OK, I’ll admit it up front: not all of these are frequently asked questions.
Most people ask no questions at all.
A few of these questions are real questions asked by real candidates; I’ll let you try to determine which they are.
Here’s what many of these really are: questions I hope that people would ask before plunking down their hard-earned to get access to my articles, exams, Survivor’s Guide, and so on.
Q. I paid for my product/subscription, but I still can’t access the articles/exams/whatever; it keeps telling me that I have to buy another subscription. What’s going on?
A. There are a few possibilities. One is something odd in WordPress that I’m trying to get fixed. If you follow these steps it should work fine:
- Log in through LOG IN at the top of the page, or through the Meta box in the lower right corner of the page; do not log in through REGISTRATION; it’ll foul things up for some reason.
- Be sure that you’re logging in using your username, not your e-mail address. I’m not sure why it lets you log in with your e-mail address, but that fouls things up, too.
- When you log in, be sure to tick the Remember Me box. This seems to be really, really important.
- When you land on the Profile page, click on Financial Exam Help 123 in the upper left corner.
A second possibility is that you have more than one username. (Seriously: this has happened more than once. I’ve had candidates who have registered two or three times, purchased things under each username, then cannot figure out why they don’t see all of their purchases.)
The last possibility is that although PayPal recorded your purchase, it didn’t communicate it to my website. I think that it’s something wonky in the e-commerce plugin that I’m using (not by choice, but that’s a story for another day), which we’re working to replace.
If you tried the login fix, above, and you’re certain that you haven’t more than one username, and you’re still having a problem accessing something, please e-mail me immediately. I’ll get on it right away and get it straightened out. Most of the time I’ll have it fixed within the hour. Be sure to include your username in your e-mail; that will be a huge help to me. The main reasons it may take a little longer are that when you e-mail me I’m either in a tutoring session or an exam marking session, in which case I’ll be on it as soon as that’s finished, or else I’m asleep because you’ve e-mailed me in the wee hours here in California, in which case I’ll be on it as soon as I wake up, run through my e-mails, and feed the squalling cats (and the dog, who’s nice enough not to squall). Please don’t lodge a complaint with PayPal as that will simply result in it taking more time, as I will have to deal with them. I really do take customer service seriously, and I will address any problems you have as soon as I possibly can (bearing the cats in mind, of course).
Q. Do your Level III mock exams conform to the latest CFA Institute formats?
A. They do, indeed.
Up until 2022, the morning (or first) session of the Level III CFA exams comprised all constructed response (essay) questions (with varying numbers of minutes per question), and the afternoon (or second) session comprised all multiple choice questions.
Starting in 2023, CFA Institute changed this, dramatically: each session would include both constructed response (essay) and multiple choice questions, and all of the questions would be standardized at 12 points apiece: 5 constructed response and 6 multiple choice questions in one session, 5 multiple choice and 6 constructed response questions in the other session.
Therefore, for 2023 I rewrote all of my exams to conform to the new CFA Institute format. (And it was a pain in the neck.)
Q. Do you cover the entire curriculum at each Level?
A. Not even close. I cover areas where I have found candidates often have difficulties, areas where I have seen other providers fall woefully short in providing clear explanations, areas where I believe that I can provide unique, useful insight, and areas that candidates such as yourself have specifically asked for an article. I also cover areas I enjoy: I have to get something out of this, after all.
Q. Are you an approved prep provider for CFA Institute?
A. As of 14 March 2023, you bet I am! Historically, to be an approved prep provider, you had to cover the entire CFA curriculum, at least at one Level, which, as I mentioned above, I have chosen not to do. There are many areas where other prep providers (or the CFA curriculum) provide good coverage; I want to focus on the areas where candidates need the most help, rather than spend my time on well tilled ground.
However, it seems that my Level III materials – articles, mock exams, Survivor’s Guide, and so on – have finally qualified me. I’m jazzed beyond words!
Q. What do I do if I don’t understand something in the curriculum, but you don’t have an article on it?
A. Send me an e-mail and ask me to write an article. Many of my best articles have come directly from candidates’ requests. I tend to handle requests first, because I know that I’m adding value that way.
Q. What’s the best way to use your site in conjunction with the CFA Institute materials or third-party materials?
A. Read those materials first. If there’s something you just don’t understand, come here to see if I have an article on that topic. If so: great! If not, shoot me an e-mail requesting an article.
Q. What do I do if I find an error in one of your articles, or in one of your mock exams?
A. Send me an e-mail describing the error and the article/exam in which it appears. I’ll check it as quickly as I can and make appropriate edits.
Sadly, I’ve found that a lot of prep providers believe that they’re infallible, and will never acknowledge that they’ve made a mistake. I try extremely hard not to be one of those prep providers. If I make a mistake (and I do, occasionally), I want to hear about it, and I want to correct it, pronto.
Q. What if I subscribe and later find that you don’t cover as many topics as I’d hoped? Can I get my money back?
A. Alas, no. First, there should be no question about the topics I cover: the list of all current and all proposed articles is available for anyone to browse, so there is no valid argument that you didn’t know what you were getting for your investment. Second, if I allow refunds, there’s nothing to stop unscrupulous candidates from subscribing, copying all of the articles, and then demanding a refund. I have to protect my intellectual property.
Q. Are you really as good as people say?
A. Probably not; people tend to exaggerate, especially when their stress has been relieved. But I’m still pretty good.
Q. Are you really a magician?
Q. Where do you get all of the weird names for people in your mock exams?
A. It’s a long story, but it’s your fault for asking.
In the Summer of 2018, I started writing Level III mock exams. I decided that I would need a lot of names for the cast of characters in my vignettes, and, because this is a global exam, I wanted names from around the world. As luck would have it, in the Summer of 2018, the FIFA World Cup was in full swing, so I decided to use the names from all of the football squads in the World Cup. I found the rosters on Wikipedia and downloaded them into Excel.
I didn’t want to have any player’s actual name, so I randomly shuffled first and last names. Then, it occurred to me that I had only men’s names, and that I should have, say, 30% – 35% women’s names. I had to do some research – off the top of my head I couldn’t come up with Croatian girl’s names – and I added those into the mix.
Since then, I have downloaded the rosters for all of the FIFA teams: 6,193 names. Along the way I learned a lot of interesting things about names. For example, as you may know, CFA Institute tends to give a person’s full name initially, then refer to them only by their surname thereafter. I learned that in Malaysia, Myanmar, and Iceland, one never refers to someone by their surname; they are called by their first (christian) name. I incorporated that into my Excel file.
I also already knew that surnames in Iceland depend on the sex of the individual. A son of someone named Gunder will have the surname Gunderson, while the daughter of Gunder will have the surname of Gundersdottir.
As of 18 April 2023, I have used 793 of those names, so I have material for exams for years (decades) to come.
Note, too, that the first unused name on my list also determines the location of the entity (e.g., portfolio management company) in the vignette, as well as the currency (and language) used.