I Pass the CFA Exam | Pass the CFA Exam & Other Finance Exams
Shares

CFA Exam Results: How to Understand Your Score Report

Since the CFA Exam is offered two and four times a year, CFA Exam results are released two to three months after your exam date.

  • You’ll receive Level 1 or Level 2 results by email 60 days after the exam.
  • You’ll receive Level 3 results by email 90 days after the exam.

Given the volume of emails, do not expect to receive the results immediately after 9 a.m. Readers seem to get it half an hour to a few hours later. The results will also be shown online the next day after 9 a.m. ET.

What’s in the CFA Exam Results Email?

Explanation of the Report

On each report, there will be an indication of either a “pass” or “did not pass,” as well as a table showing your relative performance by topic area.

The ≤50%, 51-70%, and >70% intervals are known as score bands. They indicate your performance relative to those who fail the exam. The CFAI, however, doesn’t specifically explain how this is calculated.

A Note on Score Bands

Score bands are useful only to show your relative strength and weakness across topic areas.

You can’t compare the score bands with those in previous exams because the overall performance of all candidates can be different from one exam to another.

It is possible for two candidates to get the same performance breakdown, but one passed and the other failed. This is because performance is reported as a range, and it is hard to compare individuals with a range.

CFA Fail Bands

If the score is a fail, an additional indication of Band 1-10 will be provided, with 10 being the closest to a pass.

Band 1 means the candidate did better than at most 10% of those who also failed. In other words, 90% of test-takers did better (which is not good). For Band 2, the candidate did at most 20% better than fellow failed candidates, and so on.

This is why if you are in Band 10, you are almost there.

The Minimum Passing Score

The CFAI determines a minimum passing score for each exam. This number is not disclosed, but you can learn about the process and its impact on grading here.

Borderline Cases

You won’t know for sure if you are a borderline passing case. All your score report will say is that you passed. However, if you fall into Band 10, you are for sure a borderline fail. Take note of these factors before your next attempt:

The Ethics Adjustment

Those with scores pretty close to the minimum passing score may have scores adjusted to a pass if there is a strong performance in the ethics section and vice versa.

Here is a direct quote from the CFAI website:

The Board of Governors instituted a policy to place particular emphasis on ethics. Starting with the 1996 exams, the performance on the ethics section became a factor in the pass/fail decision for candidates whose total scores bordered the minimum passing score. The ethics adjustment can have a positive or negative impact on these candidates’ final results.”

If you didn’t do well on ethics, this is surely an area you can work on!

Retabulation Requests

If you are thinking about a score review, there is a retabulation service.

This is a process to make sure your score is totaled and recorded correctly. For the multiple-choice and item-set sections, this process involves a CFA Institute staff member manually pulling your answer sheet from the pile, checking the answers against the answer key, and ensuring the total score is calculated correctly.

The essay section is also an exercise to confirm the score is totaled and recorded correctly. It does not involve re-grading.

You can fill out a request form within 30 days of results release, pay US$100, and get the results after a week.

Given the extremely low chance of the CFAI making this type of error, I personally wouldn’t pay for retabulation myself.

If you are looking for an appeal or re-marking of an essay, this is unfortunately not available.

You can download the request form and ask questions about CFA exam results at info@cfainstitute.org.

Have You Heard of the 40/60/80 Rule?

There have been creative ways to develop an individual “CFA exam score” using this formula. You assign 40% to the topic areas in the ≤50% band, 60% to 51-70% band, and 80% to >70% band. Then multiply the 40%/60%/80% with the respective “max points,” divided by the total number of max points.

An Example Score

Here’s a sample multiple-choice score.

Topic

Max Points ≤50% 51-70%

>70%

Alternate investments 8
Corporate finance

20

Derivatives

12

Economics

24

Equity investments

24

Ethical & professional standards

36

Financial reporting & analysis

48

Fixed income investments

28

Portfolio management

12

Quantitative methods

28

Here’s how you’d apply the 40/60/80 rule.

Topic

Max Points Multiply by

Approximate Points

Alternate investments

8

0.4

3.2

Corporate finance

20

0.6

12

Derivatives

12

0.4

4.8

Economics

24

0.4

9.6

Equity investments

24

0.8

19.2

Ethical & professional standards

36

0.8

28.8

Financial reporting & analysis

48

0.8

38.4

Fixed income investments

28

0.8

22.4

Portfolio management

12

0.8

9.6

Quantitative methods

28

0.6

16.8

Total

240

164.8

According to the 40/60/80 formula, this candidate scored approximately 164.8 points out of a possible 240. That equates to a score of about 69% correct.

How Accurate is this Estimate?

This is a very rough estimate, to say the least. Neither the CFAI nor any other party has confirmed this formula. I also suspect that the CFAI doesn’t disclose exact scores for a reason. Feel free to do this for fun, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on it.

Your Next Step

If you pass…

Congrats! You may consider registering for Level 2 as early as the day after your receive the results email. If it’s in your plan anyway, I encourage you to do that before you forget about it and miss the early-bird discount.

Thanks to the new scheduling system, you no longer have to decide between waiting either four months or 16 months before you can proceed. It’s pretty much the same process as Level 1. Here is how you do it, in case you don’t remember.

Check out Level 2 Topics + Tips!

If you fail…

Bummer. But, hey, about 60% of candidates fail every year. So don’t give up! I bet most candidates fail at least once along the way. John included (he failed Level 3 once).

If that’s the case, evaluate, revise your study plan and try again.

Start your self-evaluation here>>

For Your Further Reading

Leave a Comment:

1 comment
Add Your Reply