CFA® Level 3 Exam
The Final Hurdle Towards Your CFA Charter

The CFA Level 3 exam is the third and final exam required by the CFA Institute (CFAI). You will receive your CFA Charter once you have passed Level 3 and have at least 48 months of relevant work experience and the required references.

Unlike the first two levels, which focus on basic financial knowledge, investment valuation comprehension, and application, the CFA Level 3 exam focuses on portfolio management and wealth planning. According to recent changes in the CFA exam dates and frequency, the CFA Level 3 exam will be held twice a year in 2024: February and August.

Year Exam Window
2024 February August

The CFA Level 3 Exam Format, Structure, and Duration

The CFA Level 3 exam happens twice per year and includes both multiple-choice and essay questions. The test lasts for 4 hours and 24 minutes, split into two sessions of 2 hours and 12 minutes each. You can take an optional break between sessions.

You'll encounter a mix of item sets and constructed response or “essay” questions, where individual questions reference their accompanying vignette. Each session will either 6 item sets and 5 essays, or 5 item sets and 6 essays, so in total, there are 11 item sets and 11 essay sets, each worth 12 points. The topics for the Level III exam are randomly placed, meaning you could see any topic in either session or even in both.

Starting 2025

The Level 3 exam will now offer two new specialized pathways alongside the existing Portfolio Management option. Candidates can choose between the Private Wealth and Private Markets paths, selecting the one that aligns best with their interests and career goals.

CFA Level 3 Topics Overview

Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning account for a sizable portion of the CFA Level 3 exam. It also covers seven topics divided into two categories: Ethical and Professional Standards, and Asset Classes.

Topic Topic Name Weight
1 Economics 5-10%
2 Alternative Investments 5-10%
3 Derivative Investments 5-10%
4 Equity Investments 10-15%
5 Ethical and Professional standards 10-15%
6 Fixed Income  15-20%
7 Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning 35-40%

Here are some brief points about the most crucial CFA Level 3 topics. Portfolio management concepts will be predominant in both the morning and afternoon sessions.

  • The extensive curriculum introduces new discussions of approaches to and practices for private wealth management.
  • The topic also covers concepts like risk management, including tools and techniques for measuring and managing risk.
  • You will most likely be tested on individual and institutional wealth questions.

CFA Level 3 exam curriculum updates

Starting in 2022, the CFA Institute made significant changes to the CFA exam Level 3 curriculum. The 2024 updates continue to build on those improvements by enhancing the educational structure, refining key topic areas, and integrating extensive input from Practice Analysis and curriculum development.

One major change is the introduction of learning modules, which significantly enhance the curriculum's design to better meet the needs of adult learners. Each module emphasizes the practical relevance of the content, is designed to be completed in one sitting, and includes practice questions. To aid understanding, more visuals and examples have been incorporated, providing CFA Program candidates with increased opportunities to practice their skills.

Beyond just updating the format and presentation, there are new and updated readings in almost every topic area. Perhaps most importantly, the Portfolio Management and Private Wealth broad topic area has been updated and revised to include more thorough discussions on, for example, categories of private wealth, tax management, concentrated positions, wealth transfer, etc. and their practical applications.

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CFA Level 3 Exam Eligibility, Registration, and Scheduling

The CFAI has set some eligibility requirements you must meet to register for the exam. Naturally, to sit for the CFA Level 3 exam, you must first pass the CFA Level 1 and 2 exams. After meeting the eligibility requirements, the registration process is similar to Level 1 and Level 2.

Some pointers to consider:

  1. Clear the CFA Level 1 and Level 2 exams
  2. Make sure you have the particulars of your CFAI account
  3. Pay the fees per your selected payment window
  4. Accept the ‘Candidate Agreement’ and submit the Professional Conduct Statement
  5. After registering, you must schedule your exam date within the exam window of your choice. While the scheduling deadlines are much like those of the Level 1 exam, the rescheduling deadlines are usually a little longer for levels 2 and 3.

Eligibility and Registration

To begin, candidates must have a bachelor's (or equivalent) degree, be a final-year student (complete the degree before registering for the level 3 exam), or have approximately 4,000 hours of professional work experience (or a combination of work experience and education totaling 4,000 hours). Moreover, the registration process of Level 3, with the exemption of the one-time enrollment fee, is the same as that of Level 1 and 2. Also, because the exam and the entire curriculum are in English, the candidate must be fluent in the English language. Only after making the required payments can a candidate register for the Level 3 exam.

