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.

51 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (51)

  1. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    did you go to the Mexican restaurant before or after? Don't be sad – I bet you passed

  2. Posted by Other Guest | December 5, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    "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 like Matt a whole lot more now. Awesome.

  3. Posted by guest | December 5, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    When do you turn 21?

  4. Posted by That Guy | December 5, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Agreed.

  5. Posted by Nostradamus | December 5, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    No charts, and I finished the whole thing? No way did Matt write this. Maybe he should start blogging drunk too.

  6. Posted by srslyWTF | December 5, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    HOW IS THERE NOT A CHART OF MARGARITAS CONSUMED VS cfa PERFORMANCE PRE- AND POST-LUNCH?!? IS THIS REAL LIFE???

  7. Posted by im_new_here | December 5, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    "…thinking about doing this twice more (once with essays) makes me want to cry."

    I bet the essay graders know just how you feel.

  8. Posted by guest | December 5, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    your watch stopping made you nervous? come on dude.

    -matt levine's cell phone

  9. Posted by geoffgeoffgeoff | December 5, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Eating clubs like Tiger Inn is what the subprime is in trouble.

    -Guy with CORNELL BIG RED Sweatshirt

  10. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Best intimidation method is wearing tear away pants.

    -Wildcard

  11. Posted by Dr_Zaius | December 5, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    i feel like Matt is buckling under the stress to be liked. almost going to a strip club? drinking two margaritas at lunch?! no effing charts/graphs?!?!?

    rise above, matt. rise above.

  12. Posted by Candidate | December 5, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Based on what people wore on Saturday (I was at Javitz as well), I'd say there are a lot of insecure people in this industry (or trying to be in this industry). The dress shoes, dress pants, button-down and backwards hat say "I can be serious, but I'm here to party."

    - John C. Reilly

  13. Posted by bgg | December 5, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    What a great story! Can't wait for the long winded follow up of when Bess takes you shopping for your first training bra

  14. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    1) Cell phones are allowed in the testing center
    2) What?

  15. Posted by "Iron Liver" Jones | December 5, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    "Visibly drunk" after just 2 margaritas?? Come on – you gotta step up that game.

  16. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    Failing Rhetoric 101 at Cornell is the NKI!

  17. Posted by guest | December 5, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    He failed to mention that they were "Skinny" margaritas.

  18. Posted by geoffgeoffgeoff | December 5, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    See: Dealbreaker Memes, you dolt.

  19. Posted by Dr_Zaius | December 5, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    PS: the hp-12c is boss. glad you called out those losers with the BAii plus or worse, the TI-83.

  20. Posted by 2StopShop | December 5, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Caps Lock is out of style.

  21. Posted by Put_Option | December 5, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Being an alum of the Javits Center, I think we forgot some crucial points;

    - The airport hangers where you take your test can get windy and cold as balls. I was wearing so much Patagonia that you'd think I never left a heady New England boarding school.
    - The fold-out, fake wood tables are wobbly. You better pray the other guy at your table stays still. This is complemented by cheaper, wobblier fold-out plastic chairs that seem to only be designed for people under 5 feet tall. Anyone else, hope you like sliding cause you'll be doing tons.
    - At lunch time, Javits rolls out the red carpet for 5 star subway-express-like stands where you pay 15 bucks for a prepackaged sandwich that even Jared wouldn't endorse. Then you sit on a shut off escalator with some other sorry asshole trying to re-learn 5 point DuPont.
    - You can bring in any prescription drugs. Adderall, Codeiene, and/or Coke from your favorite sketch delivery service.

  22. Posted by Custody Banker | December 5, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Can't rock a TI-83 for the exams, chief, thanks for trying though.

  23. Posted by ChukG | December 5, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    HP-12C is a friend a mine

    STARR Gasparino.

  24. Posted by Dr_Zaius | December 5, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    Custody Banker, CFA.

    there, fixed it for you.

  25. Posted by guest | December 5, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    To the strip club or the exam?

  26. Posted by Not Me | December 5, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Matt, haven't you seen all the ad? Drinking and deriving are a dangerous.

