The CFA level 3 exam has one major difference from the first two exams. The morning portion of the exam is written or structured response. I like structured response better so I am going to use that term. The previous exams were all multiple choice. With over 2,000 pages of curriculum to learn, the constructed response portion of the exam can be challenging. With multiple choice questions, you can usually have your memory jarred by looking at the answers or at the very least you have an opportunity to guess correctly. With a blank page staring at you, there are no such luxuries.

A few days before I sat for the CFA level 3 exam, I began to panic a bit. My responses for the structured response section of the exam were not quite matching up with what the CFA institute was looking for. The CFA Institute provides level 3 candidates with the constructed response portions for the past three years along with their guideline answers to them.

I used these as an opportunity to test myself by completing the questions and then looking at the guideline answers to see how I did. I had finished the 2013 and 2014 tests when I realized I was not doing as well as I should be. Even more troubling was the fact that I was taking way too long to answer the questions. Each question states the number of minutes it should take to answer the question. The number of minutes also corresponds to the number of points the question is worth on the exam. I was finishing most questions 10-25% over the allotted time. A guaranteed way to miss a question is to not even answer it. If I ran out of time before answering all of the questions my chances would be seriously diminished. I had to get better.

I started to look for solutions to my problem. I finally settled on Irfanullah Financial Training’s (IFT) Final Review which was on sale for only $99. I signed up and started watching his videos. He basically takes the most relevant constructed response questions dating back as far as 2009 and goes over all the topics you are likely to see on your exam. These videos have a few features that make them especially helpful. First, you can break them into bite-sized lessons. Each question is its own stand alone video ranging between 4-20 minutes long. The other great feature is that you can speed the videos up to 1.5x or 2x the normal speed. This enabled me to watch these videos over and over again during my last few days of preparation.

While I was testing, I was becoming more and more confident as the test wore on. I have no idea whether I passed or not. However, I feel like I did well. I was euphoric when I completed the final constructed response question while they were announcing that there were 30 minutes remaining.

30 minutes remaining! I just finished 15% under time. I was able to go back through and improve some of my answers and even correct a few careless mistakes I found. The other thing I noticed, especially when the 15 minutes remaining announcement was made was the tension in the air around me. The sound of pencils and pens scribbling furiously all around me was intense. When the proctors finally called time I felt like yelling out loud and  giving high-fives to everyone around me.

I am not so sure if I would have done as well, had I not binged watched IFT’s Final Review videos ad-nauseam. Like I already mentioned, I don’t really know if I passed for certain or not, but I feel fairly confident. The final verdict: Irfanullah Financial Training’s Level 3 Final Review was money well spent. My biggest regret is that I did not buy this product sooner.

Note: I get absolutely nothing for praising IFT’s products or any other products I mention here or anywhere else on this blog.