Will be retaking the exam next year. Please help my understand what I'm doing wrong

It is becoming very clear that I need help to better understand what I’m doing wrong and why I’m not able to pass the exam. This post might end being a bit too long. My apologies in advance.

This was my third time writing the exam. Once again, I was ranked Band 2 (all three times). The results sound ridiculous to me too since I could tell you that I already know the Schweser notes by heart. This is how I prepared with some variations each year and what my strategy was for the exam and also what I did during the last exam.

Started studying for the exam around the end of December by constantly reviewing the Schweser notes (did not review/read) Ethics until the end of April). In between, I was also doing some of the CFAI end of chapter and the blue boxes questions in the chapter for all of the different books. I might have read all Schweser notes more than 3 three times each and I believed that I have a very good understanding of all concepts (if you look at my results that might not sounds correct). To better understand how I was doing, I also did many, many Schweser Q bank questions and at the end, my averages was in the high 70s for all of the topics. Around mid-April, I focused on the end of chapter and blue box questions. Spent some time reviewing the Schweser notes but mostly focused on the areas that I did not understand that well (taxation eg.). Around the first week of May, I did my first morning exam mock exam, and I was not able to finish all of the sections on time although, I believed that most of my answers were correct. Lesson learned, I decided to write more concise answers by timing myself (at least this was the idea). From the answers of the mock exam, my understanding was that the answers did not need to be long at all but just to the point? Some of them required just once sentence?. Anyhow, I continued studying and reviewing all the Schweser notes and some of the CFA books (reading some of the chapters this time, just selected portions). Give me option calculations, SWAPs, you name them, I can calculate them (at least before the exam or in a non-exam environment).

Luckily, I was able to take the two weeks before the exam off. The first week, I spent reviewing the Schweser notes (all 5 books), constantly doing end-of-chapter and blue box questions. It is good to mention that I did another mock exam and all of the actual morning exams since 2011. It is important to point out that I finished only the 2012 exam on time and according to my marking of the exam, I did fairly okey for that exam and for the rest of the exam (buy marking myself could be subjective…). The second week, I continued with the review off all Schweser notes, end of chapter questions of the CFAI books and doing Ethics questions. Overall, I studied almost every single day since the beginning of January, weekends, nights, morning. It would be impossible to tell you how many hours I have spent studying for the exam. A lot would be the correct answer.

I did not do any Schweser pratcies exams this year, or in previous years.

The night before the exam date, I might have had around 5-6 hours of sleep but I would not be able to tell at this point.

For the morning portion of the exam, I started with the last two questions first and I thought that I was able to answer them very well (not the case base on the exam results). Then, I tried the first questions and I worked my way through the rest of questions. I run out of time by question 8-9, and I had to write something for question 8 and 9. Based on my exam results, the outcome from those two questions would not have irrelevant given the poor results from the rest of the questions. In previous years, I was able to finish on time but with the same poor results.

The afternoon session, I found the questions very fair and I thought that I did just fine (although, I was tired and dehydrated, I think).The only exception was Ethics which is always a gamble ( you know why). In 2014, I did very poorly in the afternoon session but in 2013 I did very well (I could post my results if somebody is willing to analyze them).

My big question is what am I doing wrong? How did you study for the exam (especially, the people who were able to pass it on the first try). Thank you very much for your feedback in advance. Please find my exam results below:

1 Portfolio Management - Institutional 14 * - -

2 Portfolio Management - Institutional 17 - * -

3 Fixed Income Investments 19 * - -

4 Alternative Investments 20 * - -

5 Portfolio Management - Performance Eval.15 * - -

6 Portfolio Management - Risk Management 14 * - -

7 Portfolio Management - Individual 18 * - -

8 Portfolio Management - Individual 16 * - -

9 Portfolio Management - Asset Allocation 15 * - -

10 Economics 14 * - -

11 Portfolio Management - Indiv/Behavioral 18 * - -

Item Set

  • Economics 18 - - *

  • Equity Investments 18 * - -

  • Ethical & Professional Standards 36 - * -

  • Fixed Income Investments 18 - * -

  • Portfolio Management 18 * - -

  • Portfolio Management - Individual 18 - - *

  • Portfolio Management - Monitor&Rebalan 18 * - -

  • Portfolio Management - Risk Management 36 - - *

Your score band: 2

Appears you failed almost all of the AM sesson. I have to assume either they can’t read your writing, or you’re not writing down the answers correctly (even if you think you know the answer). My suggesion, if you want to retabke, do few small sections of past exam - perhaps redoing this year’s when it comes out or last year - and have someone else review your answers. Perhaps you post it on this form, and someone will be kind enough.

You obviously pased L2, which i think is more difficult than L3. It is something with your writing - either hand writing, or how you are organzing your answer. If you have 2nd or 3rd pair of eyes review what you’re writing - perhaps it’ll become clear.

So pull out an old exam, time it - and do say first 2 or 3 sets - allocate exact number of times it states. And then post it on the forum, and ask someone to analzye and give you feedback.

Do not use Schweser notes for L3, read the actual curriculum. And you mentioned that you did not do any practice exams, that is why you are failing by my estimation.


i did only mock exams and previous AM exams…

^ L2 material is about 20% more difficult than L3 but L3 exam is about 50% more difficult than L2, at least from my perspective and colleagues.

