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CFA Level III Study Progress

I have been blogging about my progress through the CFA program for almost five years now. To give a short summary: I passed Level I on my first try, failed Level II twice, then passed Level II on my third try. This year I’m taking the Level III exam, which is in about six weeks.

I registered for Level III early and began studying in December. My study plan was originally somewhat random and poorly planned out. I began by taking the most recent full-length practice exam available through the CFA website. My reasoning was that I wanted to become familiar with the essay-type questions that appear in the morning section. As expected, I did very poorly. I’d estimate that I scored about 40% correct on this first exam.

I then started progressing through the CFA Institute material. Not surprisingly, it’s incredibly dry and very hard to get through. So I went ahead and purchased the full set of Schweser books; the cost was $436. I then spent about 2 months reading through every chapter of the Schweser books and doing their end of chapter questions. I completed the initial review of all the material by the middle of March. At this point, I did four more practice exams: another official CFA exam from a past year, and all 3 Schweser practice exams.

I definitely took a lazy approach to these practice exams. It’s really hard to sit for a full six hours on a Saturday and complete an exam. Instead, for all the practice exams, I took the morning section, then took the afternoon section the next day. I then gradually corrected the exam of the course of a few days. This approach helped break up the monotony somewhat, but it obviously doesn’t represent the timed conditions of the actual exam.

On all of these practice exams, I would estimate than I scored under 50%. Nearly every time, I felt like I was seeing new material, or the questions were asked in an unfamiliar way. I definitely feel like I have to review all the practice exams again and possibly redo them.

However, for the time being, I have decided to work through all of the end of chapter questions in the official CFA Institute material. I think the Schweser material is good and I worked through it quickly, but the material hasn’t stuck with me and there aren’t enough practice questions. I need to do many many more practice questions from the CFA material until I really understand it.

I’ve also registered for two in-person, full length practice exams in May. These should be useful and they will force me to sit for the full six hours under actual exam conditions.

– Matt Kirisits