CFA CFA Level 3 Study Scheduling (Readings vs. Questions/Practice exams)

Study Scheduling (Readings vs. Questions/Practice exams)

  • This topic has 24 replies, 8 voices, and was last updated Mar-17 by Sarah.
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    • Marc
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      First post, so hi.

      I have been sticking to a schedule of finishing doing all the readings from the CFA curriculum by the end of April and leaving myself a month to do nothing but questions and practice exams (and going back to the curriculum if/when necessary). This is roughly what I did for Levels 1 and 2, but I’m not sure if this is leaving enough time for questions given the different format for Level 3.

      Any thoughts on this subject would be sincerely appreciated.

    • Sophie Macon
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      Hi @Marc!
      Level 3 practice papers are a bit of a different beast. Somehow it ‘feels’ easier to do, we discussed it a little bit more in this thread. I’d suggest 1.5 months before as a buffer if you can (1 month is just enough), as for Level 3 there is a need to go back for some more revision.

      Other Level 3 people – @AjFinance, @MattJuniper, @Lakshya25, @jimmyg, @artyeasel – what do you think?

    • MattyJ
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      I historically left a month for papers, and thats what I was planning that again this year. Now I think that I could do with an extra week or so, as i think the essay questions are gonna require more practice. That said, I still have c.50 pages left of derivatives, with 2 more Schweser to go so I probably need to step up a gear.

      Unfortunately I keep getting distracted by a certain forum…

    • lulu123
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      @mattjuniper

      You would leave a month for practice and you were working during that month? Or you were off for the whole month to study?

    • MattyJ
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      working during that month.

      Historically finished work by 6, and on weekdays would go and study in a meeting room until about 11pm. Then on weekends would go into work and do 9am to 9/10pm.

      I can generally do a 3hr paper and go over it in 5/6 hours, so one paper in an evening and at least a full exam on a weekend day.

    • Sophie Macon
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      @lulu123, it should be including full time work, though usual practice is to take the last week off work (either study leave if you’re lucky, or personal holidays) as it’s always helpful to focus and relax the last week (without work stress).

    • lulu123
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      Alright. Needed to know for reference when you guys say x amount of month that it is not “free” month.

      I will be having all of May completely off. Hope it will help me!


      @sophie
      @mattjuniper

    • MattyJ
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      @sophie, last year I had already handed in my notice before I took the L2 exam. No study leave for me and I had no holiday left either!

    • Sophie Macon
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      ouch @MattJuniper. But you were destined to be The One, the first to win the King of the Mountain anyway. Hence on hindsight it wasn’t much of a challenge anyway 😉

    • MattyJ
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      No, not really. Ironically, I seem to remember having a rather severe cold the day or so before the exam…

    • Zee Tan
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      @marc welcome to our little corner of the web! I’d leave more time to practice the new format though as it does take getting used to. I did use a very similar schedule to yourself but did more practice for Levels II and III.

    • lakshya25
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      Hi @Marc ! Welcome aboard ! I’ll suggest you to read Schweser notes and practice the Bluebox examples and the EOC questions from the curriculum textbook if you wanna finish the material sooner.

    • Zee Tan
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      +1 to @lakshya25’s point on EOC and bluebox examples.

    • AjFinance
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      +1 to @lakshya25’s point on EOC and bluebox examples.


      @zee
      +1 on that. But having said that, I found Bluebox examples from the Individual Investor reading to be exceptionally long. Not the format you would want to write on the exam.

    • AjFinance
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      @Marc Just like @Sophie mentioned, Level 3 is kind of different, so it would help to get a feel of the exam earlier, more specifically the IPS questions (Partly the reason I’m looking if I can find independent IPS questions to practice).

      However, having said that, starting off a month before the exam won’t be that bad. In my opinion, its better to try out the exam when you’re through and thorough with the curriculum. That way you can gauge your performance better.

    • Marc
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      Wow. Thanks everyone.

      I have to admit that I was half expecting that when I came back to check my post there would be nothing but digital tumbleweed rolling by. It would appear that this forum is used regularly by actual humans (or whatever quasi-human creature we become when studying for the CFA exam) who have lots of helpful, friendly advice to share.

      I wrote Level 1 in December 2007 (I also wrote my MBA exams and got married that month, so it was a bit stressful) and immediately wrote Level 2 in June 2008. As I indicated, I was doing my MBA at that time (or had just graduated), so my “job” was basically to be a CFA candidate. This exam is a different animal because a) there’s some rust from having not touched CFA materials in 5 years; b) Level 3 is a different kind of exam and a much more “inter-woven” curriculum; c) I’m working and I don’t think any job really prepares you for an exam because working is working and studying is studying; and d) I have young kids who don’t understand why Daddy is always either reading or muttering about “yields”. Because of all this, I often find myself questioning my study plan.

