Author Post
Topic The CFA, CFA Institute, Ambiguous Exams and the Real World!
thesand
@2008-12-12 22:07:30
Hi to all you crazy kids,Just a couple of thoughts on the CFA, CFA Institute, ambiguous exams and the real world.p> First, a little back ground. I work off shore (taxes suck) and proprietary trade for one of the biggest pools of capital in the world. My trading is speculative position taking using cash FX, derivatives, interest rate instruments and using technical and quantitative driven strategies for signals, position size and allocation. Thus after almost 20 years in the interbank casino a lot of the exam outside of accounting and cash equity is very familiar to me. The reason I took the CFA is I was shooting my mouth off to a couple of my trainees (who were sweating the studying a bit) a couple of years ago about how the CFA work load was over rated and they tossed the gauntlet back in my face and said if it is that easy with all your experience and track record prove it and go do it. So this is how I ended up in the CTA program at 41 years old and killing six hours last Saturday reading a very weakly written unrealistic excuse for a professional exam.

I took Level I this year and passed. What I did was use the text books and while studying answered all the questions at the end of each assigned chapter in the text. I did subscribe to AnalystNotes but just for their accounting stuff and the mock exams. I just couldn't bring myself to read accounting texts. I didn't do any intense studying but played the tortoise vs hare game by starting before Christmas and read about half a hour to an hour per day on the dealing desk. Actually reading textbooks makes for a more relaxing day than watching my positions every tick. Then starting about six weeks before the exam did all the previous exams and the practice exams.So I feel with my work experience and having learned all the material (but accounting) from the text books I was as well prepared as anyone could be who wrote the exam outside of active academics or heavy duty accounting types.

I found the exam to be very ambiguous and poorly worded. For example the FX questions have to be the poorest quality that CFA Institute could find. I traded for five years on the IMM market making in FX options and never in my life saw a yen future quoted European style. Even while doing cash/futures arb guys wouldn't quote it like that. I would hate to have to do questions like that without real life experience. So make it tough but try to stay with real life.

After all the CFA should try at least to be industry driven if nothing else. So my feeling is without the actual textbook reading and my extensive real life experience the exam would have been easy to fail. I don't agree with many other candidates when they say CFA Institute is writing poorly worded ambiguous exams to keep the pass rate down but that doesn't mean I understand what CFA Institute is trying to do. Why write an ambiguous exams if they want to keep the pass rate down they can easily write a very hard rigorous but clear exam with the amount of raw material they have in the readings? I would have thought writing a hard rigorous clear exam on complex material is even easier to do to limit the pass rate that writing ambiguous questions on easier material.

Finally to address the people that believe low pass rates due to ambiguous exams enhances the value of the CFA charter. Forget it you are kidding yourselves. The people doing the hiring in the industry are smarter than you think. CFA Institute should try to produce clear thinkers who have a solid skill set that can produce a real result to a hedge funds P/L. Not just good exam takers or exam lucky guess types. If the CFA gets the reputation as an ambiguous lottery rather than producing a rigorous analytical skill set then it will deteriorate in value. If CFA Institute wants to raise the standard then use a hard rigorous exam to do so and test the financial skill sets of candidates rather than their test taking ability. If CFA Institute does this those that passed their CFA in the "ambiguous test taking ability" era of the CFA will be the ones that see the value of their CFA charter fall. This is unless, of course, they have a real life track record. With a real time track record it doesn't matter if you are graduate of clown school or have the highest formal academic qualification in the land. Even being the only CFA in town won't keep your job if you can't put the numbers on the board.

Best of luck to all, the sand

Abde
@2008-12-21 03:28:58
Sir,

It is just Level I and we have 2 more levels to go. It wouldnt be right to judge abt the CFA exams at the moment.

Regds,

Abde
yc001
@2009-01-20 17:58:39
God I want to copy this for my friend!!
At least someone is really from the realistic world.

The "concepts" probably you will never get it from CFA Institute even you pass the level III.

So, still a very good prof exp. to me. Hope I can pass the level I this year!!
arfa
@2009-02-04 15:10:59
thesand, I am wondering, with all your experience did you learn something useful to real life from the material?
lna1717
@2009-02-12 16:57:34
HI thesand,

I'd like to know if it realistic to start as prop trader at 30 years and when you're a woman?

thanks
lev2taker
@2009-02-23 15:42:07
Hi, thesand,

I'm a bit suspicious:
more words -> less sence...
Very simple question: if you consider style/manner/scope of CFA exam L1 improper/incorect/impractical, what are you doing here?

If you are so cool practitioner as want to demonstrate -> nearest embassy of nkorea -> free one-way ticket their -> 100 gram of rice per day -> and 24 hours of justice and democracy!
Good Luck!
ncfa
@2010-07-24 20:18:27
no probs u can start n e time , no probs
thehitman
@2020-01-12 17:30:40
"Even being the only CFA in town won't keep your job if you can't put the numbers on the board."

so true!