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.

27 thoughts on “Ill Omen”

  1. Great post.

    I am currently an undergrad and look forward to being in your position in two years. Good luck on the exam and don’t stress about it. If you happen to fail this time around, there is always tomorrow and like you said before its not for a GPA so no worries.
    However, before the exam, which is literally a few days away, you could do some more review of ethics and fsa, which you might be fuzzier on since you studied that towards the beginning.
    Good luck and keep the blog going please. I’ve read all the posts on CFA and all the comments in the past two days, due to more free time now that I am on break, and I would love to keep track of how you’re doing and would love to ask you for advice perhaps in the future.

    Also, don’t mean to be a pest but I was wondering if I could get an invite for Doostang? My email is ‘’. Good luck and print your admission ticket in advance! And print multiple copies just in case and get acquainted with your lovely new TI.


  2. Nice Post, and good work in your practice exam. at leat you are better than me ( I got 44%) which made me so dissapointed during that day. I have spent about one month just practicing problem solving using questions bank, but it seems I cant get more than 60-70%. I do well in quantitative question , but poor with qualititave ones and those including definitions. and yes, I hate derivitives, so I have decided to ignore them and save the time on other qustions :)!
    Only two days left, wish all the best luck to everyone. For me, if I dont pass this one, I will postpond it to 18 months later.


  3. Good luck to you Lumilog! I know that you will do fine on the test; you’ve definitely got the right attitude about not being under pressure in any event. That was my mindset as well going into the test. If I pass, I pass. If I fail, well hey I learned alot and I know I’ll nail it on the next one….

  4. Whats funny is that when I started reading your post. I’m thinking he already took the exam. did i miss it. was it last weekend? i almost ran to look at my exam ticket and a calendar. thank goodness he was talking about a dream lol.

    I actually got pulled over going to the exam last yr. I was in that weird pre-exam mind set and apparently didnt feel like a police road block applied to me. (it was only one measly cone in the middle of the road). I had my set directions to the exam site and i wasnt about to get myself lost so just decided i would go around the cone. The cops who were right there at the corner came runnin at my car yelling at me to stop. direct quote from the cop—“what are you stupid!!” I remember just thinking..jeez i hope not.

    Good luck Saturday everyone. Dont get hung up to long on one question. Stay calm!!!!

  5. I’ve been getting between 65-73% on mocks and paid for the two CFA ones – $100. Got 67% and 65%.

    It’s potentially a pass if everyone else does crap, but I think I’m going to be borderline – probably a fail.

    I’ve done so many exams, I just want to get it out of the way!

  6. yellowman – thanks!
    michael – keep at it and good advice on ethics & fsa. I’m not a doonstag member but some other user on here is. hopefully he’ll see your request and respond.
    jay – thanks and will pass on the kind words to her.
    cfa indonesia – true dat!
    naif – good luck. thought about waiting 18mo. to retest if i fail just b/c i can’t imagine passing L1 in december and then being ready for level 2 next june after only 6 mo. of prep. i think i’ll probably test everytime regardless though.
    bob – right on. we are all learning probably more than we realize. good luck.
    mick – sorry for the heart attack & funny story. good advice to work quickly. perhaps i’ve concentrated too much on just being able to work the probs – not also being able to work fast.
    craig – good luck! sounds as if unlike most of the rest of us, you actually have a shot at passing.

    thanks for all the comments everyone. don’t forget those extra calc. batteries!

    – Lumilog

  7. Well well then my fellow friends, we have reached the end of the road after 250 hours of studying (so it suppose to be, anyways). I am really scared, tomorrow I will be showing up at the Direct Energy Center, downtown Toronto with another 5,000 candidates, lots of people, (Toronto CFA society is the second biggest in the world, after NY), out of which probably the majority will be writing the CFA level 1 and of course, probably only about 40% of those individuals will pass the exam. It’s poised to be a life experience. Through it all I would like to thank Lumilog for telling us about his journey for the CFA level 1 exam. You have contributed a great amount of literature to the CFA experience which is both helpful for current candidates but mostly for prospective candidates.

    As for myself, I am ready to rock and roll: 2 calculators(BAII+ plus professional and regular), one replacement battery, eraser, mechanical pencils, 6 months of knowledge from accounting to corporate governance, and a burning desire to achieve a pass on the first try

  8. First exam took 1hr 45 mins. Quite easy.

    Second took 1hr 50 mins. Not very complicated but i thought the word questions were really ambiguous. If I fail, it’s because of the second paper.

    Not many calculations to do!

    How did everyone else find it?

  9. well, how was the exam ??

    I thought it wasn’t that hard,, I might get above 65%, would I pass with that percentage?

  10. Hey thanks for the add’l good lucks and well wishes!

    I was hoping to save all my comments for an upcoming post but will go ahead and mostly agree with Craig and Momo now. Morning seemed easier than expected. Afternoon considerably more difficult. No idea what to expect re: passing or failing.

