CFA Level 3 Exam Prep: Essay Section = Ugh Section

CFA Level 3 exam prep
This Often-Underestimated Section Can Be the Key to Passing CFA Level 3 

I think you’ll agree when I say that the essay section of the CFA Level 3 exam is the hardest part of that exam. CFA Level 3 Exam prep is key, especially for the essay section. Unlike some of your old college exams, partial credit is not easy to get.

What tends to work best on this difficult section?

Well, it turns out you can dramatically improve your odds of passing the CFA Level 3 exam by knowing a few tricks. In today’s article, I’m going to divulge some helpful tidbits that will help you get closer to crossing the “pass line”.


Let’s Go!

The CFA Level 3 exam often vies for the title of “hardest” of the three exams. This final step in your conquest to be a CFA Charterholder is fraught with its own unique challenges.

To start with, Level 3 throws a curve ball to test takers by adding the dreaded “essay” section. While it’s a change-up from the first two levels, “essay” is a bit of a misnomer.

As per CFA instructions, using bullet points and short sentences for answers can be sufficient assuming the content of your answer is correct. To be clear, there are no large, multi-paragraph answers required (at least as of this blog post).

Hence, an especially relevant tip is the following: get to the point! No need, or time, to use filler words. Poor grammar is not penalized as long as your point gets across.


Where Things Get Hard

The most challenging part about CFA Level 3’s essay section is that it tests your ability to recall information. In Level 1 and Level 2, you only have to be able to recognize the right answer (or the wrong ones). When you are asked a question and left with a blank slate in which to place your answer, it is totally up to you to come through.

Partial points are tough to come by, and the essay section reflects a “you know it, or you don’t” situation.


Practice Makes Perfect…Or at Least Leads to a Pass!

Spend the time needed to go over essay questions as MUCH AS POSSIBLE. This is typically the section that trips most people up and is usually the difference between a pass or fail. It also happens to be the section that is the most daunting to practice. A small price to pay for a great designation!

Another important consideration, similar to Level 2, is that the CFA Institute posts old exams on its website. I would HIGHLY encourage any CFA Level 3 candidate to practice those at least twice each! Portfolio Management (PM) can be worth over 50% of the exam so take it seriously! Make sure you try every variation of practice questions when it comes to PM.


CFA Level 3 Exam Prep…Some Crucial Resources

Lastly, Schweser’s Q-bank is another great resource for churning through a large quantity of practice questions. This will particularly ensure you have the multiple choice questions well practiced. But, (and here comes the shameless plug) if you don’t have enough time to practice the long answer questions get yourself a CFA tutor!


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