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

By: Kaplan Schweser
October 24, 2022
What to Bring to the CFA Exam Checklist

You’ve invested the time and the money in preparing for the CFA exam. Now is not the time to let poor last-minute planning affect your odds of success. This guide will help you ensure that you have everything you need to put your knowledge and skills to the test on CFA exam day.

Key Takeaways

  1. You are allowed one approved calculator in the exam room but you can leave a second calculator or an extra set of batteries in your testing center locker.
  2. Food and drinks are not allowed into the testing room so plan accordingly.


When To Arrive At The Testing Center

Plan to arrive at the CFA testing center 30 minutes before your test time and remember to dress comfortably.

CFA Exam Duration 

The length of time you’ll be at a testing location to take each CFA exam will be 5.5 hours. Each exam is broken up into a morning and afternoon session with a 30-minute optional break in the middle.

Test Day Schedule


Check-In30 minutes
Morning Session~135 minutes
Optional Break30 minutes
Afternoon Session~135 minutes
Total Testing Time4.5 hours
Total Appointment Time5.5. hours


Items To Bring To The CFA Testing Center


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. A headset is provided to reduce any noise in the exam room but you may prefer some during your break as well.

    Learn About The CFA Curriculum With Our Free Copy Of The CFA Program Fundamentals eBook

    What To Expect On Exam Day

    Get prepared ahead of time for the check-in process and have a plan for what to do during your exam break.  

    CFA Testing Center Check-In Process

    Each testing center’s check-in process may be slightly different but most likely after you enter the testing site, you will need to provide your passport to the receptionist at the front desk and confirm your exam type and time. You will be provided with a locker key. This key will be placed on your workstation along with your passport and calculator. 

    Then, you will be asked to sit in the waiting room until you are called back for your exam. After being called to go back, you will be required to read the policies of the testing center. Next, you will present your passport, which will be scanned, and your index fingers for electronic fingerprinting.  You will sign your name in a log book with the current time.

    Then, you will be offered two pencils and scratch paper (front and back of two pages). Depending on your testing center, you may be provided with an erasable writing tablet instead. To get additional scratch paper, you must use all available sides on the one previously provided to you. These items must be returned at the end of the exam (not at the break).

    Before entering the test room, you will be asked to turn your front pockets inside out, raise your sleeves, and lift your pant legs above your ankles. The attendant will use a wand scanner and scan your front. After which, you will be asked to turn around and place your hands in your back pockets and the attendant will complete another scan. This process will occur anytime you leave the test room, including the break. 

    Next, you will be escorted to your workstation. You should have plenty of space between you and the next person. A headset is provided to reduce/eliminate any noise. You should only have your locker key, passport, two pencils, scratch paper, and calculator on your desk. At this point, the attendant will ask you to verify your name and test type on the monitor. You will use a mouse to navigate around the screen and be instructed to raise your hands to alert the attendant if you need more paper or pencils or have some other issue. 

    CFA Exam Breaks

    You will be asked to take an optional 30-minute break after the morning session. When you are ready to exit the room, notify the attendant, and gather your locker key and passport. Go to your locker and grab your snack and drink. You will not be allowed to eat or drink in the testing center. Take this period to decompress and visit the restroom.

    CFA Expert Tip: Try to reduce your anxiety during your break and avoid studying or looking up questions from the morning session.

    After your well-deserved break, head back to the testing center. Place any personal belongings back in your locker and check in with the attendant. You will need to be scanned and fingerprinted again to enter the testing room. You will be escorted back to your workstation by the attendant. When ready, click to exit the break and begin the afternoon session.

    Post-Exam Survey

    After submitting your final responses, you will be asked to complete a brief survey about the testing center and your overall experience.

    Items Not Allowed In Exam Room

    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 before 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
    • Jewelry (except for wedding or engagement rings) hair clips, cufflinks, bracelets, 

    Level I Morning Session Tips

    After entering the exam, you will have the opportunity to go through a brief tutorial that demonstrates how to use the interface. This is highly recommended as this will help you become familiar with the test environment and may help to calm any nerves before starting the actual exam.

    Start by completing all Ethics and GIPS questions. This should take about 30-45 minutes. 

    Next, complete all recognition/recall questions and those more challenging questions you can answer within a reasonable amount of time (e.g., under 1 minute). 

    You may wish to skip any calculations and save them for last as these can take time to complete and break the momentum. You can see on the test interface those questions you skipped and/or flagged for review. 

    Avoid running out of time without answering all of the questions and do not leave any incomplete. When completed, you will need to submit the exam. You will not be able to go back to this session once you submit the exam.

    How to Use a Mock CFA Exam to Sharpen Your Testing Skills

    Level I Afternoon Session Tips

    First, complete all recognition/recall questions and skip those requiring time-consuming calculations.  Know that all questions are scored the same, so get the easy ones out of the way. The test interface will show you which ones you have not answered or were flagged for review. 

    Second, after completing a pass through all 90 questions, go back and complete the calculation questions. Hopefully, you will have close to an hour to complete those questions you skipped and/or flagged. If the calculation seems too daunting, flag it, and move on to the next one. Keep circling back to complete all of the questions within the time limit. 

    CFA Expert Tip: Remember that you can change your answers until you submit your exam.

    When complete, you will need to submit the exam. Make sure you are 100% positive that you are finished. Once you exit the exam, you will not be able to go back.

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