L3 resisters who passed, how many hours did you study this time round?

So, I was completely shocked yesterday to find out that I failed L3 band 9, after sailing through L1 and L2 no probs. I really thought that I’d put in enough hours (started late Nov 16) and after 9 full practice exams I was genuinely gutted that I hadn’t quite made it. Especially that my bands were not much different to people who passed. Morning paper let me down but I felt fine about it when I left the exam room. To be fair, I am 39 years old (female), work full time and have 2 kids age 10 and 5, so perhaps not ideal conditions for study. The worst part of this is feeling like I have neglected THEM for 6 months, I told them to leave the room and give me peace to study etc, only to find out today that it was all for nothing. I’ve never failed anything academic before so its quite a blow and I can’t help feeling worse abut it knowing I’ve ruined THEIR year too, not just my own. I have had my work experience signed off and have joined the institute but is it REALLY worth me doing this stupid exam again? If you failed L3, and decided to resit, please let me know how many hours you studied the following year and whether you passed or failed. I’m not sure I can face all this again but at the same time I know I am so close!

Dont give up yet. I believe that you have put in enough hours for 2017 L3. You just need to refine your study technique a wee little bit to push you to the finish line.

Instead of doing full practice exams, compile the exam questions topic-by-topic and work them out - one topic per day. Go back to actual CFA AM exams dating to 2008 or so - look for IFT who determines which AM questions are still relevant to the curriculum.

Tip: Master the IPS questions (return, risk, liquidity), both individual and institutional: they are easiest to grab points once mastered, relative to other topics.

Thanks for the advice kevinsfl. I read that they are adding 8 new readings to the curriculum this year. Not sure if its true but that would be a killer. Do you think I need to read the whole curriculum again (I used Schweser last time but others are saying to read CFAI only), or could I get by with just watching videos?

Read the curriculum only on those (sub) topics tested at EOCs, past AMs, mocks, topic tests. The non-tested topics - either u skip, or read briefly.

In order of priority, I’ve mastered the following:

  1. Past AM Essays (First priority) - this is your backbone for knowledge, you use this as a platform to build further knowledge from (2) & (3)

  2. Topic Tests + Mocks

  3. EOCs (Last priority)

4. Third-party mocks (Zero priority)

I probably studied 500+ hours for Level 3.

My plan in the event of retaking

Oct - Mid Jan

Read official curriculum and do the EOCs

Make update to hand notes for new chapters

Mid Jan- Early Feb

1st round of practice (Past AM, TTs, Mocks)

Mid Feb - Early April

Read official curriculum 2nd time or if you wouldn’t be able to, read 3rd party notes do official EOCs once again

Mid Apr - Late Apr

2nd round of practice (Past AM, TTs, Mocks)


Read and repeat all hand notes, read additional notes as https://sites.google.com/site/cfalevel3examprep/

June 3 weeks

3rd round of practice (Past AM, TTs, Mocks)

I hope it might help. Cheers!


Check it out. I was 39 last year with 2 kids, but my wife insisted i go again this year.

I’d put myself 600+ starting December. I went one, two, three no fails, but sailed would not be my adjective to describe my journey through any single level. I really grinded on that morning in my prep work almost to my detriment. I think I worked through about 9-10 AMs and 5 PMs. I also went through the multiple choice Schweser Qbank to reach that pass guarantee which is another like 2000 questions. I didn’t work the PM enough and there are stylistically different questions you won’t find on one or the other. Even if the same subject is hit, AM and PM, the question content that shows up is quite different.

That feeling works two ways. My girlfriend of 4.5 years who was there before L1 prep began and my parents took the cake for most excited. I had built up a fail in my mind and was mentally ready to accept it and begin studying again in about November this time around. I suspect next year your greatest excitement will be not to be done studying, but to be able to give that time back to them.

Thanks for your input. I guess what I am trying to say is if I spent 600+ hours this time preparing for the exam will I still need to spend 600 if I decide to retake. Would all these hours already done not reduce my preparation time next year? If I thought I could prepare in 300 hours I would possibly go for it but I really don’t think I could put my husband and kids through half a year of me being holed up in my bedroom with textbooks again. Has anyone that retook spent fewer hours preparing the second time round?

I feel your pain. I failed last year after passing L1 and L2 pretty easily. It was a shock to me as I had never failed a test before in my life.

This year I put a lot more emphasis on the prior year exams and I think that’s what let me pass this time around. Everyone’s mind works differently and remembers a different amount of things over a 6-month break. I’d say I put in maybe around 300 hours this year. It didn’t feel like a lot less time than last year but I did feel like I still remembered some of the materials when I first started studying this year. At least I was able to tell which parts were important and needed more time allocation.

