The CFA Program curriculum is focused on ten key topics which increase in complexity at each of the three levels: ethical and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity investments, fixed income, derivatives, alternative investments, portfolio management and wealth planning.
At this final level, candidates are required to incorporate everything they’ve learned in the previous levels and display effective knowledge of the entire portfolio management process.
The Level 3 exam consists of item set and constructed response (essay) questions.
The morning session features constructed response (essay) questions (between 8 and 12 questions, each with several subparts) with a maximum of 180 points. (The point value for each question is provided in the exam book.)
The afternoon session covers 10 item sets with 6 multiple-choice questions in each.
To register for your Level 3 exam, you will need to have completed Level 2
Below is a syllabus overview detailing each topic and their approximate exam weighting:
|Level 3 topic||Approximate exam weight|
|Ethical and Professional Standards||10% - 15%|
|Economics||5% - 10%|
|Equity Investments||10% - 15%|
|Fixed Income||15% - 20%|
|Derivatives||5% - 10%|
|Alternative Investments||5% - 10%|
|Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning||35% - 40%|
At this final level, the ten key topics are combined, depending on their level of interrelationship, to form advanced knowledge areas, or study sessions. That’s why they differ from the form and structure of topic areas at Level 1 and 2. These knowledge areas are highlighted below:
Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct
Study the framework for ethical conduct in the investment profession so you understand and can apply it. You’ll also learn the recommended procedures designed to prevent violations of the Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.
Ethical and Professional Standards in Practice
You’ll examine case studies to reflect on the practical application of the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct (Code and Standards) in real-life scenarios.
Behavioral finance provides insight into how emotional biases and cognitive errors could influence individuals’ perceptions and investment decisions. Being aware of behavioral biases may help in understanding client goals, in constructing investment portfolios, and in identifying inconsistencies in investment decision making and market anomalies.
Private Wealth Management (1)
Identify the process of private wealth management and how to construct an investment policy statement (IPS) for the individual investor. This area also focuses on investment strategies applicable across a wide range of localities.
Private Wealth Management (2)
This session examines the considerations and risks associated with concentrated single asset positions. You’ll be presented with strategies for managing concentrated positions in publicly traded common shares, privately held businesses, and real estate.
Portfolio Management for Institutional Investors
You’ll be given a framework for understanding institutional portfolio management. Concepts and practices important in determining the investment policy statement (IPS) are presented for different types of institutional investors.
Applications of Economic Analysis to Portfolio Management
Study the process of setting capital market expectations and explore major tools of economic analysis. You’ll be introduced to the application of neoclassical growth theory to develop economic forecasts and think about how economic forecasts can be integrated with equity valuation techniques to value an equity market.
Asset Allocation and Related Decisions in Portfolio Management (1)
This session introduces you to asset allocation and provides a conceptual framework for understanding asset allocation considerations and key implementation approaches.
Asset Allocation and Related Decisions in Portfolio Management (2)
The asset allocation decision is affected by multiple constraints that present practical challenges to asset allocation. This session examines the effects of these constraints and presents adaptations to address them by institutional investor type. It also looks at how to assess performance using market indexes.
Fixed-Income Portfolio Management (1)
This session explains the role played by fixed-income securities in portfolios and focuses on the two primary types of fixed-income mandates (liability-based and total return). It covers approaches, risks, and challenges associated with both immunization of single and multiple liabilities and the indexation and laddering of a fixed-income portfolio.
Fixed-Income Portfolio Management (2)
Building on the what you’ve learned on the previous level, you’ll examine yield curve and credit strategies for fixed-income portfolios. Portfolio management strategies, which are based on the investor’s expectations regarding the level, slope, and curvature of the yield curve, are demonstrated.
Equity Portfolio Management
You’ll focus on the role of equities in an investment portfolio, three major approaches (passive, active, and semi-active) used to manage equity portfolios, and the evaluation of equity managers.
Alternative Investments for Portfolio Management
You’ll learn the characteristics of alternative investments and discuss concerns related to specific types of alternative investments.
You’ll examine framework for risk management, focusing on the concepts and tools for measuring and managing market risk and credit risk.
Risk Management Applications of Derivatives
Supporting your outcomes of the previous session, you’ll learn risk management strategies using forwards and futures, option strategies, floors and caps, and swaps.
Trading, Monitoring, and Rebalancing
You’ll learn how managers and traders interact with markets, choose appropriate trading strategies and tactics, and measure success, and also discuss the ongoing monitoring and rebalancing of the investment portfolio.
You’ll learn how to evaluate the portfolio management process through performance measurement, performance attribution, and performance appraisal.
Global Investment Performance Standards
The final session provides a grounding in the requirements and recommendations of Global Investment Performance Standards.
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