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:
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I’m back. Did I miss anything?

My imaginary CFA results are mid-80% area for both the morning and afternoon sessions. That sounds like it predicts a pass on Saturday, though probably not at a 95% level of significance. (Does it? I have no idea.) The effect of 1 drink before / 1 during the afternoon is hard to discern although there were more wrong answers towards the end of the afternoon session than at the beginning. Also I was heartily sick of it by the end. Are there really II more levels of this thing? Do they have more stuff on them? That seems excessive.

Now I’m not going to run afoul of ethics guidelines by discussing anything on the mock exam, or real exam, or anywhere else. (Also, this is important: CFA Institute, if you’re reading this, we’re just kidding about the whole guaranteeing returns thing.) But the sense I get is that people find the ethics section particularly daunting, which, COME ON PEOPLE, you are not doing much for public perceptions of your industry. Nonetheless, as a public service for those taking the test on Saturday and looking to sharpen your skills, here’s an extra practice ethics question suggested by a reader. Read more »

  • 30 Nov 2011 at 12:33 PM

And Now Some Mockery

I am now going to take a mock CFA exam. In order to replicate actual testing conditions as closely as possible without leaving my apartment, I will do the following:

1. Spend 2 hours* on the first session (120 questions)
2. Lunch, beer
3. Spend 2 hours on the second session (120 questions). Another beer.
4. Check answers, post results
5. Mockery. Another beer.

The CFA’s commitment to “past performance does not reflect future results” extends to its own products, sayingPerformance on a mock exam should not be used in any way to predict performance on the actual exam.” But you and I know better. So tell me:
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  • 29 Nov 2011 at 6:35 PM

The OCC And I Work Hard To Guarantee Investment Returns

This is shaping up to be CFA week for me, and with my impending triumph/humiliation I’ve pretty much stopped thinking about much else. I’ve also stopped reading about much else, putting aside Trotsky temporarily to focus on those six stupid books. Yesterday was corporate finance – I can now unlever and relever betas like a champ – and portfolio management, which I got about halfway through before falling asleep. Today is equity and fixed income. The end is in sight!

But there’s still occasionally time to think about blast-from-the-past favorite topics, like the slow-motion disaster that is the US regulatory effort to end official reliance on ratings agencies. The latest is the OCC, which released a proposed rule today that will change the definition of “investment grade” securities, which banks can invest in, from “rated in one of the four highest rating categories by two or more NRSROs” to this: Read more »

  • 28 Nov 2011 at 6:50 PM

Things I Did Not Know About The CFA Exam

Attentive readers may recall that a while back I signed up to take the CFA Level I exam, in order to (1) pursue my passion for standardized testing,(2) expose the secret behind-the-scenes workings of America’s trillion-dollar financial-analysis-certification business, and (3) have a major institution to stand behind my guarantees of consistent above-market investment returns. I wrote a post about it, and then mostly forgot all about it.

Thinking that the exam might be sometime in December, I looked into it a bit more this weekend. Here are some things that I learned that I didn’t previously know, though you might have:

1. The exam is given using pencil and paper at the Javits Center. I had vague visions of the anonymous computer lab where you take the Series 7 on computers from the mid-1980s. Now I have to go buy pencils.

2. All of its contents. Actually I’d read maybe 100 pages of the ethics reading but then I got bored and stopped.

3. It’s this Saturday. Oops! Read more »

If yes, did you get the plain boring old one or the one with the tassels? Read more »

  • 16 Aug 2011 at 10:17 AM

Let’s Talk About: CFA Level III Results

Fifty-one percent of Level 3 takers have reason to feel really good right about now: the opportunity to attend CFA Camp is so close you can taste it. For the rest of you, whose state of mind is not helped by the fact that more people passed this year than last and yet the Chartered Financial Analyst gods chose not to bring you along for the ride, the promise land is still nothing but a dream.  And, as long as we’re all being honest here, the last several months (/years) have been a nightmare from which you feel like you might never wake up. Read more »

In a few short weeks, many financial services employees will begin the soul-crushing, life-sucking process of studying for Level I CFA exam given in December. So you that you don’t look back and realize you wasted 4+ months of your time on earth, most of you are probably hoping to pass. And sure, that’s a good goal. Cute, even. But if you want to really make a name for yourself and not be had by a would-be lawyer, you’re going to have to do better than that. Like going into labor during the exam better. Read more »