There are several stories on the internet forums about people who attribute their CFA exam failure to not having the items they needed on exam day. You don’t want to add to that list of stories. You’ve made the effort and spent the money to study for the exam. Now is not the time to let a lack of preparation affect your chances of success.
This CFA Level 1 exam day checklist will help you make sure you have everything you need on CFA exam day to put your knowledge and skills to the exam.
Let’s get started with our free CFA Level 1 Mock Exam to enhance your chance of passing your actual exam with a high score on your first attempt.
What’s on CFA Exam Day
CFA exam days are now different from paper-based exams owing to the different scheduling windows/times with the new computer-based testing (CBT).
Here’s what happens on your exam day, in terms of time, with the reduced exam length of 2 hours and 15 minutes per session:
Pledge, tutorial and survey
Session 1 exam
Session 2 exam
Total testing time
Total appointment time,
However, because the check-in process takes a lot of time, it is best to come at least 30 minutes early. A Level 1 candidate in February 2021 stated that checking in took 45 minutes, and he was 15 minutes late for his official start time, but this did not impact his exam time.
Should you take the optional 30-minute break?
Yes, we believe the break is helpful. Before entering the second session, you can take a little snack, drink, and use the bathroom. It’s not a particularly long break.
You won’t be allowed to eat or drink anything during the exam, but you can and should bring a light snack and water for your optional 30-minute break.
In fact, once you include the time it takes to check in when you return from your break, you only have about 15-20 minutes of actual break time to grab a drink, snack, and/or use the bathroom.
Arriving late for the second session will cut into your exam time, so keep that in mind.
What to Bring to CFA Level 1 Exam
Items to Bring on Exam Day
Unless your test provider requests that you print a confirmation email with your appointment confirmation number, you will not need a CFA exam ticket. For the most part, all you’ll need for the exam is your passport ID and a calculator.
The following is a comprehensive list of items you may bring into the CFA computer-based testing room:
1. Your CFA exam calculator (including the case, keystroke cards, and loose batteries)
In the CFA exam, only two calculators are permitted:
- Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional)
- Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Prestige, HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, and 12C 30th-anniversary edition)
What if you run out of batteries?
As a backup, borrow or buy a second identical calculator. You can bring loose batteries to the testing room, but you’ll almost certainly need a screwdriver to change your calculator batteries, so it’s not really a reasonable option because screwdrivers are forbidden. You could leave your screwdriver in the locker as a last resort, and a proctor will accompany you to your locker to collect it if necessary.
Practice how to set your calculator settings
Just in case a proctor resets it, here’s how to do it for BA II plus and HP12C. Some candidates have reported that the proctor reset their calculator before the exam, but this does not happen in every situation.
2. Valid international travel passport
- The second most common problem candidates face on exam day is missing or forgotten passports (the first being a lost or forgotten calculator).
- Only valid international passports are accepted as identification by the CFA Institute, so please renew your passport if necessary.
- Also, double-check that the name on your exam ticket matches the name on your passport; if it doesn’t, contact CFA Institute right away.
3. Eyeglasses (without the case)
4. Additional personal items allowed in the test center
During the exam, you will be provided scratch paper, a whiteboard, or an erasable writing tablet to use. Additionally, as part of the check-in process, some personal items may be subject to inspection. With prior approval, certain medically necessary items may be permitted in the testing room.
Approved Personal Items
Medicine and Medical Devices
- Earplugs (Foam with no strings)
- Braces – Neck, Wrist, Back, Leg, or Ankle
- Cough drops (need to be unwrapped and not in a bottle or container)
- Eye drops
- Eye patches
- Eyeglasses (without the case)
- Handheld Magnifying Glass (non-electric, no case)
- Medical Alert Bracelet
- Casts/ Cervical Collar
- Arm/Shoulder Sling
- Walking boot casts
- Pills (must be unwrapped and not in a bottle or container). Candidates may bring pills in their original packaging if the packaging states that they must be kept in the original container, such as nitroglycerin pills that must not be exposed to air. (The Test Center Administrator will examine the packaging and submit a Center Problem Report.)
- Surgical Face Masks
- Medical Masks
- Medical Rubber Gloves
- Ice Packs
- Non-Electrical Heating Pad
- Glucose Monitor
- Glucose tablets
- Nitroglycerin tablets
- Pillow/Lumbar Support
- Stool for elevating a limb
Medical Device attached to the body
- Spinal Cord Stimulator
- Colostomy Bag
- Urine drainage bag
- Oxygen Tank
- Insulin Pump
- TENS Units
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Continuous Glucose Monitor
- Hearing Aid/Cochlear implant
- Vocal Chord Magnifiers
- Service Animal
These things are Prometric-allowed. Please check with your test sponsor for specific information on accommodation. Please be aware that any and all devices with external communication capabilities, such as cellular, wireless, Bluetooth, and so on, require pre-authorization prior to the testing day and may not be permitted in the testing center.
