How I Passed Level 3 - On my Second Try

Hi Everyone,

CFA L3 is unfortunately a bigger pain than level 2. I failed L3 once, Here is how I passed level 3:

Products I purchased: Kaplan Schweser Books & QBank Chalk & Board - Nathan Ronen’s Video Series & Writing Workshop (I am not affiliated or paid by any of these companies.)

How I studied: In October, get the CFA Institute books and start reading the sections you hate. Don’t kill yourself, just familiarize. First read is just skimming through the pages to see what the chapter covers. Second read is to point out the major areas that link to the LOS. Plan on reviewing all the books between October and January 15th. Save ethics and GIPS for the last month. It is more important than ever to mainly focus on the CFA curriculum and not rely on third party curriculum books. I primarily used the CFA provided books. I found it very necessary at level 3.

In mid-January start watching Nathan’s videos (or another video series if you prefer) to help hone down the lessons. I benefit a lot from someone explaining the sections and issues to me. Nathan, in my opinion, does the best job explaining how to solve the problem and what to watch out for that will trip you up. Plus he is very responsive to questions you have, at no extra charge. That is invaluable. Don’t start a video until you have read the CFA chapters. And read the CFA books, and use the Kaplan Schweser to fill in areas you are struggling with and use for extra questions.

By April 1st, you should be almost done with the videos. Starting in April through the test date start doing the QBank questions. The year passed I answered over 1800 QBank questions, averaged about 76%. Plus I did the CFA book questions (not all, but focused on the harder chapters) and did some of the Kaplan end of chapter questions as well. A study was done that said you can recall information better and remember that information for longer time periods if you are tested on it, rather than just reading it. So start the questions even if you aren’t strong in the section and even if you fail all the questions. By taking QBank tests you will remember the information much better after taking a question on it than just reading it. For me, if I fail a question it burns into my memory. The Qbank offers explanations to the answers which is what really helps, and you can retake a questions.

By Mid to late April start doing the last few years of morning CFA mock exams that the institute provides. Do those for time. Then start doing the Kaplan mock exams. I went through 2015-2018 CFA morning exams, and 4 Kaplan mock exams. That was to really help with the AM writing section. When self grading, be very critical when you check your answers. Make sure you are capturing exactly what the answer is, and if not, then rewrite the answer to build muscle memory.

In May I did Nathan Ronen’s exam writing class which helped tremendously because he was able to tell me whether my writing sucked or not. It did suck, and he helped me narrow down the writing so that it was clear and accurate. This is the hardest part. On exam day, I finished the AM with 15 minutes left, which was plenty of time to read through my answers. A lot of people don’t finish the AM portion. If you don’t finish, I bet you don’t pass.

The last month before the test read ethics and GIPS sections every night before bed. Then spend time doing the CFA questions, and then QBank questoins and Kaplan book questions. Just keep reading the sections and testing and you will pick it up.

In the last final 3 weeks, just work on areas you are weak and review notes you may have taken. For formulas, I would write them out 30 times on a sheet of paper just to make sure I get it, like standard deviation of a two asset portfolio.

I hope this helps. It really does take 300 hours, but use the time constructively. I recommend reading and then testing your knowledge as frequently as possible. Do as many mock exams as possible.

Good luck!

There’s no one size fits all plan for passing any of these exams. Put in the time and the effort and you’ll pass. Simple as that.

I agree. I am not proposing a one-size fits all approach. I am just sharing what worked for me. My plan came together from other successful charterholders. At the very least, I can share my experience which others can judge for themselves.

I may have lost the count… but there were at least 42 ‘Just’ in that narrative and prescription.

It always comes back to the CFAI books in my opinion. Whatever they ask in the exam will come directly out of the syllabus and at L3 this should form the core of your learning in my opinion. I did some classroom sessions with schweser (employer paid for it) in January which helped fill in some gaps, but having already read through the CFAI material I treated it more as a revision class before cranking the mocks, blue boxes etc from Feb onwards.

Do you think Kaplan full course (in perosn classes + videos) + CFAI EOC & BB is enough to get a good foundation and understanding?

Thanks for sharing this! Very useful as I was not sure if I need to read the CFA books for next year. I have failed this year on my first level 3 attempt :frowning: This year I only relied on the IFT video’s (they were helpful btw) but did not read any full chapter in the curriculum, only Ethics and GIPS. I did do all the EOC’s and for some specific questions where I did not understand the answer I might have looked at the books, but it was very marginal the content that I actually read from the books. I scored 75% PM and around 30% AM, with not enough time left to complete the exam indeed… Could have focused more on this part. Which I will definitely do next year

I do not really understand the fixation on the original CFAI books. It all depends on how you can maximize the value of your preparation. For me this did not include reading any of the original CFAI texts and I passed on my first try with a big margin of safety. No doubt there is good information in the CFAI books, but the volume of the material can potentially hurt your exam performance (e.g. if you spend a lot of time reading the curriculum while you should have practiced more questions instead).

Reading the CFAI books might well be worth it, but don’t skimp on practice questions and mocks to do so.

How true. Many people share their CFA strategy and no two are alike. The only common theme is that people who pass L3 generally studied for it a lot.

lol… actually JUST 6.

To be clear, I skim and review the books. I don’t start with page one and read from beginning to end. I feel the same way with the volume of information. However, by reviewing the books, and taking the End of Chapter quizzes, I find that to be a much better prep provider than reading Schweser solely. I use Schweser to distill the main points of each chapter. Because CFAI can belabor a point that isn’t even an LOS. I also use the Schweser books to understand concepts that the CFAI books are bad at explaining. But I try to get as much as my information from CFAI books as I can.

I am sharing my experience for anyone who might have failed L3 and are looking for study tips.

thank you. i am preparing for lv3 next year

Can i ask how many pages in the Schweser Notes vs the CFAI books? Just to get a sense of the difference. Just signed up for L3 and previously always used Schweser but considering going with CFAI this time. Thanks!

I read 95% CFAI and 5% Schweser books / notes. At L3 I would use the CFAI books, they prepare you way better.

My schedule was read the CFAI books, do the end of chapter quizzes, and then do the QBank. And do at least 1500 Qbank questions. Leave GIPS and Ethics to the last 30 days of studying because it’s all memorization.