Level 1 CFA® Exam Ethics, Standards VII (A) & VII (B)
Standard VII is the last of the CFA Institute Standards and it covers your responsibilities as a CFA Institute Member or CFA Candidate. Standard VII (A) is Conduct as Members and Candidates in the CFA Program and Standard VII (B) is Reference to CFA Institute, the CFA Designation, and the CFA Program.
As you know by now, the CFA Institute Code and Standards set the principles of proper and ethical behavior to be followed by financial professionals, and particularly by CFA members and candidates, in their workplaces and profession-related situations.
However, note that the whole idea of proper and ethical behavior will accompany you right from the very beginning, i.e., when you decide to enroll in the CFA exam. It so happens that the principles of proper and ethical behavior regulate not only working in the profession but also participation in the CFA Program.
Standard VII covers all the issues that CFA candidates have to become familiar with as soon as they enter the CFA Program. These issues include:
- rules governing the exam,
- ways of using the CFA designation when you succeed to get one, and
- reference to CFA Institute and CFA designation.
Rules Governing the CFA Exam
You take responsibility for all your conduct related to the CFA exam as soon as you pay for the exam and your name enters the list of level 1 CFA candidates.
Be aware that some information about the exam is confidential, which means you will not be allowed to talk about certain things. Also, there are some actions you simply mustn’t do.
CFA Exam Candidate Pledge
As a CFA candidate, before you take your CFA exam, you have to sign the so-called Candidate Pledge.
Your Candidate Pledge will state that you have not gained any specific knowledge about the exam (e.g., you did not get access to any specific exam questions or become familiar with any) and that you will not spread any specific information after you complete the exam (e.g., you will not tell anybody any of the questions you had in your exam).
You also pledge not to cheat, which means that you must not communicate with anyone during the exam (apart from the proctor if needed). So, no contacting with any of your peer test-takers or anyone outside the testing room while taking the exam! Moreover, you mustn’t look up things on the Internet or do anything else that can be defined as cheating in the exam.
You are also banned from taking anything out from the testing room, including your answers.
Here’re the 3 key things you will agree to by signing your Candidate Pledge:
- Prior to this exam, I have not given or received information regarding the content of this exam. During this exam, I will not give or receive any information regarding the content of this exam.
- After this exam, I will not disclose ANY portion of this exam and I will not remove ANY exam materials from the testing room in original or copied form. I understand that all exam materials, including my answers, are the property of CFA Institute and will not be returned to me in any form.
- I will follow ALL rules of the CFA Program as stated on the CFA Institute website and the back cover of the exam book. My violation of any rules of the CFA Program will result in CFA Institute voiding my exam results and may lead to suspension or termination of my candidacy in the CFA Program.
If you happen to violate the Pledge you sign or any of the provisions of Standard VII, remember that the Pledge says you are aware of the possibility of being suspended or excluded from the CFA Program. Of course, in the case of any violation on your part, your exam results will be assumed invalid.
Violations & Sanctions
There is a whole list of different sanctions and disciplinary actions related to possible violations in the exam as well as in profession-related situations (there are even recommended courses of action for violating some specific Standards of the CFA Institute Code & Standards).
TYPES of SANCTIONS:
- private reprimand,
- timed suspension,
- revocation of Membership,
- suspension/prohibition from participation in the CFA Program,
- suspension of the right to use the CFA Designation.
As far as the exam goes, the rules regarding the exam itself are rigorous and they cover the whole exam administration process. Many policies govern the exam and the most important ones should be given at the back of your Candidate Pledge signed on the exam day (we also write about them in our blog!). Needless to say, you mustn’t break any of the rules...
After the CFA Exam
As you surely understand by now, you should also be careful AFTER you take your exam. That’s the time when you may want to talk about whether the exam was difficult and which questions proved the hardest both to you and to others. You may find yourself in trouble if you do this improperly.
In order not to violate Standard VII, you must not talk too specifically about what was tested in the exam. So, if you start to discuss one of the exam questions in detail (e.g., via a dedicated webpage), you will violate Standard VII and a strict sanction will be there to punish you (cf. above).