Items NOT Allowed in the CFA Exam Room
- Food or drinks
- Wallet (money purse)
- Baggage of any kind, including transparent bags, handbags, tote bags, backpacks, briefcases, luggage, carrying cases, passport covers, or eyeglass cases
- Study materials, including papers, textbooks, notes, or study guides
- Calculator manuals
- Mobile phones, computers, headsets, cameras, tablets, wearable technology (such as fitness tracking devices), smartwatches, or any Bluetooth-enabled or any remote communication or photographic devices
- Any type of desk clock or timer, including wristwatches
- Weapons of any kind
- Jewelry (other than engagement or wedding rings), ornate hair clips, combs, headbands, barrettes, tie clips, or cufflinks
There will be an area designated for personal belongings to place items that are not allowed at the test center.
What to Keep in Your Bag
It’s still a good idea to have a few essentials on hand for your break and after the exam. You’ll be able to store your belongings in a personal belongings area (outside the test room), so bring these items with you:
Because drinks are not allowed in the exam room, bring some in for your break.
A can of Red Bull or similar power beverage can be useful as insurance against mid-day lethargy. Dose according to your caffeine tolerance; if you drink a lot of coffee, you may need more Red Bull.
Bring a light snack for the 30-minute optional break, something non-offensive that won’t cause gas or digestion problems. Nothing too spicy, oily, or that can’t seem to keep for a few hours at room temperature.
Your mobile phone needs to be switched off
Not silent mode, not flight mode because calendar reminders and alarms may still be active. That way, you can be sure that if your phone is ringing, it isn’t yours.
CFA Level 1 Exam Day Checklist
This CFA exam day checklist will walk you through some of the most important steps in preparing for your computer-based exam. It can be used to keep track of the tasks that need to be accomplished before your exam.
Several Months Prior to Exam Day
Review the testing policies of the CFA exam
Confirm your valid international travel passport, the only type of identification accepted that does not expire before your exam date. (Read the identification exceptions, if your passport expires prior to exam day)
Make sure you have all of the travel documents you need (e.g., a visa) to go to the testing center.
During the Month Prior to Exam Day
On exam day, plan your route to the test center. (How bad will traffic be on exam day? Is there any road construction or other events that may affect your travel time?)
Check that the name on your CFA Institute account matches the name on your passport for international travel.
Make sure that you understand all of the testing policies; violating any of the CFA Program’s rules, regulations, or policies might result in your candidacy being suspended or canceled.
Review the Rules of Procedure (PDF).
During the Week Prior to Exam Day
What to wear on the CFA exam day?
There is no dress code, so wear what feels so good – within reason, of course. We recommend covering your clothing so you may adapt and stay comfortable as needed.
While in the testing centers, face coverings (covering the nose and mouth) are required. Temperatures in testing centers might vary. Wear layers of clothing (such as a sweater) to keep yourself warm.
What are you going to eat on the CFA exam day?
Food and water may be taken, but they must be kept in your small bag or under your chair. At the test centers, there are no water stations. During the timed section of the exam, no food may be obtained or consumed.
FAQs – CFA Level 1 Exam Day Checklist
Will there be a place to keep my belongings?
Yes. At the CBT exam centers, there will be a personal belongings area with lockers.
Can I share or borrow calculators during the CFA exam?
If you need to borrow a calculator (or anything else), you must do this before the start of each exam session.
If you have any issues during the exam, seek advice from a proctor before continuing.
Can I bring beverages into the test room?
No. There’s a good reason why you can’t bring drinks into the computer testing room.
We think restroom breaks are still allowed as normal because CFA Institute has not stated anything COVID-related about them.
During the computer-based test, however, test takers should raise their hands for both questions and breaks.
Can I leave the exam room early?
Yes, a computer-based test allows you to do so.
Just raise your hand to request verification from the proctor.
Can I bring two calculators to CFA exam?
You are not only permitted, but encouraged to bring two! Only the Texas Instruments BA II Plus and the Hewlett Packard 12C calculators are allowed. Because all of your calculators will be inspected by the proctors, your backup calculator must also be an authorized model.
Is pen allowed in CFA exam?
No writing tools or scratch paper are now permitted in the testing room for the computer-based CFA tests. Instead, you will be given a laminated sheet to use during the exam, as well as an erasable writing tablet or whiteboard.
What is the timing for CFA Level 1 exam?
For the morning session, you must arrive by 8:30 a.m., and for the afternoon session, you must arrive by 1:30 p.m. The Level 1 CFA exam morning session goes from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The afternoon exam goes from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.
This is the only CFA Level 1 exam day checklist you’ll ever need: everything you need to know about what to bring, what to expect, what to wear, and more – all updated for the latest procedures and computer-based tests.
Don’t forget to take our free CFA practice test to get familiarized with the format as well as the questions of the actual exam to strengthen your knowledge and skills, as a result, enhancing your chance to pass the CFA exam with a high score on your first attempt. Good luck to you!