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The Best 6 CFA Exam Prep Courses and Books


Becoming a chartered financial analyst means first passing the CFA exam. It’s not uncommon to spend 300 hours or more studying for each of the three levels of the exam, meaning you’re looking at a total investment of 900+ hours to prepare. If you’re going to be spending that much time studying, it’s important to choose CFA exam prep materials that can help you achieve the results you’re seeking.

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3 Best CFA Exam Prep Courses

Taking a course might appeal to you if you’re looking for a comprehensive approach to CFA exam prep. These courses rate as some of the top options for test-takers.

1. Kaplan Schweser

Kaplan Schweser offers some of the most popular CFA prep courses on the market. There are three course packages to choose from: PremiumPlus, Premium and Essential.

The Premium package includes on-demand classes, on-demand review workshops, Schweser JumpStart learning materials, checkpoint exams, mock exams and Schweser’s Secret Sauce, which offers tips and strategies for passing the exam. PremiumPlus includes all of that with the option to choose live classes or live review workshops.

You might choose Premium if you’re looking for a comprehensive CFA study program at a reasonable price. If you’d like something more interactive, PremiumPlus fits the bill. Essential, the least expensive package, could be a good option if you’re looking for a self-study course.

2. Wiley

Wiley is another leader in CFA exam prep that offers multiple course packages. For Level I study, you can choose from Platinum, Gold or self-study.

The Platinum package includes mock exams, study guides, professional mentoring, live or on-demand virtual classes, course outlines, thousands of practice questions, video lectures and bootcamp reviews. The Gold package does not include online mentoring, Wiley’s 11th Hour review study guide or the 11th Hour mock exam.

The self-study package is the most basic but it’s also the most affordable of the three. You might choose this option if you’re not necessarily interested in live or on-demand courses when prepping for the CFA exam.

3. The Princeton Review

The Princeton Review offers CFA exam prep for Levels I, II and III of the exam. For a limited time, both the Level I and Level II courses come with a money-back guarantee. If you don’t pass the CFA exam after completing either study program, you can get your course fee back.

The Essential Course is offered on-demand and includes 3,150+ practice questions with solutions, 50+ hours of video lectures, four mock exams, 900 slides of study notes and key definition flashcards. All of the material covers the 10 study areas included in the Level I exam.

If you’d like live instruction, you can choose the Ultimate Course instead. This course package comes with everything you’d get with the Essential Course, along with live classes and the option to ask your professor questions one-on-one.

3 Best CFA Exam Prep Books

SmartAsset: The Best 6 CFA Exam Prep Courses and Books

Looking for CFA exam books that you can use to create a self-study program? Here are some of the top options to consider.

1. CFA Program Curriculum Level I Box Set – CFA Institute

The CFA Institute publishes CFA exam prep materials yearly and the Level 1 Box Set offers a comprehensive overview of exam content. The box set includes six books that cover the full spectrum of knowledge areas you’ll be tested on. Each study guide is formatted so that related topics are covered together, making it easier to build on your knowledge base as you go.

You’ll also get mock exams and practice questions, as well as flashcards and recommendations for how to create a realistic study plan. Keep in mind that you’ll need to buy all of the books together as a set; they’re not sold individually.

2. CFA Level I Study Guide – Wiley

The Wiley Study Guide comes in a five-book volume that includes over 1,300 pages of study material. You can choose a print version or a printable e-book, depending on which way you prefer to study. Similar to the CFA Institute box set, Wiley’s CFA guide is divided into sections that cover the different knowledge areas included in the exam.

These books are great for learners who prefer a visual approach since the material is color-coded to make finding information easy and there are plenty of explanatory graphs that break down concepts.

3. Level 1 SchweserNotes & Quicksheet – Schweser

SchweserNotes are CFA exam prep books that are designed to help you retain information using a structured but easily digestible format. The books organize content into exam-focused study notes with accompanying examples and quizzes to help you absorb the necessary information and hold onto it.

Compared to other CFA exam books, SchweserNotes breaks the key information up into smaller modules which is great if you’d like to be able to do shorter study sprints vs. marathon sessions. The books come in print, online and e-book formats so you can choose how you want to consume the study materials.

How to Choose the Right CFA Exam Prep Materials

When comparing CFA exam prep materials, there are a few things to consider. First, it’s important to decide how you want to consume the materials. For example, are you interested exclusively in using books to study or are you open to video lessons or live classes?

Next, it’s helpful to weigh the cost. Some CFA study programs or books are more expensive than others. If you’re going to purchase study materials or courses that come with a higher price tag, it’s important to consider how that fits into your budget.

At the same time, if you’re looking for lower-cost materials or courses, consider how much value they offer. You might save money by choosing inexpensive or free resources but it’s important to ensure that those materials cover all of the bases so you’re not going into the exam with any knowledge gaps.

Finally, think about the pacing that’s required to complete all of the prep materials before your scheduled exam date. If you only have 10 hours a week to study, for example, and a program you’re looking at recommends 20 hours a week of study time then you might need to consider how you could rework your schedule to allow for that.

Bottom Line

SmartAsset: The Best 6 CFA Exam Prep Courses and Books

Earning a CFA certification is something you might consider if you’re hoping to grow your advisory practice. Investing in high-quality CFA exam prep materials can help you ensure the greatest odds of success on test day.

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