Crushing the CFA Level 3 Exam: Understanding Percentiles and Pass Rates

Learn about the 90th and 10th percentiles on the CFA Level 3 Exam and the pass rates for each level over the past decade. Discover what it takes to become a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Crushing the CFA Level 3 Exam: Understanding Percentiles and Pass Rates

As an expert in the field of finance and investment, I have seen many individuals strive to become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). The CFA Level 3 Exam is the final step in this rigorous process, and it is known to be the most challenging of the three levels. In this article, I will provide you with valuable insights on what percentile is considered a passing grade for the CFA Level 3 Exam, as well as the pass rates for each level over the past decade. Over the past 10 years, the average pass rate for the CFA Level 3 Exam has been approximately 52%. This means that only slightly more than half of all examinees have successfully passed this exam.

However, what many candidates may not be aware of is that the final aspects of the CFA exam's overall score report are the 90th and 10th percentiles. These percentiles represent the top and bottom 10% of candidates, respectively. If you find yourself among the top 10% of candidates with a score above the 90th percentile, congratulations! This indicates that you have performed exceptionally well on the exam and have likely secured a passing grade. On the other hand, if your score falls below the 10th percentile, it may be a sign that you need to dedicate more time to studying or change your approach to studying altogether. For those who are curious about the passing rates for each level of the CFA Program, here is a breakdown of the most recent data:

  • CFA Level 1: 41%
  • CFA Level 2: 45%
  • CFA Level 3: 52%
As you can see, the pass rate for the CFA Level 3 Exam is slightly higher than that of Level 2, but still lower than that of Level 1.This may come as a surprise to some, as the Level 3 Exam is often considered to be the most difficult of the three levels. It is important to note that the passing rates for each level are not indicative of the difficulty of the exam itself. Rather, they reflect the dedication and preparation of the candidates taking the exam.

Those who are serious about becoming a CFA will put in the necessary time and effort to pass each level. Now, let's dive deeper into what these percentiles and pass rates mean for candidates. The CFA Institute establishes a minimum passing score (MPS) for each level after the administration of each exam. This score is not disclosed to candidates and may vary from year to year depending on the difficulty of the exam. For those who do not achieve a passing grade on their first attempt, it is important to understand that your score report contains valuable information that can help you plan your strategy for your next attempt. It will highlight your strengths and weaknesses in different topic areas, allowing you to focus your studying on areas where you need improvement. One common misconception is that poor performance on smaller topic areas, such as derivatives and alternative investments, can result in failure despite excelling in other areas.

However, it is important to remember that all topic areas are weighted equally on the exam, so it is crucial to have a well-rounded understanding of all topics. After taking the exam, candidates must wait approximately 5-8 weeks for their results to be available. If you have passed, congratulations! You can now move on to the next level or begin your application for membership. If you did not pass, do not be discouraged. Use your score report to identify areas for improvement and continue to work towards your goal of becoming a CFA. As an expert in the field, I highly recommend utilizing study materials from reputable sources, such as Kaplan Schweser.

With their experienced faculty and comprehensive study materials, you can be confident in your preparation for the CFA exams. Remember, dedication and hard work are key to success in this challenging but rewarding journey towards becoming a CFA.