Study Materials for 2023 CFA®, FRM®, Actuarial, GMAT® and EA® Exams

Level III of the
CFA® Exam

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What Should You Expect from Level III of the CFA Exams?

As you can see, the curriculum from Level III is much different from previous levels:

Topic Exam Weight
Ethical and Professional Standards 10 – 15%
Quantitative Methods 0%
Economics 5 – 10%
Financial Reporting and Analysis 0%
Corporate Finance 0%
Equity Valuation 10 – 15%
Fixed Income 15 – 20%
Derivatives 5 – 10%
Alternative Investments 5 – 10%
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning 35 – 40%

* The exam weights are subject to change on a year-to-year basis.

Questions Format

Half of the Level III CFA exam will be based on item sets. Just like in level II, you will be given cases followed by six multiple-choice questions.

The other half will be essay-type format, which requires candidates to write down long-form answers to complex questions.

Becoming a CFA Charterholder

The Level III exam is the last exam of the CFA Program conducted by the CFA Institute. Candidates who have relevant 4 years of experience can finally put the three letters next to their name if they are successful in their Level 3 exam. Apart from having the most prestigious and valued qualification in the finance and investment industry, all these efforts put throughout the process to pass the exams ensure candidates are walking a financial encyclopedia which grants them to become more confident in their professional lives and job interviews. Plus, it is nice to meet a CFA charterholder who also follows the same path in the networking events. Global recognition is another benefit. CFA charter is recognized by not only financial institutions globally but also by any corporation which reaches a certain size, required to allocate its sources efficiently. If randomly selected finance job postings are reviewed, it is not unusual to see that a considerable number of them require the CFA designation or at least mention it. Demand for CFA charterholders seems to increase in the future because they continue to contribute to society by adhering to high ethical standards.


General Information about the Level III CFA Exam

The Level III CFA exam is only offered in June. The afternoon session, similar to the Level II exam, includes item set questions. Each item set has 6 multiple-choice questions, and there are 10 item sets in total.

The unusual part of the Level III exam is the morning session, where candidates have to write answers in essay format. The essay format consists of 8 to 12 questions, and each question has two or more sub-parts.

Unlike other CFA exams, the curriculum for level III focuses mainly on portfolio management and wealth planning. Topics such as Quantitative Methods, Economics, Corporate Finance, Financial Reporting, and Analysis have been removed from the curriculum. Ethics, Alternative Investments, Derivatives, Equity Investments, and Fixed Income topics mostly preserve the weightings assigned in previous exams. Meanwhile, Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning topics’ weightings now comprise 45%-55% of the Level 3 exam.

Answering Essay Format Questions

Knowing how to answer essay type questions is one of the most noteworthy criteria for success in the Level III exam. Rule number one is not answering these questions in essay format. Candidates waste their time if they try to answer these questions by using long sentences and paying too much attention to grammatical choices and vocabulary. Rather, they should give concise answers focusing on what CFA Institute wants to assess. It is important to keep answers understandable, but as CFA Exams do not assess the ability of candidates to master English spelling, candidates should not spend too much time on word choices.

Exam success is directly connected with improving essay performance before walking into the exam hall, for evaluating essay questions is not as easy as for multiple-choice questions. Self-grading comes into play here. To do self-grading correctly, candidates must be objective at first. Only if they do self-grading properly can candidates discover their gaps in knowledge and develop an innate knowledge that is essential to give structured responses.

Partial credit is another point to be considered. Candidates get used to multiple-choice questions, which are evaluated based on marked answers. However, for essay format questions, they should show all their calculations step by step to get partial credit rather than only writing the results of the calculations. Also, it is beneficial for candidates to write their best guesses if they are not sure what the answers are. Because it is harder to make guesses for essay questions than for multiple-choice questions, candidates should still try their best guess without wasting too much time.

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Level III CFA Exam Results

Besides its disparate topic weightings and newly introduced question format, another variation of the Level 3 exam is the date on which results are issued. Test takers receive their results 90 days after the exam date, whereas Level 1 and Level 2 exam results are issued after 60 days. The reason for the 30-days delay is the essay format questions which require more time for grading.

Analyzing pass rates is also a hot topic among candidates. The level III exam pass rates – above 50% for the past few years – are the highest among all three CFA exams. One reason for that would be that level 3 candidates are the ones who successfully passed the first two exams. As such, they have already mastered the necessary skills to pass CFA exams.

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Level III of the CFA® Exam

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  • Question Bank (Item Sets)
  • Essay-Type Questions
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