Abbreviations and formulas during morning exam


Concerning the morning essay session, I was wondering if there’s a policy or best practice concerning abbreviations that can be used and formulas.

As for abbreviations, do you think that they accept the following ones?

  • ptf = portfolio
  • mgmt = management
  • M and k for million and thousand (instead of writing out all those zeros)
  • perf
  • whatever abbreviation that might seem (to me at least) understandable

And as for questions asking to show one’s calculations, do you think we need to write out the formula first or can we directly proceed to the calculations? If for example I write out a formula and then subsequently make a calculation error, do I receive partial credit for the formula?

Thank you for your help.



perf = ?

Perforation? Perfidy? Perfusion? Perfume? Perfection?

I wouldn’t risk any abbreviation that I wasn’t absolutely certain could be interpreted in exactly one way: the way I intended it.

Writing out the formula is a good idea; as you say, if you make an error in your calculation, you may at least salvage a point or two for having the formula there.

My pleasure.

I thought you needed to write out the formula to get a point even if you got the right answer

I realize this as I’m writing out a lot of answers in practice exams. I’m really in the habit of using symbols for things like correlation or standard deviation and I would like to be able to use them instead.

One big one is IR for interest rate. You have to write that so many f*cking times in these exams that it gets silly after awhile.

I’m really gonna try and be silly anal about explaining my intentions fully as I’m pretty sure you can get screwed if you do not. Even if you have the perfect formula written out with the right answer, make sure to explain it.


So and So looking to hedge their fixed income liabilities should BUY 78 futures contracts.

Rather than just: 78 futures contracts

Fixed that for you. Now you get a point.

I am planning to use the “e” notation for powers of 10, and hope that the grader(s) is/are not math-illiterate.

i.e. 10e3 for 10,000; $5.6e9 for $5.6 billion; and so on.

I just cannot write a bunch of zeros without slowing down. Especially since then I worry about neatness and put commas in them, i.e. $5600000000.00 looks a lot worse than $5,600,000,000.00 to me.

In this case, I’ve been using “10 bn.” or “10 mn.” instead of writing all zeros in the calculation. Is that okay?

5.6e9 to me is approximately 137.0014.


e = e^1

1recho - you probably should realize that e9 which is the scientific notation is not commonly known and seen in the CFA curriculum. You are probably better of writing 10K, 10M or 5M which has better chance of being recognized.

5.6e9 is just something that calculators and computers do to save space and because they cannot display superscript.

If you really wanted to use scientific notation on the handwritten portion of the exam, I think it would make much more sense to write:

5.6 * 10^9 (with the 9 as superscript)

That’s real scientific notation.

Thanks CPK and Clark. I think I will go with 10^9 and write the final answer out, to compensate for the graders’ “narrow range of experiences” (argh - what trap is that? Recallability? Representativeness? Something like that.)

I am going to try to use as little abbreviations as possible… the only things I think we would be sure to get away with (as such these are likely the only ones I would use, if I do at all), are:

mgmt/mgr - management/manager

delta, alpha, beta, and other greek letters - change, etc etc as they are given in the curriculum

m - thousand

mm - million

IR - interest rate

(I’m hesitant even using the 3 dots in a triangle for therefore, and as such will abstain from using it)

At the end of the day, the morning session (in my experience) isn’t the time crunch to where we would need that extra minute or two to complete the exam from the time saved on abbreviations (why is that word so long, anyway). So to, perhaps, save a point or two based on a difference in interpretations, I’m going to try to not write any abbreviations.

As for formulas, Schweser recommends to write them out, because, as they state, in a 3 point show-your-work question for example, you only get one point for having the correct answer, but would get 2 for having the correct formula.

I don’t think you need to have the formula with the letter notations, but the full formula written out with the numbers that equate to said letters would suffice. But I’m certainly no grader of the exam, just my 2 cents.

Actually, for thousand, k is probably the preferred notation… But at the end of the day, it’s only three 0s so I definitely won’t use that one

I think I’m gonna email CFAI on that one… at least using M for “million”… too cumbersome to write lots of 0’s or the words “million” when you’re extremely time constrained in the morning session.

are you guys serious write out the damn number and dont forget the currency