Your CFA Exam Day Survival Guide: A Practical Checklist

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By Mike

You may have studied your butt off for your CFA exams, but if you’re anything like me, you may not have much clue on how exam day is supposed to be like.

This article will act as your guide, outlaying all the logistics that you’ll need to know about CFA exam day. I’ll also recommend the best thing to do in each case, based on my (and others) previous experiences.

So what are you waiting for? Read on, and be prepared!

Sort Out Your Accommodation

By now, you should have received your exam ticket and determined where is your exam center. If you don’t live nearby, you’re going to have to arrange for accommodation. This should be done as early as possible – the larger the test center, the faster accommodation runs out. 

Bunking with a friend is the easiest solution if you can manage it. 

Sort Out Your Transportation

Make sure you’re clear on how to get to your exam center on the day of the exam. If possible, take the route beforehand. You should expect traffic and the volume of people to be similar to rush hour – don’t let the weekend fool you! Make sure you work in plenty of extra time in your planned journey.

Sort Out Your Exam Backpack

I find it easiest to bring a backpack, although you won’t be allowed to bring it into the exam hall. I just either leave it with someone outside (a friendly attendant, cafe owner, or just lock it to something). I personally bring the following:

  • A cheap backpack
  • A combination lock to lock the backpack together, and to something
  • A sandwich (see Sort Out Your Food below)
  • My mobile phone
  • My exam pack (i.e. everything you’re bringing in to the exam hall: see Sort Out Your Exam Pack below)

Sort Out Your Exam Pack

This checklist thoroughly goes through everything you can and can’t bring into the hall, but if you’re interested in what I would bring, it’s the following:

  • About 5 wooden pencils, all sharpened.
  • An eraser.
  • A sharpener that works well.
  • One BA II Plus Calculator (or HP 12C if that’s your calculator). I try to get two if I can manage it, but I’m not really that worried about batteries running out.
  • Exam ticket – treat it nicely, no scribbling on it at any time!
  • International passport – make sure it’s not expired, and that the name on it matches your name on your exam ticket. If not, get it sorted ASAP – you will not be allowed to take the exam otherwise.
  • A light jacket, in case it gets cold
  • A watch, to check on exam timing

Sort Out Your Food

The easiest way to ensure no hiccups, food-wise, is to bring your own. I simply bring a sandwich that I’d prepare the day before, and keep it in my backpack for between AM and PM sessions. I find that I’m not really that hungry anyway.

Sort Out Your Call of Nature 

Make sure you hit the loo before your first session, or even before you leave for the exam center. Bathroom queues can get long, especially between exams. You can get around this by going to the bathroom during the exam, if you think you can manage it. Develop your own strategy – mine was to simply go to the bathroom before the exam, and not go until it was all over. Yes, I may have a bladder problem in my later years. (I can’t believe I’m talking about my bladder in public now. You see what I do for you guys?)

The CFA exam is a headache enough without you having to worry about logistical stuff. Hope this guide will help you get to your exam with no issue. Good luck for your exams!

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


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