This is the only CFA exam day checklist you need: what to bring, what to expect, what to wear, and everything else – updated for the latest pandemic-related procedures and 2021’s computer-based exams.
Assuming your CFA exam is still going ahead in your location, here is our definitive list of things to bring to the exam that you should not miss, how the exam day will be like, and any other questions you might have about CFA exam day.
CFA exam day schedule: how the day is like
With the new computer-based testing (CBT), CFA exam days are now different compared to paper-based exams given the different scheduling windows/times.
With the reduced exam length of 2 hours and 15 minutes per session, here is what happens time-wise on your exam day:
|30 minutes||Pledge, tutorial and survey|
|135 minutes||Session 1 exam|
|30 minutes||Optional break|
|135 minutes||Session 2 exam|
|4.5 hours||Total testing time|
|5.5 hours||Total appointment time|
That said, it is best to arrive at least 30 minutes early, as the check in process does take time. A L1 Feb21 candidate did report it taking 45 minutes for him to be checked in, and he was late by 15 minutes to his official start time, but it didn’t eat into his actual exam time.
COVID-specific CFA exam procedures
In addition to usual exam procedures, CFA Institute will be implementing these additional COVID procedures:
- Social distancing: Candidates will be seated approximately 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart – adjusted according to local requirements
- COVID form and/or testing: Depending on local rules, you may need to fill in a questionnaire about COVID-19 exposures, symptoms or related questions. You may also need to have your temperature tested.
- ID and calculator inspection: You will be asked to hold your ID and calculator(s) for the proctor to inspect. Testing personnel will not touch your belongings. You will be required to briefly remove your face covering during ID verification so proctors may compare your face to your passport photo.
- Dismissal: Candidates will be dismissed by room or section to minimize the (frankly insane) crowds that happen at the end of every CFA exam. Procedures will be in place to maintain social distancing.
What to bring into the CFA exam test room
COVID-related items (important)
In addition to the usual exam items, there are some additional COVID-related items to consider:
|Face mask (mandatory)||You must wear a face covering that covers both your mouth and your nose at all times. |
Both medical masks or cloth face coverings are acceptable, in accordance with the specifications established by the CDC.
Masks with exhale/one-way valves are prohibited to use at the testing center, due to the lack of viral particle filtration provided by these masks. Masks with wearable technology are also prohibited.
You will be required to briefly remove your face covering during ID verification.
CFA Institute has stated that if you don’t have a face mask or refuse to wear one you won’t be allowed to take the exam (no refunds).
CFA Institute/Prometric will not be supplying face masks – so please, please, remember to bring your own. Heck, bring five.
|Additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE, optional)||If you’d like to bring gloves, face shields or any additional PPE, go ahead. |
It’s not clear if CFA Institute will allow a use of a face shield instead of a face mask, so if you do decide to bring a face shield please still bring a face mask.
|Sanitizing gear (optional)||You can bring hand sanitizing gel or wipes as well.|
Items allowed in the CFA exam room
There is no longer any admission tickets needed, unless your test provider requests that you print a confirmation email with your appointment confirmation number in it. For most, all you need is your passport ID and calculator for the exam.
Here’s the exact list of what you are allowed to bring inside the CFA computer based testing room:
- Your CFA exam calculator (including the case, loose batteries and keystroke cards)
- Only two calculators are allowed in the CFA exam:
- Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including Professional), or
- Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C 25th anniversary edition, and 12C 30th anniversary edition)
- What if you run out of batteries? Try borrowing or buying a second identical calculator as a backup. Only get spare batteries if you can’t find a second calculator, and remember to bring a screwdriver as you’ll need one to change batteries. In any case, you’re likely to be allowed only one calculator in the test room, and if you need your spare one or batteries, a proctor will accompany you to your locker to get it.
- Practice how to set your calculator settings (here’s how to do it for BA II plus and HP12C), just in case a proctor resets it. We have heard reports from some candidates that the proctor reset their calculator prior to the exam, but this doesn’t happen to everyone.
