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Freakish occurrences from the CFA Level I exam on Saturday

Strange news for the CFA exam halls

The CFA Level I December exams are over. On Saturday, 66,000 people spent six hours of their day incarcerated in examination halls for the two sittings. In the northern hemisphere it was dark when they arrived and it was dark when they left.

No one will know whether they've passed until late January, but anecdotes are circulating in the meantime. This is what you need to know.

1. Everyone said it was too easy

This Tweet, from a CFA candidate, seems to be typical of the sentiments surrounding Saturday's exams - they were easy, suspiciously so.

CFA easy

Candidates writing on Analyst Forum, suggest the morning exam was particularly simple,mostly because there were far fewer quantitative questions than expected. This may sound like good news - except that the CFA Institute adjusts the passing score for each exam according to the proportion of candidates who answer the questions correctly. An abnormally easy exam implies that the minimum passing score will be abnormally high.

2. Someone had a nightmare with their calculator 

Before you go into a CFA exam hall, check your calculator doesn't breach the regulations - especially if you've borrowed it from someone else. One candidate, writing on Analyst Forum, said he borrowed a friend's calculator and that when the invigilator turned it over, he found a 'sticky note with a bunch of corporate finance formulas.'  Surprisingly, they let him go.

3. Someone made a stupid mistake with their exam paper 

Another candidate described how he made a stupid error while filling in the ID boxes at the top of the paper. " I shaded one of the number in the CFA Institute ID wrongly. Instead of “1”, I shaded “0”."

4. Someone forgot their pencils  

When you're taking a CFA exam, you need to bring your own pencils. There were reports of people having 30+ pencils on their desk, but someone reportedly brought none. "Never in my life I saw someone face turned blue in a matter of seconds just like that," says a candidate who posted on the forum 300Hours. 

5. People were wearing pyjamas

Also on 300Hours, a candidate based in Los Angeles said a surprising number of test takers were wearing pyjamas. That may just be LA though.

6. Someone didn't hand their paper in properly

Worse, a frantic, sleep-deprived candidate on Reddit says she completed the exam one minute before the end and, "just zoned out and looked ahead." She didn't close the exam paper and didn't even notice
whether the proctor picked up her questions sheet and admission ticket.
Suddenly, however, she noticed that everyone else's answer sheet had been collected and that hers was still on the desk - still open. She called the proctor over and asked her to pick up her paper, but then she couldn't find the exam admission ticket - which had either been lost or collected already. Now she's fearful that she's violated the ethics and standards of the exam and can't relax even though the exams are over. Nightmare.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Pa
    Paris Degil
    28 January 2015

    I have had some issues with my passport, and I have started the exam only at 9:25... The worse is that 15 minutes later, one of the exam proctor came to check my passprt and didn't put it back on the table, but rather took it with him (which I interpreted as a problem). That was even worse than starting 25 minutes after everyone. I was unable to concentrate on any questions. After 5-10 minutes I called the person and asked him what was the issue. A few minutes before 10am, I was fully concentrated on my exam. I finally passed with quite good scores (all major topics >70%, few of them 51-70%). I found also the morning one "easier than the mock", but the afternoon was not easy.

  • Sa
    Sarah Butcher
    11 December 2014

    @James - that Tweet was representative of other comments. A lot of people said the exam seemed unusually easy this year.

  • Ja
    10 December 2014

    How can this article claim 'everyone' found it easy because 1 person out of 66,000 people wrote a single tweet. The headline from this article - which describes the exam as 'unnervingly easy' - is going to be popping up in inboxes across the industry and completely undermines the hard work that goes into preparing for the exams. This is disappointing for a careers website. Only around 40% pass each level and this does not include no-shows.

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