My scores to mock exams before passing - Giving back

Hi guys,

This forum has been a great help for me during study time for the three levels. I learned a lot and cannot count the comprehension mistakes I avoided by reading posts here. I thought it would be nice to give back to the community. Among the main questions when I was a candidate for lvl III were always the number of mock exam to take and the score to target. So here you have the scores I got in the mocks I did (10 old AM mocks and the 6 Schweser ones) :

(the line CFAI mock is the average of the below scores)

I also did all topic tests twice and then those with less than 66% a third time.

My pass matrix is as follow :

Working hard is key but of course there is always a part of luck to the subjects that you get on the D-Day.

Hoping this can help this year candidates a bit !

PS : Use your brain and do not ask how to get old exams

People like Grrreg are unbelievably hard workers, and I understand not everyone will have that determination (or perhaps the time) to do all mock exams twice.

In my case, I tried to start as early as possible (November). I started doing Mocks at the end of April.

I completed all Mocks from 2007-2015 and never got above 65% in any essay.

The key message here is: Do not put yourself down when you see everyone posting 70%/80% mock exam scores. I know it used to bring me down. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself, take exam timing seriously and read the answers time and time again.

P.S. Well done Grrreg. From what I could see, you have probably the most well-deserved pass on this forum.

“The key message here is: Do not put yourself down when you see everyone posting 70%/80% mock exam scores.|”

That’s the key? I would say the key is to learn from your mistakes and make sure those scores go up rather than stay the same.

But congratz to both on passing.

Grrreg - sick matrix man. Very impressive, congrats!

I also agree to the above. Don’t put yourself down but also strive to improve those lower marks. Grade yourself harshly so you know where you’re weak.

@Portfolio Manager and @ltj, thank a lot, and I agree with both of you, you can see it in my results, my first AM was a 53% so really bad and I worked my way to higher scores. Don’t give up and practice until you do them in the alloted time with good results.

As for time, I was working 2 hours every morning before work and c.15h each week-end, I also took 2 weeks off to study just before the exam which explain why I could do all exams twice.

Good stuff. That first-mock feeling is awful, especially when you see another person hitting 80s. Of course, that may be their fourth mock because they are ahead of you time-wise, but it still is tough. Fortunately by now I knew that was going to happen and mentally adjusted before even seeing the score.

I was writing mocks a week out hitting 70’s. Thought I was doing great. There was a guy across from me at the library who was writing the same mocks. Everyday we’d both be there at 9 am to start our mocks. Everyday I saw him mark his and put the score in red at the top right of the paper at the end (as did I). Guy was scoring 90+ on every mock. Didn’t feel great at the time.

Saw him at the exam and he came up and introduced himself after the AM portion. He was rewriting for the 2nd or 3rd time (can’t remember) which explains the mock scores. Hope you nailed this one, Mike.

Impressive Gregg…Was this your first time? How many total hours did you spend?

I was 3rd time taker. I put about 500 hours last year for attempt 2, and even more this year for attempt 3 with about 600 hours I estimate. I don’t have an undergrad in finance, so some of this stuff was really new to me, which I feel makes it even more challenging. I took two weeks off before the test with easily 150 hours in those last two weeks.

Level 3 for me was a real slog…and a real challenge. The fallacy that L3 is easier, does not apply to me at all. For attempt 1 and 2 I read schweser, and the 3rd try I used the full 2200 page curriculum and did all blue box, and all EOC questions. I did all EOC and blue box twice for 3rd attempt and no Schweser Questions for 3rd attempt. And I took the online video class.


Schweser live mock that was proctored 4 full Schweser mocks.

CFA 2011 AM CFA 2012 AM CFA 2013 AM CFA 2014 AM CFA 2015 AM

My take away…if you are starting L3 without a real solid background in these topics(from undergrad or grad), I’d go with the full curriculum. It is more textbook based, and provides a more detailed understanding of the topics.

