Failed the Level III Exam? Sorry To Hear That…

By Arif Irfanullah, CFA

Posted on 17-02-21 at 7:00 pm

Level III is a strange exam. In fact this is the only exam where I come across some very smart and hardworking people failing. This has to do with the format for the exam. Those who study a lot, know a lot and end up writing a lot.  The problem with this approach is that a candidate might do half the paper really well but scramble through the rest… possibly leaving a few questions all together. The most you can get on a good response is 100%.  If you leave an answer blank you get 0%.  Bottom line is that poor time management during the exam is perhaps the most common reason for why intelligent and hardworking candidates sometimes fail Level III.  My advice to such candidates is that you must learn from your mistakes.  Before your next attempt make sure you work through several practice exams under time pressure.  Learn how to manage your time during the exam.  The time you spend on every question should be based on the marks for that question.  If you spend 20 minutes on a 10 mark question you are setting yourself up for failure.

Another reason for failure has to do with lack of adequate preparation leading to the exam.  Often Level III candidates are at relatively senior positions in their respective organizations and have significant workload. Given a choice between studying for the exam and job-related deliverable, the job wins. If this is your situation then I suggest you start early and plan your study schedule with work and personal commitments in mind. Leaving your studies for the last few months might have worked for Levels I and II but this strategy is not likely to work for Level III.  You should try to finish the course at least 6 weeks before the exam.  The final six weeks should be spent on practice exams.

Watch this brief video clip to help you decide what’s next for you on the CFA Journey:

While I’ve suggested a few reasons, the onus is on you to diagnose what happened. Do some soul searching to gauge your motivation level.  If the motivation is there and you feel that you’ll be able to give studies sufficient time despite job-related and personal commitments then sign up for the exam, make a plan and start your prep.

Good luck with what you decide to do.


Arif Irfanullah, CFA

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