Will I be able to finish studying before the exam? Which is the best CFA study material available? These are some of the questions that plague students wanting to pursue the CFA charter.
CFA Level 1 is not a difficult exam per se – it is just voluminous. Armed with the right CFA study material clearing the level 1 should be relatively easy if not exactly a cake walk. So which is the best CFA study material that you should use? Let’s find out…..
Schweser CFA Study notes
I have personally used and recommend (like many others before me) Kaplan Schweser CFA study notes. Schweser is the oldest and most trusted CFA education provider. Schweser notes effectively summarize the material in the CFA syllabus to present to you just what is necessary to clear the exam. They are precise and concise and clearly convey concepts helping you to cover your portions in the limited time available. Schweser provides graphs and solved examples wherever necessary and also a set of practice questions at the end of every chapter and a question paper at the end of every subject. Many students, including me, can vouch that it is possible to clear the CFA exams studying just from the Schweser notes. Read the review of Kaplan Schweser CFA study notes
Wiley’s CFA Study Guide
Another popular option in CFA study notes is the Wiley’s CFA Study Guide. Wiley’s CFA Study Guide is one of the popular CFA prep courses available today for aspiring CFA candidates. Wiley started its CFA Program in 2009 as Elan Guides and soon came to be associated with quality CFA study materials. John Wiley & Sons acquired Elan Guides in January 2014, re-branding it as Wiley Efficient Learning. Wiley’s CFA Study Guide is popular today with students in over a 100 countries.
Wiley’s Study Guide is concise and comes in the form of five study volumes. It is a distilled version of the CFA Curriculum Books and helps you cover your portions fast and in limited time. The volumes cover all fundamentals, concepts and Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) needed to pass the CFA Exam. So you can use Wiley’s CFA Study Guide as your primary source for preparation for the exam.
Wiley’s provides a summary of the chapter covered, after every chapter to help you revise concepts and keep them fresh in memory. They provide Exam Tips wherever necessary. They also tell you what could be the possible traps on the exam an how to avoid them.
The notes are interspersed with graphs and in-depth solved examples, and practice questions after every chapter. The books have a color-coding feature which makes it easier for you to follow cases and examples that make references to graphs and sets of financial statements.
Bloomberg online CFA exam prep
The third popular option in CFA study materials is the Bloomberg Online CFA exam Prep – the newest kid on the CFA Block. Bloomberg is a well known financial software brand, especially the FOREX platform. It is well known for its dynamic and colorful terminals. Bloomberg is now extending its expertise in finance to CFA education with a new online learning platform.
Bloomberg CFA Exam Prep online course comes with unparalleled features such as adaptive learning, one-on-one tutoring and bite sized micro lessons that are easily digestible, 8000+ practice questions and last but not the least pass guarantee. As long as you complete 95% of their course they guarantee you will pass or you get your money back.
Bloomberg CFA exam prep packages are much more attractively priced than its competitors’ packages, given its features.
They have three packages, Essential, Premium and Ultimate. All three packages are valid for 2 years for the Level 1 exam, 3 years for Level 1+2 and 4 years for Level 1+2+3. All three packages offer the whole course material and all features discussed above. The differentiating factors between the three packages are the number of ask-a-tutor questions and the number of mock exams.
Essential includes 20 ask-a-tutor questions and 6 mock exams while Premium includes 80 ask-a-tutor questions and 8 mock exams. The Ultimate package includes unlimited ask-a-tutor questions and 10 mock exams. Accordingly the Essential package retails for $599 per level, while Premium and Ultimate retail for $999 and $1599 per level respectively.
For approximately the same cost, Schweser gives you 3 mock exams at the lower end of the spectrum and 6 at the higher end and Wiley’s offers only 2. You can compare Schweser an Wiley’s CFA packages here below;
If you are yet not convinced about registering you can try their free package for 2 weeks. You don’t have to pay anything before 2 weeks and you can cancel the registration anytime before the free trail period expires. So I suggest you register for the prep and see if it suits your style and then make your decision.
