Understanding your CFA exam result

CFA Exam

After the CFA exam, we count the days till we get our CFA exam result. When it pops up on the screen our entire focus draws towards just one word; pass or fail. But did you know that your CFA exam result tells you much more than that?

Apart from the dreaded two words, the first page your CFA exam result consist of a performance chart. It looks something like this:

A mishmash of lines, patterns and colors, is what we deduce at the first glance. But in these patterns hide the way you need to approach your future preparation. Let’s see what these lines indicate.

Minimum Passing Score:

The thin solid grey line indicates the Minimum Passing Score (MPS). That is what you need to achieve to clear the CFA exam. The CFA institute not only changes the MPS from time to time but also keeps it undeclared till the last minute. The reason why its displayed in the result is to let the candidates evaluate their performance against the benchmark decided by the CFA institute.

Score line and Score box:

Your score line is inside your score box (Blue box). If its above the MPS you stand cleared and if it’s below the MPS you stand failed. The score box represents your best and worst case scenario result,incase you attempt a similar exam with different questions. The factors considered while ranging the score box include:

  • Favorability of the set of questions asked to your preparation
  • Your mental and physical fitness before the exam
  • Exam hall conditions
  • Lucky or unlucky guesses

The top part of the score box represents an estimate of your ‘best-case score’ if all factors went your way, whereas the bottom part of the score box shows your ‘worst-case scenario’ if all factors didn’t favor you. In short it displays your true ability.

90th and 10th percentile lines:

The thick purple dashed line represents the 90thpercentile score. This indicates that 10% of candidates scored higher than this in the CFA exam.Given that the pass rate for the CFA exams are about 40%, this means out of 100 candidates appearing for CFA Exam, 40 of them cleared and scored above minimum passing score.

The thick black dotted line represents the 10th percentile score. This indicates that 10% of candidates scored lower than this in the CFA exam. Why is this important?

These lines help you evaluate your performance as compared to other candidates. By doing so you get a perspective as to how apt your performance was for the CFA exam.

All these indicators are also given topic wise on the second page of your result. It looks something like this:

This page is far more important whether you want to reattempt the CFA exam taken or prepare for the next level. Using the confidence interval (blue box), the percentile lines and where you lie amidst that you can easily identify the areas you need to work on to hit the bulls eye in your next CFA exam.

A feature which is added for the CFA level 3 candidates is the bifurcation of scores between essay type and item set questions. It looks like this:

CFA level 1 and CFA level 2 candidates do not support the essay type format and hence this page is not applicable to them. This analysis further helps the candidate to spot his/her weak areas and work on them to perform well in future professional life, if they clear the exam. Incase you fail CFA Level 3 these analysis can be used to ensure clearance in your next attempt.

If candidates at CFA level 1, CFA level 2 and CFA level 3 take time and use these analyses it can surely help them to ensure a better performance in their future endeavor. CFA exam result is largely an indication of your own performance as against others but not to measure relative performance but to demonstrate competency.

So next time, don’t just look out for the two dreaded words. Take time and use the efforts done by the CFA institute to summarize your strengths and weaknesses and decide the future course accordingly. 

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