      I have a follow-up question about, well, questions. As far as I can recall, for Levels 1 and 2 I would do a reading then work on the end-of-chapter questions. However, this time I have been working through all of the in-chapter examples as I do each reading, but saving the end-of-chapter questions until the last month. I do some prep provider questions as I go along, but not tons. Obviously this strategy increases the likelihood of being “rusty” or having completely forgotten the material when circling back to take up the questions. I’d like to know what approaches other people are taking or have taken.

    • Zee Tan
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      @marc, if you want to see frantic activity, come check this forum Sunday evening UK time! 🙂

      On taking a 5-year break, I think you chose the right moment to take a break (i.e. in between Levels 2 and 3). A break between Level 1 and 2 would not be optimal because Level 2 is such an expansion on Level 1. Level 3 focuses a lot more on portfolio management and I think there would be much less risk of getting rusty, so to speak.

      Your current approach is the standard approach I used while prepping for all my levels. I would start with the noble intention of doing all EOC questions as I went along, but as I got more and more desperate to finish the study notes earlier I would tend to skip them. Going back and doing them does give you moments of panic and frustration when you realize how little you’ve retained, but I promise you as long as you properly review the material it will come back!

      i.e. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your approach 🙂 And welcome to the forum!

    • Sophie Macon
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      @Marc, let’s just say the spirit of our community is different 😉 We are all about helping each other out (while having fun along the way), and some say we have lightning responses!

      Oh wow, thanks for sharing your situation with us @Marc. I must say it was a hardcore schedule with the MBA and a family (on a side note, many of us here are interested in hearing the perspective of a MBA + CFA person), I admire your determination, that’s no mean feat.


      @Ajfinance
      , a fellow Level 3 candidate has also voiced his concern in a separate thread on (the lack of) further practice questions. I’m speaking to various providers and see what we can do on getting extra practice papers for Level 3 candidates, so give me a few days and I’ll revert on this.

      As for Level 3 approach, the vignette bit with multiple choice stays the same as Level 2, so I assume the method wouldn’t need to vary much here. The essay bit is the trickier one, but what I’d say to do now is to try them (don’t save them for last), and re-do them later again under timed conditions. The reason is that there is quite some memory work for essay, sometimes it’s either you-know-it-or-you-dont, so it would be interspersed with reference to your notes while you’re attempting your questions the first time. Later on you should try them under timed condition as practice and reinforcements of your knowledge.

    • Marc
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      @Sophie, @Zee (as I am Canadian, may I call you @Zed?),

      Thank you very much for your advice. I think the idea of working on the written answer questions is good advice because I get the impression that the answers provided are actually extensions of the curriculum. While the won’t introduce new material, they may discuss it in a way that helps you better understand what was in the chapter. And, if nothing else, they will certainly reinforce the material.

      In general, I’m a big fan of reinforcement and lateral thinking when it comes to CFA material – but that is an entirely separate discussion.

    • AjFinance
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      @Marc Admire your determination, doing an MBA and a CFA together is tough. I had a friend who did the same, but add to that getting married as well, and there are a lot of things you need to balance 🙂 Hats off to you.

      Regarding the gap, as @Sophie mentioned, I don’t think you need to worry about it much. Well, look at it this way, even if you don’t really have a big gap between levels, you don’t actually retain everything from the previous levels. Theres a fair amount of revising of concepts involved, apart from the very obvious and vivid ones. Your kids might not understand right now, but they’ll certainly understand when they’re older, and appreciate your efforts to achieve Work – Life – Study Balance 🙂

      I generally like doing EOC questions along with the readings. However, in my opinion, whether you do the EOC along with the readings or in the end, like @zee mentioned, you don’t really retain much without going through it again.

      I like the signature, you’ve brilliantly summarised your entire story in it. Goodluck man.. Do well :-bd

    • Marc
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      +1 to @lakshya25’s point on EOC and bluebox examples.


      @zee
      +1 on that. But having said that, I found Bluebox examples from the Individual Investor reading to be exceptionally long. Not the format you would want to write on the exam.

      Urgh, that Swedish family, I swear there’s probably 3 paragraphs on their portfolio constraints specifically related to their pets. That reading is in bad need of a pruning.

    • AjFinance
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      +1 to @lakshya25’s point on EOC and bluebox examples.


      @zee
      +1 on that. But having said that, I found Bluebox examples from the Individual Investor reading to be exceptionally long. Not the format you would want to write on the exam.

      Urgh, that Swedish family, I swear there’s probably 3 paragraphs on their portfolio constraints specifically related to their pets. That reading is in bad need of a pruning.


      @Marc
      It can be be easily sold as a short story in my opinion 😛 The case not only goes on for ages, but they continue on forever, even onto the EOC questions.

    • Zee Tan
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      @marc my screen name doesn’t quite stand for the letter Z in this case, although I know my profile picture says otherwise 🙂 You could @ mention me by @Zed, but I won’t get notified unfortunately… :p

    • Marc
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      @zee

      Moreover, as you are based in London and not America, the joke loses its relevance.

    • Sarah
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      @Marc I had a good laugh

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