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Everything You Should (and Should Not) Bring With You to the CFA® Exam

By: Kaplan Schweser
January 11, 2021
Student getting together everything he needs to take the CFA Exam

The internet forums are rife with stories of people who attribute some aspect of their CFA® exam failure to not having the items they needed to have on exam day. That’s a list of stories you don’t want to add to. You’ve invested the time and the money in preparing for the exam. Now is not the time to let poor last-minute planning affect your odds of success.

This checklist will help you ensure that you have everything you need to put your knowledge and skills to the test on CFA exam day.

1. A valid international passport

The only form of identification that will be accepted for the CFA exam is a valid international passport. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never traveled outside the country. It doesn’t matter if you have a government-issued license or ID. If you show up to the exam with any ID that is not a valid international passport, you will be turned away.

Unfortunately, the passport is one of the most commonly forgotten items on exam day. Plan ahead, get your passport, and ensure that it’s part of your exam-day arsenal.

2. Calculator

Along with your admission ticket and your passport, you absolutely need an approved calculator like the TI BAII Plus. Also consider bringing extra calculator batteries or even a spare calculator.

3. The “nice-to-haves”

Forgetting the following items won’t prevent you from being able to sit for the CFA exam, but you’ll be at your best if you are comfortable and well prepared for anything that comes your way on exam day. These items include:

  • A sweater or jacket. You can always take a layer off if you get too warm. But if you don’t come prepared for an exam room that’s a few degrees below your comfort zone, you may be caught off guard.
  • Earplugs. This is an “expect the unexpected” situation. While there is no logical reason unwanted noise should be a problem in the test center, you need to consider how noise outside the room, or even outside the building, could be a distraction. If you require silence to be at your best, you may want to pack some earplugs to create your own silence if needed.

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Items You Should Plan on Being Without on Exam Day

There are several items you may not realize CFA Institute strictly prohibits from your desk area on exam day. Those items include:

  • Food and drinks. Get your caffeine and nutrition needs met prior to walking into the testing center
  • Study materials. Keep your SchweserNotes at home or in your backpack in the personal belongings area
  • Tech tools. This includes mobile phones, cameras, computers, tablets, and other technology that have become a part of daily modern life
  • Highlighters, correction fluid or tape, and rulers
  • Baggage of any kind. This includes pencil cases and large purses. A small wallet or money purse is permitted
  • Scratch paper, calculator manuals, or present/future value tables
  • Any type of desk clock or timer

Luck is not a strategy for success on the CFA exam, and neither is being unprepared. By ensuring you have the items you need, and are without the items that are prohibited, you’ll be armed to take on the CFA exam without unnecessary hurdles and distractions.

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