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CFA Level 3 - Review of Prep Providers, Post 2019 Exam

Since I prepared for Level 3 using three providers in an effort to cover all of my bases, I thought I might share my thoughts on which providers I felt helped me prepare best for the test while it’s all still fresh in my mind: 1) Chalk and Board online courses and essay writing workshop with Nathan Ronen, 2) Kaplan (books and qbanks), 3) LevelUp 4 day boot camp and supplemental videos with Marc LeFebvre.

Exam overview: I thought the exam was tough, but largely fair. A lot of the questions were asked in a way I felt was unfamiliar relative to previous years (based on the published historical morning essays). I didn’t feel that either session was out of left field, both were challenging but not impossible. If I passed I probably barely passed and if I failed I probably barely failed.

Prep provider review: I felt the best provider by a long shot was Chalk and Board with Nathan Ronen. His lectures were completely spot on 100%. Every question I would think through the curriculum and hear his lectures play back in my head all day throughout the test both morning and afternoon sessions. He hit all of the main points, didn’t miss a single one, even the nichey ones! Even if I ultimately failed, I would take his classes again to prepare next year, and would highly highly highly recommend both his lectures and his essay writing workshop to anyone. The lectures are engaging and surprisingly not dry given the content can be dense at times (I highlight this because I’m someone who is easily distracted if a topic is overly dense and I find my mind starts to wander). His essay writing workshops really help to highlight how important time management is on L3 and gets some of those anxiety jitters out of your system before it’s really game time. Worth every penny I spent, also very competitively priced for the value you get out of his materials.

I also took Marc LeFebvre’s bootcamp after a colleague recommended it as a way to beef up ahead of the exam after I got a late start to studying, and honestly didn’t get much out of it. Lot of talking about how grueling studying was going to be, sprinkled with a ton of self promotion, and followed with how we needed to be focused, but not a lot of pen-to-paper work outside of his 2 hour IPS writing workshop one night which was the only highlight - 2 good hours out of 40 total hours = probably not the most efficient use of my time or $.

Comparatively, I thought Nathan’s approach to digesting the curriculum was significantly more succinct and manageable, which was ultimately more helpful to me in my prep.

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You mentioned using Kaplan but didn’t offer an opinion on them.

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

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What was your impression of Schweser (Kaplan) compared to Chalk and Board? I exclusively used Schweser and thought it was pretty good overall with nothing overly foreign on the exam (outside of usual curve ball or two). Granted this is before results, so we’ll see how it actually plays out, but I think if I fail it will be more because of my prep/study schedule than the content Schweser provided.

I used Schweser as my main foundation.. Read that twice around before I started looking at CFAi text, which then I read twice also. I found Schweser to be solid to learn from but obviously lacked a lot of detail.

I belevie Schweser builds a great foundation and then reading the CFAi text makes a lot more sense… you understand the theory and then CFAi text can get into the specifics. 

I picked up book 4 of MM’s video À la carte since FI and Equity were heavy topics and wanted a different perspective. Mark’s good and I found the videos insightful. 

And obviously, mocks mocks mocks! I ran into quite a few very familiar questions on the exam (both AM and PM) that were part of mock exams. 

I used LevelUp Bootcamp. Very pleased and would do it again. The videos were fantastic, the slidebook amazing (no need to take own notes and with linkes to old exam questions etc). Bootcamp was a great way to review all material and get tips on what areas are likely to get tested. IPS workshop was gold.

Would do it again - worth every penny. Exam didn’t see one single question I couldn’t have answered. Feel very confident.

I only used Mark Meldrum (for all three levels). I think the cost performance with his packages is great (I did level 1 when he still had all his content for free on youtube, but I would have paid for it). He covers everything very thoroughly based on the CFAI text by LOS. I would watch his videos first then read the book, the text made a lot more sense this way. He also does additional videos on how to apply the CFA content in real life which are really interesting. His mocks are good too.

I used LevelUp (videos and bootcamp) and Mark Merldum. 

