Pray that you never have to find out the hard way - PCP (no, not angel dust...) is short for Professional Conduct Program, and the term when used by candidates tends to refer to a disciplinary process that candidates can be singled out for if they've displayed suspicious behavior before or after the exam.
Avoiding a disciplinary process isn't difficult. But what most candidates tend to underestimate is:
- How easy it is to get noticed, written up and sanctioned
- How heavy the penalty can be
I've listed the main no-nos here - you'll be familiar with some of them, but some might seem excessive:
- Bringing objects apart from the allowed list into the exam room - even if your proctor says it's okay. Your proctors are involved in the CFA exam process in the sense that they've attended a day of training on how to act during the day. They are most likely not CFA candidates or charterholders, and may not have the faintest idea on what the exam is about. Do a proper read-up on what you're allowed and not allowed to bring into the exam hall, and do not take a proctor's word for it if he/she says you can bring a particular item into the exam hall. If you think you're not supposed to bring it in, don't. Here's a list of items you can and should bring on exam day.
- Writing past time called, or opening exam booklet prior to instruction. I've not heard of these cases personally, but the CFA Institute statistics show that about 1 in 1,000 candidates do this.
- Writing on anything apart from your exam book and answer sheet. I hear about this pretty often - bored or frustrated candidates writing on the exam ticket or desk, sometimes with rude messages to boot.
- The same basic rules of no talking or looking around apply. What you need to watch out for, however is that these can be very strictly enforced depending on your test centre. To be safe, never talk to the person next to you. If they do speak to you, e.g. when the papers are being handed out, or when the papers are being collected etc, just smile politely and look straight ahead.
- Fidgeting. Yes, fidgeting. In anyway that can be interpreted as a way of signaling. Best keep your nervous jitters to yourself during the exam - see the case study below for a case in point.
- Talking about the exam afterwards. This is a popular one - talking about the exam during the break and immediately after the exams are all no-nos. Also note that you can violate this rule by posting on online forums or email. I've seen PCP cases served for just responding to a suspicious thread - so if I were you, I would refrain from being active on online forums discussing CFA until I get my results.
- Cheating. Doh. You will be caught, and it's not worth it.
Case study - Fidgeting
Dealbreaker recently ran an article where a candidate was flagged for a PCP case for excessive fidgeting. The original scanned letter is as below. I thought it would be interesting to preserve a record of this here for future candidates' reference.
The PCP notification letter:
4. Where were you in relation to the candidate when observing the candidate’s conduct:
A: I stood both behind him a few feet and in front of him a few feet.
5. Was the candidate exhibiting any other behaviors? (Fidgeting? Looking around the room?)
A: He was very fidgety.
6. Provide any additional details regarding your observations. Include all communications with candidates and all actions taken by testing personell. Use extra sheet if necessary.
A: From what I observed over a period of about an hour and a half he was doing repetitive motions with his hat. It could have been just a nervous tic but it was almost constant and was very repetitive.
Pretty shaky stuff, but as the CFA Institute is prosecutor and judge, candidates don't really have a say in this. The best thing to do is not give CFA Institute or their proctors any reason to write you up. Prevent, cause you sure as hell can't do much to cure.