Last updated: November 02, 2022

CFA exam / Level 3

Level 3 CFA Exam

CFA exam is a series of 3 exams. Level 3 is the last exam of the series. To take your level 3 exam, first you need to pass your level 1 and level 2 exams. Passing all the 3 levels is a prerequisite for getting your CFA designation.

In 2021, CFA exam moved to computer-based testing. As of 2022, level 3 is going to be held twice a year. In 2022, it was May and August and – as of 2023 – it's going to be February & August. This is the most recent change introduced by CFA Institute to the CFA exams schedule. Its aim is to release the level 3 exam results sooner than in the past while still making the level 3 exam available to CFA candidates twice a year.



2023 Level 3 CFA Exam Dates

In 2023, level 3 CFA exam dates (windows) will be available in February and August. The registration for the 2023 level 3 exams is now open. Note higher exam registration fees, both early and standard!

21-23 Feb*


78 days until the exam

21-23 Feb*


78 days until the exam

29 Aug-5 Sept*


267 days until the exam

29 Aug-5 Sept*


267 days until the exam



IMPORTANT!

* The dates indicate the exam window when you can self-schedule your level 3 exam. You can read here about computer-based exams.


Higher 2023 CFA Exam
Fees & Level 3 Registration Deadlines

Each time you register to take and retake your level 3 exam, you'll have to pay a specific exam registration fee. The amount of the fee depends on when you choose to register for the exam. Before you register, check if you're eligible for any of CFA Institute scholarships. They can reduce your exam cost substantially.

Importantly, the 2023 level 3 CFA exam fees increased by USD 200 for both early registration and standard registration. The early fee for 2023 level 3 CFA exam is now USD 900 and the standard fee is as high as USD 1200.

Feb 2023 FEES
$900
early
fee

begins: 10 May | ends:
9
AUG 2022
$1,200
standard
fee

begins: 10 Aug | ends:
8
NOV 2022

Read more about February level 3 exam

Aug 2023 FEES
$900
early
fee

begins: 14 Nov | ends:
1
FEBRUARY 2023
$1,200
standard
fee

begins: 2 Feb | ends:
9
MAY 2023

Read more about August level 3 exam

Note: The deadlines end at 11:59 p.m. ET.



How Level 3 CFA Exam Differs:
7 Topics, Essay Questions, Higher Pass Rate


1. CFA Program Curriculum Contents

In your curriculum, you will find 7 topics, not 10. You will no longer be tested on Quantitative Methods, Corporate Finance, nor Financial Reporting and Analysis. At this exam level, the major focus is on Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning with the weight of 35-40%.


CFA Exam: Level 3 Topics Topic Weight (%)
1 Economics 5-10
2 Alternative Investments 5-10
3 Derivatives 5-10
4 Equity Investments 10-15
5 Ethical and Professional Standards 10-15
6 Fixed Income Investments 15-20
7 Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning 35-40

Since Portfolio Management represents 35%-40% of the level 3 CFA exam, you'll find the following sub-topic distinctions for your exam questions:

  • Portfolio Management – Behavioral Finance
  • Portfolio Management – Private Wealth
  • Portfolio Management – Institutional
  • Portfolio Management – Asset Allocation
  • Portfolio Management – Trading
  • Portfolio Management – Performance Evaluation

For results reporting, Portfolio Management is grouped into two sub-topic categories:

  • PM - Behavioral Finance; Private Wealth; and Institutional (15%-25%)
  • PM - Asset Allocation; Trading; Performance Evaluation (10%-20%)

2. New 2023 Level 3 CFA Exam Format

The level 3 CFA exam consists of 2 exam session, 132 minutes each, with an optional break meanwhile. As always, also in 2023 it will include both constructed response questions alongside item sets that you will already know from your level 2 exam. However – as of 2023 – some important changes to the level 3 CFA exam format has been introduced.

If you previously took your level 3 CFA exam, you will know that constructed response (essay) questions used to be included in the first session of the exam, while item (multiple-choice question) sets comprised the second session of the exam.

Starting in 2023, each exam session will contain both some essay sets and some item sets. There will be 11 essay sets and 11 item sets altogether. So, in each session, you can expect either 6 item sets and 5 essay sets or 5 item sets and 6 essay sets.

This change is due to the difficulties that level 3 CFA candidates used to have when taking the essay session. While they consistently lacked the time to do all the constructed response questions, they felt there was an excess of time during the item set session. Now, the time and difficulty should be easier to handle with the new adjustments to the level 3 CFA exam.