CFA Institute Books
However if clearing the exam is not the only item on your agenda and you want to gain a deeper understanding of your subject matter, I seriously recommend reading through the CFA Institute books along with CFA study guides. I know they are quite verbose, but you definitely should read them if you have sufficient time on hand before the exam. The books present the most lucid and detailed explanation of the concepts in the CFA curriculum in very simple English. They are the best CFA study material in fact. They are especially very helpful if you do not have a background in finance.
(Even if you are not a CFA candidate, the knowledge shared in the CFA curriculum books would be relevant and of value to anyone who is interested in advancing his understanding of Finance.) Read the CFA Institute Curriculum books review here.
While on the topic of CFA candidates with no financial background, I will suggest also going through the accounting books recommended for Commerce graduate studies for gaining a grasp on subjects like Financial Reporting and Analysis and Quantitative Analysis. MBA books are also recommended for gaining understanding of quants.
Nevertheless, no matter how good your CFA study material is, you can gauge your understanding and grasp of the subject and better it only by testing yourself. For that you need to solve as many practice questions as possible.
CFA Institute Books come with a few practice questions at the end of every chapter. The Schweser notes pack being sold through this site also comes bundled with a CD of few practice questions. However these will not provide adequate practice for cracking the level 1.
AnalystPrep Question Bank
If you want the real thing I recommend you try out Analyst Prep Question Banks. They provide more than 3000 CFA level 1 practice questions plus 4 mock exams plus unlimited customizable quizzes plus study materials for a small fee of $129 minus 10% discount for the readers of this blog. For just $129 AnalystPrep provides you with complete CFA solution right from study materials to practice questions to mock exams. Read the review of Analyst Prep Question Bank.
Use coupon code: AARWIN10 to avail the discount.
Apptuto CFA review materials and practice questions
The second option in CFA practice questions is Apptuto. Apptuto is quickly gaining prominence with CFA students. It was founded by an Australian called Nicholas Cooper. The app provides you with 3500+ practice questions with detailed explanations. Besides the practice questions the other main attraction of Apptuto is the review materials. CFA course review materials help you quickly revise your portions from time to time or to use as a quick reference point whenever in doubt.
With Apptuto, a large number of practice tests can be created and tailored according to your precise needs. Apptuto allows you to create your own quizzes and mock exams. You can make 120-question tests, ranging from entire topics, or study sessions, and readings. You can choose to have these questions to be theory questions, or calculation questions. Students can also select the difficulty level of the questions and then decide how to weight them. Choices are weight them equally or as per CFA guidelines.
Besides a self study product, Apptuto also has a live coaching product where industry experts will coach you one-on-one in 16 live coaching sessions totaling 45 hours.
There are two packages in the self study product and two in live coaching. The two packages in self study product are free package and Premium package. The free package includes limited study materials and 120 practice questions while the premium package ($199) includes all study materials and 3500+ practice questions. Besides it also includes unlimited mock exams.
The two packages in the live-coaching product are Bootcamp and Apptuto Live. Bootcamp ($599) includes everything in the Premium package plus 4 day intensive bootcamp. Apptuto Live ($1499) includes everything in Bootcamp plus 16 live one-one-coaching sessions by industry experts spread over 16 weeks.
All packages are valid until you pass the exam.
If you are not convinced, you can avail of the free package first and check out the app and the study materials before you make your purchase
CFA Approved calculators
Lastly, for solving the problems on the CFA exam you will need to use CFA Institute approved financial calculators only. (See the CFA exam policies here). The two permitted calculators are Texas Instruments BA II plus (including Professional version) and Hewlett Packard 12 C (including Platinum, Prestige and 25th and 30th anniversary editions). Which one is better? I cannot truthfully answer that question as I used only the Texas BA II plus professional for my exams. All I can say and vouch for is that I found it very easy to use. Also Schweser CFA study material is of great help in this regard. Schweser gives you a step by step description of how to use the the calculator for solving the different problems in the syllabus. So if you are using Schweser study notes go in for the BA II plus professional as you’ll have ready help. Read the review of the Texas BA II Plus Professional calculator
For more options in CFA approved TI and HP calculators see this post.
That’s all from me guys on the topic of best CFA study material. Hope you found it useful. See you again then and wish you all the best in your pursuit of the CFA charter.