Fun Facts You Didn’t Know about the CFA Exam

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam is one of the most prestigious and yet gruelling exams you can give to. Around 20% of those who registers for a CFA exam don’t take it seriously and just don’t turn up on exam day. At least 40% of those who do turn up fail. In June 2015, a meagre 42% of candidates passed CFA Level I Pretty serious stuff.


Here are some fun facts that you may not be aware of:

  1. About 1 in 20 candidates will miss the start of the exam, despite already being in the test center.

On exam day, the doors to the exam hall close 30 minutes before the actual exam starts. This is to ensure all candidates are settled in, calculators and belongings are verified, and all candidates are set to open the test booklet at the preset time.

Though many candidates, despite already being at the exam center, will either miscalculate or are not aware of the closing time. Thus, they end up waiting to be let into the exam hall, which will only happen after the first 30 minutes have passed. So be sure to arrive early and be seated on time.

  1. Calculators weren’t allowed up until 1975

Up to 1975, a standard calculator was not allowed in the CFA exams. Candidates originally had to make do with a slide rule. Then you could carry a (15 pound!) electric calculator, which unfortunately needed to be plugged into a wall outlet, so many candidates didn’t bother. Count yourself lucky that you have the convenience of a calculator for your exams!

  1. You used to be able to smoke during the exam

The exam getting your nerves worked up? Back in the early 70s, candidates could even smoke inside the exam hall! John Privat, CFA, recently gave a humourous exam anecdote when he said
“He was totally agitated and proceeded to chain smoke for five minutes before he even opened the blue book.” Doesn’t get more Mad Men than this!

  1. You couldn’t go to the bathroom during the exam in earlier days

Many years ago, candidates weren’t allowed to use the bathroom during the exam. Pretty strange, but there you go. The Institute only yielded and changed its rules when a pregnant candidate was ready to call their bluff during one memorable year. Our advice: Go to your heart’s content before the exam. Even if they allow you to take a bathroom break during the exam, you lose precious time from the allotted 3 hour duration.

  1. The most common problem on exam day? Forgotten passports? Nah.

Moving on to more recent times. On interviewing numerous proctors in countless exam centers, we find that the most common problem for candidates is a forgotten calculator. We’re not sure what is the reason (I would have thought forgetting your passport would be more common), but make sure you don’t make that mistake! Make sure you bring two.

  1. CFA results are always announced on Tuesdays

    CFA results are always announced on a Tuesday. Here’s the rationale from the CFA Institute: Tuesday is an ideal day for their contact center and client services – It gives sufficient time to answer to weekend queries and get themselves prepared for the heavy flow of communication accompanying a results release.


So there you have it. If you know any more, do let us know. If you are one of the candidates studying for this year’s CFA exam, study hard and all the best!

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