Exam fee

Beginning with the 2024 exam cycle, the price of the one-time enrollment fee will decrease from $450 to $350, while the cost to register for each exam will increase from $900 to $940 for early registration and from $1,200 to $1,250 for standard registration.

Type of Registration Feb 2024
August 2024
Early Registration Due Date CLOSED January 23 $940
Standard Registration Due Date CLOSED May 14 $1250

Scheduling and rescheduling your CFA Level 3 exam

The CFA Level 3 exam, unlike the Level 1, has a slightly more extended rescheduling period with an additional $250 fee per rescheduling. The entire process is aided by a dedicated platform known as ProScheduler.

It is important to note that registering for the exam is a two-step process. You must first register, then schedule your appointment. During the registration process, you will see test center options from among 400 locations, with confirmed available seating. If you don't see your preferred location listed, keep checking back because the CFAI regularly updates the appointment availability.

Exam center locations

CFA exams are administered in over 400 locations worldwide. Candidates will see test center options during the scheduling procedure with confirmed available seating. Remember that registering for the exam is a two-step process: You must first register, then schedule your specific exam date and location. If you don't see your preferred location listed, try checking back since the CFAI regularly updates these specifics.

Looking for a more detailed overview of the exam center locations? CFAI's exam-center-location guide can help you sort through any confusion.

CFA Level 3 Exam-Day Requirements

For the CFA Level 3 exam, you may only bring the following items to the test center:

  • A CFA exam calculator (including the case and loose batteries)
  • A valid international travel passport
  • Eyeglasses (without the case)

Please note:

  • Additional personal items are allowed in the test center (if applicable), e.g., earplugs, medication, etc
  • Personal baggage and food items aren't allowed inside the test center

Calculators used for the Level 3 exam

Only two calculator models are authorized for use during the tests:

  1. Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional)
  2. Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th-anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige)
CFA exam scholarships

The CFAI offers about five CFA exam scholarships with varying eligibility requirements and scholarship amounts. Before registering, visit the CFAI website for much more detailed information regarding the aforesaid scholarships.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Level 3 exam will last 4 hours and 24 minutes, divided into two equal sessions of 2 hours and 12 minutes each, with an optional break in between.
The difficulty of the exam varies depending on the individual’s background, experience, and preparation. Some candidates may find the Level 3 exam easier than the previous exams, while others may struggle more. That being said,the Level 3 format is also different from the first two levels, as it consists of both multiple-choice questions and constructed response (essay) questions. This means that candidates must not only have a solid understanding of the material but should also be able to communicate their ideas effectively in writing.
For the 2024 exams, the candidates will be charged $940 for early registration and $1,250 for standard registration. These prices do not include any preparatory materials or assets of any kind.
The CFA Level 3 exam will be administered two times a year. A candidate can take the exam a maximum of two times a year and six times in total (for each level). In total, there is no limit to the number of times you can take the CFA Level 3 exam. However, you can only register for the exam if you have passed the previous level, and you must meet all other requirements, such as the required work experience, to receive the CFA charter.
If you fail the CFA Level 3 exam, you can register to retake the exam in a future test administration. You will need to pay the registration fee again and meet all other requirements for candidacy. That being said, don’t get discouraged if you do not pass on your first attempt. Take the time to identify areas of weakness and develop a targeted study plan, and then continue to prepare diligently for your next attempt. With the right approach and sufficient preparation, you can increase your chances of passing the exam on subsequent attempts.
The CFA Level 3 exam results are typically released within 60 days of the exam date. However, the exact date can vary from year to year. The CFA Institute will send an email to candidates when the results are available, and candidates can also check their exam results by logging in to their CFA Institute account.

Read More About the CFA Exam

Are Level 3 exam topics bogging you down? Here’s everything from the detailed topic description and curriculum to how you can actually ace them in the exam.
Looking for CFA scoring and passing rates? Learn more about CFA scoring, pass rates, and the Minimum Passing Score (MPS).
There’s nothing better than staying abreast of all the CFAI curriculum changes and updates. Here’s the LOS’, added, removed and revised topics listed out for your perusal.
Looking to make your CFA preparation easier? Our Formula Sheets serves as a quick reference for locating the important formulas for the test, making preparation more efficient.
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