that I have come across. That is, in both its breadth and depth of its content. If you can only get 1,000 questions done before you take the exam, then do it. The odds of you passing will increase with every question you take. Without seeing how different types of questions can be asked on the CFA exam, you hurt your own chances of being able to quickly identify what is being asked from question to question.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a big advocate of using Schweser’s CFA Qbank and we highly recommend it at Professional Exam Tutoring. Some students supplement their studying with it, while others use it exclusively to study (and I have seen instances where both approaches lead to a passing grade!). Book a CFA tutor, or contact me today if you want to hear more of my thoughts on the subject.

A CFA Exam Checklist for Your Last Two Weeks of Studying

Do you have a CFA Exam checklist to keep you on track these last couple weeks? If not, let me help you out on how you should prioritize from here on out.

CFA Exam Checklist: Start with the Basics

  • CFA Exam Checklist: Do I have everything I need to show up?
    1. First, let’s start with what matters most. Do you have your exam ticket? If not, login to the CFA Institute’s website and print it out. You will need that, as well as your ID (passport) to take the exam. All of that studying will be for nothing if you forget those two things!
    2. Include some extra pencils, CFA-approved calculators(TI BA-II Plus, HP 12c Platinum, etc.) and comfortable attire for your exam day.
    3. Know where your test center is located, and on what floor the exam is being taken. Have this mapped out ahead of time. What is the exact address, and how will you get there?

CFA Exam Checklist: Wrap Up Studying

  • CFA Exam Checklist: What do I have left to study?
    1. Review the sections that can make or break your outcome. For example, for the CFA Level 1 exam that is going to include Ethics, FR&A, and Quantitative Methods sections. These sections comprise approximately 50% of the exam and can really impact your pass/fail outcome. Consider a study blitz on these sections. With only two weeks to go remain laser-focused on high priority content. As a professional tutor, I see constant and recurring questions come up on these sections.
    2. For FR&A, review practice questions regarding FIFO/LIFO, depreciation expense, leases, cash flow statements, and ratios. I would consider it quite rare to not see at least one of these major sections on the exam.
    3. In terms of the Quantitative Methods section, study probability theory, hypothesis testing, and time value of money.
    4. Make sure that you are familiar with the functionality on your CFA financial calculator. This will help for the Quant, Corporate Finance, and Fixed Income sections. Put in a little time to learn how to use your calculator efficiently, and it might save you a lot of time on the exam.

Identify Your Personal Weak Spots…And Try to Strengthen Them

  • CFA Exam Checklist: Where can I improve my score?
    1. In addition to the above, analyze your practice tests. Where are you falling short? Note where your scores are low so you can target those sections.

Where can you improve? Next, identify the low-hanging fruit. With little time left before the exam, don’t try to learn a section you know might take you hours. Take a look at the easier sections that seem to be tripping you up, and polish them up. Additionally, if you don’t already have one, start a list of definitions and formulas that you can’t seem to remember. Add to it every day, print it out, and keep it with you so you can study it wherever you go. This can be a great help over these last two weeks. Some memory work is unavoidable, and the more you pound it in, the better you will do.

Below is a condensed version of things to remember the day before:
1. Exam Ticket
2. ID
3. CFA Institute Approved Calculator
4. Pencils
5. Extra Calculator (or batteries)
6. Directions to Your Testing Center
7. Exam Time
8. *Required Check-In Time* (IMPORTANT!)
9. Eat Breakfast
10. Go to the Bathroom
11. Get a Good Night's Sleep

Good luck!

What Should You Do Now?

While it might be hard to work miracles in such a short period of time, check out our magic here at Professional Exam Tutoring. If you want some last-minute tutoring, consider the benefits. Contact us if you want to lower your learning curve and accelerate your understanding. Our tutors can help explain difficult concepts, or conceptualize jargon-laden text.


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Hourly Option: $109




Free 30 Minute Consultation

Personalized Study Schedule Review

Deep Dive on Key Topics (Fixed Inc., Equity, Deriv, etc.)

Review Vignettes

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Hourly Option: $129




Free 30 Minute Consultation

Personalized Study Schedule Review

Deep Dive on Key Topics (Portfolio Management, etc.)

Review Mult. Choice Practice Questions

Review Long-Answer Practice Questions

Test Taking Tips

Hourly Option: $149

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