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Best CFA Prep Courses & Study Materials
Our comprehensive guide to the best CFA prep courses and study materials on the market
Passing each level of the CFA exam is not an easy feat. It is one of the most grueling series of professional exams in the world, and each of the three levels has an average pass rate of less than 50%. As such, you are going to need a review course to help you prepare. But with so many prep courses on the market, each claiming to be the best, how to do know which one is right for you? Our team of test prep experts has purchased, taken and reviewed just about every CFA review course available and ranked the best ones here, so you can make an informed decision on which is right for you.
Although relatively new to the CFA prep space, Princeton Review has made a massive splash with their Level I prep course. Leveraging their decades of prep experience, learning science knowledge, and abundant prep resources, this review course gets instant credibility and has skyrocketed up our rankings of best CFA prep courses.
Essentially, Princeton Review has taken their proven test prep model from other exams (such as the GMAT and LSAT) and applied that same tried and true formula here, but with the employment and input of top notch CFA experts in the field, including university professors, CFA charterholders, and finance executives from major firms. Boasting 24 hours of live online class instruction, 50+ hours of video lessons, 1,500+ practice questions, full-length mock exams, flashcards and more, this is one the most extensive and robust course offerings on the market. Princeton Review has clearly spared no expense in designing a top notch prep package, and our team has nothing but high praise for this course after reviewing it.
The Level I Pass Guarantee
Perhaps the best feature of the Princeton Review CFA prep package is their Level I pass guarantee. If you take full course, including attending all classes, watching all video lectures and working a majority of the practice problems, they guarantee you will pass the Level I exam, or your money back. This is highly beneficial insurance policy that you just can’t get elsewhere. A number of other prep providers offer free course repeats if you fail, but we were happy to see Princeton Review put their money where their mouth is. They are trying to really carve out a name for themselves in the CFA prep space, and there is generally no better way of doing that than offering top shelf quality prep material and backing it up with a complete money back guarantee.
However, this also somewhat highlights the one complaint we have with Princeton – they only offer a Level I prep course at this time. Levels II and III are coming, but for now, you are limited to Level I with them. While this may be a little frustrating for some CFA candidates who want to use the same provider throughout their prep, the pass guarantee definitely helps to ease the pain when you know you’re fully protected.
Excellent Video Lectures
Another high point of the Princeton Review CFA prep course is their video lectures. These video-based lessons are led by some excellent CFA experts, who do an excellent job running you through content review, as well as exam taking strategies. The CFA exam is packed with complex and dry subject matter, and the Princeton Review instructors manage to break that content down in an organized and easy to understand manner. Our team was particularly impressed with how Princeton and their instructors structure the course.
For the CFA exam, you need to be able to quickly recall a number of equations, formulas and other points that are packed with detail. As such, you need a system to improve your retention, and the Princeton teachers give a number of excellent memory aids and techniques for memorizing and storing key information away in an efficient manner. Not only that, we were really impressed with the production quality of these video lessons. In typical Princeton Review form, the video quality is superb and the design of the videos couldn’t be better. The screen frequently cuts from your onscreen instructor to a digital whiteboard to show written notes, equations, and other content. These videos are truly awesome.
AnalystPrep makes our list of best CFA review courses for one clear and simple reason – value. With price points hovering around just a couple hundred dollars, the AnalystPrep offerings cost a fraction of what you will pay for other full-scope CFA exam prep packages. While their offerings are not as powerful or refined as you will find with larger providers like Princeton Review and Wiley, they are nonetheless pretty impressive.
Offering 3,500+ practice questions for their Level I program, and a few hundred for Levels II and III, which can all be customized into an unlimited number of tailored quizzes, AnalystPrep focuses in on the practice side of prep. These practice questions each come with a detailed solution that our team was very happy with, especially given their value pricing structure. And it’s not just all practice work with AnalystPrep, as Level I students who purchase the prep package with a “Learn” component also get access to video lessons and written study notes. While their video lessons pale in comparison to Wiley and Princeton Review’s, we did find them helpful, and the written notes are excellent. All in all, this is very impressive suite of study materials for the price.
Best Bang for Your Buck
As referenced above, the clear selling point of the AnalystPrep course is the pricing. With their Level I Practice Package starting at just $149 (for 1 year of access), it is hard to beat their costs. Add in video lessons and online study notes as part of the “Learn” component of the Level I package, and the standard package still only costs $249/year. Given that comparable Level I courses can cost upwards of $1,000, this is high value, bang for your buck pricing.
Not only that, their Level II and Level III practice-only packages come in at around $129 and $99, respectively. Again, not to beat a dead horse here, but these are excellent bargains. One strategy we have seen candidates apply is to use Princeton Review for their Level I prep, as it offers a more vigorous curriculum of video lessons, live online classes, written notes and flashcards (but at a higher price point), and then use AnalystPrep for practice material for Levels II and III once they get over the hump of the first exam. But no matter how you cut it, AnalystPrep’s value cannot be beaten.
Heaps of Practice Work
The second clear highlight of the AnalystPrep coursework is the gobs of practice work you get access to when you sign up. Level I candidates get access to 3,500+ practice questions; Level II students get 970+ questions (across 160+ item sets); and Level III students get 640+ questions (across 100+ item sets), along with 10 essays. That’s 5,000+ practice questions in total, which is right up there with some of the highest volumes of practice work in the CFA prep industry.
