So on December 6th I’ll be sitting for my first CFA exam. I’m sure myself and the other thousands of people taking their first CFA exam will be a little nervous and uncomfortable.
I’d like to hear from some of the more experienced people about different tips, tricks, or recommendations for someone taking their first CFA exam. Are people mostly talkative or stressed before it starts? Do you recommend bringing lunch? What do you fill the time of your lunch break with? And is there anything you wish you would or wouldn’t have done?
im looking forward to hearing from anyone with an opinion.
Don’t talk to anyone except the proctors once you are in the exam center. Bring earplugs if they are still permitted- there is always some chronic hacking cougher in the crowd. Lay out everything that you will need the day before. Try to relax.
Don’t freak out over last minute cramming over your notes with everyone else while you’re waiting outside the exam room, you should use this pre-exam time to gain a relaxful poise. I didn’t look at notes on exam days, as it only added to my stress, nor did I pick up any last second random tidbits that were helpful. Same goes with at lunch time.
Also, in the coming weeks, you might want to adjust your pooping schedule. Either train yourself to get all your poop out when you wake up in the morning, or if it’s possible, save it in a safe way for after the exam. The CFA Lunch Time Poop Rush is extraordinary and if partaken in, will only cause severe anxiety, bowels rushed and uncut, guaranteed toilet paper shortages, leaving one with dirty distractive butt, poop and counterpoop still residing, for the second half of the exam, and a gnashing of teeth at times. So be a big boy now, and prepare your regiment.
I’ll just second the points about getting there early, bringing your lunch and having ear plugs. Also I found it helpful to really familiarize myself with the surrounding area of the exam location. When I finished in the AM I knew exactly where the closest Starbucks was so I made it there before the huge line formed. I also like having music to pump me up in the morning and to relax at lunch. Dont eat too heavy during lunch either, you need too keep that endurance up to put in a good PM effort.
I did all 3 levels in different test centres and each time I went to check out the venue before the big day.
On the day, arive in good time, bring lunch and time your bathroom visits well. I used to just walk in and avoid all the madness, go straight to the line for checking in, get to my seat and lay everything out on the desk (bar ticket and passport) and then go to the bathroom. Surprisingly at that time it was always pretty free as most people were either at their seat or in the line to check in. Note though that some test centres may not let you leave once you’ve checked in so check this before and don’t leave it too late to go.
Level 1 i was staying a hotel the night before which was right beside the test centre so I was able to just cut through all the hanging around and pre exam chatter and walk in and join the queue to enter my section.
Levels 2 and 3 I took my car and did the same, arrived in good time, parked up, looked at some cards, ate a banana and walked into the test centre past all the madness and colleagues/mates/contacts etc talking about what might come up and joined the queue to check in. Then at the end of the morning paper, I walked straight out to my car and sat and had lunch and flicked through more cards. I’d recommend this approach as I found it invaluable to have somewhere to go and be away from all the chatter and hanging around.
The collective widsom on AF is that no studying should be done the day before or the day of the exam, I disagree. I read through my flash cards cover to cover the day before and flicked through some of them on the morning of the exam before going in and at lunch and I picked up quite a few points from this. For levels 2 and 3, once you’ve done the morning paper you have a better idea of what topics will come up in the afternoon. ie, if a quants item set didn’t come up in the am, flick through the quants cards and it may well be the 2nd item set in the afternoon paper. I didn’t know that area well for level 2 but turned what would have been a 3/6 to a 5/6 based on a quick refresh over lunch when all I was doing otherwise was shoving a protein packed sandwich down my gob with a chaser of blueberrys and some coffee. protein, fruit and caffeine…
One final tip, sort out your sleep cycle and begin waking up at the exact same time you will need to wake up on exam day for at least 2 weeks before. If you’re on study leave don’t fall into the trap of sleeping a bit later and working into the night. Go to bed and get up at the same time to get into a sleep cycle and make sure you are well rested on the build up in case you can’t sleep on the night before the exam. The body and brain can function normally after 1 night of bad sleep, it’s the cumulative effect of multiple nights that can screw you. I must have slept 2 hours tops the night before level 2 but I was well rested before that point so i didn’t feel tired at all on exam day and smashed the exam.
Sorry for the novella! You can tell that I put a lot of thought into how to play the exam day over the years.
In all seriousness, here are the top 10 tricks that helped me get my charter:
1.) Fill in all the bubbles. If there is a question you are unsure of, guess and move on!
2.) Try to study 300 hours for this exam (It sure is hard)
Bring your ticket with you! They won’t let you take the exam if you don’t, which would suck!
Bring your passport and make sure to check all the information on your passport to your ticket! Do this at least 10 times! If it doesn’t match, they won’t let you take the exam, which would suck!
Make sure you have a at least 4 financial calculators (in case the batteries run out) and make sure they are either the TI 83+ or the Sharp EL-733A. CFAI doesn’t allow any other type so make sure it is one of these. How much would it suck to have to do TVM and bond math in your head?!?! It would totally suck!
Make sure you turn the exam in at the end of the day, because otherwise it won’t get graded, which would suck!
Make sure you have at least 20 pencils!!! How much would it suck if you ran out of pencils during the exam? It would! Also, the CFA exam is a scantron/MC exam that only reads #2 or HB lead!!! !
Make sure you empty your pipes before the exam, all of them!!! You want your focus to be 110% on the exam! It would totally suck to pop a chub during the exam and then have to go rub it out. This happened to me in level I.
Make enemies with the people around you by telling them how they’re going to fail. It’ll get you pumped up and will get into their heads so that they will fail and you wont, which wont suck!
Make sure you have a high class prostitute lined up for after the exam. If you can, have her pick you up at the exam center so that you can show everyone that you’re the man!