Why the huge dispersion in experience among L3 CBT takers?

Took Level 3 almost a week ago and overall found the CBT experience to be okay. In the past, I liked to check the forums for sentiment after the exam. For Level 1 (2018) and Level 2 (2019), this has been pretty consistent across forums and candidates (e.g. everyone felt it was super hard, or AM was a bit harder than PM or vice versa, etc.).

This time, however, there seems to be a huge dispersion among candidates that have taken Level 3.

Why do you think this is so different? Because the questions are drawn randomly from a pool now with CBT?

Seems like either the AM was difficult and PM was easy or vice versa. For me, the AM was difficult and sometimes pretty far away from the Syllabus. On the other side, the PM was a breeze with 1 hour left to double-check everything and to make sure to uncover most of the traps. It seems strange to me that the time constraint and difficulty varies so much between the AM and PM (compared to the Mocks and previous year’s exams). Coming back to my original point, it’s also strange to see that there is so much variation among candidates. I wonder how CFAI will grade this fairly but I’m afraid we will never find out how (if) they do it.

For reference, I scored around 60-70 on the AM Mocks (MM and 2017/18 exams) and 70-80 on the PM mocks (Boston Mock PM was 79 for example).

Given the strong performance in the PM, I feel it’s a coin toss, which is the feeling that most seem to have. I’m not sure if CFAI wants most candidates to walk away from the exam thinking it’s a coin toss. Eventually, I believe this could undermine the integrity of the exam.

Let me know your thoughts.

Dispersion in sentiment is always high. It comes down to preparedness and variability in material knowledge. If you got thrown a few things you didn’t know too well in one section then that’s the hard one for you, but someone else may think those are easy. The questions coming from a pool may play a minor role, but it’s just noise because the dispersion would be there anyway.

The outcome will always feel for most like a coin toss. It doesn’t have anything to do with the CFA exam specifically and doesn’t damage the integrity. People are bad at gauging their performance. They recall the questions they struggled with but not those they crushed. The anxiety leading up to it persists post exam and makes you second guess yourself. And lastly the people that did crush it are often too afraid to admit they think they did in case they didn’t and have to admit it later or in case the voodoo gods get them.

1 Like

I actually do not see such dispersion.

Most of the comments are : AM was long with some weird questions and PM was fair (meaning easy).

I am more concerned by the shared sentiment of the easiness. I am afraid that they may not assess candidate on sufficiently complicated topics allowing them to show their level.

I share your feeling on this. For level 1&2 everyone got the same exam and the format for AM&PM are the same. I think the difference in format for AM and PM and the pool of questions both contributed to the dispersion.

With AM there’s more uncertainty given the open question structure, the depth of material may not as hard as PM, but I struggled with time constraints, topics getting tested on, and ambiguity of language used in vignette. As Kasdutch said either you know it and think it’s super easy, or felt completely clueless.

The huge dispersion I guess comes from how well candidates have prepared. Some kept studying nonstop when their exam got cancelled multiple times. Some just worked backward and did enough just to cross the passing line. I know many people who put in more than double or triple time on this exam due to covid. I guess if they say the exam is “easy”, it makes a lot of sense because we normally don’t have the luxury to do so. The exam would probably be considered “not easy” for those attempting L3 right after passing L2.

From an exam perspective, I feel that not everyone got the same question set. It’s hard to compare mine to yours. Mentally I think some people may suffer from the overconfidence bias. I saw a lot of traps on my exam. If I weren’t careful, I would have answered incorrectly. While someone said the exam was easy, I also heard that the exam questions were very obscure. The topic weights were way off from the norm. I guess CFAI will have a way to grade at the question level instead of at the exam level. It will be more fair if we are comparing against others who got the same question.