This forum is scaring the **** out of me about difficulty of level 3

How do you reconcile the fact that the passing rate is >50% yet some people are studying over 400 hours and still failing plus some people are stuck on level 3 for years? I had nightmares about passing level 2 and it ended up being a very difficult process… My plan is to target 500 hours but the thought that it may not be enough is alreading adding anxiety… It appears the AM format is throwing people off due to time constraints and some haven’t practiced enough… Is it true that it is difficult to get full credit? Why is it so difficult to get a question 100% correct? If you can give “2 reasons A=B” and show the formula why won’t you get full credit?

AM session is maybe 10% calculation and 90% theory. Even if you understand the concept fully, if you can’t explain them in clear, concise language using CFA terms, then you most likely won’t get full marks.

AM questions are harder to get 100% than L1 and L2 since the latter are all multiple choice. One could make the argument that AM may be easier in sense that at least you can get partial credit, which is not possible in first 2 exams.

Yes, that is the challenge with Level III. The AM is tough. The good news is the CFAI gives you old exams to practice. Utilize them heavily or you’ll be sweating bullets on a certain Saturday morning in June.

The PM is similar to Level II (maybe a tad more difficult), which is obviously challenging but if you cleared Level II you ought to be OK if you know the material well and practice EOCs and Blue Box questions.


it’s all about applying what you know, not just memorization.

Study hard and study right and you will pass. Practice AM. If you can’t pull off a decent score here, you are doomed. I was scared for the AM because I wrote full sentences for the first 1.5 hours. This was a mistake. You need to learn to write bullet form and be concise and effectice with your answers. No bull$h!t.

And if you are scared, start now. I wish I started earlier, but in the end I guess it didn’t matter.

I think the the AM session is always going to be difficult because no one gets their feedback from the marker as to why they get points deducted/ not receiving full credit.

Most of the time, candidates (myself too) think they have answered the questions fully but they didn’t end up getting full marks, so that’s frustrating.

If it’s MC, there is less uncertainly as to why you didn’t pass/ score lower than expected, unless there was an actual error on the CFA exam, which they would probably waive the question after.

AM is very difficult in my opinion, more so than level 2 because until you receive your result you have absolutely no idea how well you did.

Level 3 is probably the most underestimated of the three. People see the 50% pass rate and interpret that to mean that the exam is easier than the other two. Remember that the caliber of test takers is not only much higher but much more determined (the light is at the end of the tunnel). So it’s by far the most competitive of the three exams.

I found the 2015 AM section easy but time was an issue (finished 2 minutes before deadline). The AM section had some “tricks” but they were quite easy to spot assuming the candidate was well prepared. Right now, I can easily tell how most of the candidates must have messed up or what details they must have overlooked in the vignettes during the AM exam

The PM section was absolutely easy, quite possibly even easier than the level 1 exam. You should absolutely have no time management issues. Although general consensus suggests ethics to be vague, I found it relatively straight forward. You just need to know the minutest details of and the differences between each standard.

Some helpful tips

  1. Learning objectives are not be all and end all; everything inside the books is fair game on the exam.

  2. Learn from the Mocks and the actual past AM exams (CFA institute’s explanation of the answers is very detailed and helpful).

  3. During the years, Level 3’s number of readings have been reduced sharply (by ~40%). Make sure when doing past AM exams and mocks, you only do questions that’s part of the current year’s syllabus. Doing out of syllabus questions will not only waste a significant portion of your time, it will also crush your morale and confidence until you find out the reading was actually removed from the curriculum.

  4. Time will most likely be an issue during the AM exam but not on the PM exam. Don’t leave your PM exam early. Use your leftover time to reinforce your selected choice. If additional time is left, try to decipher how CFA institute came up with the other 2 choices you didn’t select.

  5. Don’t believe in partial credits. They probably give a false sense of hope. Most of the time, it’s either the right answer or the wrong answer. In my opinion, the only time partial credit applies is if the exam asks for 3 justifications and you provide 2 correct ones. Then you obviously will get 2/3 points.

PS: I got 70+ in all sections

Level 2 is hard because of the amount of material you have to learn.

Level 3 is harder because the exam is different and very difficult. The material is not very quantitative so for many people the material is easier compared to level 2. However, completing AM exam in alloted time is extremely difficult. Treat the exam itself as equivalent to 2-3 study sessions and allocate time accordingly in your preparation and try to master the exam format. You should practice with past AM papers in exam like conditions (Maybe go to a library where people are moving around you and you are trying to focus and solve the exam).

PM part, even though similar to level 2, usualy has some tricks and traps, so be careful.

And lastly, do not ignore Ethics. It is extremely difficult on level 3.

Good luck.

this one must be that legendary top 5% smiley

^more like top 0.1%

If I can give you a tip, it is to pay a class and listen alot to the advice about the AM part.

I have a colleague who failed last year and from our discussion he seems to have written essays for each AM question, while it is more efficient to just write bullet point style.

It is this kind of advice which is worth paying a class for Level 3.

To be honest I thought the Level 3 material was a lot easier than level 2. Anyone who passes level 2 should be able to pass the PM without too much trouble.

The problem seems to be how good you are at the AM section, which varies highly and doesn’t correlate with level 2 success.

This isn’t much help, but the only thing you can do is take AM mocks and study the answers carefully.

like a boss

its very simple, level three is more challenging than level 2 becuse half the exam is written and secondly because its not memoirization dependent but more geared towards making sure you understand things and how everything learnt fits together and can apply it to new scenarios. So the key thing L3 tries to throw at you is unfamiliarity in order for you to put your understanding to use.

Yes it seems great that 5 out of ten people pass it, but keep in mind that these 5 include people with the advantage of being repeaters, and then the rest are all people who had what it takes to pass L2 and who also wanna get this thing over with and finally get their charter !! so this extreme competition makes for a way more aggressive mix of exam takers for L3 as opposed to L2… despite all this i find most people say they hear that L2 is hardest and although this is far from true but L2 does get a lot more publicity due to having a ton more students stuck at it than L3 by virtue of the narrowing down effect that happens to the number of candidates from one level to another

Ps. dude who posted about how L3 was a breeze for him, is an anomaly and should be completely ignored… not out of disrespect for him and his achievment but out of the fact that 99% of people have a completely different experience on the L3 exam !

Agreed but I would go even further and say that time management is even more crucial. Of course you have to know your work but if you dont manage your time properly and lose points on unfinished questions regardless of whether or not you knew the answer you are already putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.

I had two minutes to spare and the last three questions I scored >70 so make sure you at least attempt everything with reasonable certainty and conviction.

Don’t believe it’s difficult just watch

reystander - totally agree. Time mgt is very important. I also strongly feel that the reason people do not finish the AM portion is because they obsess over the first question or try to write a perfect answer and then fall behind. It’s like they get knocked out in the first round and never recover. Do not let this happen to you, do not try to be perfect. Answer all the questions quickly in bullet points as best you can, then go back and revise answers or add comments as necessary. If you never get to the last few questions you are leaving points on the table. Answering the question could mean 4/12 points which is better than 0/12 - those 4 points could mean the difference between Band 10 and passing.