Veteran CFA exam takers dole out advice for rookies

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The next CFA exam date is fairly far off – June 5. But the CFA Institute has started offering mock exams this month for those who have already put in most of the 300 hours needed to pass just the first level. With that in mind, we put together an accumulation of advice that veteran test-takers have previously given to rookies.

They were all posted on, which is always a fun read right before and after test day. Below are some of the highlights. Note: there were loads of tips on bathroom strategy. We have (largely) spared you from those. Also, there is no consensus on last-minute cramming. Likely, it depends on how prepared you feel.

“Show up an hour before.  Don’t compare your answers with another candidate during the lunch break.  Bring your lunch to avoid long lineups.”

“Don’t talk to anyone except the proctors once you are in the exam center. Bring earplugs if they are still permitted- there is always some chronic hacking cougher in the crowd. Lay out everything that you will need the day before. Try to relax.”

“Don’t freak out over last minute cramming over your notes with everyone else while you’re waiting outside the exam room, you should use this pre-exam time to gain a relaxful (sic) poise. I didn’t look at notes on exam days, as it only added to my stress, nor did I pick up any last second random tidbits that were helpful.”

“The collective wisdom on AF is that no studying should be done the day before or the day of the exam, I disagree. I read through my flash cards cover to cover the day before and flicked through some of them on the morning of the exam before going in and at lunch and I picked up quite a few points from this.”

“I found it helpful to really familiarize myself with the surrounding area of the exam location.  When I finished in the AM I knew exactly where the closest Starbucks was so I made it there before the huge line formed.  I also like having music to pump me up in the morning and to relax at lunch.”

“Sort out your sleep cycle and begin waking up at the exact same time you will need to wake up on exam day for at least 2 weeks before.  If you’re on study leave don’t fall into the trap of sleeping a bit later and working into the night.”

“Extra batteries for peace of mind.”

“Time your bathroom visits well. I used to just walk in and avoid all the madness, go straight to the line for checking in, get to my seat and lay everything out on the desk (bar ticket and passport) and then go to the bathroom.”

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