CFA Exams Coronavirus Updates: How COVID-19 Can Affect Candidates

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CFA Exams and Coronavirus: How COVID-19 Can Impact Your CFA Exam

By Christine Martinez

Update 19 Mar 2020: The CFA June 2020 exams has been postponed to later dates. You can read our detailed update here.

You’ve got enough stress with the CFA exams already – then comes the coronavirus.

In the past few months, the coronavirus has caused a level of disruption – and financial market havoc – unseen for decades. As the virus sweeps through the globe, we’ve received a lot of concern and speculation on how CFA Institute would react to it, and how it affects the CFA exams.

We’ve put this article together to gather the latest info on any news and announcements, and address all the top concerns CFA candidates will have. So what does the current coronavirus situation mean for your CFA exam?

What is the latest on the coronavirus situation?

The latest on COVID-19 from WHO

In the last week, the situation on COVID-19 has changed from day to day.

​Lockdowns have been imposed in entire countries including Italy, Spain and Austria. In the US, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington, and NYC and LA are among those who are in lockdown, with nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert venues closed, and restaurants, bars and cafes to only sell food on a takeaway or delivery basis.

The CDC is also recommending postponement or cancellation of events with 50 or more people until mid-May.

It’s not clear that if the situation will get better by June 2020.

The latest news on coronavirus suggests that it will be worse in June, not better. For the latest updates on coronavirus, head over to the WHO page.

What other events have been cancelled?

Coronavirus cancelled events

The CFA exams is hardly the only event to be affected by coronavirus concerns. In affected areas globally, large-scale mass gatherings, festivals, sporting events and exhibitions have been either postponed or cancelled.

Cancelled events include tech exhibitions like Google I/O and SXSW to tennis and World Cup qualifiers. All elite sporting seasons worldwide have been cancelled or postponed. Recent cultural events like Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day parades and Japan’s Cherry Blossom festivals have also been nixed.

What’s happening with other exams, such as CAIA and FRM?

FRM and CAIA

CAIA exams and FRM exams are both administered by Pearson VUE. On their Coronavirus Update page, Pearson VUE is stating that unless a specific country is listed on that page, tests are continuing as normal with additional precautionary hygienic measures, including:

This includes

  • hand sanitizer available at global Pearson-owned test centers
  • increase in cleaning and disinfecting regimens between testing appointments
  • permitting candidates to wear a mask or disposable gloves if they choose
  • some centers may require candidates to provide a temperature check upon arrival

They are also advising candidates to reschedule if they are unwell. To check which centres are suspended, you can check their Coronavirus Update page.

Other academic exams are also either being cancelled, postponed, or moved online.

Schools throughout Europe, Iran, mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and elsewhere have been closed because of the outbreak. Many American educational institutions have also announced that they are cancelling classes.

In the United States, New York University, the University of Florida, Columbia University and Princeton University were among those that announced they would move to online instruction.

​What has CFA Institute decided or announced?

Decided or announcement

As of this writing, CFA Institute has not yet announced any changes to the June 2020 exam, although based on the level of disruption that coronavirus is causing globally, this will almost certainly change.

To keep candidates informed, CFA Institute has set up a Coronavirus Update page:

At CFA Institute, the health and safety of our employees, stakeholders, and affiliates around the globe is our top priority.

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak remains a very fluid situation, and please be assured that we are monitoring the effects to health, safety, and travel mobility.

We seek to make decisions that: prioritize the health and safety of everyone involved; are informed by data; are fair and equitable in their treatment of all concerned parties; and that are viable and sustainable.

We understand that this remains a stressful and trying situation, and we ask for your understanding as we seek to make decisions in a timely and well-informed manner.

​With respect to the June administration of the CFA Program exams, to date, we have not announced any change in plans.

We encourage June 2020 candidates to continue studying and check their email for updates; we will also communicate through social media. We will ensure that our partners, such as approved prep providers and local societies, are notified of any decisions as well.

