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Debate: Is 10+ AM mocks that important?


hope everyone is doing well.

I was wondering, is it really that important to do 10+ AM mocks before the exam?

I know people are different, but I really don’t see it. The CFA Institute gave us 3 practices AM, we already know that the exam will test something new every year (exception on some topics who are almost the same every year, but you can figure it out fast), so why just people don’t test their time (because it is SO important) and just what kind of questions the CFAI ask.

As I said, I know people are different. But why put 21 hours on 7 others mocks exam and not on a good revision, where you can probably catch those 3, 4 or 5 points so important to us all?

I just to hear what you have to say about it

Have a great day!

Pardon my French

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You’re correct in your assessment.  Do not listen to any people saying you must do X amount of AM exams minimum - it’s rubbish.  I do think it’s imperative to do about 3 and replicate exam settings (ie. strict time, quiet setting, planned start time, etc.).  You need to get a feel for the question style on the exams and more importantly you need to get down a strategy to make sure you can answer every question and get through it efficiently.

But like you said, the material tested on every exam is different.  Your time is better served learning the concepts inside and out, imo, rather than test taking.  You’re not learning when you’re writing a test.  Nor can your results on a test tell you too much about how prepared you are, given as mentioned, there is little overlap test to test.

That being said, if you aren’t working, and time is not absolutely vital to the candidate (has all the time in the world), sure go ahead and do 10 exams..

If this is your first time taking level III, I would absolutely take up to 10 mocks, of which I would want 5-6 to be from the CFAI. The essay section is new to everyone, and you need to know how to properly answer the question (e.g. how many calculations to provide, how much support to give).

If this is your second time, perhaps it’s not as important to take 10 because you know what type of exam you’re dealing with, so it may be better to refine your writing style and improve your knowledge than to take arbitrary examinations.

This year was my second time taking the examination, and last year I focused less on the essay exam, and more on knowledge retention, and I believe it led to deduction of points as I more than likely left out crucial information, or provided too much information (for which they may penalize you if any part is incorrect).

I think the key is doing 7 mocks that are relevant like 3 Schweser and mocks till 2013. Beyond that is silly because the style has changed so much. But practicing to write is the key, not practicing to learn. Each time i did a mock was to get a good rhythm going and get my timing down. wasn’t to figure out how to solve for some weird thing.

you should know this by now

Schwesers AM mocks are horrid. Their PM are great and will prepare you but they still insist on pounding Am mocks from the early 2000’s and CFAI does not test like that anymore.

Schweser AM Practice exams is not even closer to CFA mocks and real exam. I am talking about the structure. CFAI mocks are very relevant. I don’t see the sense to spent precious time on things that are not relevant at all.

Mostly irrelevant till results come out.

But, did 2 passes of TT before getting serious into AM exams. Felt I didn’t improve at all in my first six, except for the required return and a few other IPS things. Around 7-9 is where I started getting better and the patterns paid off more. Ended at 9, plus bits of another 5.

Did 6 old CFAI AM exams and it made a huge difference. I expect to have scored 70-80 on the actual AM and couldn’t have come close without studying old guideline answers. Unlike most people, I didn’t find time to be an issue at all. 

I believe 3-5 mocks is very important. Gives you a fair idea of time management, how much to write etc.

Schweser AMs are renumbered/name changed old CFAI mocks, which are very different from recent CFAI mocks. Schweser AMs are not that useful i feel.

Some of my friends practiced just 1 AM. They left 25-30% on the actual AM

6 AM mocks is enough. I could have done more, but I don’t see why it would have been productive. 

The main point here : what works for someone may not work for someone else…6, 10, 12 these are good numbers, but the will it work for you?  

There is a general rule of thumb, the more CFAI actual AM papers you do the better you are in the morning (provided you got the essence out of it), time constraint is an additional benefit that comes in handy, not to mention the fact that when one sits for the real exam things are really different…

Schweser in my opinion, is not that bad but agree that the AM sessions are not close enough to actuals… Schweser PM ones on contrarily are good enough substitutes.

As fo rme, to understand the writing in bullet points, to actually provide the pin pointed answer is the key to win this game and trust me it takes practice and practice…

Lastly, the discipline, CFAI does it all the time, putting the “hard” question first so many candidates would waste their precious time…. move ahead, if you can’t tackle…as you are risking losing points that you can actually collect…that option (moving ahead) may still screw you since you may lose confidence that might impair your ability to answer the subsequent questions, but if you think about it - is it really worth losing little or everything and that is where the nerve and discipline are extremely important !

out of choices below, one should target either b) and c) or the middle ground bw the two.

