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The Dec Level I CFA candidates take the exam this weekend. Knowing & preparing what you’re going to bring can make a lot of difference in your exam – taking the exam when you know you’re running out of pencils, or that your calculator is getting iffy unnecessarily piles onto the already-stressful environment.As the following years and levels piled on, I’ve added a few must-bring items of my own. Here is my definitive list of things to bring to the exam that you should not miss. Take a shopping trip 1 or 2 days beforehand and try to get all the items on this list.
Things to bring into exam hall
You can put most of this in a plastic baggie and just take everything in it when you’re marching into the hall (as proctors will not allow bags of any kind).
- Wooden pencils – sharpened (required). I know some exam centres allow mechanical pencils as well, but why take the chance. Get a whole pack from your local stationery store and sharpen the whole lot before setting out – that way you won’t have to fiddle with sharpeners if you don’t want to.
- Small sharpener (optional). Get a good quality but minimal sharpener – I find that the good ones tend to be cast metal. Costs a few cents.
- Eraser (required). Take any wrappings off – otherwise the proctors will take them off for you anyway.
- Two identical calculators (required). Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional), or Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C 25th anniversary edition, and 12C 30th anniversary edition). No others. Additionally, I think the traditional advice of bringing a spare battery is generally not the best, for several reasons. One, you can’t change the battery in the Texas Instruments BA II Plus calculator without a suitable Phillips screwdriver, so if you battery really does run out, you’ll have a battery replacement with no means to replace it (the HP 12C & the TI BA II Plus Professional however does allow battery changes with just fingers). Second, empty batteries are not the only problem calculators can have – stuck or non-working buttons are a common complaint. Get an identical second calculator from either a charterholder, or an ex-candidate (i.e. one that has given up trying). However if you can’t find an identical calculator I would consider batteries – learning how to use a new financial calculator in the middle of an exam isn’t fun.
- Exam ticket (required). Goes without saying. Printed on clean paper, unmarked and to be stayed unmarked throughout the exam. This will let you know where you are supposed to sit and do your thing.
- International passport (required). CFA Institute only accepts international passports as identifications now. Problems with passports are some of the more frequent issues with candidates every year. They either forget the passport altogether, or they spend the morning of exam day frantically searching for it as a result of not having used it for some time. I know someone who had to convince the proctors to let her take the first exam passportless, had to finish one hour early to drive top speed to where she left it, and started the second session late. Do not let that be you.
- Watch (optional). A watch will serve 2 purposes – keeping track of time during the exam, and keeping track of time before the exam. The second reason is something that some candidates overlook – a whopping 5% of you will be late into the exam hall and will have to start after the instructions have been read out to the candidates and the exam has started.