Our goal is to ensure a fair and equitable exam administration for all candidates at every level and every locale. At this time, we do not have an exact date by which we will announce if there will be changes to the June administration. This is an evolving situation, and we are consulting with local, regional and global health advisors, governments, and employers to ensure we are considering global variances in the severity of and response to COVID-19. We request your patience as we diligently review information and will make decisions as quickly as possible.

To keep you updated, we will keep this page live with the latest information as we receive it.

​For the latest official announcements, keep and eye on your email from CFA Institute or visit CFA Institute’s Coronavirus Update page.

When will CFA Institute announce a decision on the June 2020 CFA exams?

It is unlikely that CFA Institute will announce plans until we get a lot closer to the exam date. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Fast-evolving situation. The coronavirus situation evolves so quickly that any decision made now could seem completely impractical by the time the exam comes. Who knows – it might actually all turn out OK by June 2020.
  2. Logistics. Booking exam venues, conducting proctor training and delivering exam supplies for more than 100,000 CFA candidates globally is complicated and costly. If CFA Institute decides on any cancellation or postponement now, they would almost certainly have to absorb the cost of cancellation. It makes sense for them to wait it out.

In the meantime, I would focus on continuing your prep and check the CFA Institute Coronavirus Update page for updates. Contacting them directly is unlikely to yield any extra information.

​What have CFA Institute decided in similar situations?

Let’s be clear – although incidents have happened in the past, the CFA exams have never been affected by a situation as global and disruptive as COVID-19. Here’s a summary of how CFA Institute has dealt and is dealing with disruption:

CFA Institute delayed the CFA December 2019 exams in Hong Kong by 3 days due to pro-democracy protests. Under that plan, CFA Institute also offered the option to receive a full refund, sit for the test at another location or hold off until the next round in June.

For the March CIPM exams, CFA Institute are closing test centers depending on location and rescheduling tests for candidates. Candidates that are experiencing symptoms or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are being advised not to appear at the test center but contact CFA Institute to make alternative arrangements for their exams.

Other current CFA Institute events such as conferences are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on the latest information. CFA Institute have indicated that they will cancel programs if necessary and have already done so in some cases. Options like holding virtual events are also being reviewed.

Likely plans for the June 2020 CFA exams due to coronavirus concerns

Likely scenarios

There are several likely methods (or mix of methods) that CFA Institute could use to adapt to the coronavirus situation.

We have deduced the likely solutions below based on:

  • Our knowledge of the CFA exam process and logistical challenges
  • How past and current disruptions have been handled by CFA Institute
  • How the coronavirus situation is evolving

1. Continue where possible, with localized risk-adjusted responses

In this scenario, exam procedures and responses would vary depending on location:

  • At lower risk areas, exams would continue as normally as possible with extra precautions:
    • hand sanitisers at stations
    • extra training for proctors
    • health-guided recommended minimum distances between candidates
    • temperature checks
  • Candidates attending in high-risk or quarantined areas would likely be offered an alternate location, deferral or cancellation with refund
  • Candidates under quarantine or are currently showing symptoms would likely be offered a deferral or cancellation with refund

2. Postpone the CFA exams to a later date

Such a postponement could theoretically happen. However, such a move would be unprecedented for CFA Institute and presents quite a few logistical challenges.

The CFA exams are conducted in 180+ cities globally – coordinating the postponement logistics of that magnitude may not be possible at such short notice.

Also, given the unpredictability and speed of how the coronavirus disruption evolves, it would be extremely difficult to decide what should be the new date for the June 2020 CFA exams.

3. Defer the June 2020 CFA exams to June 2021

Another possibility we see is that CFA Institute could offer candidates the option to defer their exam to June 2021.

​This could logistically work for CFA Institute. CFA Level 1 candidates would have moved to computer testing by then, so the extra load on June 2021 would be reduced to just the Level 2 and Level 3 candidates, which is about 55-60% of the typical June exam.

