Sunday, 2 December 2012

After-exam after-thoughts

Happy to leave it behind, now an almost two-month long wait to get the result begins. Given the difficulty of the exam and level of my preparation I should be quite secure about the outcome, yet far from certainty… Many questions were tricky, means to mislead candidates, so in this case, seeing is believing, albeit I believe I did well.

For sake of brevity, just a few observations…

1. I’m getting older... Most candidates I saw yesterday looked like students. Maybe I can’t properly assess people’s age by their look, maybe many didn’t look their age, but it seems I’m lagging a few years behind the most ambitious youngsters. Some of my university friends took this exam, i.e. were on the same stage of development in June 2009, yet none has reached the end of the road and many are struggling to make further steps forward. I wanted to reach this milestone before my 25th birthday and did it.

2. It’s a men’s world... I dare to estimate roughly 80% of candidates were males. I could go on about possible explanations for this, but I will only take the liberty of mentioning there are no barriers to entry to the programme and signing up is absolutely voluntary, so I believe this is women’s choice or lack of interest in the programme that keep their share in candidate structure so low.

3. I can’t stay in one place when I feel restless. Other people can stand or sit, while I need to move around. Being in motion somehow calms me down. It’s been like this for years, even when waiting on a bus stop I have to be in motion... I’m not cut out to be idle!

4. I can’t understand people reading notes until the last moment before any exam and delving into the content thereafter. I’d been studying for eight months and finished my preparations on Thursday. On Friday I put my mind at rest and didn’t think about the oncoming exam at all. I felt a bit stressed out in the evening, upon returning home and managed to ease up the next day, after I saw first questions on the exam sheet.

5. The exam doesn’t only test your knowledge. It would be too easy. It puts to the test your logistical skills and endurance.
The former as you need to strictly obey several rules, violation of any would result in termination of your candidacy to the programme. You need to check you have all permitted items and not have anything not permitted, which made me go to the test centre without keys and mobile phone. Getting to Centrum Expo XXI is a bit of a nuisance, getting out of there as well, especially if you’re not from Warsaw. Even if you live in the capital of Poland, still it is a bit of a challenge, as it is a few hundred metres away from the nearest bus stop. Therefore I’m immensely grateful to my father for insisting on dropping me off there and picking me up.
The latter as the exam consists of two sessions. The first, which last three hours and wears you out solid, is followed by an hour-long break. The break in fact lasts shorter, some 40 minutes, as you are not allowed to leave the exam room before all papers are collected. Within 40 minutes you need to queue up to a cloakroom with 300 other candidates, get your rucksack containing a packed lunch, immediately queue up to a cloakroom to give back your rucksack and in the meantime devour whatever you can (one sandwich and one apple were my only nutrition during the day), then go to the toilet and then check in for the second, three-hour long session, which ends at 5 p.m. At that time I was hungry, thirsty, felt cold (heating was off, excellent!) and virtually prostrating. At the end you’re in for to a 40-minutes-long wait to get you coat from the cloakroom…

I’m complaining a bit, indeed, but if you fork out thousands of zlotys for something, is it too much to expect good organisation and heating turned on? Nevertheless, I recognise endurance should be tested, as working environment for people working in financial industry require this and only the fittest can survive there. And after all, sacrifices must be made in a pursuit of a better life…

Needless to say, this is all an excellent example of rent-seeking. Now I financially support rent-seekers hoping to become one of them one day…


Anonymous said...

hey bartek:
It sounds like you prepared well and can expect to pass. Pass rates in Level I are low, mostly because many Year I candidates assume they can pass based on Uni studies or some other combination of "acquired smarts". The body of knowledge is too broad to take that approach. One needs to put in the time, plant your butt in your chair and expend countless hours reading and taking notes (put your life on hold).
I'm sure you feel very relieved it's over and you have your life back (temporarily). I'm betting you passed.
Level II is much worse btw. It's the hardest exam of the three.
Here in Canada, the male/female candidate ratio is much more balanced.
Anyway, sorry to be responding to you rather late in the game. If you want to discuss the CFA exams or other investment related matters don't be shy about reaching out.
Basia, CFA
(Michal's friend)

student SGH said...

Hi Basia,
I recall it's not your first comment here.
From what I heard queuing to the cloakroom I can suspect what most candidates stand for and no wonder so many people fail. You might be very clever, but without sitting for the exam for hundreds of hours, you are unlikely to succeed.

Indeed, there is a relief, I have much more time for properly living my life, unfortunately my employer quickly discerned one burden has fallen off my back and encumbered me with more duties...

I heard level II is the toughest in terms of scope of curriculum and its "vagueness". Before taking level I I considered finishing at level I, right now I'm determined to follow-up, so after a few months of rest in late summer 2013 I'm going to begin preparations for level II to be taken in June 2014.

In 2012 55 Poles earned the charter. I personally have pleasure to know two of them personally. One is my former manager, the other my friend's husband. Thanks for the offer anyway!

Merry Christmas to you and your nearest and dearest.

Bartek, level I candidate :)

Anonymous said...

55 new charterholders in PL? That's an awesome accomplishment! Having to assimilate all that material in a second language is truly remarkable. I don't think I would be up to the challenge of tackling these type of exams in a second language.

Mind you, the format has evolved to multiple choice (used to be more essay questions), likely for ease of marking. My comprehension in a second language is high, but I write like a grade schooler in Polish. ^)
Skipping a year (2013) sounds like a good idea...particularly for Level's a bear. Level III is a breeze in comparison.
Busy at work? Work is just doesn't consume every evening or weekend like studying for the CFA exams.
Swieta sie zblizaja...bedzie czas odpoczac.
Wszystkiego najlepszego!

DC said...

Why no keys?

student SGH said...

I don't really mind studying in English and sometimes even prefer it (some translations into Polish are turgid). I got used to working in English-language environment (which involves more reading and writing than speaking and listening) and take such things in my stride. Difficulty lies somewhere else, not in the language.
Level III is most 'vague' and has most difficult form...
Work is just work, it consumes two or three evening on weekdays and not to lag behind I took some work home for this weekend. Homework done...
Studying then consumed every morning on weekdays (I kept books and notes in the drawer at work - turned up at 7:30, learnt for an hour and then set on with my daily chores), as in the evening I often was too tired to study effectively, and weekends too (no partying since early September is a big sacrifice).

Don't ask me please. Ask a relevant body...