CFA CFA General General tips and tricks for exam day (or, “Things I wish someone had told me earlier”)

General tips and tricks for exam day (or, “Things I wish someone had told me earlier”)

  • This topic has 20 replies, 10 voices, and was last updated Apr-17 by Snippy.
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    • Marc
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      I’m hoping that this thread becomes a useful source of information for candidates – particularly those who will be sitting their first CFA exam. I am definitely not the repository of all CFA knowledge, but I can at least get the ball rolling with one useful tip, which is:

      Be careful to avoid using an exchange rate that “seems” right.

      I’m not a currency trader, but you don’t grow up next to the US without hearing about the $US/$CDN exchange rate every day on the news. Far too many conversations in Canada start with the words: “I remember when the exchange rate was…” or “The last time the dollar was this high/low…”

      The other day, I was looking at an example in the curriculum that involved a $US/€ currency swap and the starting rate was something like $0.80/€. I thought “that seems about right the dollar’s at about €0.80.” It took me a second to realize that in this example, unlike reality, a $US was work worth more than €1 (specifically, €1.25). So, while you are all very financially savvy individuals, on June 1st you will need to park your brain at the door – or at least that part that makes assumptions about finance in the real world).

      On a related topic, currency exchange questions are confusing for all of us. How can something be “appreciating” if the number is getting smaller? The curriculum (and textbooks on this topic generally) don’t do students any favours by talking about units of “domestic currency” and “foreign currency”. There is no such thing as “domestic currency”, there are only pounds if your British, yen if your Japanese, and dollars if you’re American, or Canadian, or Australian, or from Hong Kong…

      Anyway, let’s say you’re British, I recommend that you use the actual £ symbol where the curriculum uses DC and €, or $, or ₩ or ₮ or ₫ or ₨ or ₧, or something else where the curriculum uses FC. It will make it so much easier to learn this stuff when you can visualize it. Then, if you do an example question where the domestic currency is, say, Korean won, you simply substitute ₩ for £ and, as you say, Bob’s your uncle.

      The one thing you want to be careful of is that, on the actual exam, £ could end up being the FC. But, by then you’ll have so much practice and such a strong understanding of the topic, that you won’t be in danger of making a mistake.

      More tips to come as I think of them. Please feel free to offer your own.

    • fabian
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      I do get constantly confused by FX questions. Derivatives are another…

    • MockTurtle
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      I did not expect the bubbles on the scoring sheet to be shaped in that strange lozenge-shape, as I had been practicing with bubble sheet templates that had a different shape! Okay, I know this is a really silly thing to complain about, but it was quite fiddly to fill in those bubbles properly!

    • Zee Tan
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      @shantala the lozenge shapes were the norm for me… which provider gave you different-shaped bubbles?!

    • MockTurtle
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      Hi @Zee, I had just downloaded a generic Scantron bubble sheet from the Web. I didn’t purchase any test prep provider’s materials. Does CFAI have a bubble sheet template? I don’t recall seeing any.

    • Sarah
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      I thought that the bubbles were circular!

    • Sophie Macon
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      @shantala, @zee, @diya – shape of bubbles just made me fall off my chair laughing, literally. I have now probably a huge bump on my head!

    • Zee Tan
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      The bubbles are…uh….pill-shaped from my experience.

    • Zee Tan
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      Like so:

    • Sarah
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      The bubbles are…uh….pill-shaped from my experience.

      after closely examining the picture above I believe you might be right.
      I’ll verify after I sit for level II :p

    • Sophie Macon
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      I can’t even remember for the life of me what shape it was ;;)

    • Marc
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      This may betray an incredible amount of ignorance on my part, but until yesterday I had been under the assumption that the CFA exam was multi-lingual. So, if you lived in Denmark, your wrote the same exam as I did, but it was translated into Danish. And if you lived in Brazil, you wrote the same exam as I did, but it was translated into Portuguese. My level, of misunderstanding was so great that I even assumed that exams delivered in the UK had been “translated” to account for their goofy terms such as “turnover” – seriously, what is so wrong about referring to the income derived from selling goods and/or services as “sales” that you had to invent an entirely new term?

      It was only yesterday that I learned that the CFA exams can only be written in English. Maybe it’s because I come from a country with two official languages, but this seems strange to me. Probably the single most important change in the CFA curriculum over the past couple decades has been the emphasis on the global nature of the investment profession. I understand the need for standardization, but this strikes me as an out-dated policy.

      I’d be very interested to know what others, especially those whose mother tongue is not English, think about this.

    • artyeasel
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      However, with globalization there is also an increasing need for everyone to be able to communicate with each other as well though…

    • Reena
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      Great post @Marc, I frequently stumble at the FX section, I guess it’s all about getting used to the FX conventions, but thank you for the tips!

      On your point on exams in English, as a non-native English speaker, it’s not easy at the start especially learning the financial terminology in English. But I think it fits well with CFA’s global qualification brand name, as it makes you committed to learn the language at the same time. English is still quite a dominant and widely spoken language after all.

    • padniaki
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      Sounds simple, but on problems in FRA and Equity, when they give you some kind of financial statement, make sure you look at the years at the top of the column first. There is no absolute convention as to whether to go left-to-right with the most recent year or right-to-left. The last thing you want to do is get finished with the problem, draw a conclusion about how the company’s current financial situation is worse because current ratio has declined and debt ratio has gone up, only to realize that the opposite is true because you didn’t confirm the years on the top to see which direction the table goes.

    • Marc
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      If you wear contact lenses, be sure to bring a pair of glasses in the event that your contacts don’t cooperate.Believe it or not, I actually checked with CFAI on this matter and you are definitely allowed to bring a pair of glasses into the exam. Whether you will be allowed to bring them in a case is uncertain and the proctors may choose to either inspect such a case or ask you to leave it in a designated area for personal items. So, in order to make your life less complicated on exam day, just bring your glasses sans case, but do bring them because it is exceedingly difficult to pass the exam without a sense of vision. And it requires more than 6 hours to develop a working comprehension of braille.

    • Sarah
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      @Marc does CFAI even offer the exam in braille?

    • Sophie Macon
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      Just wear glasses? I’d just minimise potential distractions that’ll mess up your focus in the exams. It’s hip anyway 😉

    • Marc
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      Over the course of studying for 3 CFA exams, I would conservatively estimate that I have answered roughly 10,000,000 practice questions, so I’m kind of an expert. Nevertheless, I STILL get caught up by the occasional “which is least likely to…” question. These are the worst kind of mistakes because you have prepared appropriately and you KNOW the answer, but you throw away points because you are careless when reading the question. So my advice is, DON’T DO THIS.

      Personally, I have never found the 3/6 hour time limit to be a constraint, as I have always had more than enough time to answer all the questions and conduct a thorough review before. So I need to remind myself to slow down and read every question properly. Of course, it might be easy for me to say this as a someone whose mother tongue is English. Non-native English speakers might resent me for saying that time has never been a problem.

      However, I think that native English speakers may be more susceptible to committing this error because we think that we understand everything and we skip over words or assume that the question is asking for “most likely…” because that was how the previous question was structured.

      Anyway, no matter what your command of English, DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE.

    • Snippy
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      @Marc Couldn’t have said it better!

    • Snippy
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      Of course, I have only studied for one level but done enough practice questions to know as much. Silly common mistakes.

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