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CFA Exam Day – 10 Key Tips



With the exam just around the corner, I want to share some advice with Level I candidates, especially those who are taking the Level I exam for the first time.

  • 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.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before the exam. A fresh mind is your biggest asset on exam day. For many people, it will be hard to sleep well on the night before the exam. If you think this will be the case with you, then I advise that at least two nights before, you get a good night’s rest!
  • 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 activities such as taking a brand-new mock exam. Be sure to check that your approved calculator is working and get a spare battery to be safe.

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. You should arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointment.
  2. Follow all instructions in letter and spirit. Before the exam begins, you will be offered a tutorial that reviews the functionality within the exam. You don’t need to worry about the new CBT format, as you will be familiarized with it before your exam starts.
  3. Once you start the exam make sure you stay on schedule. Make sure you submit your answers when the timed portion of the exam ends.
  4. Focus on key terms like ‘most likely’, ‘least likely’, etc. You will be provided with a paper and writing utensil use that to do any rough work that you need to do.
  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 at 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 question is taking too much time simply pick the option that you think is the best, flag the question 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. 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. Follow the rules during and after the exam. Even after the exam is finished remember that you are still under the supervision of the proctors, follow their instructions and make sure not to get into any trouble. After the exam, do not discuss the specifics of the exam with anyone.

I’d love to hear from you after the exam.  Please let me know how you did and whether you have any feedback on our exam prep materials.

Good luck and best wishes,

Arif Irfanullah, CFA