If this becomes the case, CFA Institute might not change the curriculum between 2020 and 2021 so that current candidates don’t lose out on any studying they’ve done or provider materials they’ve invested in.

4. Cancel the June 2020 CFA exams entirely

While unlikely, a final possibility is that CFA Institute could cancel the exams entirely, with full refunds to all candidates.

In this situation, although candidates would get back their exam fees, sunk costs would include the time invested in studying, as well as any cost spent on third-party providers.

Should candidates continue prepping for the CFA exams?

Yes, definitely.

​There is currently no indication that plans for the CFA exams will be cancelled, so you should continue preparing for the exams as usual.

What if I’ve booked travel and accommodation for the CFA exams?

If you’ve booked travel and/ or accommodation for the CFA exams, here’s what you should do:

  1. Do NOT cancel anything, at least not yet. There is still no announcement by CFA Institute so as far as you are concerned, the exam is still on.
  2. Buy travel insurance NOW to cover your travel and accommodation. If government-imposed travel restrictions disrupt your plans, your travel insurance will help. When buying, check the policy wording to see if coronavirus-related disruption is still covered – some insurance providers have stopped providing cover for this.
  3. If the CFA exam is cancelled, or if you decide not to go (or can’t go), try and see if you can get a refund from your airline and hotel under the exceptional circumstances. If they are not willing to give a refund, they might offer a free postponement, which you may want to take up depending on what the alternative CFA exam arrangements are. If there is nothing your travel and accommodation providers can do for you, then travel insurance is your last resort.

​​What you can do to protect yourself during the exams

Washing hands

If you’re attending the June 2020 CFA exams, here are some precautions you can take to protect yourself and others:

Preparing for the exam

  • As much as you can, practice social distancing (which is very compatible with preparing for the CFA exams, so no excuses there!). Social distancing, if adopted widely, can do a lot to slow the spread of coronavirus. For a great illustration on how this works, check out this Washington Post simulation.
  • In addition to the usual exam checklist, hand sanitizer and wipes would be useful items to bring.
  • You should be allowed to bring these additional items into the exam hall with you, as well as a mask if you prefer to wear one.

Getting to and from the exam

  • Avoiding crowds is key. Whether you’re taking public or private transport, try to arrive at off-peak times as much as possible.
  • If you are taking a flight to your test center, make sure you check the latest travel advice and flight information before you travel.

Pre-exam and between sessions

  • Again, try to keep your distance from crowds and revise in a more secluded area.
  • Do bring your own lunch so that you can avoid lunch queues.

During the exam

  • Candidates are separated so hopefully there will be no issues there.
  • In usual CFA exam process, proctors do patrol during the exam, picking up and checking exam tickets and calculators *wince*. Hopefully this time CFA Institute would train them with alternative processes.

We will keep this page updated as the situation develops.

​If you have any specific questions, or are worried about how the situation is evolving, please just drop a question or comment into the comments area below. We are here to help.

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4 thoughts on “CFA Exams Coronavirus Updates: How COVID-19 Can Affect Candidates”

  1. It seems inconsistent for the CFAI to cancel the CFA annual conference and not the exam which is only 2.5 weeks after the conference was scheduled. It would be unethical of the CFAI to wait to see how the situation develops before making a decision as, even in the highly unlikely event the threat of COVID19 is reduced to a level that it would be safe to hold the exams as planned, candidates shouldn’t be forced to chose between preparing for the exam now and caring for their families, ensuring they still have employment and looking out for their health. I’m in a fortunate position where I am now working from home and have no dependents so I can actually study more now than pre-COVID19 however I’m guessing I’m in the minority.

    Reply
  2. Do you know of any exception made to CFA passport policies? I live in Spain, where things are getting uggly at the moment, and my passport is due this month. What if I can’t get an updated one before june?

    Reply
    • Correct – CAIA exams are computer-administered, and both (to our understanding) are administered by Pearson VUE. Have modified to make this clearer. Thanks!

      Reply

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