CFA

Level I CFA® Exam Day: Here’s What to Expect

woman preparing to the test on her Level 1 cfa exam day

CFA candidates take the Level I CFA exam in one day and in two sessions—morning and afternoon. A CFA candidate must attend both sessions to be considered as having completed the full exam. Currently, the Level I CFA exam is offered in June and December at testing centers around the world. The CFA Institute assigns candidates to a location to sit for the exam based on availability and home address proximity to the testing center. However, starting in 2021, the CFA Institute will move its Level I CFA exam to a computer-based format and increase the number of testing dates to four times per year. Here’s what to expect on the day of your Level I CFA exam.

Months Before Your CFA Exam Day

Several weeks before exam day, it’s essential to review all CFA Institute testing policies. Also, you’ll need to confirm that you have a valid international travel passport, meaning that it’s not expiring or won’t expire on exam day. This is a good time to get it renewed if needed so that you’ll have it ready when you get to the testing center. 

A Month Before Your CFA Exam Day

A month before you sit for the Level I CFA exam, be sure that your admission ticket matches your passport. The name and social security number must be exact matches. If your name doesn’t exactly match, the CFA Institute recommends changing the name in your CFA Institute account and reprinting your admissions ticket. 

Also, make sure you know the location of your testing center and are aware of the parking situation. Find out how long it takes you to get there so you’re not rushing on the day of the exam. Drive to the testing center a couple of times during high-traffic hours to manage time expectations. This will also help you make sure you are fully prepared on exam day. 

A Week Before Your CFA Exam Day

Figure out ahead of time what you’re going to wear on the day of the exam. Since testing center temperatures can fluctuate, the CFA Institute recommends layering clothing, which allows you to be comfortable in any climate.

Remember, you’ll be at the testing center all day, so plan out what you’ll eat that day. Testing centers do not allow water and snacks during the exam, so check with your testing center to find out what food options are available to you during the lunch break. 

Review the CFA Institute’s, “Instructions for Completing Your Answer Sheet.” The last thing you’ll want on exam day is having to take extra time to figure out how to take the exam. While it’s pretty straightforward, it’s a good idea to read through it so you’re fully prepared. 

On Your CFA Exam Day

Once you arrive at the testing center, you’ll need (required):

  1. Exam admission ticket
  2. Valid international travel passport
  3. Approved calculator: Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional) or Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige).
  4. No. 2 pencils

Optional Items:

  1. Manual pencil sharpener
  2. Erasers
  3. Loose calculator batteries
  4. Eyeglasses
  5. Earplugs
  6. Watch (not a smartwatch) 
  7. Wallet
  8. Medicine and/or tissues
  9. Keys
  10. Gum, candy, cough drops

Checking into the testing centers begins at 8:00 am for the morning session and then at 1:00 pm for the afternoon session. You must be seated in the testing center by 8:30 am for the morning session and 1:30 pm for the afternoon session. The Level I CFA exam morning session begins at 9:00 am and ends at 12:00 pm. The afternoon exam begins at 2:00 pm and ends at 5:00 pm.

After the allotted time has expired, the proctor will let everyone know when they need to put down their pencils and when it’s OK to leave the room.

Source: CFA Institute’s CFA Program Candidate Checklist


If you are prepping for an upcoming Level I CFA® exam, check out these top 5 pointers for the Level I CFA exam. And if you want to take your test-prep game to a whole new level, click here for our FREE trial. We’ll have you ready to ace the test on exam day.

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