Candidates are starting to take mock exams and some level III candidates are realizing just how tough the essay section could be on the exam.
Hopefully you have not been surprised since we’ve covered eight essay questions from the prior three years on this blog. Others have not been so fortunate.
I proctored a mock exam for the CFA Society of Iowa over the weekend. We only had two level III candidates, so there was not much of a sample size to go on.
The commentary I have been seeing from the forums is that those candidates that have not studied the prior exams have been surprised by the difficulty in the essay questions, especially the lack of time available.
Time is a huge issue for level III candidates, but it shouldn’t be. Look over the guideline answers from the last three exams. These tend to be the maximum amount you need to write for full points.
Study the answers for where you might be able to bullet and cut down on actual writing. The calculations, especially in the portfolio management questions, have specific formats that you need to learn.
Studying how the Institute lays out the calculations and being able to quickly replicate this will save you a ton of time on the exam.
First, because you will know what pieces of data you need for the answer and will be able to quickly search the vignette for this data. Secondly, you will already know HOW to write out the answer and not have to sit there with writer’s block.
Another problem I’ve been hearing, and one we have talked about on the blog, is just the shear amount of writing you need to do on the exam.
Do not think that by doing individual essay questions separately you are well-prepared for the exam. You need to sit down and do 9-12 essay questions across the curriculum.
This will help you see the level of fatigue, both mental and physical, that you’ll confront on June 2nd. Being able to do well on one essay question within a topic that you’ve just previously studied is completely different from doing well on 10 questions in 10 different topics.
You know that the individual and institutional questions will be the first two or three on the exam. Look back to our strategy for these two and the prior posts for the last three years’ questions.
These two subjects alone are going to be worth around 20% of your total exam points. Being able to do these two quickly and getting the max points will be a huge step to passing the exam.
How well you do on the morning section of the CFA level III is entirely up to you. If you have already taken 4-5 practice exams, you probably have a good idea of what you’ll be up against. If not, there’s time enough to complete a few more practice exams.
Again, study the guideline answers to understand what the grader will be looking for and concentrate on getting that information across without writing too much.
Be sure to check back on our prior posts covering the last three years’ exams.
Joseph Hogue, CFA