Additionally, our team found this practice material to be very well-designed and similarly replicate the difficulty you will see on the real exam. The questions very closely match the style and content of real CFA exam questions across all question types, including multiple-choice, item sets and essays. Given the price points of this prep course, our expectations were not very high, but we were blown away by the quality of these questions.
Wiley makes our list of best CFA review courses for a number of reasons, but most notably for their stellar video instruction. With some of the most engaging and knowledgeable instructors in the CFA prep space, their video lectures are short, engaging and extremely informative. We discuss these video lessons in greater detail below, but this is the true highlight of the Wiley course. Beyond the video lessons though, Wiley’s Gold and Platinum students also get access to live, virtual classes.
These online class sessions, which take place roughly once per week over a few months’ time, offer students a chance to interact with their instructors and peers, and get a deeper dive into some of the more heavily tested areas. We found these classes to offer significant value, and are great for holding you accountable in your studies. And supporting these instructional channels, Wiley also offers some solid practice work, including thousands of practice questions and two mock exams. While we found the accompanying text explanations of the problems to be a little thin, the practice material was otherwise more than serviceable.
Killer Video Lessons
In the modern era of test prep, video lessons are king. And offering one of the best bundles of prerecorded video lectures in the industry, Wiley more than delivers. Boasting 90+ hours of video lectures for Level I prep, 100+ hours for Level II, and 50+ hours for Level III, Wiley provides just about the highest volume of video lesson work in the industry. But more importantly than quantity, the Wiley video lessons are top-shelf quality. Their instructors are engaging, incredibly knowledgeable and do an excellent job communicating otherwise complex and dry content. In our team’s opinion, these instructors absolutely make the course. Plus, the lectures are short (just 30 minutes or so at the most), so they do a great job holding your attention.
The lessons take the form of a digital whiteboard, where sections from Wiley’s corresponding study guides roll across the screen. The instructors teach to the written material and mark the page up with blue and red notes as they go, highlighting the most critical points. We loved that the basis of each video lesson is the same material that is in Wiley’s prep books, as their books are also some of the best in the game. The production value of these videos is also very strong, with excellent picture quality, digital effects and sound mixing.
11th Hour Final Cram Course
Students that take Wiley’s Platinum course also get access to their 11th Hour final cram course, study guide and mock exam. This is a huge benefit to CFA studiers, particularly if you’re the type of student who likes to procrastinate and cram right at the end. While that is definitely not the best strategy with studying for the CFA (you should have close to 300 hours under your belt by the time you sit for the exam), it is sometimes inevitable. And even if you haven’t procrastinated, it never hurts to have a 1 to 2 week recap of the most heavily tested topics and trickiest issues on the exam.
The 11th Hour package includes additional video lectures (around 30 hours), a study guide and another mock exam. Our team particularly liked the 11th Hour study guide. It distills all the CFA study material down to its most critical elements and acts like a condensed study bible of sorts. We highly recommend giving this a thorough read right before the exam.
It wouldn’t be a best list without Kaplan Schweser. After preparing students for each level of the CFA exam for 30+ years, Kaplan Schweser has a track record of success in getting students across the finish line. They provide one of the most well-rounded curriculums in the CFA prep space, with excellent video lessons, live classes, solid practice problems, and their signature SchweserNotes. In short, this is a very traditional prep course, with a proven formula that you can generally trust. However, while that may make Kaplan Schweser the conservative pick for students not wanting to take much risk, Kaplan Schweser does have some of the most expensive price points in the industry.
For decades, SchweserNotes have been the pinnacle of written study material for each level of the CFA exam. These course notes, available in both print and digitally, distill the entire CFA program curriculum down into the most essential points. Comprehending and retaining the critical elements of the learning outcome statements (LOS) is no easy feat, and these notes definitely help in that respect. And perhaps more importantly than just containing the right content, the SchweserNotes manage to convey this subject matter in an easy to understand manner. They are easy to read, clear and very concise (at least as far as complex CFA exam material goes).
Our team really likes how these textbook style notes use example problems to help demonstrate key points and how theoretical content plays out in the context of actual CFA style questions. While we really like these SchweserNotes though, just know that they are definitely geared towards text-based learners. If you are a visual learner or do not do well with heavy reading, they may not be your favorite.
Every exam cycle, procrastination seems to be an issue and there are always some candidates who are left scrambling, trying to pack in as much studying as possible in the final two weeks before the exam. If you’re one of these students, or perhaps you’ve been in diligent your studying and just want a final refresher type crash course, Kaplan Schweser provides a really helpful final workshop. This workshop gives students access to video lessons, a live class component and written study material in the form of a two-volume final review study guide. The written material goes hand-in-hand with the final workshop lessons, and provides a very succinct and informative presentation of the truly “need to know” stuff. The workshop delivers a very nice balance of content review (based on CFA exam weightings) as well as testing strategies, example problems and more. That said, our recommendation would not be to rely on this final review alone, as it won’t get you nearly the depth of everything you need to learn. Treat this more as a capstone review, as it is intended to be. Note also that these final review workshops are only available to PremiumPlus students.
Do I need a CFA exam review course?
Yes. The CFA exam is one of the most grueling and difficult exams in the world, generally requiring 300+ hours of studying per level. That level of prep will require a commercial review course.
How much does a typical CFA prep course cost?
CFA review courses vary widely in price, from under $200 up to $1,500+ depending on the features and scope of coverage that you need.
Do some review courses offer prep for all three levels of the CFA exam?
Yes. Some CFA exam prep providers do provide bundle packages that include prep materials for all three levels of the exam.