How to prepare for CFA level 3 Exams in 1 month

Distilled from thousands of seasoned candidates and CFA charterholders, these are our top 10 rules and exam pointers that any Level 3 candidate needs to bear in mind.


1. Level three is like Level 2, but with a Twist

 Level 2 is mainly calculation-based and too quantitative.

One month's study plan for CFA level 3, on the other hand, is very qualitative and more philosophical in nature-what will earn you points in the exam is understanding the spirit and philosophy behind the topics.

While Level 3 covers less material overall, most candidates' difficulty stems from Level 3 's unique "constructed answer" format, which makes up 50 percent of the exam. The built response is "non-multiple choice," where you have to write down your answers.

The spectrum of what can be asked is incredibly broad in Level 3, which is compounded by conceptual readings that can often feel very ambiguous and dry to go through.


2-Use More (Selectively) The CFA Curriculum

The curriculum materials of the CFA Institute are especially beneficial for Level 3 applicants precisely because of the conceptual nature of the test, as it gives you a taste of the type of questions and how to answer them.

While some candidates swear by it and use it for a 1-month strategy for level 3 CFA exams exclusively, other candidates may find the endless pieces of text unbearable instead of selecting materials from third parties. I've seen these Level 3 candidates move through both camps, so pick what fits best for you.

If you use third-party materials only, however, it is worth considering selectively using the CFA curriculum materials to supplement your studies, namely:

After reading (and more) is done, ask the End-of-Chapter and 'Blue Box' questions. This provides an initial gauge of your comprehension so far (useful knowledge when it comes to practice), as well as a chance to get used to the style of questions. It can trigger a panic scramble later to hold this too close to the test. After completing all your readings, you can also re-do these questions for another soft evaluation of your overall comprehension of the program.

To explain any unclear areas, particularly for constructed-response practice or areas you want to make summary notes, refer to the Curriculum materials.

To complement your perception that GIPS can be a hassle, refer to the Program for Ethics and GIPS.


3- Does not underestimate your fatigue

Usually, this round will be the toughest in terms of the emotional strength required to see this through correctly after two years (or more) of sacrifice and measuring your willpower. In your planning, this can lead to cutting corners that will impact your results.

Instead, take inspiration from the fact that this is the last time you're going to have to do this, ever, if you do this correctly. So, kick this last one out of the park right away.


4-Consider using our suggested Tier 3 Subject Order of Review

In recent years, the Level 3 program has undergone a significant overhaul in terms of improvements in content and subject weight that you should be aware of.

In particular, this year's focus was reduced on fund management in favor of equity and fixed income.


5-Understand the format of the built answer and its implications

The "essay" style of the morning (AM) paper will be challenging, but not challenging in a way you would expect it to be.

In reality,' essay question' is a misnomer - where written answers are needed, it's just not a multiple choice.


They fall into one of two broad classifications:

1. Calculation-based replies, displaying all the workings/methods in which case to make sure you get all the points you can;

2. Word-based responses, where clear answers to the questions are sought.


It's the second form that most applicants have difficulty getting used to. You have to make sure you understand precisely how to answer the AM paper's short answer questions:

Be succinct and get straight to the point: it's not an "essay" thing, remember. The examiner, not a Pulitzer novel, is searching for main concepts. For most of these, you will find that you either know the solution (in which case it takes just a few minutes to jot it down in bullet-point form) or you don't. And if you don't, it isn't going to help write about all these other concepts, you know.

To save time, write quickly, but demonstrate your working and thinking process: You can use basic phrases in bullet points and standard notes (e.g., formulas, arrows, equal signs, etc.), but make sure you write enough to get maximum points on the paper. To determine the correct answer, you must demonstrate that you really understand the definition and apply it directly to the question.

Know where to write down your answers: It sounds simple, but there is the potential to mess up where you are supposed to write down your response if you hurry or don't read the directions correctly. Some queries may be evident; others may require responses to be written in a reply template, generally on a separate tab. Answers written somewhere else are not going to be graded.


6- Don't forget PM Paper preparations, although

In the morning (AM) paper, the built-response format appears to be the more challenging section for most Level 3 candidates (including Sophie's experience).

While it is essential to prepare for the AM paper, please don't forget the paper preparations for the afternoon (PM) because you will need to do well here to improve your overall ranking. In the PM paper, most of the examinations' points are covered because everyone in the AM paper drops 20-30 percent on average.

To gain a pass, you'll need to balance your time between AM mocks and a reliable PM session efficiency.


7- Mock Till You Drop (Under Time Restriction)

Given your previous Level 2 experience, I won't dive into the details of preparing for the PM paper format (vignette-supported multiple-choice questions). Here, you know what to do. However, having done it before doesn't mean that you pay less attention to it, especially given its significance (see # 6).

How to practice the built answer chapter in the AM paper is a popular challenge for Level 3 candidates. Go through a handful of tips and advice:


Another CFA level 3 exam strategy is to Save at least six weeks for practice examinations and revision: it is best to go through the readings quickly once from our experience and start working out practice issues under timed restrictions. During this time, you can learn the most as you "plug the gap" in your knowledge.

Do actual timed practice papers with AM paper writing: Most of us have lost touch with writing quickly for an extended period in the era of computers, not to mention 3 hours. Time for those hand and finger muscles to workout.


8- Conservatively rate your AM practice papers (like a robot):  

It is essential to bear in mind that when you practice past AM papers, what you are studying is how to react to the exam, not what will be checked precisely. In general, if you didn't mention the idea that the guideline answers are looking for by name, don't label yourself as correct.

For each practice paper, make summary notes on areas that you have gotten wrong: this is a neat way to "plug the void" in your experience as you go along and use later for last-minute revisions.


9-  To optimize your ranking, learn to skip questions

We have been talking about the meaning of time management since Level 1. You'll need to use this technique further in Level 3.

  • You already know how to do this for the multiple-choice PM paper as it is the same as Level 2:
  • Give yourself a fixed time to pick an answer per question (say 1.5 minutes as you will need to allocate some time to read the vignette),
  • When the time is up, pick the best answer you can,
  • Circle the issue (so that later you can come back to it) and move on to the next.
  • The spirit of this approach is the same for the constructed-response AM paper:


10- Skip the question (or sub-question) when time is up:

 you need to learn to acknowledge when you are about to waste a lot of time, make peace with give up (for now), and move on to the next question. This may sound counterintuitive to optimizing ratings, but it allows you the ability to quickly skim questions from the Entire paper and answer those you trust, allowing you time to ponder about those you missed earlier to receive as much partial credit as you can. A reasonable rule of thumb is to search the question for 30 seconds and determine whether you know how to answer it. If you're not 100 % confident, move on and return to it later.


You need to reach the end of the exam with a reasonable time: since it is probable that each question has some more manageable parts to it that you can score on. If you didn't leave enough time to have a chance to write down your responses, the opportunity cost of losing these 'sure win' responses is high.




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