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Be Prepared: Top Tips For Your CFA Level 3 Exam

Posted on March 1, 2015 1:43 pm;

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You’re almost there – Level 1 and Level 2 are safely behind you and now there’s only Level 3 to go. It’s time to remind yourself of Morgan’s trusty tips and get to grips with what to expect in your CFA Level 3 exam.

Keep calm

As you enter your final month ahead of the Level 3 exam, as always our advice is still to be calm. The more stressed you are, the less you can focus. Take a deep breath and start a plan to go over all of the material but split into small, digestible pieces. At this stage it is particularly important to focus on any areas of weakness you have: give these more attention and reach out to your personal tutor if you have any questions.

Get planning

Make a study calendar. Organization and planning are absolutely essential to fit everything into the remaining time. Plot your calendar so that you cover all elements, giving each the necessary time and allotting more time to any areas of weakness.

Join forces

Reach out to others in the same situation as yourself. This is a great time to pool resources and lean on your peers and classmates for support. Think about starting a study group which you can use to keep one another motivated.

Practice makes perfect

Make sure you get plenty of practice on the calculator that you will be using in the exam. It is important to make sure that you know how to properly clear the calculator and that you do this every time before you start a calculation.

Train to sustain

Just like any athlete before a big competition, you need to build up your endurance before the exam day. Do this by taking simulated exams and progress tests, and keep track of your performances. The CFA Institute offers practice tests and mock exams on its website.

Target weak spots

In the final four weeks you should particularly target those topics that carry the biggest weight in the exam. From these topics make an assessment of which ones you feel that you mastered, and those that you feel need more revision.

Do your paperwork

When you find a moment that you’re not using for study, have a think about your photo identification. It is important to make sure that it hasn’t expired and that the name on your admission ticket is an exact match for how your name appears on your ID. If there is any difference, now is the time to complete and submit a Name Change Form from the CFA Institute Candidate Website.

Love your letters

Make sure you familiarize yourself with acronyms that could come up in the exam.  Download and review Level 3 acronyms you should know.

Have a go

There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so even if you’re stuck on a question, at least try to give it a go.

Watch the clock

Timing, as ever, is key to finishing the exam with all questions answered. Be aware that the morning section of Level 3 is seen as the most challenging in terms of time management as it involves essay writing. So stay one step ahead with Morgan’s tips for meeting this challenge head-on:

  • Don’t rush to the answer: make sure you read and understand each question first.
  • Be brief with your answers – formulate a direct response to the command words, and as a time saver try bullet points or even incomplete sentences (but be clear!) as both are acceptable.
  • Always use the template if provided – it will make sure you don’t write more than necessary.
  • If you hit a difficult question, move to easier parts of the exam and come back to it.
  • Each question is allotted a certain number of minutes, so try your best to follow this recommended time.

Do as you’re told!

It’s supremely important that you follow instructions in the exam. For example, if the question tells you to “show your work” then you should do exactly this and present your calculations. The good news is that sometimes partial credit is given when correct formulas or inputs are shown even if the answer itself is incorrect.

Pay attention

It pays to read the instructions on the front cover and throughout the exam book. Make sure you read them thoroughly and this will help you avoid missing any parts, answering sequential questions in the wrong order, or filling out your answers on the wrong pages.

Be clear

Although it’s OK to use common abbreviations and symbols, if you are in any doubt it is better to write it out in full.

Keep it focused

You will score points for direct answers to a question, but you will not score points for inserting general knowledge that does not address the question. So keep it focused!

Beware the bold

When a question features bold command words, remember to address them. These command words are defined on the inside front cover of the exam book. Take a look at LOS command words ahead of the exam. If the command words require a decision (for example Determine or Recommend), you must clearly state your choice or select it for template questions. If your intent is unclear or  your answer contradictory, you will not receive points. When asked to “Justify a recommendation”, for example, make sure that you do just this with clear reasons or supporting arguments.

Be clear

lf you change an answer, make sure you cross out the previous answer so that it’s clear to the grader which one to mark. Also, remember to be clear in your answers and avoid contradicting yourself.

Take care

Make sure you read each question carefully; if you rush through, you may find yourself tripping up on incorrect answer choices.

Keep it within reason

Everything that you need to formulate an answer already exists within the question information and the curriculum you’ve covered. Don’t introduce information outside this as the questions are rarely designed to trick you in such a way. Only introduce information that is directly relevant to the question asked, even if you are tempted to expand on this to show your knowledge.

And keep it simple

Do exactly what is asked of you and no more. If you are asked to give one reason or two advantages, do just this. If you add on more, only the first ones will be graded. So not only is it a waste of your time, but the correct ones may be missed further down. If you feel the need to state assumptions to support your approach to the answer, then do so.

Take note

Your exam book can be written in if you want to underline information or work out your equations, but take note that only your final answers present on your answer sheets will be graded.

Start with the obvious

If you are stuck on a question, begin by knocking out any answer that is obviously incorrect. This way you increase your odds of answering the question correctly. And, if you have to guess, make sure that logic and reasoning factor into your answer.

Mark as you go

Don’t leave the answer sheet till the end as you risk running out of time. As you complete each question, mark your answer on the answer sheet – it’s the safest strategy!

Don’t focus on style

Your answers should be clear, but they don’t need to be grammatically perfect. You are not graded on language or style, so don’t waste time pondering over English perfection.

Got any questions? Need any help? Contact a Morgan today, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

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