Practice shows b) rarely happens, do the math..

a) you may know everything and still not pass  - bummer

b) you may know everything and pass - superb

c) you may not know everything and pass - average

d) you may not know everything and not pass - expected

I found it helpful to do many old CFA exams as possible, and work on my weaknesses.

Mine is running out of time, I also do better on analytical, writing type questions, than complex calculations. So that was my focus when going through the old exams.

Ten may seem like a lot, but when you look at all the different type of questions they could ask, it seems about right. 

It also depends on how quickly you get concepts, by Level 3 the people left in the program are really bright and don’t need to study as much as a Level 1 candidate.

knowing how to solve EVERY EOC/BB is more important IMO..

no point taking a mock/ or the real exam and looking at a question you have never seen before.. 

sure getting the timing down is important.. but the last 5 years of AM papers and the Schweser mocks are only a subset of possible questions.. IMO the 2017 exam punished people that ONLY studied the mocks trying to “game it”

Blue box and EOCQ are key!

Learning from the source > 3rd party prep providers

My #1 fear and priority in L3 was to avoid time running out and leaving points on the table. And honestly, after being in that live exam setting, it’s for sure a real threat for even well prepared candidates. It’s not just about know the material. It’s about being confident filling a page with two 5-word bullets, or a payoff diagram.

I did 8 fully timed actual AM exams, plus parts of a few others, plus an IFT AM exam. I felt something like that prep was needed to be able to execute with confidence on game day. Any time I felt like I needed to expound on the crux of a matter with random details from curriculum adjacencies, I had confidence to keep moving, and believe that comes somewhere north of 5-6. Everything is about “keep moving.” If you’re not seeing the crux immediately, you need to make some decisions about how long to look for it. 

Also, I did not see much pattern in non-IPS AM questions after 6 exams, but did after 8 and then some of that played out for sure in the exam. They’ve got a deep reserve to draw from, which is really the point of why AM is hard, what but they also have their favourite topics. 

Not sure i needed 8 for it, but I honed a time-tracking process over the first 3-4 that I stuck with all the way through. Again, that was critical. After skipping a few short parts in maybe Q3, I was consistently on pace with a “ghost writer” who also skipped those till the end. That consistency helped a tonne. I’ve read about people who spend 30 min on a 12 min Q – I can’t imagine it. Not sure you need 8-10 AM exams for that, but pretty confident that if I’d stopped at 4 I wouldn’t have been so tight against the ghost writer.

All that said – this could be total bull**** if I fail. Re-visit in Aug. 

Of course practicing AM is important for level 3 morning session as well as revision. Solving this you do not improve only overall knowledge level than develop a skill and intuition as well as sense for time frame.

Divided We Stand...

It’s important to do enough to “act like you’ve been there” on game day. On my first mock (Schweser Live), I left 30 points on the table and scored 45 per cent. Good to get that lesson out of the way before 

The other issue is that answering questions in the last hour if you feel behind can lead to stress errors / mental black-outs. The last questions can be tap-ins but you need the mental space to be able to tap them in.

*Disclaimer* I may be writing in 2018.

I only did the blue boxes, EOC practice exams and the current CFAI mock exam. 

Ten or more mock exams seems excessive.

If you cannot get the feel for the Level III exam with 2 – 3 mock exams, something’s amiss.

Note, furthermore, that most third-party mock exams are pretty awful: most prep providers haven’t developed the skill to write concise, straightforward, difficult questions in the same manner that CFA Institute does.

Simplify the complicated side; don't complify the simplicated side.

Financial Exam Help 123: The place to get help for the CFA® exams

I am pretty sure it really depends on each person.

For L1 and L2 I was able to pass without doing any mocks at all. Just read Schweser twice, and that was enough.

For L3, again wasn’t able to do any mocks (i’m in IB so I really don’t get much study time) - just went in knowing that I had to focus on time management. Felt fairly good post-exam.

Of course, best case scenario would be to finish reading couple weeks before the exam and practice. But, what I mean is, its possible to pass even without any mock exams. Let alone 10. 

it’s easier to pick points up on IPS than on PM. And the curriculum BB/EOC doesn’t prepare you well for IPC.. so you need mocks.

30 hours more study of GIPS will bag you 3-6 points. 30hours drilling IPS AM mocks will bag you 30points.

ask me in august..

I am a big advocate of watching output (scores), rather than input (number of hours or mocks).  I did 7 am mocks. Would have done another couple if I had more time or really thought I was having trouble.  My scores rose consistently, and all would have been passing.  I can’t fathom retaking the same exams.  I understand people who redo only questions they missed.

