Ill Omen

For a chronological index of my path to the CFA, click here.

On the day of the CFA Level One exam, I arrived 30 minutes early at the testing center so that I’d have time to print out my admission ticket at the computer lab across the street.

But then, I couldn’t get the blasted thing to print! The work-study student running the lab was no help. I realized that it was now all over before it had even begun. I’d failed Level One without so much as seeing the first test question because I’d been too lazy to print out my admission ticket ahead of time like I’d been told.

Then, a dark realization dawned and really shivered me timbers. Months ago, I had stopped going to, and dropped, all of my university engineering classes because I’d decided to bet the farm on the CFA and a future career in investment banking…

…except I’d just remembered that I forgot to drop the labs that go with the classes. And the drop deadline had now passed. I was going to have a slew of straight F’s averaged in to my university GPA along with my admission ticket failure fiasco! Lose-lose!

Study Group
Study Group

GLORY BE to the the wrens who finally signaled dawn, rousing me from my nightmare. They say dreams are only interesting to the people who have them, so I’ll spare you the details of the other two very similar ones I’ve also had in the past week. I’m just waiting for the one where I’ve been dropped off at school only to realize I forgot to put on clothes…

So, here we all are – just days before the June exam! Unlike in dreamworld, I have my supplies gathered and admission ticket printed. I’ve even booked a hotel nearby the evening before because I don’t want to have to get up at 4AM to drive to Jacksonville – where I will be taking the exam. What if there were a traffic jam?! Flat tire?! Alligator uprising?!

Path to the CFA

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I went to Office Depot to buy a second HP 12C but for some reason the price has increased dramatically. They now want $86 for the 12C versus $40 for the TI-BA II+! Well HP, you’re not OPEC, and you can only hope to gain a cost-push inflationary advantage when no comparable alternatives exist. I am therefore now the proud owner of a TI. I’ve given it a short test drive but it’s obviously only in case of an exam emergency. Switching to the BA now would be like buying a new brand of shoes on the eve of the Badwater 135.

So how have I spent my study time since finishing my first pass through all the material about a month ago? Mostly in the infinite loop of working random problems that I mentioned in my last post.

I had to alter the strategy slightly to save time and keep from having to lug all 6 volumes with me wherever I go. I just randomly reordered the 76 chapters that comprise Level One and have been proceeding sequentially, working all problems of whatever chapter I’m on. You can see how far I’ve made it…

32 40 22 34 35 6 55 3 68 16 69 11 54 30 45 60 74 72 62 70 51 33 7 38 58 76 42 28 17 41 47 14 46 56 63 8 67 59 5 48 53 29 21 25 52 37 64 31 49 27 61 50 26 43 19 44 15 73 1 36 71 23 65 2 4 18 75 24 39 13 9 66 20 57 10 12

No way I’ll complete a full second pass before test day. But I did start with a brand new pen and worked so many problems that I ran it out of ink. I showed my wife and she said “Wowwwww!!!” with much more enthusiasm than she was actually feeling. Bless her. I still haven’t thrown the pen away.

I also finally got around to taking the free online sample exam that you get when you register. My results:

    33% on Ethical and Professional Standards
    86% on Quantitative Methods
    80% on Economics
    46% on Financial Statement Analysis
    50% on Corporate Finance
    57% on Analysis of Equity Investments
    33% on Derivative Investments
    67% on Alternate Investments
    67% on Analysis of Fixed Income Instruments
    33% on Portfolio Management

    Overall: 55% (need > 70% to pass)

So, it’s not looking promising. Unless the actual exam turns out to be easier than the practice problems and sample test, I expect my infinite loop of working random problems – possibly with supplementary 3rd party material – to continue until I have the chance to try again in December.

Two final thoughts before closing.

First, a long time ago, when I was taking jiu-jitsu, the instructor would tell us that we needed to show up for every single belt testing whether we felt ready and prepared or not.

Apart from the cost of testing being a great source of extra income for his martial arts school, he was trying to impart a certain attitude. Don’t stress about tests that have no penalty for failing. Stress only comes when you’re trying to pass yourself off as more prepared, intelligent, or skilled than you really are. Just always show up, demonstrate where you’re at, and if it’s your time, you’ll be recognized and bumped up. That’s how I feel about this coming Saturday.

At least I hope that thought keeps the nightmares at bay…

Second point. I’m just recalling the way I felt the day I earned my master’s degree in electrical engineering. At that age, ego reigned supreme and my primary reason for pursuing the degree was to have another piece of paper demonstrating that I was in some way special. Except on the day of completion, I realized that I’d actually found the bachelor’s to be more of a challenge. When I looked at my framed master’s, I hoped others would be impressed… but I wasn’t.

Based on my experience so far, I don’t think I’m going to feel that way the day I become a charterholder. 😉

I wish all of you candidates great success and razor-sharp concentration. No stress for this exam! We just show up and demonstrate how much of Level One we’ve internalized.

For me, that’ll probably be about 55%…

Update: I finally passed all the CFA exams and wrote an eBook about the program. If you’re interested, click here.