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Are You Ready for the CFA Exam?

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If you are like many candidates, you’ve probably penciled in a few "super" study days right before the December CFA© exam. Maybe you’ve even asked your boss for a vacation week. On the surface, this sounds like a good plan, but it really isn’t. You cannot cram for this exam. You either know the material by now – or you don’t. To paraphrase a colleague of mine, it would be better to spend those last few days in prayer or meditation. But there are a number of things you can do to ensure you are prepared and to reduce exam-day stress. 

The Week Before: Know Where You Are Going and How You Are Getting There 

  • Are you driving? If so, take a test run to make sure you know how to get there and where to park. If you can, do this on a Saturday morning at the same time you leave for the actual exam to simulate exam day conditions.  
  • Taking mass transit? Double check the schedules to confirm you know the SATURDAY times. Check the website to see if there are any special events that will impact your route on exam day. And take a test run to ensure you know how to get to the exam with plenty of time to spare.
  • If you are carpooling, confirm that everyone knows the meeting times and places.
  • If going by taxi, reserve your ride well in advance of Saturday.

Bottom line: Make solid plans and be thoroughly familiar with the route.

One other thing: While making your test runs, check around for lunch places open on Saturdays. If there is only one fast food joint, assume it will be crowded with hungry test takers and come up with an alternative plan. Consider leaving lunch (and study notes) in your car. Or ask a friend to meet you with your lunch if you aren’t driving.

The Night Before:

  • Set out everything you need so you do not have to scramble in the morning. Included in this list are: your exam ticket, calculator(s), extra batteries, pencils, and valid passport. FYI - if you use a passport cover, leave that home! For a refresher on what is and is not allowed in the exam, consult the Personal Belongings Policy on the CFA Institute Website. 
  • Decide what you will wear and set it out. Remember to dress in layers so you are prepared for any environment – hot or cold!   
  • Set your alarm – and double check it. Then go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.

Exam Day Tips:

  • There’s no rule saying you must answer questions in order. Begin with questions you know as a way to build your confidence.
  • Use your time wisely. Don’t get stuck on one question at the expense of not being able to finish others.   
  • There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so answer every question. But put your pencil down when time is called!

–Linda Lam

Linda Lam is the program manager of the CFA Review Program offered by the University of San Francisco.

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