CFA Exam Day Checklist: Latest Guide On What To Bring To Your CFA Exam

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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

CFA exam day schedule computer based exam CBT

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 minutesPledge, tutorial and survey
135 minutesSession 1 exam
30 minutesOptional break
135 minutesSession 2 exam
4.5 hoursTotal testing time
5.5 hoursTotal 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

CFA exam day COVID-19 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)

CFA exam day face mask mandatory

​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

CFA exam day items allowed in the 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:

  1. Your CFA exam calculator (including the case, loose batteries and keystroke cards)
    • Only two calculators are allowed in the CFA exam:
    • 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Eyeglasses (without the case)
  4. 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)

Items not allowed in 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:

  1. Water: drinks are not allowed in the exam room, so best to bring some in for your break.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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

CFA exam day checklist FAQ questions

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.


Sitting for the CFA exam soon? These articles will help:

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35 thoughts on “CFA Exam Day Checklist: Latest Guide On What To Bring To Your CFA Exam”

  1. My exam time written on the appointment letter is 8:00 am this means I have to reach my centre at 7:30 am? And from 8 to 8:30 we have to watch the tutorial? and the exam officially starts at 8:30?

    Reply
  2. How strict are they with the id verification? I have a 3rd name that’s omitted on the CFA site but on my new passport. I submitted the name change form late. I remember in my L1 they barely glanced at it.

    Reply
    • Officially, they are very strict.

      The exact names that appear in the Given Name(s) and Surname fields of your passport must be included in your CFA Institute account, spelled exactly as they are in your passport. Some passports contain additional fields, such as “Father’s Name” or “Family Names”; names shown in these fields should NOT be included. If a suffix is shown on your passport, it should be included on your CFA Institute account. If your passport does not show a suffix, you should not include a suffix on your CFA Institute account.

      This means all names on your passport should be on the name registered with CFA Institute – only variations like first name / last name reversals are allowed.

      You must submit a Name/Information Change form to cmservices@cfainstitute.org, along with a scanned image of your passport data page, to update your CFA Institute account so that your account reflects the exact names shown in the Given Name(s) and Surname fields on your passport. Please submit name update requests as soon as you become aware an update is needed. CFA Institute cannot guarantee requests will be processed if they are submitted less than 30 days before your appointment.

      Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

      Reply
  3. I have level 2 exam in a week, I haven’t received a confirmation email from prometric centre as yet? When do I receive the confirmation email?

    Reply
  4. Hello. I’m taking the level 1 CBT exam on May 18. Do I need to print the confirmation email from Prometric? Also, what is the 8 character HTML Key code? I saw this while going over the exam tutorial. Thank you.

    Reply
    • You don’t need to print out the confirmation email unless explicitly told to do so. You won’t need the 8 character HTML key code on exam day – that’s a code to specify which exam Prometric should load.

      Reply
  5. What writing material will be provided for workings (i.e. erasable white pad, pen, pencil, paper, etc)?

    Reply
    • You’ll be given an erasable pad. Usually that means laminated sheets with a dry-erase pen, or a small whiteboard, depending on the test center.

      Reply
  6. Hi. I just want to clarify my understanding about the calculator. It is mentioned to “Try…buying a second identical calculator as a backup…” Say I have BA II Plus Pro, does this mean, I am not allowed/won’t be able to use, BA II Plus if the professional died in the middle of the exam if that is the “backup” I bring? Thank you.

    Reply
    • You can totally bring two different calculators – as long as they are approved versions, it doesn’t matter if your backup is not identical to your first one.

      Reply
  7. This advice is for men only during COVID, I would recommend to shave before the exam as even a 1 week beard can get pretty uncomfortable under a mask!

    Reply
    • I’m not sure about that John. My guess is that it may not be permissible to be conservative. In any case, if you’re wearing mask, and even a shield, having an extra hat is just not feasible and way too hot 🙂

      Reply
  8. Hi! I’m taking cfa level 1 test in 1 week. I heard candidates have to bring admission ticket to enter the exam venue is that right? Or this policy changed as exam transformed to CBT?
    Thx 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi John, there’s no need for admissions tickets now as it is CBT. All you need is to print the email that Prometric sent to your email (with appointment confirmation number). You’ll need this to check in.

      Reply
    • Hi Tom, food and drinks are not allowed in the CBT test room, so it’s probably a no. Also it may be tricky with a mandatory face mask if you need to spit your gum out etc.

      Reply
  9. Hi! Do you have any knowledge on if candidates are allowed to have a nose piercing during the exam and other ear piercings (not just a lobe piercing)?

    Reply
  10. I heard that digital watches such as Apple Watches and FitBits are not permitted into the exam room. Is this true? Thank you!

    Reply
  11. I don’t think proctors will pat you down and force you to surrender your wallet. In London you’re fine to keep it in your back pocket or put it on the floor under your chair. But I find it simpler to just leave things like that at home. Separate eraser is better. The ones that come with pencils tend to smudge. You’re allowed to use the restroom during the exam – you’ll need to raise your hand and wait for a proctor to escort you. Good luck!

    Reply

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