MM provides the best value per dollar (~USD286 total cost). He has a comprehensive package that is hard to beat. High quality of main videos, review videos + EOC questions, past exams walkthroughs, mock exams. The website is easy to use + you can track progress. They need to work on the slides/powerpoints as the notes were hand written. 

LevelUp is extremely pricey (overpriced?). You are looking at $1,999 for the full package (video and bootcamp) + another $1,000+ in travel costs if you need to fly. High quality of videos and very good slide book. The website is not very user friendly - hard to use and track progress. I didn’t see a lot of value in bootcamp after watching his videos… IPC workshop could be covered in a 45min video and the remaining items are just a quick review of his main videos and slide book. More motivational prep than actual CFA value… 

IFT: I watched the free videos - liked the content, but not the accent. Also used his formula sheet and the free exam relevancy document - both were very helpful. 

Summary: best combo: MM package + LevelUp slide book. If you are on the budget or want to pick 1 provider go with MM. 

I used Schweser as my main. The books provided by Schweser are excellent, the on-demand videos are pretty good as well. However, the QBank, the practice exams, and the mocks are subpar, especially the mocks. Schweser provides video explanation for the two mocks, and on the ones I have trouble with, they simply explain using the logic “A is incorrect because it is incorrect, B is incorrect because it is incorrect, so C must be correct.” The lack of insight is astonishing. 

I purchased MM’s mocks, these four mocks are amazing. The vignettes are well-written and the questions are concise and clear. 

I purchased IFT mocks. For the most part, these are decent. However, you can tell that IFT recycle some of the past exam questions and change some facts around.

I purchased Konvexity mocks. I approached these mocks differently from Schweser, MM, and IFT because most of the time I have no clue what the questions are asking for. I think the questions are way too open-ended and you can tell the vignettes are not written by a native speaker. Nonetheless, these are great practice since there are a few that challenges your understanding on difficult materials (I still vividly remember, the Robert Madoff Case). 

If I have to rank the mocks from best to worst,
1. MM
2. Konvexity
3. IFT
4. Schweser 

I attended the LevelUp Bootcamp and it was dissatisfying: essentially, I paid for listening to quite a lot of bragging (and a constant Schweser put-down) and a very fast read-through the CFA curriculum headlines. However, IPS workshop was useful (1 hour out of four days). You also pay for a sorted folder with old exams (convenient, but you can access these materials elsewhere) and a folder with slides, which are incomprehensible if you don’t look back at the curriculum (and they contain errors).  I find the glorious reviews like the one by DL1719 suspicious.

ARSC13 wrote:

Prep provider review: I felt the best provider by a long shot was Chalk and Board with Nathan Ronen.

Been saying that since I was 15 years old. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It be like that sometimes.

I started level 3 with LevelUp videos however within 2 months of purchase of those expensive videos i realized that no way i could pass the exam with these videos. Absolutely useless videos. After that I switched to IFT which did a good job for me.

Interesting… Everyone seems to hate on LevelUp and mainly say theres a lot of boosting / self promotion.

I did IFT for Level II and passed on a first try. I did LevelUp for Level III and thought they were useful. But time will tell… I will report back on Aug 20th if the videos and the boot camp were effective. 

snarctopus wrote:

I attended the LevelUp Bootcamp and it was dissatisfying: essentially, I paid for listening to quite a lot of bragging (and a constant Schweser put-down) and a very fast read-through the CFA curriculum headlines. However, IPS workshop was useful (1 hour out of four days). You also pay for a sorted folder with old exams (convenient, but you can access these materials elsewhere) and a folder with slides, which are incomprehensible if you don’t look back at the curriculum (and they contain errors).  I find the glorious reviews like the one by DL1719 suspicious.

I don’t know what you find suspicious about it. The videos and materials were top notch. Sure you can go with Schweser or any other material but I planned from the beginning to go with all CFA material.

It’s true that he’s promotional and negative on Schweser and the MM - hate it or don’t mind it. What mattered to me is that he can explain everything easily and knows this material better than anyone. I agree with him - why stufy the material from someone without a charter? Makes absolutely no sense to me. 

