Level III failure reasons

I request L3 candidates, charterholders, and everybody else who have dealt with L3 or are aware about the L3 format sufficiently to provide your inputs on the various reasons that could lead to an L3 failure.

For example, Andy Holmes wisely opined that anyone who hasnt prepared well will never pass L2. Prepared candidates fail for one or more of the three reasons below:

  1. Not comfortable with the vignette format and / or Not practicing enough questions

  2. Not timing well enough to complete the 240 question exam and cover all sections

  3. Weak in heavy weight sections: FRA & EQUITY

I myself almost failed due to reason 1 above and recalled Andy Holmes’ words while writing the CFA L2. Lucky to have passed though.

I am looking for similar wisdom about Level 3.

L2 had 120 questions.

Ask Andy Holmes again!

And pliz, these are tense times. This is a pressure room!!

I’d wait another 12 days before asking for advice.

^^ exactly. Wait 12 days before asking for any advice.

I think most people who pass level 2 think that they are bound to pass level 3, overestimate themselves and underestimate difficulty level of the level 3 exam…in short…fake ego boost…its a different animal and way more difficult to handle than level 2

^ Agreed


I believe that the primary reason that people fail Level III is that they earn fewer points than the minimum passing score.

Number 1 reason: Didn’t do enough timed mock exams.

That’s how a fail decision is determined not why you failed.

"they earn fewer points than the minimum passing score’’ means “they fail”

Now your statement would read,

I believe that the primary reason that people fail Level III is that they fail…wtf?

I dont understand how recalling the reasons for failure could help during the exam. Even if you know one of the reasons which could cause you fail the exam is doing too less exercises, you are not going to be able to change it during the exam.

If you want to seek advices on how to prepare for the exam, then you can browse through the threads on this forum and you can get plenty of advices.

CFAI should train us to understand sarcasm as well…a good replacement for ethics

You havent interpreted correctly what I am seeking. I’ll elaborate for your and others’ better understanding.

I am not seeking generic tips on preparation such as begin early, read all the materials, use CFAI / Schweser, leave time for revision, solve problems (more on this below), relax on the last day, AND SCORE MORE THAN THE MPS!! :smiley: etc etc.

What I am seeking are causes for failure in L3 for a person who has prepared satisfactorily and yet failed due to certain blindspots or nuances of the exam format itself. I am not sure if you have had experiences with examinations where people who have put in hard work fail routinely. In my 30 years, I have attempted a number of such exams. CFA L2 was one of them.

Now as for solving problems is concerned, do not assume that practicing problems is a pre-requisite for all examinations. I’ll tell you, not even in the hard mathematical sciences is it always required. I have an undergraduate in one such area where practicing problems was a waste of time for exam preparations, even though the examinations had questions that needed to be solved.

CFA L2 is definitely one exam where the more you practice, the better chances of success.

There are other examinations where time management is a non-issue. One such famous examination is the IIT JEE in India (not of the recent years but think 10 years back, the format no longer exists). This examination used to have 10 questions - all subjective and required elaborate responses and you had 3 hours. If you dont write a single word for the first one hour and just strategize well which questions you are going to attempt and in the next 2 hours you solve 3-4 questions completely - you can definitely expect a very good rank.

I am seeking to check what are the nuances of the format of this examination: CFA L3 and what are the pitfalls wherein a person spends enough time, covers all the material and still fails because of reasons other than his acquired learning from reading the curricullum.

Now I understand current year candidates awaiting results would be unwilling to give advice at this point. However there are several charterholders and sorcerers on the forum whose advice and magic potions could be useful here.

I think we can all agree that the AM section is what makes people fail level 3. Having said that, in my opinion, the primary reason why people fail the AM is because they write too much and are trying to impress the grader with their knowledge that (a) wasn’t asked in the question and (b) not in the curriculum. This wastes their time that could have been used to refine/review harder questions.


Scroll down to the end of the page and read “Feedback from Exam Graders”. They have listed all the reasons there.


For your convenience, I am posting it here. Feedback from Exam Graders

The following are common reasons that graders give for poor candidate performance on the essay portion of the Level III:

  • Answer is not responsive to command word list (list, define, etc.)
  • Answer is incorrect and none of the calculation work is shown.
  • Hedged on questions that asked for a recommendation and justification (e.g., recommended A, but justified B).
  • Neglected to answer part of the question (especially if a several part question). Note that you can still answer part E, even if you do not know the answer to part D.
  • Content area experts spent too much time on their area of expertise, leaving too little time for weak areas.
  • Providing more items or responses than requested. If a question asks for three factors, only the first three that you list will be graded.

Haha, many of the threads started by the recently minted L3 candidates have turned into this.

I support it.


You were expecting profundity, perhaps? Tautologies are rarely profound.

Rather it requires a Socrates or a Newton to meditate on the profundity of tautologies.