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CFA Exam Results: How to Understand Your June 2019 Report

The 2019 June CFA exam results release is as follows:

  • Level 1 and Level 2: by email in July
  • Level 3: by email in August

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 on the Report

There is an indication of either a “pass” or “did not pass”, as well as a table showing the relative performance by topic areas.

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

A Note on Score Bands

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

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

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

The CFA Fail Bands

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

Band 1 means one did better than at most 10% of those who also failed. In other words, 90% did better (not good). For Band 2, one 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 takes much effort to determine the minimum passing score for each exam. This major number is not disclosed but you can learn about the process and its impact on grading here.

Borderline Cases

You wouldn’t know for sure if you are borderline pass. But if you fall into Band 10, you are for sure a borderline fail. Take note of this before your next attempt:

The Ethics Adjustment

For those with score pretty close to the minimum passing score, they may be upgraded 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 Request

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

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

For essay section, it is also an exercise to confirm the score is recorded and totaled 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 CFAI getting this type of error, I personally wouldn’t go for retabulation myself.

If you are looking for an appeal or re-marking of the paper, it is unfortunately not available.

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

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

There have been creative ways to come up with a “CFA exam score” using this rule. What you do is to assign 40% to the topic areas  in the =<50% band, 60% to 51-70% band and 80% to >70% band. Then multiply these 40/60/80% with the respective “max points”, divided by the total number of max points.

The estimate score is 69%.

How Accurate is this Estimate?

This is a very rough estimate, to say the least. There is no validation from any party. I also suspect that CFAI doesn’t disclose the score for a reason. Feel free to do this for fun, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on this.

Your Next Step

If  you pass…

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

It’s pretty much the same process as in Level 1. Here is how you do it in case you don’t remember.

Check out Level 2 Topics + Tips!

For December Level 1 takers who passed…

The additional consideration is whether you have enough time for the next Level 2 exam, in June. Unless you’ve started studying, there will only be 4 months before the test date.

Obviously, the one after next is 16 months later, which is a loooong wait.

If you fail…

Bummer 🙁 but hey, 60% of candidates fail every year. So, don’t give up! I bet the vast majority of 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

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