    It’s Rioja time this evening and then off on vacation tomorrow, but I’ll try to record my exam day experiences soon before I forget them and would love you all to chime in too.

    We did it! Time to decompress!


  11. I found it to be the same the morning was pretty easy and left me feeling good during the break. The afternoon was alot more difficult and I don’t feel to positive about it. Like Craig, I think if I failed its because of the afternoon. Debating if I should put a contingency study plan in place for taking the exam again in December.

  12. time to party everybody.

    exam result won’t come out for a while, so enough reason to relax.

    have safe trips everyone.

  13. to: Momo

    For each section they provide percentage brackets (less than 50%; between 50% and 70% and more than 70%). But it does not indicate whether it is pass for that section or not.

    There is one word on top of the page that decides your fate: PASS or FAIL.

    I passed Level I last year on the first try. I did Level II on Saturday and I think I failed it. The difficulty was mind-blowing.

  14. The information Lumilog is referring to can be found in the article “Into our 5th decade” which thoroughly describes the marking process. Specifically, each year the CFA Institute Board of Governors sets the minimum passing score which could be:
    1. “70 percent of total points”, or
    2. “70 percent of the average of the top 1 percent”or
    3. “70 percent of the top 10 papers”

    The method chosen will be decided after carefully analyzing the data. Note that the last 2 options will effectively reduce the percentage of total maximum points require to pass.


  15. I took the exam in London, UK – 4500 in our room doing level 1 – quite weird seeing all those people. the massive shutters came down at 8.45am and they got to about shin hight when a candidate rolled underneath like Indiana Jones – rather amusing

  16. Re: plans during the hiatus

    I’ve been reading CFA candidate blogs and forums for months. Now that the test is behind us, most candidates seem to agree that a break is in order.

    That’s dangerous logic. Regardless of CFAI’s evaluation, what is there to lose by continuing your review and reinforcement of the curriculum? If you pass, your familiarity with foundations presented in LI cannot hurt your preparation for LII. If you fail, you’ve wasted 2 months of precious time!

    Letting your guard down now is a recipe for disaster. The Program is a beast, and as long as you’re a candidate, its only desire is to eat you…alive. Your only defense is to be ready for it at all times. Look at your candidacy like serious law students look at their educations: you’re in a 3-year program. If you don’t mess it up, you’ve got a golden ticket, but everyone else trying to outperform YOU. Do you think John Roberts took any significant breaks when he was at Harvard? No. That’s why he graduated when he was 24 and is a chief justice. So when you’re on vacation, remember that every hour you’re snoozing, somebody else is burning the midnight oil.

  17. Chris – I do agree with you that you should continue studying to retain the information, reinforce, and even learn more material but there is a point where the human mind needs a break. I am currently in Japan working in the education field (I am from North America born and raised) and these kids are soooooo tightly wound that no wonder they have one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world. There is no time to relax and just do what kids do best, have fun and fool around.

    Everyone in this world deserves vacation time from work/studying and this is what make people sane. Also, it is not about how many hours (quanitity) you put into studying it is the quality of studying that really matters.

    Just my two cents. Hope you passed your exam Chris.

  18. the month before everyone must have been putting in 20-30 hrs a week on top of work. in the final week, god knows how much. you just burn out. i was a wreck for a week after.

  19. Chris,

    A brain is just like any muscle. It needs time to recuperate from extensive usage.

    Imagine if you always drive a car to the maximum speed (assuming no laws about speed limit and you are safe). Do you think the car will last more than 3-5 years?

    I think it was Aristotle that said that the key to life is: BALANCE.

  20. Hello to all!

    I have just discovered this blog, and have read it entirely! I hope all you “lumilog followers” have succeeded in your respective examinations!

    -To all (and especially Mick): Thank you for all your advices directed to lumilog of course and to all the readers.
    Mick, if I may ask you an invitation for doostang also, my email address is lover_spizer @ hotmail. com (cheesy email address that I am not afraid to put on the web!)

    I have though 2 questions I couldn’t find the answer myself and needed your help please:

    -To those who have used schweser notes,
    what package or “a la carte” material do you recommend?

    -To level I candidate,
    may I ask you to give me appreciatively the number of question that you have had by subjects, here are the major ones so you can easily remember!:

    Ethical and Professional Standards
    Quantitative Methods
    Financial Statement Analysis
    Corporate Finance
    Analysis of Equity Investments
    Derivative Investments
    Alternate Investments
    Analysis of Fixed Income Instruments
    Portfolio Management

    Thanks to all!

    p.s Someone asked in a previous post if it is possible to register for the CFA in India, here’s what I have found during my registration
    “Due to ongoing legal proceedings concerning the CFA Program in India, CFA Institute is currently unable to offer the CFA examinations at test centers within India, but CFA candidates in India may select from other test centers around the world. Please visit for the latest updates.”

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