- Only two calculators are allowed in the CFA exam:
- Valid international travel passport
- Lost or forgotten passports are the second-most frequent problem candidates have on exam day (the first being a lost or forgotten calculator).
- CFA Institute only accepts valid international passports as identification, so please renew your passport if you have to.
- Also ensure that the name on your exam ticket is EXACTLY the same as it is on your passport – if it isn’t, notify CFA Institute immediately.
- Eyeglasses (without the case)
- Additional personal items allowed in the test center (if applicable, e.g. ear plugs, medication)
Items NOT allowed in the CFA exam room (computer-based test)
- Food or drinks
- Wallet (money purse)
- Baggage of any kind, including transparent bags, backpacks, handbags, tote bags, briefcases, luggage, carrying cases, passport covers, hat or eyeglass cases
- Study materials, including notes, papers, textbooks, or study guides
- Writing utensils, scratch paper, or calculator manuals. Candidates will be provided with a laminated sheet or erasable writing tablet for use during the exam.
- Mobile phones, cameras, headsets, computers, tablets, wearable technology (such as Fitbit or other fitness tracking devices), smart watches, or any Bluetooth-enabled or any remote communication or photographic devices
- Any type of desk clock or timer, including wristwatches
- Weapons of any kind
- Jewellery (other than wedding or engagement rings), ornate hair clips, headbands, combs, barrettes, tie clips, or cufflinks
At the test center, there will be an area designated for personal belongings to place items not allowed in the test room.
What to keep in your bag (if you decide to bring one)
It’s still useful to have some essential items for your break and after the exam. You’ll be allowed to keep stuff at a personal belongings area (outside the test room), so you can keep these items inside:
- Water: drinks are not allowed in the exam room, so best to bring some in for your break.
- Caffeine dose. A can of Red Bull or equivalent can come in handy, acting as insurance against possible mid-day lethargy. Dose accordingly to your caffeine tolerance – if you regularly have lots of coffee more Red Bull might be needed.
- Snack food. With just a 30 minute optional break, bring a light snack, something non-offensive – nothing that will give you gas or digestion problems. Nothing too spicy, greasy, or can’t be stored at room temperature for a few hours.
- Your mobile phone, switched off. No silent mode, no flight mode (alarms and calendar reminders may still be active). That way you KNOW that if a mobile phone is ringing, it definitely isn’t yours.
CFA Exam Day Checklist – FAQ
What should I wear to exam day? Is there a dress code?
There is no dress code, so wear what you’re comfortable in – within reason, of course. We recommend that you dress in layers so that you can adjust and keep comfortable as needed.
Contrary to any rumors you might have heard on Reddit, you do NOT need to wear a suit. (Redditors, we find it funny too, but we have to answer a lot of these!)
What about the optional 30 minute break? What should I eat on exam day?
Given COVID-19 and the first computer-based exams, it makes sense to bring your own water bottle.
You won’t be allowed to eat snacks during the exam itself, but you can and should bring your own light snack – something that keeps well in room temperature for your optional 30 minute break.
May be wise to take a break to have some water to drink, a light snack and a toilet break before going for round 2. It’s not a long one.
In fact, if you take into account the check-in time when you return from your break, you have just about 15-20 minutes actual break time to grab a drink, snack and/or go for a quick toilet break. Going back in late for second session will eat into your exam time, so be mindful of this.
Will there a place to put all the stuff that I can’t bring into the exam hall?
Yes, there will be a personal belongings area at the CBT test centers.
Can I share or borrow calculators during the exam?
No. If you need to borrow a calculator (or anything else), you’ll need to do so before each exam sessions starts. If you run into any issues during the exam, ask a proctor for advice before you do anything else.
Can I bring drinks? What if I need to go to the bathroom?
No, you cannot bring drinks into the computer test room, for a good reason.
CFA Institute has not stated anything COVID-related about toilet breaks, so we’re assuming they’re still allowed as normal. However, test takers should raise their hand for both breaks and questions during the computer-based test.
Can I leave the exam room early?
With computer-based testing, yes you can.
Again, just raise your hand to ask the proctor to confirm if you can do so.
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