Also, you must not say that you think the exam was easy because, for instance, there were no questions on the GIPS standards. Both the contents of specific questions and the whole exam as such are considered confidential and these are things you mustn’t talk about without giving it a previous thought!
Of course, you are not banned from expressing your opinion on the exam, or even CFA Institute itself, but you should do it judiciously.
Surely, you understand by now that to pass the exam you must not only master your knowledge of finance but also become familiar with all the requirements and rules that govern the whole examination process. Since the exam is challenging and rather costly, you’d better take care of formal requirements early enough.
Standard VII also comprises ethical guidelines for CFA members, not only candidates. Just to give you an example, it states with respect to those CFA members that have access to completed exams while grading that under no circumstances can they share their knowledge concerning exam questions or the way the exams are graded.
Please be reminded that the term CFA Institute Member refers to regular and affiliate members of CFA Institute who have met the membership requirements as defined in the CFA Institute Bylaws. Once accepted as a CFA Institute member, the member must remit annually to CFA Institute a completed Professional Conduct Statement and pay applicable CFA Institute membership dues on an annual basis.
As soon as your dream comes true and you obtain your CFA designation remember that using the CFA designation is strictly regulated.
You are allowed to use the CFA designation after you obtain the charter, i.e., after you pass all three levels of the CFA exam and when you meet all the requirements (such as years of work experience).
Then, the CFA Institute Board of Governors agrees that the title may be awarded to you. The three capital letters by your name show your competence in finance – that’s for sure – but you must remember to use them properly. For instance, do not use the designation in a way that would imply your superiority, say, with respect to your colleagues that do not have this kind of a title.
CFA® as a Registered Mark
It is also important how you use the three letters in the written language.
Stating Your CFA Exam Status
Now, let’s make an important point here.
When you pass your CFA exam, do not get tempted to state in your résumé something like "CFA, Level 1, 2021". See below why.
Suppose you pass your level 1 CFA exam with flying colors. Can you state the achievement in your résumé in the following form: "CFA, Level 1, 2021"?
Remember that there are no titles for CFA exam levels!
A few more suggestions about how to use our three letters in a formal and proper manner.
Make sure that you always capitalize the letters (
cfa) and do not use any dots in between ( C.F.A.). The name of designation shouldn’t be given any prominence also in writing, which means that it should not stand out from the text as more important. The rule is not to exaggerate or misrepresent the meaning of the designation and keep to the rules that govern its usage in writing.
CFA – how to use the 3 letters in writing:
- always capitalize all the 3 letters,
- don’t use any dots in between,
- don’t use bolding or any other way to make it stand out in the text.
Using the Designation in the Firm
Since the three capital letters carry lots of importance and prestige in the financial world, this importance and prestige mustn't be used too freely and without due care. Otherwise, all the merits related to the designation and the exam will gradually lose importance and prestige. For this very reason, CFA Institute takes care of the proper usage of the CFA designation and it is an obligation of every CFA member and candidate to understand the weight of the issue and to give it due prominence.
After all, not all candidates registering for level 1 of the exam have the same skills, experience, and knowledge; what is more and what is of great significance – not all of them show the same degree of morality and integrity. The CFA charter, on the other hand, is to be associated with the best moral standards and thorough professional knowledge. Thus, the designation may be used only by those who possess vast knowledge of finance and have impeccable manners as far as professional ethics are concerned.
Hopefully, soon enough it will be you! We keep our fingers crossed.
- After you enter the CFA Program, remember to pay attention to how you refer to your participation in it, to the CFA designation and CFA Institute itself.
- You mustn’t give or receive information regarding the content of your CFA exam.
- You mustn’t cheat in your exam.
- You are not allowed to state things that are not facts or to express opinions that compromise the good reputation of the CFA Program, CFA Institute, and anything that relates to it.
- You should be careful about how you present information about your candidacy in the CFA Program or refer to the CFA designation.
- There is a whole list of different sanctions and disciplinary actions related to possible violations both in the exam and in profession-related situations.