L2 versus L3

L2 versus L3 : Which exam do you find more challenging and why ?

L3. L2 was difficult in terms of concepts and technicality of topics (time series and derivatives remember) … L3 is deceptively simple and requires a lot of judgement. When I was doing L2 thought it was the toughest… the grass is always greener on the other side.

I will let you know on June 7th. As far as the amount of study time required, I think I’m on track to spend more time on L3. I attribute this to the significantly greater amount of time that it takes to do practice short answer and essay questions for L3. I gained a very good depth of knowledge for the L2 material, but I feel like I will have to know the L3 material even better in order to nail this exam. The essay format means that just KNOWING the material (being able to do the problems and select from 3 choices) is not enough. One really needs to master the material in L3 to be successful.

Recall vs Recognition. Combine that with subjective material and I will vote for L3. I don’t think there is any way I could pass L3 in the same amount of time I prepared for at L2.

curriculum level 2: 3500+ pages

curriculum level 3: 998 pages (including ethics that you`ve already seen)

Addendum: Print version 2199 pages (including exercises and solutions). Much pleasant read.

I have a 400-page book on algebra and trigonometry and a 150-page book on complex analysis.

You’re suggesting that the former is more difficult?


Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.

Fact - Half of the people who passed L2 will still fail L3.

Maybe that’s because of burnout. Maybe they underestimate it. Maybe life got in the way. (You are another year older. It’s possible that you got married, or have kids, or your job is more demanding.)

But maybe it’s because the test is harder.

^^Well said.

I disagree with that logic. If level 2 and level 3 are independent papers (i.e. you can take level 2 and 3 in any order), it does not follow that those who passed level 3 will pass level 2. This logic is especially faulty given that level 2 and level 3 tests very different things.

Undoubtedly I found L3 more difficult, purely because that morning half was significantly harder than any other CFA exam session. And talk about mental exhaustion, both during the test and also studying those constructed responses…

Undoubtedly I found L3 more difficult, purely because that morning half was significantly harder than any other CFA exam session. And talk about mental exhaustion, both during the test and also studying those constructed responses…

I found L2 more difficult, due to the volume (breadth and scope) of the material.

L3 is easier but as someone said, deceptively so. You still need to practice a lot of portfolio management questions to figure out rates of returns, required income and so on. I found that to be the toughest part - not the calculations themselves but rather, which calculations apply where.

Also, the smart one probably passed all first try, whereas people who failed L3 prob failed L2 as well.

I passed L2 in my first sitting – but had to re-sit for L3. If you go back and read older posts, you’ll find many others who have posted the same.

…and if you read older posts, you’ll also find many others who posted that they passed level 3 on the first try but failed level 2 at least once (I know I did). Anedoctal evidence is not the best argument here.

My point is not that one is harder than the other (though I think it is relatively uncontroversial to say that L1 is the easiest of them all) but: -

  1. There are insufficent evidence to conclude that one is harder than the other.
  2. Both papers covers significantly different areas and as such, candidates with different strengths in one area may have difficulties in the other. For example, if you are not very good with formulas, level 2 may appear to be harder. If you are not very good with interpreting questions and giving direct answers, level 3 may appear to be harder (there are other factors but I am simplifying for the sake of brevity)
  3. If you are a candidate, pondering which is harder than the other is a pointless exercise – you are still advised to study as hard as possible regardless if L2 is harder than L3 or vice versa. If you are not a candidate, it will still be subjective (and likewise pointless).

Arguing that L3 is harder than L2 because half of those who passed L2 failed L3 is just faulty logic for the reasons stated here.

Hmmmmm…doesn’t this imply that there is no build up of material from L2?

I haven’t started the material yet, but I presume there is extensive build up with regards to portfolio management and derivatives…

^ For the record, I’m not implying or expecting that L3 is easier than L2, just arguing that they are not independent events.

Referring to an earlier comment posted by an AFer (…might have been Greenie), someone with more an “Analyst mindset” is likely to do a little better on L2 than L3; conversely, someone closer to a PM is likely to do better on L3 than L2.

I think this is absolutely true.

Lets put it this way: -

Will your prior knowledge in L2 help in your L3? Definitely.

Do you need to recall your knowledge from L2 to pass L3? Definitely not.

Can you pass L3 by solely studying the L3 materials? Definitely.

There are lots of L2 materials that are redundant in L3 but there are some materials in L1 & L2 that can come in handy if you remembered them for L3. If you didn’t, well, you’ll just have to work a little harder.

I think this is true too.