How do you think the pass rate breaks out?

We’re in about the same situation. I breezed through L1 and L2 and was super confident going in to L3 last year…got stunned though and WAS NOT confident coming out of L3 last year. Ended up band 10 as well. Think I got it this year but never know.

I disagree with the assumption that retakers have significantly higher pass percentage than first-time takers. This is just anecdotal, but there are countless charterholders who passed everything on first attempt and also a good number of people who took L3 3 times + and still didn’t pass.

There’s a reason why one does not pass an exam on his or her first try. It can be anything really, but one thing for sure is that all of them are bottom 50% of all who took the test, and by definition, half of them received grades of band 5 or lower. I’m just skeptical how much of knowledge will be retained among those folks. Maybe people who received band 8 or higher might have an edge, but it’s not like people look at the materials all the time throughout the year.

“Benefits” of re-taking the exam are far less compelling compared to level 1 candidates… given a lot people fail due to lower score in AM, but without really knowing why (other than the areas you need to work on), you don’t really know exactly how you should improve your game compared to previous levels. Also, it’s safe to say most people don’t start studying right after they fail when they still have some distant memories of the stuff, and maybe some of them even start later than first-time takers as they “know” the materials better.

I do think people with higher bands are more likely to retake (maybe not, idk), so if the retaker population consists of say 80% of those with bands 7 or higher, then I’d buy into the idea of retakers having a higher chance of passing, but I don’t think that’s the case either. I think most of us would want to finish it regardless of the band you end up.

If you’re band 10 and studied harder, you should have an edge and I hope pass…gl

No idea what you mean?

I find this quite bovious really. There has to be a slight advantage for re-takers compared to frist-timers. A student who passed L1 and L2 easily and failed L3 has (until now) the same skills as another who passed L1 and L2 easily and is a first time taker of L3 (as that student has not passed or failed he is neither better nor worse to the re-taker).

Now that this is established, the only difference will be studying / preparing for the exam. It is more likely out of 100 first time takers that some students will underestimate or underprepare for the exam while it is less likely for 100 re-takers that some students will underestimate or underprepare it.

Of course there are many more parameters but according to that rational I would bet on a 55% pass for re-takers vs. 45% pass for first-time takers and this applies to all the levels really. It is kind of common sense but I am happy to be proven wrong. Please argue rather than just sharing your “impression”.

I don’t think I agree with anything you said.

I’m just sharing my logic, or “impressions,” and I can be way off. The impetus to write a whole bunch was to call out the 75% retaker pass rate seems to be on the high end of what I can imagine. I was a band 9 level 1 retaker, so if anything, I’m all in for more % of retakers to pass heart

I find it hard to believe someone that cleared level 2 is incapable of passing level 3… i believe passing the exam comes down to execution and the final 10-20 hours of study which should be spent on organizing your notes and brushing up on weak areas…

someone that is band 8-10 was clearly close and possibly just a single multiple choice question away from a passing score… neverthless if said person returns next year and makes no changes to their prep and execution the result may likely be the same. Point is that the people who pass are doing something different and it may take some candidates multiple tries to “get it”


I agree with the argument. I do not think there is a significant accumulation of knowledge between two exams. You tend to forget a lot of it and have to start from the beginning, at least in my case. I believe the real difference however lies in the fact that you are more likely to go the extra mile in your studying fom experience. More importantly you are less likely to underestimate it. My case might be rare but I simply underestimated the exam, I am not like most here, and I had not researched properly the exam so I only did 6 schweser mocks compared to 5 in L2 and 4 in L1. Now I know that on average, sudents do 5 mocks at L1, 6 mocks at L2 and 10 at L3… It’s a big difference and I did that this year. It changes a lot obviously.

So the argument is that I do not think I am the only one who under-researched or under-prepared when taking L3 the first time. This does not apply really to people here who does extensive research but as you can see I just joined the forum and used to peek at it randomly before. I assume I am not the only one n that case but I may be…

Everyone who has argued that re-takers have a higher passing rate than first timers thus far has been comparing re-takers to themselves in the prior year. That is not the proper comparison. You should be comparing apples to oranges when in actuality you’re comparing apples to apples from a year ago. Just because re-takers do better than they did the first time they took it DOES NOT mean that re-takers do better than first timers as a group.

