CFA Exam Day, What to Expect and How to Prepare

Unfortunately, more than a few candidates have failed an exam not because they didn’t know the curriculum but because of a test day hurdle.
You’ll hear stories every year of the candidate that is refused admission because they don’t have the proper identification, arrived late or don’t have their admission ticket. On top of these problems, you also run the risk of being so distracted from test day jitters that you can’t focus on the exam.
Knowing how to prepare for exam day and what to expect can go a long way to having a successful June 1st.
Unless the testing center is within walking distance, don’t assume that you can get their without any planning. If you can, try to drive the route a few days before test day. You may be surprised to see detour signs or that construction will start over the weekend. Google maps or other GPS services are good but not infallible and they aren’t going to refund your hard work if you get lost and miss the exam.
Play it safe on the food. That big meal the night before might just keep you up all night with indigestion. Eat a good breakfast but nothing heavy on grease or sugar. If you drink coffee, have a cup to avoid caffeine withdrawal. You are allowed to use the restroom during the exam but it comes out of your allotted time.
Don’t forget to print out your admission ticket (available by clicking here). In fact, open a new internet window and do it now. Put it in a safe place and do not write on it. After you’ve done that, look for your passport. Go ahead, I’ll wait……
Ok, visually check to make sure your passport does not expire through the test day then put is with your admission ticket.
Some candidates bring ear plugs for the test. I never had a problem with noise distractions but it is a good idea just in case. I have heard horror stories of open windows and lawn mowers distracting candidates. If you are at all distracted by small noises, bring ear plugs.
On test day, you’ll all arrive and wait outside the exam room. There will be a table of exam admin to check people in. Just before the exam begins, you’ll all file into the room showing your admission ticket and identification. You’ll be given your seat assignment and put your materials in front of you on the table. Test procters will also check your calculator and any materials you have with you. There is usually a separate area outside the exam room to leave your personal items not allowed in test room but I’d recommend leaving your stuff in the car if you can.
The proctor will read off the test instructions just before the exam. From this point forward do not talked to anyone or look around for any reason. I know it may seem rude but you really cannot risk being flagged as a cheater. It does happen.
I wouldn’t get too anxious about what to do or not to do over lunch. Don’t be afraid to talk to other candidates, these are the best peers and connections you’ll have over your career. Obviously, don’t talk about the test or any specific questions but just use the opportunity to get to know people and what they do.
Just eat as you normally would for lunch. Stay as close to the test site as possible and don’t get in a rush.
Above all, do not second guess any answers you worked on in the morning session! It’s over, don’t worry about it. If you prepared, you did fine. Worrying about the morning session will only lose you points in the afternoon.
I usually studied flash cards for about 20 minutes during lunch. It helped refresh some of the more detailed formulas, but at this point don’t worry too much about learning new material.
The CFA Institute is always the last word on exam day do’s and don’ts. Linked here is the Main Exam Page, where you will find links to print your exam ticket and other useful information. Linked here is the main page for policies on identification, calculators, materials, personal belongings and the candidate pledge. Lastly, the link here is to the Institute’s FAQ page for the exams.
We’ve still got a couple of weeks to the exam. We’ll spend them reviewing and talking about how to squeeze out those last points. Stick with it and get your study time in and you’ll go into the exam confident and ready to pass.
‘til next week, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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