Back to OP, you need to do past exams. I did AM sections multiple times and tried to memorize the answer guidelines to pinpoint exactly what CFAI is looking for.

But band 2 for 3 straight attempts sounds fishy. How many hours did you put in each try?

it works just fine … i did it in 2013 and failed with band 7. Didn’t practice wirting at all - so that was the reason. Re-did it this year, most SCH notes, and some EOC questions (not all, as i didn’t have time). But this time, i timed/practice about 2 old AM sesson, and checked my answer vs. guilde line answer. And now i passed.

It all depedns on individuals, but i found actual curriculul is way way to long - and would take too much time to read. But what does help is the blue box and EOC questions - that helped me realize, how i was making silly mistake, not reading/understanding questions correctly.

what is strange is that he is dong fairly well in PM - which means he knows the materails, but doing lot lot worse in AM.

I think it’s fine but in OP’s case he failed three years in a row using Scheweser so maybe a change is in order.

how many?

like klaudnine said, stop using schweser. Schweser might be enough for some but not everyone is able to fully grasp and understand the concepts using the material. so for Schweser or any other prep material, YMMV.

i failed level 2 two years ago, band 5. i solely used schweser because it worked for me during level 1. i know it’s not Schweser’s fault. but personally, i wasn’t able to fully understand the concepts. i think the way they present the material is too simplified. but for levels 2 (specially) level 3, you need to have a deep understanding of the material because the exams (except level 1) test how you are able to apply the concepts.

i suggest you study the CFAI books and answer each and every BBs and EOC, previous years exam and mock exams at least 3 times. fortunately it worked me. hopefully it’ll work for you too.

all the best.

Short and direct answers. Bullet points. Don’t write essays.

around 3-4 hours a day with one day off every week. It sounds insane, I know…

two mock exam 2015

that’s what i’m thinking … he is writing somethig that is not what CFA is looking for. I thought was he/she reviews the answer with someone who passed.

To OP,

Frankly, your PM matrix doesn’t look that good when you compare it to other candidates. If you think you did well in PM, think again. Most of the people who posted their results seem to easily have gotten >80 in PM. You’re likely pushing around 70 (at best), which for PM at level 3 is generally a failing grade.

Here’s what I take from your original post.

  1. Your english writing skills are more than sufficient for the exam

  2. Time management is an issue - as you only finished 7 AM questions - but not a major one as you scored <50 in almost all of your morning questions

  3. Based on your decent PM matrix, I believe your concepts are clear enough

Possible Issues

  1. Your actual hand writing is unreadable

  2. You’re giving too much unnecessary details in your essay questions (wasting precious exam time)


  1. Give extra focus towards understanding the question and only provide BULLET POINTS for what is asked. NOTHING MORE!

Preparation Strategy:

  1. Read the curriculum and make bullet points of everything that can be testable (usually everything)

  2. Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of everything (there are tons)

  3. Make a list of the purposes of everything (again tons)

  4. Learn ALL formulas

Best of luck for your exams in the future.

You mentioned “Schweser” eight times. It seems like you completely went for it.

Work your own notes and start the Curriculum clear. You will find MANY things you had no idea existed. Do all AM mocks you can find. Compare your AM answers to the ones given. What is missing? Keywords? Timing?

Kill the PM.

rednraven, a few thoughts…

  1. if you are truly serious about getting over this hump (i’m not implying that you haven’t been to this point), you need to seek out a current L3 candidate or someone who has recently tackled L3 to help you with your AM session. From your original post, it doesn’t seem to me that you are grading yourself like they will for you on test day. You NEED to take the practice AM sessions like you will on the actual test day… they are not useful if you’re just going through them writing out answers, and feeling like you are right, and moving on. STUDY the past exams, know why got something right and why you got something wrong. If you have gone through past AM papers and “done well,” but bombing the actual exam, there is something obvious that you need to fix.

  2. stop using Schweser

  3. i repeat, stop using Schweser. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase about the definition of insanity, right? I ate McDonalds every day for 3 yrs and wondered why i wasn’t losing weight…so i stopped eating at McDonalds - catch my drift? (PS-i did not actually eat at McDonalds, that’s disgusting)

  4. start EARLY. if starting in December leads you to Band 3, then start in November…change it up a bit. I get the feeling that you are going through the motions and doing the same thing each year while feeling that someday your exam results will be different. just like i said in 3 above, if you’re doing the same thing each year, you will continue to get the same result.

  5. now, some more below the line recommends… a) do EVERY past AM exam session back to 2009, timed, and grade EVERY single one of them. Spend a week if you have to going through an old exam, learn what they want you to write, and almost memorize how you’re supposed to write those answers. I’d even do old exams 2-3 times if time permits. b) do EVERY end of chapter question in the CFAI books - ALL of them! if you can’t answer it by memory, then do it as open book. Practice writing the correct answers and learn from it.

best of luck next yr. if you need any addtl help or need any guidance going through L3 next yr, please do not hesitate to private message me on this forum. It took me 2 tries to get through level 3…it’s a beast, and much “harder” for a lot of ppl than Level 2.

I bet the main problem is your hand writing. You clearly understand the concepts.

DO LAST 10 YR AM Exams in real test scenario and get them avaluated by 3rd party