Some of my problems on early mocks just wouldn’t have turned up in regular studying.  Answering only part of a question.   Realizing I was using the wrong version of a formula.  Switching back and forth on beginning and end of period annuity payments.

i watched total scores and scores by topic closely.  I went back to Schweser and or CFAI text on a few answers for each exam.  I had also tracked closely my end of chapter questions as I studied.  Assuming I pass, I’ll detail the process for our local CFA society’s study program.  I find a solid idea of how well you are doing in general and seeing where your weak points are makes for very good use of time.

I was well prepped for handling even the first mock.  If you have the Schweser materials, watch the video how to do the AM exams.  If you are doing CFA prior year AM exams and want more background on a question you missed, they also have good videos on each of the recent ones.  Don’t watch every solution video unless you have immense amounts of time.  I think I watched 4, where I wasn’t satisfied with the CFAI answer key.  

I personally found the CFAI old AM exams both harder to get the same score on, but also much better written than Schweser.  

For L3, again wasn’t able to do any mocks (i’m in IB so I really don’t get much study time) - 

I’m sure your mom and boyfriend are proud of you

Hope you pass too! :)

my opinion - yes, doing as many mocks as possible is crucial to passing. last year I thought that reading the curriculum cover to cover and doing eoc questions, with a few mocks (if there’s time left), will work. It did with Levels I and II.

so I’d been reading till perhaps 3 days before the exam, and then took official AM and FM mocks by CFAI, which are both structured as multiple choice item sets. Had no time to do past AM actual exams or mocks from side providers in essay-type form. And that was the biggest mistake I think. On exam day got ruined by the very first question in AM and left 2 full questions unanswered. When results came, only 2 topics were 50-70, rest below 50 in AM. At the same time, did well in PM - 4 sections were 50-70, 5 above 70, none below 50.

so not taking enough mocks last year was the main reason I failed.

this year focused on doing as many mocks as possible. what I’ve learnt by doing mocks and then going through guideline answers - you need to answer clearly, in black or white - and not try to fit 2 answers into 1. better to take a side, risking that it will be the wrong one, than to answer vaguely in gray. this I’d never have learnt just by reading the curriculum.

let’s see in August if it worked ) at least this year managed to answer all questions in AM.

Doing the mocks is important to get a feel for the timing and format BUT.. don’t expect to pass just by memorizing old AM questions

I did not go through any timed tests…but I did look at a few of the older papers and tried to scribble the answers and then check how far away my answers were from the actual answers..I think I did ok in AM, PM.  I think it is a good idea of trying to time your tests, you may discover how to speed up, how much to speed up and to get a sense of where your timing lies…..and may be be briefer or more indepth in your responses….. as far as I am concerned I think I try to do these as quickly as possible any ways… so couldn’t probably have done any quicker… I try to be to the point and thought about being more elaborate if I had more time in the end…I did not have that extra time…… so, I think the point of how many mocks to do and how many are required is really relative… some of us may learn more from it than others…but looking and verifying the answers is important though to just increase your understanding and the expectations.

danv0330 wrote:

Doing the mocks is important to get a feel for the timing and format BUT.. don’t expect to pass just by memorizing old AM questions

No, not by memorizing, but there were two patterns:

  • Most of the IPS and behavioral questions were best studied from past AMs. I think you just get better with more of them.
  • In the “Asset Allocation to Performance Evaluation” topics, there were about 15 equations or similar problems that were asked more than once in the past 10 years (I just kept detailed notes as I did past AMs). Only 2-3 of them would be asked in any year, but if you learned all 15 well, you were almost guaranteed 2-3 question parts.

But, agree that that only helps you go in knowing you can earn a certain minimum score – like assuming a score of 33% in the PM with no study. Above that min, it’s just a crap shoot where you have to know everything but ethics/gips, and to some depth.

biuku wrote:

danv0330 wrote:

Doing the mocks is important to get a feel for the timing and format BUT.. don’t expect to pass just by memorizing old AM questions

No, not by memorizing, but there were two patterns:

  • Most of the IPS and behavioral questions were best studied from past AMs. I think you just get better with more of them

Well said… The pattern emerges as i did AM since 2007. You also know how exam focus has changed over the years. From broad based to prescriptive in terms of where and how to answer. Some concepts like loss aversion, risk aversion, momentum effect and in general  different traps and biases are best learnt through mocks. Btw, i’m drawing blank on them already!