AuthorTopic: CFA Exam Day Experience
@2015-05-14 09:27:04
If this is your first time taking a CFA exam, then you may find it helpful to gain a little insight into my exam day experience. For some, knowing what to expect takes the uncertainty of exam day out of the equation. It?s one less thing you?d have to worry about. I know I would have benefited from this information.

I took Level I in St. Paul, Minnesota with a couple of buddies. We drove to St. Paul from Des Moines, Iowa the day before and checked into a hotel that was less than a mile from the exam venue. In case you were wondering, we had to take the exam in St. Paul because it wasn?t offered in Des Moines in December. If you have to travel to another city to take the exam, I?d recommend doing the same. That way, you wouldn?t have to worry as much about traffic.

The next day, we left the hotel at about 7:00am. It was also -15 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, that?s 15 degrees below zero! Although the exam was scheduled to begin at 9:00am, we weren?t too early. The parking lot was already almost full. I left my cellphone in the glove compartment of my car, knowing that cellphones weren?t allowed in the exam hall and there might not be a safe place to store my phone.

There were multiple signs to direct us to the exam hall, so those were helpful. Once there, we sat at one of the round tables outside the hall and spent the next half hour just relaxing and making sure we had everything we needed; the most important being pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener, calculator, passport, and exam admission ticket.

At about 8:00am, a line formed outside the exam hall. We knew that meant the proctors were starting to let candidates into the hall. We gathered up our belongings, and headed to the storage room where we left our belongings. I left my winter coat in the room but I had on a hoodie to keep me comfortable in the hall. The room was nothing more than a room with a bunch of tables, no lockers. So be sure to leave your valuables at home or hidden in your car.

All proctors were wearing fluorescent yellow vests. Two proctors made sure we weren?t carrying prohibited items before admitting us into the hall. Once inside, we had to register, during which our names were verified against our passports and our calculators were inspected. I was given a seat number and quickly found my seat right next to the proctors? desk. I didn?t bring a water bottle with me but there was a water cooler at the front of the hall. Don?t worry about entering the hall too early because you?d still be able to go to the bathroom up to 15 minutes before the exam starts. You?d just have to leave your passport at the proctors? desk.

Fifteen minutes before the exam, the exam booklets were distributed. At this point, listen carefully to the rules and follow all instructions closely. Then the morning session started. To help me relax, I tried to pretend this was just another practice exam. Remember not to even give the impression of cheating even if you?re not. The CFA Institute is very strict when it comes to cheating. Just play it safe. If you need to use the bathroom in the middle of a session, raise your hand and wait for a proctor. Your exam booklet and answer sheet will be brought to the proctors? desk, to be collected when you return.

After the morning session is a two-hour lunch break. I brought a sandwich and butter cookies (yum!) with me so I didn?t have to worry about finding food. Some exam centers have cafes or cafeterias but I can only imagine the lines being horrendous and the possibility of food selling out. I?d say, definitely prepare your own lunch to save the stress and hassle. Another option is to leave the morning session more than 30 minutes before it ends to beat the crowd. But why would you want to do that when you could spend the time double-checking your work? The lunch break was also a good time to relax and recover from the morning session. However, refrain from discussing exam questions with other candidates, as this is a violation of the CFA exam rules.

The afternoon session was pretty much identical to the morning session. I did find myself more relaxed in the afternoon session, probably because I thought I did okay in the morning session. After the afternoon session, all I could think about was getting proper food. We decided to get hot and spicy Szechuan food ? perfect for a frigid winter night! Side note: When I took my phone out of the glove compartment at the end of the day, it was completely frozen and wouldn?t turn on until it?d had a chance to warm up. If you?re still reading, I hope my experience was helpful to you as you mentally prepare for the big day. Exam conditions tend to vary from country to country, but you should now have a general idea. If your exam experience was different from mine, share it with us please.

CFA Discussion Topic: CFA Exam Day Experience

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Thanks again for your wonderful site ... it definitely made the difference.
Craig Baugh

Craig Baugh