  27. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    However "srsly" and "WTF" are both very, very in style.

  28. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Uhh he ended his comment with NKI, did he not?

    - UBS MD

  29. Posted by CincinnatusC | December 5, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    wow you're so cool for failing the CFA exam.

  30. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    "I recommend showing up at the last minute and sliding Indiana Jones-style through the closing doors."

    Seeing this never gets old

  31. Posted by color war | December 5, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    "Also this is probably the end of the CFA line for me."

    are you serious? I was banking on being able to get full detailed reports from CFA level 4 sleepaway camp in a few years.

    Wasn't that the point of the exercise to begin with? or am i missing something here?

  32. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Buying a $70 calculator that does the same things as a $30 calculator, except slower and requiring you to type things in nonsensical order, is really the way to go to intimidate the kiddies. Especially if you're operating said calculator while drunk. Nice work Matt!

  33. Posted by Sartorialist | December 5, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    To the exam. Extra-large Umbro shorts to the strip club.

  34. Posted by brochacho, cfa | December 5, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    My favorite part of the experience was the guy next to me who wore three watches and brought a bundle of about 75 pencils. He also had an two extra calculator batteries and a little mini screwdriver. You can never be too safe.

  35. Posted by Damn U Dirty Ape | December 5, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    HP-17b2 is underrated

  36. Posted by Other Guest | December 5, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Are you coming on to me?

  37. Posted by Haphols_cfa | December 5, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    I miss Stalla :( Peter Olinto was the best there is (he still is, just don't know where he'll be now).

  38. Posted by Hot In Here | December 5, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Hey!!

    -Every Oil Trader at the Mirage Cabaret.

  39. Posted by Fake Sam Ro | December 5, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    ha ha ha.

  40. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    No he is coming at you bro

  41. Posted by TEd | December 5, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    I always wondered whether "Polish Notation" was a mathematical term or just a diss on the 12C using an ethnic slur. Any math majors out there?

  42. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    Wow, a week of studying and bitching, one Level I sitting, and you're already talking about quitting. Way to give it the old community college try.

  43. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    Let me plow right through checking my motives and guess that he was asian…

  44. Posted by guest | December 5, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    No backup screwdriver? All 75 pencils in one bundle? You're supposed to carry multiple smaller bundles of pencils in the event that an entire bundle is eradicated. Amateur.

    -Stereotypical Asian CFA candidate

  45. Posted by Louis Winthorpe III | December 5, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    A few other things:

    -The McDonalds on 34th and 10th will get impossibly busy at lunch and it goes without saying it's not worth it.
    -As a rule of thumb, your testing dose of Adderall should be roughly double your study dose. Don't forget to refresh your dosage for the afternoon session. Bonus points for reloading at the water cooler in the front of the testing room.
    -This will make waiting at your table with nothing to read or write on exponentially harder.
    -Afterward, hit up Blue Ruin on 39th and 9th for their two-for-one drink specials and clinically insane clientele.

  46. Posted by UBS MD | December 5, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    It's named in honour of the pope.

  47. Posted by Guest | December 5, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    2005 CFA December Exam in Boston. Some dude was told by the proctor that the time could only be provided to him in increments 15 mins etc. He says he can't see the clock and essentially suffers a nervous breakdown in his seat yelling out loud that he demanded to see a test administration supervisor. For this outburst he was rewarded with a mandatory exit from the exam. Maybe I am a dick, but I found it hilarious.

  48. Posted by Candidate | December 5, 2011 at 8:54 PM

    Pony Bar, 45th and 10th … I took back a few 10% beers immediately after the exam

  49. Posted by Citicorp Shareholder | December 5, 2011 at 9:55 PM

    Re your last sentence: could both not be true?

  50. Posted by opsfgt | December 5, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Why aren't we at Dorsia?

    - Timothy Bryce

  51. Posted by afficionado | June 14, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    leave it to matt to make a strip club tedious..