As it turns out, the only piece of commenter advice on taking the CFA Level I Exam that I actually followed was “don’t have lunch at Headquarters, the strip club across the street from the Javits Center.” Initially, I wasn’t sure about this advice. When I left the Javits Center for lunch, a part of me felt that I owed it to myself, to Bess, and to our readers to have my CFA lunch at a strip club. But after spending two hours in a shabby cavernous room with terrible lighting surrounded by bored and disillusioned people unhappily doing things that they had memorized but didn’t really feel in their hearts, I couldn’t have handled a second-rate strip club.
So I went to a Mexican place in Chelsea and had a nice lunch surrounded by fully clothed people. To make sure that exam conditions closely replicated my successful practice exam, I also had two reasonably strong margaritas. That, plus my watch stopping in the middle of lunch, added a little excitement to my walk back to the Javits Center.
I can’t really tell you whether not going to Headquarters was good advice, since I didn’t do a controlled experiment. I suspect it was, and I arrived back at the Javits Center cheerful, refreshed, and swaying slightly. In any case, here are some other hard-won insights for those of you considering the CFA:
- The thing they tell you about “show up an hour early; everyone needs to be in their seats half an hour before the start” is, like, maybe a little conservative. Not knowing what to expect, though, I mostly followed it, meaning that I spent 30-40 minutes before each session sitting at a desk with nothing but a calculator, some number two pencils, and an admissions ticket that you’re not even allowed to doodle on. It was indescribably boring. I recommend showing up at the last minute and sliding Indiana Jones-style through the closing doors.
- Apparently you can acquire some laminated sheets that tell you the answers to the CFA exam, and you can study those sheets outside the exam room in the morning and during the lunch break, and then you will know the answers, though not necessarily which questions they go to.* Everyone seemed to have those sheets, so if you’re thinking about taking the exam you might want to look into that. I brought a novel, which went better with the margaritas during lunch.
- The thought process that leads you to wear your oversize CORNELL BIG RED sweatshirt to the exam is probably the wrong thought process. Your Tiger Inn sweatshirt is worse. If your goal is to intimidate the people around you, just do what I did: leave the morning session an hour early and come back visibly drunk for the afternoon.**
- I’m not sure this will help you pass or anything, since I was the only HP calculator user in my little section, but buy and learn to operate an HP 12C. You work in finance, or want to. Using a non-RPN calculator is no way to live.
- Honestly, it might have helped to study for more than a week. Just saying.
Results are apparently out in January. For those of you who took the exam, you could do these things (via BI). I probably won’t be doing those things. Also this is probably the end of the CFA line for me. I’m gonna put my odds of having passed at about 70%, but even if I did, thinking about doing this twice more (once with essays) makes me want to cry.
* This seems somehow related: someone emailed today to say “Schweser Acquires Stalla. Just announced… CFA candidates will be interested.” Will they? Are you? Are those things?
** Also, blog about it.