Tips for Level I candidates with one week to go!

Advice for Level I Candidates (one week before the exam)

As we enter the final week before the exam I want share some advice with Level I candidates, especially those who are taking the Level I exam for the first time.

  1. Print your admission ticket and make sure the name matches exactly what you have on the passport. If there is a discrepancy, inform CFA Institute as soon as possible. I know people who were sent back on exam day because the name on the exam ticket and the name on the passport did not match.

  2. During the final week try to do as many full-length mock exams as possible. Definitely do the CFA Institute mocks which are available online. If you have time also do mock exams published by prep providers. It is important you time yourself and try to simulate exam conditions to whatever extent possible. Besides the obvious benefits, the mock exams should help you refine your exam-taking strategy. For example, you need to be clear about what sequence you’ll follow. Some candidates like to follow the sequence of the paper: Ethics, Quant, Econ, FRA, and so on. Others prefer to do Ethics at the end. Know what works for you beforehand. Do not experiment on exam day.

  3. Get a good night’s sleep two nights before the exam. This is because for most people it is difficult to sleep well the night before the exam… and you don’t want to risk taking the exam after two nights of bad sleep.

  4. On the last day carefully review facts and formulas. Go over your mistakes so you don’t repeat them on the exam. Work hard but avoid stressful activity such as taking a brand new mock exam.

Fast forward to exam day.

  1. Make sure you get to the exam center ahead of time. If you are late you’ll not be allowed to take the exam.

  2. Follow all instructions in letter and in spirit.

  3. Once you start the exam make sure you stay on schedule. For example if you start Ethics at 9:00 AM, you should be done with this topic by 9:36 AM (preferably slightly before that) because it has 18 questions. Follow the strategy you defined while working through mock exams.

  4. Underline key terms like ‘most likely’, ‘least likely’, etc.

  5. Don’t get frazzled if you see something you don’t know/understand. Give it your best shot. You only need to pick the best answer out of three. This can often be done without knowing every detail.

  6. Even if it appears on first glance that a question requires a lot of calculation, spend a few seconds thinking about whether there is a short method. As an example you might be asked to do a bond valuation and the three answer options represent a premium bond, a par bond and a discount bond. Based on the information provided you might be able to determine that the bond is a discount bond without doing any calculation.

  7. With some problems – especially those related to probability – you might get confused about what formula to use. In such cases simply jot down the possible formulas before you get too deep into the question. Then, based on the information provided, you can decide which formula to use.

  8. Do not get hung up on any question. If a questions is taking too much time simply bubble in what you think is the best answer, mark the question on the question paper, and move on. You can come back to such questions at the end if you have time. If you are spending too much time on a question that is probably because you don’t know the concept very well. It is much better to spend your time on questions that can solve more easily.

  9. Try to get done with the exam with at least 15 minutes to spare. During this time make sure you’ve not made any systematic errors… such putting answers for question 11 – 19 in the space for questions 111 – 119. Also use this time to go over questions that you had issues with. Often you can figure these questions out if you are not stressed about completing the exam.

  10. Stop writing and close the exam booklet when you are told to do so. I know people who were disqualified because they were trying to bubble in answers after the time was over.