Defined Contribution Administrative Issues – Advanced Topics (DC-3)

DC-3 Syllabus
Course Overview
Exam Details
Required and Supplementary Reading
Supplementary Study Tools
Exam Waivers and Grandfathering Rules
Exam and Publication References and Errata
Continuing Education (CE) Credits

Course Overview

This course is designed for those retirement plan professionals who want to learn more than just the basics of qualified plans. It not only goes into more depth on the basics of coverage and nondiscrimination but also covers a range of more advanced topics.

The subject matter of DC-3:

  • Begins with leased employees and different types of business entities and moves to employer situations such as determining controlled groups and affiliated service groups
  • Identifies different types of compensation and looks at when a definition of compensation may be subject to additional nondiscrimination testing
  • Covers advanced topics like average benefit testing and plan aggregation, with emphasis on how choices made in coverage testing affect nondiscrimination methodologies
  • Discusses advanced nondiscrimination testing techniques including general testing, identifying rate groups and the intricacies involved in the average benefit test
  • Covers a basic understanding of employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and explains how these plans operate and the special rules that apply to them
  • Covers fiduciary issues, including fiduciary responsibilities, standards and consequences of fiduciary breaches, prohibited transactions, advanced distribution issues and life insurance in plans
  • Allows candidates to learn about the ASPPA Code of Professional Conduct and to identify ethical dilemmas that retirement plan professionals may face

It is presumed that a candidate sitting for the DC-3 examination will have the knowledge of the material covered in the Retirement Plan Fundamentals (RPF) series, DC-1 examination and the DC-2 examination. Please refer to the DC-3 syllabus for specific learning objectives and exam topic weightings.

Exam Details

The DC-3 examination consists of 55 multiple choice questions, and candidates have 2 hours to complete it. Candidates will receive a grade immediately upon completing the exam. Exams are given at Prometric testing centers during the examination window. Please refer to the Education calendar for dates.

To register, a candidate must have an account with ASPPA. To create an account please click here. Candidates can register online or download the registration form and send via mail or fax to 703.516.9308.

Once registered, eligibility emails will be sent to candidates beginning approximately eight weeks prior to the opening of an exam window. The eligibility email has detailed instructions on scheduling an appointment with Prometric. It is the candidate’s responsibility to schedule an exam. We strongly recommend scheduling an appointment upon receipt of the confirmation letter, as testing centers fill up quickly. To find a Prometric testing center visit

Exam Fees - The registration fee is non-refundable.

  • To qualify for early registration, registration forms accompanied by the early registration fee of $251 for members and $278 for non-members must reach the ASPPA office no later than March 31 for the spring examinations and September 15 for the fall examinations.
  • To qualify for final registration, registration forms accompanied by the final registration fee of $334 for members and $361 for non-members must reach the ASPPA office no later than May 26 for the spring examinations and October 27 for the fall examinations.

For more information visit the Exam Schedule & Fees page.

Estimated hours needed to study - Study time depends greatly on the experience level of the student. The average candidate reports it takes 60-80 hours study time per examination.

Grading Process - Notification for examinations will include a score of 9, 8 or 7 (passing grade) or 6, 5 or 3 (failing grade). A score of 3 indicates that no points were credited; rather, the candidate’s performance was below the minimum acceptable standards. The score report contains a topic listing which indicates “needs work” for any topic where the candidate scored less than 70% correct. Raw scores, spreads between scores, pass marks, pass percentages and copies of questions are not released. The ASPPA Office is permitted to provide grade information only in writing; grades will not be provided by telephone, email or fax. Candidates who wish to have their grades sent to anyone other than themselves must fill out a Grade Release Form.

Required and Supplementary Reading

All study materials can be ordered by using the online ASPPA Bookstore or downloading the Publications Order Form and following the instructions to phone, fax or mail your order form and payment.

The required reading for the 2017 DC-3 exam is:

Recommended Reading:

Supplementary Study Tools

The study tools below are not required preparation for the DC-3 examination. They are offered as additional study aids.

It is the candidate’s responsibility to review all of ASPPA’s exam policies and procedures, which can be found on Candidate Corner.

Exam Publication References & Errata

For updates to ASPPA’s publications and examinations please click here. Stop by regularly as new updates are posted.

Continuing Education (CE) Credits

Candidates who have successfully completed an ASPPA proctored examination can earn up to 20 ARA CE credits depending on the score received. Credits will be applied to the CE cycle in which the score is issued. For more information on ARA examination CE credit click here.

20 ERPA credits for successful completion of the DC-3 exam may be awarded.
The final decision as to the number of ERPA credits rests solely with the Internal Revenue Service.