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.

In addition to testing the knowledge of the material included in the syllabus, the DC-3 examination is intended to test the candidate’s knowledge of the underlying principles and the candidate’s ability to apply those principles when solving problems encountered in practice. 

Exam Details

The DC-3 examination consists of 50 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.

Examination Registration

A candidate is not required to be a member of ASPPA to take an ASPPA examination. However, it is recommend that a candidate order and receive all study materials before registering for an examination. A candidate can register for an ASPPA examination in one of the following three ways:

Online: Register online over a secure network and receive immediate payment confirmation. Credit card payments accepted (MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover). If you do not have an account set up with ASPPA, you will be required to set up a secure account. This account will store your pertinent information.


Fax: Complete the proctored exam registration form with credit card payment and fax to 703-516-9308. Allow 5-7 business days for processing. If faxing your registration please do not send a copy via mail.


Mail: Complete the proctored exam registration form and mail with payment to ASPPA, P.O. Box 34725, Alexandria, VA 22334-0725. All forms of payment are accepted: credit card, check or money order. Allow 7-10 business days for processing.

Please provide an email address with your registration. Failure to do so will delay the registration process.

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

Exam Fee:

Members: $335

Nonmembers: $360 

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 DC-3 exam is:

Recommended Reading:

Supplementary Study Tools

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 self-study program may be awarded.

The final decision as to the number of ERPA credits rests solely with the Internal Revenue Service.