Practice Exams for Level 3: how do you practice the essay?

I’m new to L3, and just wondering… I’m comfortable with the multiple choice part of the test and how the practice exams help prepare you for it, but how do people prepare for the essay part? How do Schwesser and Stalla help with the essay part? I know Stalla has a mock exam: does that include a mock essay? Does Schwesser have anything like that? I’m a good writer, but one of the best things I got from Stalla on L1 and L2 were these little strategy tips on how to deal with the questions and how to avoid easy traps and pitfalls. I don’t really know what things to watch out for on the essay part of L3. Any passers or repeaters have some advice here?

doing the old exams is the only way to go. i’d be saving those until the last month or so, however. write them under exam conditions…

One thing I haven’t seen tried is posting your “essays” to AF – may garner some useful feedback. (Though I expect the novelty to wear off quickly – do it fast!) You also might try to find a buddy (via Hook Up) – exchange your essays and mock-grade them.

bchadwick - I’ve been wondering the same thing, but I’ve also noticed that many of the end of chapter questions and answers in the CFAI material are presented in essay form, so this is one good way to prepare for this part of the test. Re: Schweser, I’ve put the question to the Level 3 instructor and asked him how the Schweser M/C format could help us prepare for writing essays. He said the following: " The best way to prepare for answering essay questions is practice. You will find all the relevant 2005 and 2006 exam questions in our Practice Exams book, Volume 2. In the answers to those questions I have included hints on answering the questions as well as what I feel would be the ‘exam answer.’ Also, all season long I will focus on helping you answer essay questions in the online seminar as well as the Level 3 blog."

What is the Practice exam, volume 2? Is that Book 7 or an extension of Book 6?

From Schweser blog: “Those of you who have used Schweser in the past may be wondering, “What happened to Books 6 and 7?” The short answer is that they were renamed Practice Exams Volume 1 (Book 6) and Practice Exams, Volume 2 (Book 7, formerly JKE/Excel/Practice Exams). Each volume contains 3 full-length exams. For 2008, Practice Exams, Volume 2 also contains a Bonus Section featuring Actual CFA exam questions and analysis.” Here is link to full discussion:

Not going to worry about writing strategies until I get through the readings but I did have a couple of concerns on my mind. Any thoughts from L3 vets out there? 1. I hear there is a limited amount of space given to answer each question – is this true? (Like a box on the page in which your answer must fit or something.) 2. Must you write in sentences or is point form sufficient? It’s not really “essay” is it? Does the CFAI actually prefer paragraphs or can you demonstrate your knowledge more succintly using bullets/sub-bullets? 3. Is the exam a physical as well as mental test? Some exams (not CFA) have so much writing that those with weak hands will tire and cramp by the end. Is L3 like that at all?

I met a level III essay grader at work, and she said some things I found comforting. 1) Handwriting legibility doesn’t count at all - of they can’t read it, they pass it around toother graders until they understand what you wrote. Obviously scrawled garbage isn’t graded, but you don’t have to write in grade-4 cursive to get it read and graded 2) bullets and prose are equal - they don’t care if you write complete sentences or just hit the bullets - they have a set of data points they are looking for, and if you put them down, they get graded.

No offense, but this is mentioned on the CFAI website: Tips for Taking the Level III Essay Exams The Level III essay exam is given in the morning session and has a maximum score of 180 points. The essay exam typically has 12–15 questions, and questions may have multiple parts. The points for each question and each question part are given in the exam. The following are some general tips for Level III candidates on the essay exam: -The published guideline answers on past essay exams are more complete and better written than actual exam answers that receive full credit. -Answers are graded only on content. They are not graded for language and style. -Use short phrases and bullet points to save time, but be sure your meaning is clear. -Handwriting is rarely so poor that the answer cannot be graded. -Points are awarded for direct answers to a question. -No points are awarded for general knowledge that is not responsive to the question. -Do not spend too much time writing an answer. This is particularly tempting when you know the topic well. Formulate a direct response to the command words, and use the amount of time allotted. -No one has ever received a perfect score on any level of the CFA exam. Even though it is not by design, you should expect to encounter questions that you will not be able to answer correctly. There is a great deal of material to master, and exam questions are challenging. Standard setters (at Levels I and II) and the Board of Governors (at all three levels) take account of exam difficulty in setting Minimum Passing Scores. Find out more about how the MPS is established (PDF). The following are common reasons that graders give for poor candidate performance on the essay portion of the Level III: N-ot responsive to command word list (list, define, etc.) -Answered a question they wish they had been asked instead of the question that was asked. -No work shown on a calculation question and the answer is incorrect. -Hedged on questions that asked for a recommendation and justification (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.

  1. I hear there is a limited amount of space given to answer each question – is this true? (Like a box on the page in which your answer must fit or something.) There will be more than enough space to answer each question. If you find yourself running out of space in the practice exams, you are writing too much. Use bullet points to save time and space, and to avoid cramping.

There’s no trick to the essay questions. Just know the answer and write it down in point form. The only “practice” should be learning the material. I would review past exams to get a taste of what the questions might look like, but don’t read too much into them. Last year’s exam was a lot harder and different than previous years. Anything from a non-CFA source is pretty much worthless. Save your time.

There will be some questions where the CFAI will give you four blank pages and you will use .25 pages. This will cause you to panic a little bit. The most important part of the essay section to practice is the IPS stuff. Most of the rest of the essay section shapes up a lot like the MC section. You will have options to choose from and be asked to back up your selection with brief arguments. A lot of the MC questions you practice will help you on the essay section imho.