What is the CFA® Level III Exam?

At this point, you’ve made it past the Level I and Level II CFA exams. Only one more to go! The Level III exam is the final exam in the series to becoming a CFA charterholder, but it will not be easy. We have developed this article to answer all the most frequently asked questions and provide you with the information you need to pass the Level III exam.

How is the Level III CFA® exam different than Level I and Level II?

The Level III CFA exam is exceptionally different from the other two levels. The morning session of the Level III exam requires you to write your answers, as opposed to choosing from multiple-choice answers. The afternoon session consists of 10 item sets like you saw in Level II.
The Level I exam consists of learning and recalling the appropriate facts in order to pass the exam. Level II is often cited as the most difficult because the questions are math-based, and the solutions are deterministic. The Level III exam uses case studies and math to test your ability to effectively do what is expected of a CFA charterholder.
Due to the drastic differences between Level III and the other two exams, you need to adapt your preparation strategy. The reason most people don’t pass the Level III exam is because they fail to take this crucial step. If you’re not sure if you can do it alone, a study package can be helpful, too. 

How is the Level III CFA® exam organized?

The Level III CFA exam includes two sessions—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning session is composed of essay-style questions called “constructed response” with multiple parts. These questions test your real-life application of the information by presenting you with a scenario that you must solve. The afternoon session consists of 10 item sets, much like Level II. Each item set starts with a case statement and asks six multiple-choice questions about that statement.

When can I take the Level III CFA® exam?

The Level III CFA exam is only offered once a year, in June. In the past, the exam has been offered on a specific day in early June, but for 2019, CFA Institute has made the exam date dependent on the region in which you live.

What topics are tested on the Level III CFA® exam?

The Level III exam will cover the following topics:

  • Ethical and Professional Standards
  • Economics
  • Equity Investments
  • Fixed Income
  • Derivatives
  • Alternative Investments
  • Portfolio Management

How are the topics weighted for the Level III CFA® exam?

It is possible for the Level III exam topic weights to change, which is decided by CFA Institute. Here are the topic weights for the 2018 Level III exam:
TopicExam Weight
Ethical and Professional Standards10-15%
Quantitative Methods0%
Financial Reporting and Analysis0%
Corporate Finance0%
Equity Investments5-15%
Fixed Income10-20%
Alternative Investments5-10%
Portfolio Management40-55%

How many hours do people spend studying for the Level III CFA® exam?

It is recommended by CFA Institute to spend an average of 300 hours studying for each level of the CFA exam. However, a June 2017 survey found that candidates actually spent an average of 335 hours preparing for Level III.

Is the Level III CFA® exam a hard test?

The Level III CFA exam is designed to be difficult, especially because the format is different from Level I and Level II. The pass rate for the June 2017 Level III exam was 54%. Remember, these are people who have already passed the Level I and Level II exams, so they have a good grasp of CFA concepts and topics.

How much does it cost to take the Level III CFA® exam?

The cost to you is dependent on when you register for the Level III exam. CFA institute offers three registration windows for the exam: early, standard, and late. The early registration fee is $650; the standard registration fee is $950; and the late registration fee is $1,380. Registering early will not only allow you more time to prepare, but it will also save you money that can be invested into CFA exam prep materials or CFA classes.
This is a basic breakdown of information about the Level III CFA exam. If you still have additional questions, feel free to reach out to our Student Support Team. You can also find additional information in our CFA blog. When you begin planning for the exam, we suggest you watch a video from Kaplan Schweser’s Level III manager, David Hetherington: How to Pass the Level III CFA Exam, and check out the CFA level III question of the day.