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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
The CFA exam is one of the most grueling series of professional tests 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, how to do know which one is right for you? Our team 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.
It wouldn’t be a best list without Kaplan Schweser. After 30+ years, of prepping candidates for the CFA, Kaplan Schweser still provides 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 comprehensive prep course, with a proven formula that you can trust. Kaplan covers all the bases (almost too thoroughly) and gets top grades on every factor that matters.
Killer Live Classes
If you opt for the live classes, you’ll get 42 hours of live class time across 14 weeks. Personally, I highly recommend paying up for the live online classes to add structure to your studies.
All of the classes take place over Zoom and have pretty tight lesson plans. Kaplan ships you a set course workbooks which you follow along in during class and work sample problems. In essence, Kaplan guides you through the material and spoon feeds you everything you need to know.
The instructors I had were very, very knowledgeable, and were good communicators as well. I still think Wiley’s instructors might have a slight edge, but their course overall doesn’t receive nearly as high of a grade.
Kaplan’s Secret Weapon: SchweserNotes
For decades, SchweserNotes have been the gold standard 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 (not even close), 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). I especially like 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.
And as side note, Schweser’s Secret Sauce book is also money. It’s a great distillation of the most important concepts.
CFA Review Workshops
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 Premium students.
AnalystPrep gets really highly marks on our list of best CFA review courses for one clear and simple reason – their combination of value pricing and high-quality study material.
With their mainstay “Learn + Practice” package costing just a shade under $350, the AnalystPrep package costs a fraction of what you will pay for other full-scope CFA exam prep packages.
And while they don’t have the name recognition of Wiley or Kaplan Schweser, this is still a really impressive CFA prep course that we think is more than capable of getting you across all three levels.
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 offers a ton of value on the practice side of prep.
These practice questions each come with a detailed and insightful 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 their standard prep package with a “Learn” component also get access to video lessons and written study notes.
While their video lessons don’t seem to go as deep as those from Princeton Review or Kaplan perhaps, we did find them to be rock solid, and the written notes are excellent. The notes are detailed and concise, delivering actionable tips.
All in all, this is a very impressive suite of study materials for the price. In my opinion, if you’re going the self-study route without live classes, AnalystPrep is the best value in the game currently.
Awesome Video Lessons
As mentioned, one of the highlights of the AnalystPrep program (assuming you go with their standard Learn + Practice package) is the suite of video lessons they offer. To be completely honest, before reviewing this course, we had our doubts about how good these video lectures could be given the budget price point, but the verdict is in: they are awesome.
All of the videos are led by Professor James Forjan, who does a great job covering content review in an easily digestible way. He appears in the top right corner of the videos and breaks down concepts on a digital whiteboard.
The first portion of each video lecture covers critical content review, followed by a series of sample problems to demonstrate key points.
With 50+ hours of these high-quality video lessons, we were really impressed with this component and thought the coverage is just about perfect. Though we actually like the newly rolled out video lessons from Princeton Review perhaps a touch better, these video lessons from AnalystPrep are right up there.
Best Bang For Your Buck
As referenced above, the clear selling point of the AnalystPrep course is the pricing. With the complete prep course for each level costing just $249 (for 9 months of access), it is hard to beat their costs.
Not only that, you can alternatively buy their prep materials for all three levels at the get-go for just $700. Again, not to beat a dead horse here, but these are excellent bargains. No matter how you cut it, AnalystPrep’s value cannot be beaten.
Heaps of Practice Work
The other clear highlight of the AnalystPrep coursework for me was the gobs of practice work you get access to when you sign up. Level I candidates get access to 4,000+ practice questions and 5 mock exams.
Level II students get 1,300+ questions, 2 mock exams and 225 vignettes. And Level III students get 40+ essay-type cases, 100+ MCQ vignettes, and unlimited quizzes.
These are some crazy amounts of practice material, and are right up there with some of the highest volumes in the CFA prep industry (perhaps second only to Kaplan).
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, vignettes 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.
Although somewhat new-ish to the CFA prep space, Princeton Review has made a massive splash with their CFA 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 input of top-notch CFA experts in the field, including university professors, CFA charterholders, and finance executives from major firms.
With 24 hours of live online class instruction, 50+ hours of video lessons, 1,500+ practice questions, full-length mock exams, flashcards and more (for Level I), 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 Pass Guarantee
Perhaps the best feature of the Princeton Review CFA prep package is their 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 your level of the 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 for an exam as hard as the CFA than offering top-shelf quality prep material and backing it up with a complete money back guarantee.
Excellent CFA Video Lectures
Another high point of the Princeton Review CFA prep course is their video lectures. These video-based lessons are led by some top tier CFA experts, who do a great 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.
It wouldn’t be a best list without Wiley, so we need to give them a shoutout, even if they don’t grade out as high as the others. In yesteryear, Wiley would be getting a top spot with a full showcase, but in all honesty, their course has kind of fallen off. It just hasn’t kept up with the times.
Yet, Wiley makes our list of best CFA review courses for a couple reasons, but most notably for their strong video instruction. With some of the more engaging and knowledgeable instructors in the CFA prep space, their video lectures are short and extremely informative.
This is the true highlight of the Wiley course. Beyond the video lessons though, Wiley’s students who pay up 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 some value, and are great for holding you accountable in your studies, but otherwise lagged behind the analogous Kaplan classes.
In addition, supporting these instructional channels, Wiley also offers some solid practice work, including a couple thousand 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 serviceable.
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 pretty nice 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.