How A Drunk Candidate Took and Passed CFA Level I, Part I

Want to pass your exams? Start preparing the right way.
My email is and I'm preparing for
By Anon

Usually when you leave a nightclub at 6am you would be heading for the comfort of your bed. Instead, a few years back in June, I went and sat my CFA Level I exam.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the first CFA candidate to attempt the exam while drunk…but I certainly didn’t plan on it, and it’s a pretty funny story. So when someone asked me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), I decided to give it a whirl.

Here it is.

It’s not like I intended to turn what is already a mental challenge like the CFA into an endurance challenge, but circumstances were what they were. It had been 6 months into my grad program on a trading desk at a London investment bank, when I realised that quite a few of my peers were sitting the CFA exam

Having come from an engineering background, I realised that my actual financial knowledge was pretty limited. I was good at the maths though. Having my company pay for me to sit an exam, an exam that could actually teach me how to be better at my job, and thus hope to earn more money for both them and myself seemed a good use of time. But of course by then, I had missed the December cutoff date. (Tip: keep track of deadlines with the CFA Calendar!)

​So I figured: why not do the June exam?

Based in London…
…but took the exam in Hong Kong.
Typically one would circle this date in the calendar, draw up a study plan, and block off contact with the outside world until the exam was over. But I somehow had agreed a trip to Hong Kong with friends and had already bought my flights. At this stage, some artful conversation with the CFA Institute allowed me to sit my exam in Hong Kong instead. 

Unfortunately for me, the exam was on a Sunday morning. This meant I would likely miss out on the weekend’s nightlife. Having flown in late Friday night to Hong Kong, we proceeded to go out on the lash. Waking up dazed on Saturday I had pledged myself to study and have an early night, while my friends went out to get suits made at cheap Hong Kong tailors. Come the evening, they dragged me out with a promise of a quiet dinner, a couple drinks with female friends of ours and a 10pm curfew.

Dinner started with a round of beers. Then another round of beers. Then some sake…and that’s only when the waitress arrived to take our food orders. I could already see how the evening was starting to go.

Having kept myself on a good study routine back home in London, I was sensing disaster. I was falling down at the final hurdle. It was somewhere in between my main course and dessert, when I was en route to the bathroom that I contemplated pulling a runner and salvaging a good night’s sleep. But in the end it was the bed I had made, and so I was going to fall face first into it.

We headed out into the bright lights of Lan Kwai Fong and hit a string of bars/clubs. In each fine establishment, a glass of different coloured liquid was shoved into my hand and quickly downed. Red Bulls and vodkas as chasers added some caffeine to the party and perhaps it was the jetlag, the company, the exotic city we found ourselves in, but I just did not want to leave. By the time the last club we were in closed, the sun was rising, there was a warm humid mist as soon we stepped outside, and I was still quite lost in a fog of thumping electronic dance music/alcohol.

That was how I started the morning of my CFA Level I exam. In Part II, I’ll continue with my experience of the CFA exam day and how I completed it.

This is a honest-to-God account of my admittedly less-than-exemplary tale of my CFA Level I. You can read Part II here. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


Leave a Comment