Anyway - to each their own. At the end of the day you can use any provider but if you don’t put in the work and hours you’re not gonna pass.

if you have the money and wanna do it right the first time go with LevelUp - that’s my honest opinion.

Meh. I also thought the level up boot camp was overhyped. The IPS workshop and a few other tips were on point, but that amounted to 4 hours max out of a pretty hardcore weekend - most of which entailed Marc telling me how much study we have to do, how awesome he is, how bad Mark  Meldrum is (along with other providers), and how hard the test is. Thanks for the hot tip. The IPS and a few other random comments were worth 500 bucks,  but man spare me the rest. Call me Canadian, but i found the shameless self promotion and constant putting down of others a major detractor. I don’t care man. You already have my 2 grand. Teach me the damn material. 

Voyager3 wrote:

 how bad Mark  Meldrum is (along with other providers), and how hard the test is. Thanks for the hot tip. 

did he mention mark meldrum has no charter? Thats an easy target!

LOL he certainly did. Failed to mention though that he has a PhD in finance. 

Voyager3 wrote:
LOL he certainly did. Failed to mention though that he has a PhD in finance.

Perhaps because it’s not in finance.

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

Financial Exam Help 123: The place to get help for the CFA® exams
http://financialexamhelp123.com/

Voyager3 wrote:

LOL he certainly did. Failed to mention though that he has a PhD in finance.

Curious, was there any bashing of Daren Miller or s2000?

Interesting to see so many bad comments about Levelup. I will try to be as objective as I can.

I took the bootcamp this year after failing L3 last year through my local prep provider. Although there was indeed a lot of self promotion, I found the Core Curriculum slide book very helpful. I basically stopped using my local prep providers notes after the bootcamp, and solely used his Core Curriculum Slide Book + Focus book to prep afterwards.

The IPS workshop and his past 10 year of exams was very helpful as well. I reworked those binders about 3 times each before the actual exam and his method of solving the IPS question allowed me to solve the 6-8min question in about 2 minutes (and I was 100% confident on my answer)

To address one of the previous comments above that although you can print and sort the 10 years of exams by topic yourself, this will likely take you at least a few hours to do yourself which could be spent studying instead. In addition, Marc also identified questions that were no longer relevant from the curriculum for you  (I know IFT has a PDF on this, and after reconciling the questions Marc found irrelevant vs. IFT, I found Marc’s to be more reflective of current curriculum. For ex. there were questions IFT marked irrelevant, but Marc put as relevant as it was clearly still in one of the blueboxes in current curriculum)

Overall, I felt I benefited positively from attending the LevelUp Bootcamp as it covered a lot of material my local provider did not cover. It also made me focus a lot on areas where my local provider did not as well (especially the IPS materials). Attending the bootcamp gave me new direction as to how to study for the L3 exam, which I realized I’ve been doing wrong the whole time (hence my 1st fail).

To be completely fair, here’s a few criticisms I felt about the bootcamp:

  • Extremely costly. More than double the price of my local prep provider. 
  • There is a lot of self promotion (however, some of them I found funny and kept me awake). I felt about 25-30% of the class was self-promotion.
  • He does not go into detail about the material, and only gives you a high level look at most of the material (and tells you what to focus on afterwards). But this is because the amount of material is so large, there’s noway he can cover everything in detail within 4 days. I agree, I retained just about nothing post bootcamp as there was just too much material. You’re basically paying for the Core Curriculum Slide Books, IPS Book, and Past Exam book.. and likely will retain 10-20% of what he actually talked about during the classes.
  • I thought the exam workshop was going to be him actually teaching us how to answer AM questions, which would have been helpful, but it was just him pointing out some exam “traps”. Which, I guess was still helpful, but would have still preferred for him to maybe walk us through how he would solve an actual exam.

Marc definitely knows his stuff, and he’s been in the industry for 20+ years. Here’s one of the self promo’s he did that I still remember:  Did you know Marc + few others founded Schweser’s Secret Sauce back when he still worked for them? Found that to be pretty interesting… I’ve definitely used the Secret Sauce back in L1 and L2.

Nobody was safe. 