That’s tough and I understand your dilemma. It’s really tough juggling multiple full time tasks, including work, parenting and studying. I was able to get most of my readings done prior to my wife giving birth in May. In the final month, when I usually do my reviews, I’ve not been able to do much for the level 3. In what little time I had, I looked at the 2014-2016 morning exams and formulated the answers in my head (usually during lunch or dinner). I didn’t have time to practice writing the responses, and it really showed in the actual exam when I ran out of time and left the equivalent of 2 full questions completely blank. What really helped was looking at the Schweser videos that went through the AM questions as it details what you need to put down in your responses in order to get the points. You may write a lot about the same point and that’s not being efficient or effective. I felt that it helped me a lot to make sure that the responses I wrote would maximize the points I got. Best of luck and I hope you come through next year.

Thanks MadisonZZZ that’s really helpful to know and makes me feel slightly better to know it’s possible. What was your strategy for the retake? Did you buy new materials and did you use CFAI only or third party? Did you completely reread everything or just skim and focus on questions? I don’t really want to waste endless hours of my life ploughing through the CFAI books if my time would be better spent watching videos to refresh memory and tackling questions.

I can’t really answer these because everyone’s brain works differently. Maybe this year’s content happened to be heavy on the stuff you are weaker at. If this year’s test was much of your strong content, I would be worried with comparable preparation. Would it take 600 hours for comparable preparation, no, but I’d be careful of labeling this year’s test as your weaker content because that may give yourself the illusion that you don’t need to prepare to a certain level and underestimate the test.

Judging preparation based on hours is a simple out. Did you use a stop watch during every study session and stop it during every interruption or quick break? Neither did any of us throwing numbers out there and even if we did, we learn at different speeds. Mock scores would be a better judgment than hours. Add 10% to your mocks and you can fell good. Score similarly on mocks and attend nervously.

I am a re-taker as well and passed this time (passed L1 and L2 in first attempts). I would recommend GoStudy AM prep course which provides some techniques to learn faster on the key points. Also it provides grading of mock questions and helps to identify the mistakes we make in the morning session.

Retaker. Arround 300, only CFAI material. For me key was to finish all my flashcards, reviewing the material at least 2 weeks before the exam take place. Then doing 5-6 mock and of course, some previous real am exams.

Don’t give up, you’re gonna make it!

Approx 500 hrs…


read schweser first and visited CFAI readings on higher weighted topic areas, including EOC, took notes on high marks areas…including solutions/concepts but excluded ethics, hence 51-70 ))… 4 months…

starting mid march created a daily schedule consisting of schweser mocks, CFAI AM actuals for the past 7 years and combination of CFAI AM/PM mocks… so daily could complete one full exam… created a repeat pattern in a weeks time (so you would go through the same material at least twice)…took notes especially on those areas where I was weakest…

last 3 days review notes (1 & 2) + 1 mock exam.

Thanks guys, I appreciate your comments. I am really confused as to what went wrong because I filled all the questions in the AM and only felt there were a handful of things I didn’t know. I did okay on the mocks so have no idea how I scored so many <50. 1/3/5 in the PM but obviously not enough to carry me through.I’m worried that I put my all into this and it wasn’t good enough.

I didn’t time with stop watch but I started in November and did 2-3 hours consistently each week night plus 4-5 hrs per day at weekends. Went on an 11 day Fitch course plus read all Schweser cover to cover, plus EOC questions. Also watched every single Kaplan video and did 9 x AM mocks and 9 x PM mocks with thorough review of all. Took final week off work and did 8 days x 10 hrs. read Secret Sauce through 2 or 3 times. Didn’t do too many notes (Im not sure rewriting stuff is effective) but made loads of flashcards and reviewed towards end. Totally gutted after all my efforts that it didn’t pay off :frowning:

No, I definitely did not reread everything. I bought new Kaplan materials though just for the peace of mind. Also it seems like there’re a decent amount of changes from 2017 to 2018 so you might want to repurchase the materials just to make sure. I focused on the past exams and then for the parts I didn’t know well I read the Kaplan materials plus some googling to make sure I understood.

Wish you luck next year! Don’t give up!

Thanks Madison, that makes me feel more hopeful that I can do this. If Im totally honest, I don’t think I could dedicate the 280 hrs needed just to READ the CFAI curriculum through. I’ve covered the material before and felt like I knew it well.

If I go ahead with this its Schweser or nothing, plus some serious focus on previous AMs. Although Im slightly apprehensive given I put my trust i Schweser last time and totally bummed out on the AM…

Maybe I need to buy Schweser and also invest in GoStudy or LevelUp to push me through from band 9 to a pass…

Trying to keep costs to a minimum.

Do LevelUp with Marc. It is advertised on this site and is truly superb. Just do this and you will be fine.