How will (or did) you study for essay format?

This question is for both candidates and recent charterholders. What did you find useful in learning to do constructed responses/essays for the AM part of Level 3?

I am an instructor for an exam prep course and I am looking at adding two labs about “constructed response”/essay to help students. My current thinking is one near the beginning (i.e., January) and one near the end (i.e., early May). Here is a potential list, but feel free to add or comment:

  1. Past actual exams with answers at home. I have heard criticism that these have four potential problems: A. They seem very neat and well-organized. Even test takers who score very well might not have such answers. B. The answers seem a bit longer than what a well-prepared test-taker might write. C. Some candidates need help realizing that there are a large number of answers. D. This does not directly give any advice about approach (e.g., if you don’t understand part or all of a question, move on quickly to something else). I think a good version of this would be to ask students to do particular past questions for the topic we just finished in class. The CFAI Practice Problems/Topic Tests could be used similarly, and we wouldn’t be borrowing material many students would later use as part of a mock exam.

  2. The Schweser videos regarding a large number of actual past essay test questions and their constructed response videos. Note that a large number of students who select Schweser material have not purchased the videos.

  3. Having someone who is really familiar with the format do sample written answers live at a lab.

  4. Having the class attempt some of the essay questions live and then exchange them to grade. This is harder than it might sound at first. There are lots of questions about what should count at all, and how to give partial points. Students might not be consistent at grading.

  5. Having the instructor grade them later. Aside from the large amount of work, written scoring would not by itself provide all of the needed guidance. It tells you an estimated score.

  6. Other providers or materials?


Perhaps I should ask again shortly after the exam.

I would answer but I’m very confused what the question is… could you rephase?

Is it just this: This question is for both candidates and recent charterholders. What did you find useful in learning to do constructed responses/essays for the AM part of Level 3?

I like pounding questions. More questions more better. Reptition. That means mocks, mocks, mocks. I learn by doing and repeating. Would have loved a collection of private and institutional questions with required returns. A collection of FI and Equities. A collection of … you get the picture.

I’m finding a lot of past AM questions that are just regurgitation of memorized formulas (e.g. micro/macro performance attribution, Grinold-Kroner return formula, etc). These are best prepared for with practice. Lots of practice.

Individual IPS questions have a certain trend. Questions on return requirement, something on risk tolerance, following by stating the IPS liquidity constraint. The more I’m practicing these, the better I’m seeing how to answer them.

A colleague of me (who received his charter last year, passed all years in the first attempt) had a very simple strategy. He did not open any book until 2 weeks before the exam (the box with the books was closed at the office all the time). He started reading the books very diagonally, focussed on bb and EOC questions in the book. He didn’t make any mock, practice, third party mock, … whatsoever and passed with very high grades every year. At the push he spend studying between 80 to 100 hours per level max.

This shows to me that the main focus should be bb en EOC.


I recall advice from another charterholder about how they had taken questions from many past exams/mocks and rearranged them by topic and certain trends became obvious. For example, if doing a batch of investment policy questions, you would see that they fell into clusters of topics and formats. He felt this was pretty useful.

How would you feel about doing some mocks where actual or mock essay questions were separated by topic? So, a particular three hour mock might be only on Portfolios and Wealth Management. Another might be only on Derivatives and Alternatives. You would get 5 or 10 essay questions on one topic at one time. Since the old tests and most mocks are indexed by LOS, this is not hard to do.