Also, budgeting is important. When I started with mocks, it’s 6 hours to take the mock, plus lunch, then 4-6 hours to review the mock appropriatly with learning the material for those questions missed. You must take time to take note of what you are weak in. That takes a huge amount of time. At least for the first 4 or 5 mocks.

ALSO, to note…when you take 5 scheweser mocks…no similar questions will be on all 5 exams. Meaning that there is so much material, be expected for the unexpected.

Some of you are crazy. 400, 500, 600 hours studying? 250-300 is just fine. I feel that some of you stating such huge #'s aren’t using those hours effectively. its only 2,000 pages for the CFA material, thats 100 hours at 20 pages per hour. So that leaves you ~200 hours of review. Break that down into something along the lines of ~50 hours of flipping through the material a second time to cover the hard/weak spots (review IPS stuff, etc)…then all that is left is sit down and crank out practice exams. They are 6 hours each at most, realistically more like 4-5 to take…especially the schweser ones where the vignettes are sometimes just 3 paragraphs (a few PM practice exams took me under 90 minutes from Schweser). Then you obviously want to spend a few hours reviewing each exam, so consider a typical practice exam plus review is 8-10 hours. So call a dozen practice exams 120 hours (conservative) and we are at 100 + 50 + 120 = 270 hours using very conservative estimates…so even if you want to hit the ‘magical’ 300 hours you still have extra review time left over to read through the material for your weak spots a third and fourth time, spend time doing the topic reviews on CFA website (which, by the way, are just old PM mock exam questions), waste time on analyst forum, etc.

There is a massive difference between sitting at your desk for 600 hours and actually studying hard, efficiently, and effectively for 250-300. I think that is where people make mistakes. Locking yourself in your room on a Saturday from 8am - 10pm might be 14 hours on the clock, but I’m wliling to bet for most people the actual studying is nothing close to 14 hours on those days.

I wasn’t an hour tracker but I definitely went hard at the end and probably did 450 or so. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. It’s possible I could still have passed with 300 hours but it’s a little too late for that now. I can assure you majority of my time was constructively spent. Happier to be the sucker who overdid it once than re-registering any day of the week.

Are you seriously assuming that a one time read through + ‘re-read your weak sections’ is good enough to start answering anything? Get real. You need to make extensive notes and re-read those 100 times. I covered the whole curriculum 5+ times. I wasn’t going to leave it to chance. As ltj said, I’d rather spend 500 hours once, than 200 hours 3 times and waste 3 years of my life. Leave nothing to chance.

Everybody has a different situation and understanding of material when they start. If you can do it in 250-300 more power to you. For example I’ve never had exposure to derivatives outside of this curriculum, so a 1 time read through with not time to rework problems, memorize formula’s ext…wasn’t getting me there.

imaginethat is right…in that if you get into a cycle of retaking its hard to remember material over a year, or at least at a level required to pass.

CFAletsgo…you’re right also in that studying effectively is important. Most of my study hours were after long hard days at work and as a parent. I don’t know you’re situation, and it’s really irrelevant, but I’ve come across many unemployed people rolling through the curriculum without families or girlfriends…cakewalk.

I was a fixed income analyst, currently a PM in equities, I have a CPA, and an MBA. My point is that eveybody is in different situation…put in effort and you’ll get your CFA, anyone can do it.

Point is that if a candidate underestimates this L3 beast, you’ll get steam rolled.

Yes it is more than adequate because you continue to learn it as you struggle through practice exams. Getting questions wrong is the best way to learn the material in the way that the CFAI wants you to. I don’t care how well you have a formula memorized, if you don’t know how to apply it in a question it is irrelevant for passing the exam.

Personal situation is completely irrelevant when you are quantifying studying purely on hours spent. 250 hours of studying for an unemployed person or 250 hours studying for a parent of 9 kids is the same: its 250 hours of studying. That is my point. 250-300 hours of effective studying is more than adequate. Locking yourself in a room from 8am-10pm on a Saturday doesn’t mean you had 14 hours of effective studying, in fact I’d argue that is essentially impossible.

