3 Simple Reasons for the CFA Exams’ Strict Procedures and Penalties

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By Zee

The subject of strict exam day policies is an often-discussed one.

As a candidate, I did notice that the exam day policies were pretty strict, but I didn’t really feel indignant as some candidates do – I was rather impressed by all the apparent over-the-topness, to be honest.

But if you’ve had your CFA exam disqualified due to something random like fidgeting, then you’d see things in a different light. So why is the CFA Institute so strict and thorough on their exam procedures?

Note that these are just our opinions, and are not in any way official statements or affiliated with CFA Institute for that matter. We just collected our experience, knowledge and general sense together on the CFA program to answer a few key questions that will help.

Question #1 – Why do proctors report candidates for every little thing?

Answer: The scale of the exam makes it impossible to rely on proctor judgment.

About 150,000 to 200,000 candidates take the exam every year. CFA Institute currently administers the CFA exams in over 170 cities in June and over 70 cities in December. Worldwide.

That’s a whole load of complexity.

The CFA exam is a massive international exam, and ensuring a similar treatment for every candidate across the world is not an easy task. They can only rely on the word of the proctors on duty during the day, and the policies set cannot rely on the subjective judgement of proctors (who may be CFA charterholders, likely aren’t). In order to make decision-making on most cases straightforward and objective, a high level of conservatism and standardization will be necessary.

Question #2 – Why are there so many thorough procedures during the exam? 

Answer: You wouldn’t believe what kind of crazy cheating attempts go on. 
Toilet paper, gadgetry, fake proctors, the list goes on and on. Given the scale of the exam, if there is a chance at cheating, chances are someone has tried to take it. The array of seemingly overstrict policies in place today is a result of an iterative process over many years of attempted cheating and steps put in place to prevent it. So we should blame these ‘adventurous’ candidates, really.

Question #3 – Why is the CFA Institute so harsh on judging cases?

Answer: It’s better for the CFA Institute to be safe than sorry. 
Putting it bluntly, it makes sense for the CFA Institute to always put the integrity of the CFA Program above any individual cases. They simply won’t gamble the integrity of the exam for the sake of a few unjustified qualifications. In other words, they’d rather have a few false disqualifications rather than risk having a barrage of charterholders that acquired their qualification by dishonest means.

So how do I avoid being screwed on exam day?

It’s simple – the CFA Institute policies are strict, but come on, it’s not impossible to adhere to. Just stick to their script on exam day, and you’ll be fine. Do your homework on what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t bring, and you’ll be just fine.

What are your thoughts on the CFA Institute’s exam day procedures and policies? Let us know below!

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


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