I think at the final level most people are prepared , no first timer wants to fail and no retaker wants to experience that again and everyone is smart , thats how they are at the final level. There are a lot of people who sometimes have a very hectic work schedule just a few days before the exam so maybe they cant really bring their A-game on the big day but otherwise everyone else is. its probably just about how comfortable the person is with the topics that ultimately get tested , time management, practice , nerves and luck. I wouldnt imply that someone who passed the first time is smarter than someone who passed the second time around. So i think we shouldnt really bother trying to separate the categories. If anything as a first time test taker I feel nervous that if Level 3 has eluded so many people before and the pool taking the exam with me is experienced then maybe my chances are lesser. Its like if we had to go and do over level 2 , we would feel more in control.

@ CubsFan

I don’t understand your argument. In my view those who have argued the opposite are comparing themselves to us and do not see why they should have a lower chance pf passing… and they are right of course. On an individual basis you do not have a lower chance of passing than me because you are here, on this forum, you have read extensively on the pitfalls of L3 and have prepared for it accordingly. So we have the same chances of passing. But think of people that every year do not know the forum and under-research and under-estimate the exam. There will be a higher number of people who do not know that the CFAI provides the last 3-5 exams (like me last year) in first time takers than in retakers don’t you think? This is because someone who failed like me Band 10 last year will try to understand and find out these things afterwards. He will seek to improve. So the argument is that some people (like me) did not do the research last year like people here on this forum. Only after failing will they make this effort and finally be on the same foot than all the people who know all the specificites of L3. These under-informed people are more likely to be 1st timers than re-takers. Simple as that. I am pretty sure 75% / 25% is not realistic but 55%/45% I would bet on that yes.

OK, i guess an important piece of the equation is what percentage of exam takers are on their 1st try… im guessing around 60% given, every year more and more level 2 people move up… this is getting crazy but i still believe that you have a higher probabilty of passing if you are a retaker…

here is one scenario…

[100 test takers at random test center]

60 first timers

25 are second timers - last year there were (50 first timers)

10 are on 3rd try

5 people are on 4th > try

[Pass rate is 50%]

20 first timers pass - 33% of first timers pass (20/60) or 40% of all the people that pass (20/52) or just 20% of all test takers(20/100)… obviously many different statistics

20 people on second try pass

8 people on second try pass

2 people on 4th and greater try pass

overall 50% pass with retakers representing (more) of the total numers of passers

The only thing you can say with absolute certainty is that the population of first timers has a subgroup that the population of re-takers does not have: those that pass the exam on their first attempt. For that reason and that reason alone do I believe that first timers have a higher pass rate than re-takers. Additionally, I do believe that re-takers will, on average, perform better than how they did on prior exams.


Yes I actually agree with that so you have two cancelling factors: A group that has not yet failed and a group with a higher % of students who might not have an optimal preparation method. No conclusion can be drawn but I still feel 2nd timer have higher chances. I am biased of course :wink:

Previous post greatly overestimates passing rates for 2nd timers thugh in my view:

My completely uninformed guess:

TOTAL: 1000 530 53%

First timers 600 305 51%

2nd timer 250 150 60%

3rd timer 100 55 55%

>4th timer 50 20 40%

^^ i think the we’ll have to agree to disagree… 600 first time test takers seems reasonable but IMO first timer pass rate is closer to 25-35%

level 3 is easy to underestimate, plenty of people breeze through level 1 and 2 but did not give 3 the attention it deserve. 2nd time retaker is the sweetspot for passing… if you dont pass on 2nd try… you are also more likely to drop out. by the fourth try you are probably just going through the motions and showing up to the exam… doubtfull someone is doing 400 hours of studying 4 years in a row… its probably not going to happen

If I had a group of random L3 candidates. Let’s say 1,000 people, completley random, different countries, age, jobs…etc

One group sitting for their first time, the other group sitting for their second time. Who would you bet on having the higher pass rate overall?

I would bet they would be very similar. First timers, as a whole, are likely a smarter group…but retakers are a more experienced group. Each have an advantage over the other that I cannot quantify. I would guess the performance of the two groups to be close to even.