I did not use any prep provider, and in hindsight I think it was a mistake.

For levels I and II I used Schweser as the core material, and read the curriculum when going through the BBs and EOCs. So reading it not in order, but focused around the specific questions, which I think is more efficient.

For level III it was my understanding that better to stick to the curriculum, so I did not spend money on Schweser. I must have suffered from several biases, because I got the idea of no need for prep provider (at least for interpretation of the material) out of here the AF, and now I see that many did use prep providers.

However, the curriculum is too wordy for me and it lacks the structure (for me) so I ended up practically creating my own “notes” - handwritten also.

This took much longer than it should have, hence I did not have the necessary time for practice.

Still if I have to resit the exam next year, I’m wondering what to do. Curriculum  + video lectures take too much time, video lectures w/o reading the curriculum not the way I can study, so I might end up buying Schweser - in case there are significant changes in the material.

125mph wrote:

Voyager3 wrote:

LOL he certainly did. Failed to mention though that he has a PhD in finance.

Curious, was there any bashing of Daren Miller or s2000?

Who dares to bash our man S2000?

It was a long shot, glad i made it.

Epsilon wrote:
125mph wrote:
Voyager3 wrote:
LOL he certainly did. Failed to mention though that he has a PhD in finance.

Curious, was there any bashing of Daren Miller or s2000?

Who dares to bash our man S2000?

You might be surprised.

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

Financial Exam Help 123: The place to get help for the CFA® exams
http://financialexamhelp123.com/

2017 : trial version Wiley (Darren Miller still here) + Level up video + Adapt prep (1 mock essay only)

2018 : Adapt prep automatic renewal due to free pass guarantee (2 mock essay) i only use the mock exam + IFT + Bluebox focus

2019 : Adapt prep free pass guarantee 3 mock essay + Darren Miller grading services 2 mock + MM Mock exam only writing the answer just 14 days before real exam (no timing) + Fitch learning (sign up on early May 19 only cost $50) + Bloomberg 8 mock exam (just open it 10 days before real exam) 

"Let's kill him properly this time" (Thor - Endgame)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5I6235vlok

FRM Holder - 2012
Passed CFA Level III - 2019

You tried almost every thing.. what about your scores in CFA past AMs and CFA mocks have you noticed improvement in comparison with 17 & 18

Equityhacker wrote:

You tried almost every thing.. what about your scores in CFA past AMs and CFA mocks have you noticed improvement in comparison with 17 & 18

i did try to write answer 2006-2018 CFA past using ACE Level 3 style and review them twice just few days before real exam but never do timing mock. i only do timing mock once for 2nd mock Darren (3 days before real exam).

"Let's kill him properly this time" (Thor - Endgame)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5I6235vlok

FRM Holder - 2012
Passed CFA Level III - 2019

Having a charter is not necessarily guarantee that passing rate of his students. I think the key factors are yourselves and the teaching methodology of the provider. 

Both Mark and Marc are great in my opinion

kimngan wrote:

Both Mark and Marc are great in my opinion

they are great, Darren also. that bloomberg tutor also, everything i can ask (i have 20 credit questions), every time i confuse i dropped the question he always come back to me less than 24 hours.

the reason i try so many provider is one day i also wanna open the same service on my local country.

"Let's kill him properly this time" (Thor - Endgame)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5I6235vlok

FRM Holder - 2012
Passed CFA Level III - 2019

I used Kaplan much less actively. I only purchased the “Essential” package (most basic) and intended primarily to rely on the Kaplan materials to break down hard concepts to the extent I needed supplemental/alternative explanation from the curriculum. I felt that Kaplan does a good enough job summarizing things and highlighting content that they feel appears more frequently on the exam, but for Level 3 it’s best to rely on the actual CFA curriculum (it’s not nearly as logn as L1/L2, so more manageable). Many people will tell you not to do Q-banks for Level 3, but I found them to be a good way to ensure you’re actually grasping concepts. I studied with Kaplan for Level 1 and 2 and felt very well prepared, which is what drew me to their Level 3 materials, but in the end did not get quite as much value out of the materials for Level 3.