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Three Tips to Make Waiting for CFA Exam Results More Bearable

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CFA Exam PrepFor those who took the CFA exam two weeks ago, the hardest part is over—or is it? Waiting for the results can be an excruciating process. After having poured months of effort into preparation (or years, if you’re taking Level II or III), candidates now have to wait 60 to 90 days to discover whether they’ve passed an exam with a notoriously high fail rate.

Over the past few decades, psychologists have discovered that our perception of time can be affected by a number of factors that can either mitigate or exacerbate our anxiety about waiting. Here are some simple suggestions to help ease the pain of waiting for the results of your CFA exam.

  1. Don’t expect to pass. Overconfidence is a common failing: In a survey 300 professional fund managers, James Montier found that 74% of the respondents rated their performance as above average—a statistical improbability. While many analysts may be accustomed to feeling like the smartest guys in the room, they are competing against a select pool of their peers when they take the CFA exam, and the grading process is notoriously rigorous. The 10-year average pass rates for Level I, II, and III are 39%, 44%, and 59%. So, you’re better off preparing yourself for the worst. A number of studies, in fact, have shown that the key to happiness and mental well-being is managing your expectations.
  2. Keep yourself occupied. It’s an old cliché that a watched pot never boils, but academics have proven that we perceive waits to be shorter than they actually are if distracted by another activity. While it may be impossible to keep the CFA exam off your mind for two to three months, reframing the topic might help ease your anxiety. Review the sections of the exam that you struggled with, and focus your energy on studying for the next level.
  3. Commiserate with your fellow candidates. Psychologists have found that people perceive time to pass more quickly when they are waiting in groups than waiting alone. This phenomenon seems to touch on our fundamental sense of fairness; as long everyone else is forced to wait, we mind it less. Keep in touch with your study group or grab drinks with fellow candidates from your CFA prep class. You’ll find that articulating your anxieties to your fellow candidates will relieve some of your anxiety.

So, what if the worst happens? We’ll discuss next steps in an upcoming issue of the FPP.

Jennifer Curry

CFA Prep Discount

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Don't expect to pass!? :(

Worst advice ever.

Why focus your energy on studying for the next level when you dont expect to pass.

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