Is Maths Required to Pass CFA® Exam? 3 Reasons for Failure

CFA exam / 3 Reasons for Failed CFA Exam

Some Fail CFA Exam Due to Poor Maths!

To pass your CFA exam, you need to know your maths 'cos 9 in 10 topics have formulas and require you to do some calculations. To handle math problems, you need to get lots of practice. And to pass your CFA exam, you need to plan out your preparation.

We’ve been helping people to prepare for the CFA exam for many years now. While doing so, we found out there are 3 main reasons why candidates failed CFA exam. Before you get down to your CFA exam books, consider if you also struggle in these areas.

3 Reasons Why You May Fail Your CFA Exam

The 3 reasons for your possible CFA exam failure include:

  1. Problems with maths.
  2. Not enough practice.
  3. No proper planning.

CFA Candidates' Problems With Maths

The CFA exam requires candidates to be good at maths. You won't pass your CFA exam unless you're fluent at least in basic mathematics. Also, calculator literacy is a must! Otherwise, you may fail your CFA exam because you won't have enough time to do your test.

Though it may sound surprising, many CFA candidates struggle with maths.

It’s true not only of those who graduated from the university some time ago but also of students who currently attend their classes. This group constitutes up to 30% of all CFA candidates.

Maths used in the CFA exam is not complicated. It’s sufficient to know how to transform formulas and do fractions. Of course, those who can calculate and analyze things in their mind are better off on exam day when every minute counts.

If you master your maths, you'll be able to do even 50% of all the calculations in your head, which will very often prove to be much quicker than if you used your approved CFA exam calculator. However, for the other 50% of the calculations, you'll need your calculator (TIBA or HP). That's why you should practice daily with the calculator that you'll be using in your CFA exam.

Not Enough Practice

Here’s the second reason for failure in the CFA exam. Most of the CFA candidates practice too little.

They study their CFA Program Curriculum but they fail to test themselves on what they’ve actually learned. What you need to do is solve countless exam-type questions all the way through your exam prep. Over and over again. To see where you’re standing. Of course, use your calculator when doing practice problems.

It’s best if you develop the right habit from the very beginning. It would be perfect if you tested yourself on a daily basis, after each reading and each topic. If you do tests regularly, you’ll see your progress and you’ll know which areas still need some improvement and which are fine.

Moreover, by doing different exam-type tests, you get accustomed to the form of the CFA exam, which should definitely make you feel more comfortable when the exam day comes.

If all you know about the exam is that it’s a test consisting of multiple-choice questions, you won't feel too comfortable for sure.

To get the fact to resonate better:

Imagine that you are to play a basketball match and all you know about basketball is that you need to throw a ball into a basket to score a point. Never in your life, however, have you tried to score one. You must agree that to win the match you’re gonna need a lot of luck...

No Proper Exam Planning

Here’s the third reason for many CFA exam fiascos. No due prep planning despite the voluminous study content required in the exam.

To cope with 10 level 1 CFA exam topics covered on over 3000 pages, you need to work systematically. This – as we know well – can often be a great challenge!

The first step to overcoming this challenge is to have a good study plan which you can easily follow. It would be best if you had not only deadlines for topics but also weekly schedules to hold yourself accountable.

To put you in charge of your CFA exam prep, we launched our CFA Exam Study Planner available to candidates of all levels.

You will find there the whole CFA Program Curriculum divided not only into topics but also into readings (aka. modules). Your topic readings are assigned to consecutive weeks and you get all sorts of means to control your weekly study progress such as:

  • ability to mark your readings as done or partially done,
  • benchmark study times for your study weeks and readings, which get reduced as you change your readings' status,
  • easy drag&drop edition of your study week in case you want to add or take away some readings and move them to the next week.

That’s not all!

If you plan your CFA exam prep using our app:

you’ll surely find enough time to practice thanks to regular review sessions – and if you practice enough:

you’ll be able to improve your mathematical skills!

Here’s a sample CFA exam study schedule as displayed in our Study Planner 4.0:



CFA Exam Study Planner: PLAN VIEW

FIND your Study Plan in the PLAN tab View all the weeks of your CFA exam prep, see how much you’ve done and how much is still ahead of you, as well as customize your schedule using your Study Plan personalization options and the DRAG & DROP for both topics and study weeks.


CFA Exam Study Planner: STUDY VIEW

CFA Exam Study Planner: STUDY View You will be asked to focus on your current week of studying. You will know what to study (left-hand menu) and how much to study (benchmark study times). Here, you'll also find your study lessons, including videos, tests, PDFs, etc. At the end of the week, your hard work will be evaluated (hit the SUM UP button).


CFA Exam Study Planner: PROGRESS VIEW

CFA Exam Study Planner: PROGRESS View You will be able to see your progress by topics and weeks. Each week your Chance to Pass score will go up or down.


CFA Exam Study Planner: REVIEW VIEW

CFA Exam Study Planner: REVIEW View To learn, you must review. Use the special view of your Study Planner to review your study lessons, rewatch videos, revise formulas, etc.

Analyze Your Weaknesses

While it’s all clear now how to best plan your CFA exam prep, one more piece of advice is due.

Learn & Pass Your CFA Exam

As you go down the road, you need to get to know your weak points. Surely, you know some of your weak points already but mind that some may appear as your CFA exam prep evolves.

For example, you may be well aware of your unorganized nature or rather poor math skills. After reading this post – you can see you need to deal with it to succeed.

But as time passes, you may also discover your other weaknesses. For example, you may find out that you tend to put off studying too often. Regular procrastination can ruin your plans altogether. Not to let that happen, you’ll need to react and find the motivation to follow your study plan without delay.

So, stay observant. Best if you analyze every week of your CFA exam prep, then draw conclusions and seek solutions whenever you and your study schedule are in danger. Good luck!

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Updated: Feb 28, 2024

About Soleadea:

Our CFA Exam Study Planner is available to candidates of all levels at groundbreaking Pay-What-You-Can prices. You decide how much you want to pay for our services. After you activate your account, you get unlimited access to our Study Planner 4.0 with study lessons inside, various level 1/level 2 study materials & tools, regular review sessions, and a holistic growth approach to your preparation. Join

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