Level 3 Essay Questions & Item Sets

Level 3 CFA exam constructed response questions are open-ended, essay questions that begin with a case study (vignette) followed by several related items (questions/problems to be answered). Some of the items may be multiple-choice questions but the majority will require your written response. All questions must be answered based on the information in the vignette. An essay set may have a variable number of items (each one is worth a variable-number points). Points per item are not disclosed.

Note the bolded command words (e.g., explain, justify, determine, calculate) given to guide you through the answer process. Remember that constructed response questions cover specific topic areas and require clear and accurate answers!

Level 3 CFA exam item sets are structured like level 2 CFA exam questions, i.e., they consist of a case study (vignette) followed by 4 multiple-choice questions (each one is worth 3 points). All questions must be answered based on the information in the vignette.

Topics may be placed randomly between the sessions. Also, each vignette (both for essays and item sets) will be topped with information about the TOPIC and the total number of points possible to score, e.g.:

  • TOPIC: ECONOMICS
  • TOTAL POINT VALUE OF THIS QUESTION SET IS 12 POINTS

New Level 3 Format Summed Up

To sum up, the new CFA exam CBT format is still changing. The total testing time is now reduced to ca. 4.5 hours and:

  • each level 3 exam session is 132 minutes long,
  • session 1 is going to have a mix of open-ended essay questions and multiple-choice item sets,
  • session 2 is going to have a mix of open-ended essay questions and multiple-choice item sets,
  • there will be a total of 11 essay sets, each with a variable number of items/questions (each one is worth a variable-number points),
  • there will be a total of 11 item sets, each with 4 multiple-choice questions (each one is worth 3 points),
  • both essay questions and multiple-choice questions are topped with a vignette, i.e. case description to which the questions refer,
  • information about the TOPIC and the total number of points possible to score will be provided for each vignette.



3. Level 3 CFA Exam Results: Longer Waiting but Higher Pass Rate

Level 3 candidates always have to wait for their results a bit longer than level 1 and level 2 candidates. It's due to the open-ended questions which take longer to grade. Usually, level 3 results were released roughly 9.5 weeks after the exam. For CBT level 3 exams, results may be released sooner, probably 7-9 weeks post-exam. As for the FEB 2023 level 3 CFA exam results, the soonest probable date is:


AUG LVL 3 EXAM
1 Nov 2022

FEB LVL 3 EXAM
18 Apr* 2023

* This is our educated guess. In the past, the usual pattern was: exam date + 9.5 weeks + it was Tuesday or Thursday. CFA Institute says that for computer-based exams, the results are likely to be released sooner than in the past.

The good news is that the level 3 pass rate is higher as a rule than level 1 and 2 pass rates. It used to exceed 50%! Now, it's around 40% but compared to the new level 1 and level 2 CFA exam pass rates – it's still pretty good!

LEVEL 3 PASS RATES IN YEARS 2016-2021:

2016: 54%
2017: 54%
2018: 56%
2019: 56%
2020: 56%
2021 (MAY): 42%
2021 (AUG): 39%
2021 (NOV): 43%
2022 (MAY): 49%
2022 (AUG): 48%


When you pass your level 3 exam, meet other CFA Program requirements to become a CFA charterholder.



Your success is close enough. Do you know how to reach for it?

CFA Institute informs that candidates spend about 300 hours studying for each level of CFA exam. There are three major success-driving factors that help to cope with the challenge: good plan, systematic study, and thorough review. Use our CFA Exam Study Planner available also to level 3 candidates and plan, study, review, and assess your progress:

Smart Preparation Starts With Smart Planning

When your plans have this dangerous tendency to fall through - you need more than just timetabled topics!

You need concrete readings assigned to concrete study weeks, weekly progress assessments,
and all the means to stay in charge!

CREATE FREE STUDY PLAN NOW

AVAILABLE ALSO FOR LEVEL 3 CANDIDATES!




When learning for the exam, take into account the level 3 CFA exam structure: study and review the material to be able to answer open-ended constructed response questions and make sure you are able to answer them using clear and adequate English. Note that language mistakes are basically not taken into account unless you make mistakes that influence the logic or precision of your answer.



Allow for enough PM and essay questions practice when preping for your exam.

Practice your skill to construct adequate written response to questions.



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