Sat for Part 1 of the FP&A exam today. Here is my general take. Exam was fair and despite some of the criticism I read online, I think by and large the exam did a good job of capturing the key concepts taught in the curriculum and those who pass will have earned the FP&A designation. I assume Part 2 will be similar in quality. Some quick thoughts:
Multiple choice section
- I was able to finish first pass in about an hour and change, giving me enough time to do a full second pass with time to spare to focus on the real tricky ones I was in between answers on. Time was not a huge factor for me and it usually isn’t on multiple choice exams.
- Questions were fair and you could usually narrow down the choices to 2. Picking the right one was the tough part.
- The quality of questions on the exam were much better than in the learning system. Not as ambiguous, didn’t need to read 3-4 times to make sure I was understanding the question.
- I appreciated the questions were not simple regurgitations of questions from the curriculum. You had to actually synthesize the material to be able to answer some of the questions. This is a good thing, it separates the men/women from the boys/girls. CFA exams do same thing.
- More calculations than what the curriculumn emphasized but I went into it expecting to have to do some math.
- There was definitely material on the exam not covered in the curriculum. My guess is that these are the questions that won’t be scored but were inserted as trial questions for potential future inclusion.
- I feel pretty confident I did well on this section. I’m sure I got some wrong and/or made some careless mistakes I would kick myself on. I feel somewhere in between how I felt coming out of CFA Level 3 exam(relatively confident) and Level 1 exam(I knew I destroyed that exam).
Worksheet Simulation section
- Time was more of a factor for me on this section but I was able to do two full passes. I did feel rushed however and I usually don’t. I’m sure they’ll calibrate the timing based on results but I think another 10-15 minutes is probably reasonable.
- Worksheet was terrible and not because of some of the limitations mentioned elsewhere. The simple fact I can’t use the arrow keys to move cells when entering formulas is a huge time waster. No dragging of corners to pull formulas down either another time waster. I think they either add more time or increase functionality of worksheet.
- The font size was too big and should be adjustable. Had to waste precious seconds scrolling up and down to read the question again and go back to worksheet area.
- Problems were generally fair and also required synthesis of material, not just memorization/plug and chugging of formulas. Some stretch questions which I appreciated but nothing just totally unreasonable. I would say that some of these questions coud have been multiple choice question since I didn’t think these were really testing your spreadsheet skills. Maybe that wasn’t the point of the question.
- I wasn’t clear if you get partial credit if you show your work so in some cases I didn’t even use the worksheet and did it in my head. Hope that’s not an issue.
- I think I did OK on this section. Some questions I think I had the approach right but may have messed up a calc or two.
- The material that was tested but not covered in curriculum was in the learning outcome statements(LOS) but it’s still a bit unfair to expect folks to know that stuff without touching upon at least the basics. I just happened to see one concept in the LOS and youtubed it this morning just in case they decided to test on it which they did. I was also lucky in that some of the stretch stuff I recalled from my CFA days. Others were probably not so lucky.
- The post exam functionality in the learning system allowed you to cross out answers you eliminated. This is something that should be included in the test taking software. Helps with review and narrowing down choices.
- While I expected some of the differences in the exam from the learning system due to my experience going through CFA program, I’m sure many were blindsided by it. I think learning system could do a better job of preparing you for the types of questions to expect and I would recommend actually using real exam questions in future versions.
Overall I thought exam experience was positive and enjoyable. I felt challenged and I definitely feel those who pass will represent the industry niche well. I am curious now when I compare my experience to others. I can see why some were caught off guard but I didn’t think the exam was completely unfair. I am looking forward to Part 2 which I’m taking in next 15 days. Now I have a better understanding of what to expect and can prepare accordingly.