Why do you keep belaboring on that specific 14 hour day. Who says someone who is studying over 300 hours is doing that? There’s a variety of ways to hit a high study hour total without ever having a marathon session like that. You start in January, build in for one day off a week, ~3 hours a day = ~400 hours.

Seems like a weird hill to die on considering you’re talking to a bunch of people who passed. Whatever they did obviously worked for them. Time to shame someone for time spent with a positive result? Cool, dude.

You bring up the L2 vs L3 argument which I haven’t seen much of recently. It’s a good point because I have heard many claim L2 to be more difficult. Personally, I breezed through L2 and now am stuck on L3. I think that, almost beyond argument, L3 is a much much more difficult exam. The questions are trickier, more subjective, more in depth. The exam, in and of itself, is just written to be more difficult.

I think the subject matter of L2 is, however, almost beyond argument, more complex than L3. L3 is not difficult to understand which I believe leads some (like myself) to under-study. The ability to comprehend all the concepts of L3 is misleading because you not only need to comprehend…but you need to know exactly how to write the exam.

So, overall, in my opinion, L3 is much more difficult than L2 with all things considered. I do see how some could find L2 more difficult but I would imagine that would mostly be comprised of individuals who have strong overall intelligence, but not an exceptional background in finance.

Oh, and ethics is retarded on all three levels.

People spend more >450 hours on CFA?? I now see how the exam takes over people’s lives… But again, why not if you believe that is what it takes to nail it in 18 months…

I have a different life though… I am a daddy to two kids (5yrs and 2yrs) and a husband to one woman… It took me 7yrs to complete the whole thing… first time pass leve 1, held in L2 for 3 yrs and failed L3 once… All the time, I would start studying in February after the NFL season… I would study for 2.5hrs a day 6 days a week… that is 240hrs in the four months leading to the exam… I never lost family time for CFA… I do it for work…

In all the exams that I failed, I was in Band 10 (once in Band 9)… so clearly 240hrs is not enough… but you don’t have a choice if you work full time in New York city - where I take about 3hrs daily traveling to and from work, works extra hours almost every day, and works during some weekends and of course… again, no choice at all when you have to take your son to a football game on Saturday…

But like ltj said, studying painfully is the way to go in order to avoid the pain of failing… Perhaps if I was 20-30 and single, I would have done the same… pass in 18 months and make sure to include it in my resume… I have seen this many times when my bank advertises for positions…

I must say that the CFAI has frustrated me during the 7 years… I always thought 240hrs was enough - I have passed other exams with such preparation… However, since I joined this forum, I have learnt to appreciate how God has favored me - has given me a good job despite my English language inadequacies… I am only American by being born in Guam…

not too shabby grrrreg & good for you chizi…and everyone else that’s passed and will pass…its taken a lot of us a long time to get there…was it worth it? for me, i also have my own business so it wasn’t contributing to much career wise other than frankly my own pride in finishing something i started a long time ago! (in other words that’s a yes)

Those marathon days are often posted about here, so to answer your question a lot of people are saying that.

I’m not shaming anyone, you’re the only person to feel that way. I’m pointing out for future exam takers that you don’t need to study for the 4, 5, 600 hours like some of you here…you just need to spend your time effectively.

The discrepancy in the numbers of hours worked between people is sometimes quite crazy in this forum.

@Topperharley,I was the other way around, Lvl II was my beast and I felt better studying for lvl III, to each their strenghts I guess

@storlab yes it was my first attempt, I worked somewhere around 350 hours I would say, I never really counted. I definitely benefited from the knowledge I gained during my finance degree. You don’t mention doing old mocks in your post, did you only work the Schweser mocks ? Personally I think I learned the most during those old mocks from CFAI (especially the post 2010 ones)

@cfa3letgo I agree with you that quality over quantity is important, I never could work more than 3 hours in a row during week-end and more than 2 hours during weekdays.