My CFA Experience: Vy Bui
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No matter how prepared we are, we all tend to be nervous and worry a lot as the CFA exam day gets closer and closer. I remember a week before the exam; I was so stressed out from thinking that I didn’t have enough time to review all the material and about all the other things that could go wrong on exam day that I ended up getting sick. Being sick is never good and especially then, because that was the time I needed my energy and focus the most.
Even though I tried to go to bed early the night before the exam, somehow I couldn’t sleep. I slept about five hours and woke up at 5:30 a.m. That morning I did some exercise, stretched my body, and had a nutritious breakfast which helped me feel fresher after a night of little sleep. Many candidates I talked to had the same sort of experience. I think it's just because we worried too much about the exam.
I arrived at the testing center about an hour and a half before the exam with my passport, admission tickets, calculators, pencils, erasers, and a wristwatch. Candidates are required to read and follow CFA Program Testing Policies; yet I saw some candidates showing up without passports, or with invalid passports, or with unauthorized types of calculators. Not good. But for those of you whose passports have special accents and/or a name order different from what is on the application form, it should be fine, because CFA Institute understands that you cannot put accents or change the order on the form. Remember to have your admission ticket on clean, unused paper, and bring extra calculators and pencils. There was one candidate who approached me and asked if I could sell him my second calculator. Though I wanted to help him, I didn't sell it or let him borrow it because I was afraid something might go wrong with my first calculator. If I had three calculators, I would not have minded letting him borrow it. While waiting to check in for the morning session, I reviewed my notes and tried to stay calm and focused because it was very hectic at my testing center. You might have a different experience depending on your testing location. The Javits Center in NYC had a couple thousand people that day, including candidates, security officers, proctors, and friends and family members of candidates. With that many candidates, taking a bathroom break wasn’t easy. I was in line to use the washroom, but the line was too long and with the time to take our seats quickly approaching, I had to go back to my seat. To avoid my mistake, don’t wait until the exam almost starts to use the washroom.
During the exam, try not to get bothered or too distracted by proctors coming to check your ID several times, both in the morning and afternoon sessions. Since you have about a minute and a half per exam question, it's crucial to use your time wisely and strategically. If you dwell too long on questions you are not sure about, you may lose the opportunity to gain points on questions that you know well. A watch is useful to keep track of the time you spend on each question in this time-constrained situation.
Lunch break came right after the proctors collected the exams and finished their administrative duties. You can either buy or bring your lunch. I brought my lunch with me to save time and I used that time to review study materials. It bothered me when I realized during the review that I already got some questions wrong. But I quickly told myself that I couldn’t do anything about it; all I could do was focus and try my best on the afternoon exam.
The CFA exam day was a long one for me. I thought I could relax afterward, but I kept thinking about the questions that I answered wrong and wasn't sure about. I also took time to analyze what went wrong and what I should've done to improve my performance. I was able to apply what I learned during my prep classes, and the exam content was close to what I expected. I understand that worrying won't change anything once the exam is over, but it’s still easier said than done. To make waiting for exam results less stressful, I try to keep myself occupied so I won’t think about it too much. I get my results the end of January, but I'm going to restart Level I preparation to get a head start in case I need to take the exam again in June.
Vy Bui is a Level I Candidate and NYSSA Scholarship winner. As mentioned above, she is currently awaiting results for the Level I Exam.
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