Do Not Let Up for Level 3

As my final post on these forums, rather than focus on advice for specific study strategies which vary from person to person, I’d like to focus on what helped me get through this arduous Level 3 study and exam challenge: personal attitude and approach. From the very beginning I imagined that I was faced with the opportunity of a lifetime and no matter what I was going to leave it all on the field so to speak. Maybe you can envision this as having an upcoming interview for your dream job/firm, taking a one of a kind person on a date, climbing the highest mountain or some other once in a lifetime, exhilarating accomplishment. The good news is that you’re on the cusp of achieving that accomplishment. It is within your grasp, you just need to put in the necessary preparation and close the deal. You might be an unknown underdog challenger up against Muhammad Ali, but you’re in control of your own destiny and eternal glory lies on the other side. The bad news is – do not underestimate the Level 3 Examination. Yes, the pass rate may be more generous at 46%, but every individual sitting for this particular exam has proven their aptitude by passing Levels 1 and 2. Moreover, from my experience, you’ll never feel prepared enough. Your practice exam scores can fluctuate wildly. For instance, I sat for the Schweser Live Mock Exam and scored 85%. However, my future Schweser practice exam scores, in Books 1 and 2, fluctuated between 60% - 80%. There was no observable trend of improvement sequentially from exam to exam like my previous preparation for Levels 1 and 2. It almost appeared like a variable on a random walk. The uncertainty surrounding the AM session is absolutely off the charts, both in topics covered and the presentation of the particular vignettes and questions. One positive is thank you to the CFA Institute for being consistent with covering both the Individual and Institutional IPS sections in the AM, because that reduces “some” of the uncertainty. I just recently passed Level 3, however I’ll admit that studying the Level 3 material and passing this exam was more difficult for me personally than the previous levels combined. And, for full disclosure, last year during the morning session of the Level 2 exam I let my nerves get ahold of me during the morning session and I had to run to the bathroom to vomit. However, once I relieved those nerves I washed my face with cold water, looked in the mirror and said you can’t give up now, get back in there! I sprinted out of the bathroom back to my seat, corrected my mistakes on previous questions and crushed the exam. This post is by no means meant to be discouraging. If you’ve made it through Level 1 and Level 2 you have the discipline, ability, intelligence, and nerves of steel to pass the Level 3 exam. My advice to all those who sit for the Level 3 exam in the future is not to underestimate this final obstacle in the CFA Program. You’re nearing the end of the tunnel, dig your heels in, power through, and grab your final prize. After passing Level 1 and 2 you have your opponent dazed, make sure you do everything in your power possible to knock him out. In my opinion, there’s nothing more valuable than being a person who finishes and closes when the opportunity presents itself. Don’t let your opponent get up or gain momentum. Keep him down, you have him stumbling, and finish the job you’ve started. I hope this helps, good luck!

I agree. I continued to picture myself on results day reading the bad news, telling my boss and coworkers, delaying grad school, pissing off my gf for another year… That was enough to put a fire under my as$ to study nearly non-stop. I never felt totally prepared either. You should prepare knowing that EVERYTHING on every page is fair game. You think its not important? It could be an 18 point essay question and your toast.

I agree. Attitude, discipline and motivation are critical to passing. I was lucky enough to get through all three exams on first attempt, but I took it seriously and was more disciplined than I have ever been with my study… My family were stunned at my commitment to the program. At the beginning of 2010, I wrote down some goals for the year… I wrote on a piece of paper which sat on my desk until exam day… The key to 2010 is kicking the **** out of Level 3.

When I was studying for lvl 2 (after failing the first time) I would study whenever I can at work. And at least 3 days out of the week my supervisor would, “jokingly,” say to me “level 2… tsk tsk… failure… again…” That pissed me off big time… Now he is saying “level 3… failure…” I guess that puts a smirk on my face now but during level 2 that fired me up as the humiliation of him saying to me “level 2… tsk tsk… failure… again… and again” would be unbearable.

great advice, thanks!

What kept me motivated during studying was the simple fact that I hated studying so much. If a page or section was especially borning, I’d ask myself “do you really want to be reading this same page again in a year?! Is it going to be any more interesting then? Learn it now and be done!” That seemed to help me get through.

Completerly agree with the post. Just one comment. Dont think if the exam is difficult or not half way in the first session.Just focus on the next question and try and answer it to the best of your ability. That happened to me on both L2 and 3. (I guess that was because I had done really well in L1 exam) All the time I was comparing how I felt during L1 exam and therefore was very confident that I was going to fail half way in the morning session.I just got lucky and passed without failing but JUST DONT THINK ABOUT IT during the exam.I am sure I have lost some points in both L2 and 3 due to that. REMEMBER ONE THING : IF YOU ARE WELL PREPARED AND YOU THINK THE EXAM IS DIFFICULT ALMOST EVERYONE IS GOING TO FEEL THAT WAY.So just hold on to it. All the best.

I thought the L3 exam material was pretty light. The essay questions will trip you up though… so it’s a good idea to put more time into practice essay questions.

The L3 material is pretty easy to read through and in many ways tedious because you will keep seeing the same concepts show up in different readings and your first impulse is to say “Alright! I get it already”. You don’t have a lot of time to think on the AM session. You basically have to be prepared to read the question and ready to answer immediately and the tricky part over here is that your answer must contain the key phrases that the CFAI is looking for. I thought that I aced the Risk Management section on the AM session but I failed it. So don’t get too carried away writing long answers. They are probably not going to wade through them. There will be some oddball questions and if you are well prepared and can’t comprehend the question, jut move on and come back.The odds are that the other candidates are struggling with that question as well. It’s very important to not get hung on a particular question and run the risk of not finishing the exam. Manage your time carefully. Looking back, if I could change my preparation, I would have done the following things: - Summarized each LOS in my own words and used that as review material the day before the exam - Spend the last week just revising and reviewing the material. I ended up leaving the exams to the very end. Take the actual exams under test conditions. Don’t cheat and look at the answer key if the wording of a particular question does not make sense. - I only read ethics once 5 days before the exam. Most of the material is the same as LI and LII but the questions will be trickier, so read the vignette very critically so as to not fall for the traps. Read the AMC several times from the CFAI text. Know it inside and out. It’s a short chapter and will most likely show up on the exam. - I also read GIPS just once. It’s boring as hell but again those are easy points that you do not want to lose. Schweser does a decent job of summarizing the rules and remember that anything from that chapter can be tested, no matter how obscure.

When I first started this process a few years back I knew very few charterholders. One of them gave me the simplest advice, but it ended up being really useful and I went back to it in my mind many times: “Just study what they tell you to study.” When it’s all said and done, that’s what it all boils down to: learn what’s in the damn LOS’s.

Good posts everyone. Thank you all for sharing.