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Wiley CFA Review (Level 1-2-3)
Our comprehensive review of the Wiley CFA exam review course
With an extensive curriculum that provides well over the necessary 300 hours of prep work and pass rates nearly double the international average for all 3 levels, Wiley is often cited by former students and finance professionals as the best CFA prep course in the industry. But does a comprehensive study plan and track record of success justify the price tag of this review course? We take a close look at the Wiley CFA prep course in this detailed review guide and answer just that question.
Rather than offering one comprehensive prep package that provides study material for all three levels of the CFA exam, Wiley instead offers prep courses on a level-by-level basis. In other words, you must purchase a separate course for each exam level. While your first reaction to this may be that you want a uniform prep package covering all three exams, know that this may actually save you money in the event you cannot get over the hump and pass one of the exams.
If you purchase a three-exam prep bundle and cannot pass the level II exam, you’re out of luck, because you’ve already paid for level III. As such, I actually like that Wiley sells their prep packages on a level-by-level basis. And when you compare their pricing to other CFA prep companies that provide a comprehensive three-exam bundle, it ends up being about a wash anyway.
Across all three levels of the CFA exam, Wiley provides the same three course formats. These include the Self-Study Course, the Gold Course and the Platinum Course. The Self-Study Course is Wiley’s entry level package and provides barebones study resources. There is no video instruction, live classes, final cram course or expert mentoring. You get Wiley’s study guide prep books, some practice questions, a couple mock exams, and that’s about it. But because of the limited scope of this package, this offering prices in at just under $650. Unless you have a very solid foundation in the principles tested on the CFA exam, we’d recommend bumping up to the next level.
At the next rung up, Wiley’s Gold Course provides the same materials as the Self-Study Course, but adds in video lessons (50 to 100 hours depending on the level) and live class sessions (24 to 48 hours depending on level), along with a few other minor resources. In light of these major add-ons, which act as the core of your study plan when upgraded, this course runs for right around $1,000.
Finally, for students seeking a deluxe offering, Wiley provides their Platinum Course. This plan is the exact same as the Gold Course, but adds in an “11th Hour” final cram course, study guide and mock exam. These materials are designed to help students cram in as much high-yield content review as possible in the last week or two before sitting for the exam. These are valuable resources, and as such, jump the price of this package up to nearly $1,400.
Most every CFA candidate seeking their charter has heard that it takes roughly 300 hours of study time to adequately prep for each level of the exam. As such, it is critical that the course you take provide this level of work and then some. And after taking the Wiley course, I can say that they deliver.
Wiley provides one of the most robust and wide-ranging curriculums in the CFA exam prep space. With somewhere between 50 and 100 hours of prerecorded video lectures (depending on the level), 24 to 48 hours of live class sessions (again, depending on the level), thousands of problems, detailed study guides and mock exams, they easily clear the 300 hour mark.
In fact, after having taken the Gold Course, I would say the total study time if you did every last bit of work is somewhere closer to 500 hours. Though sometimes you will speed through lessons and skip reading sections when you’ve already shown that you have mastered the material (whether through work or school).
The course is structured generally by study session. No matter which level you are on, there will be a series of study sessions that you must work through to complete your prep. For reference, there are around 20 for Level I. Within each study session, there are a number of lessons, which are followed at the end by some practice questions and a quiz.
Each lesson consists of a quick overview, a video lecture, a corresponding text lesson and a notes function. The video and text portions are generally aligned with each other and go hand-in-hand. And while this may sound like a lot, the lessons actually go pretty quickly. They are designed by Wiley to only take 30 to 45 minutes per lesson.
While I found that the lessons generally took more like 45 minutes to an hour (when you pause the video to take notes and read the entire written portion of the lesson), I still loved the brevity of these lesson plans. Most folks studying for the CFA are busy, working professionals and don’t have time for 3-hour study blocks. These bite-sized lessons not only break up study sessions and allow for more efficient studying, but the short nature generally improves comprehension and retention as well. I was very happy with the digestible lesson chunks.
At the heart of these lessons are the video lectures (assuming you take the Gold or Platinum course, as most students do). These video lessons are led by one of Wiley’s expert instructors. Wiley employees a handful of industry experts, most notably university professors and CFA’s, to teach the video lectures and live classes. I found the instructors to be very, very good (particularly Peter Olinto).
They all have an obvious mastery of the subject matter, and are more importantly perhaps, fantastic communicators. The content covered during CFA exam review can be pretty dry at times, so it’s important that the instructors be engaging and hold your attention. And I think the Wiley team did an excellent job in this regard.
The video lectures generally take the form of a digital whiteboard, where your instructor voices the lesson over written material. A section from the relevant study guide is generally the basis of the written material onscreen, and your instructor teaches more or less from the book. Though sometimes lectures do deviate, and in those cases, you are given a separate handout. But by and large, the portion of the study guide at issue will roll across the screen and your instructor will mark it up with red or blue ink as they talk.
Ideally, I’d like to see some more incorporation of the instructor themselves on screen (you only see them from time to time), but this format is understandable given the very content-heavy nature of CFA exam prep. And in any event, the production value of the videos is superb. The picture is sharp and the onscreen graphics and notes are clean and easy to read.
The content of these lessons is also fantastic. Given that they generally mirror what’s in Wiley’s 5-volume prep book set (more on this below), you know the material is on point. All in all, these video lessons are engaging and informative, and I found them to be about the most useful study tool in the Wiley package.
The accompanying text lesson is generally lifted straight from one of Wiley’s study guides. Reading through this portion generally goes quicker than the video portion of the lesson and you can wrap up an entire lesson pretty quickly. I would say the lessons on average generally took me about 45 minutes in total, though often on the longer side (but rarely, if ever, over an hour). Again, I liked that these lessons are quick hit and designed to accommodate working professionals.
Complementing the video lessons, Wiley also offers Gold and Platinum students access to live virtual classes. These classes meet for 3-hour sessions about once a week or so over a few months. You meet in a digital classroom through Adobe Connect and watch your instructor present a lesson on heavily-tested topics.
The instructors who manage these classes are the same instructors who do the recorded video lessons, and as such, are every good. These classes in my opinion are long and intense (with some heavy content review), but are super helpful. If you can keep your mind focused for three hours (with a 15-minute break), you’ll get some truly beneficial information. The instructors do a great job keeping otherwise complex and boring material interesting (well, as interesting as it can be).
Beyond the instructional work, within each study session you are prompted to work through practice questions. These practice questions come from Wiley’s massive test bank of questions and generally serve to reinforce the material you just learned. These questions allow you to put what was just covered in the lesson into practice and build a knowledge base.
In addition, even when not directed to work practice questions, you are always free to jump in to the test bank and create custom practice sets yourself. I did this pretty frequently for topics that I found I was weak on. You can personalize a practice session by topic, number of questions, practice mode, and more.
Additionally, Wiley’s “FocusMe” technology will adapt the difficulty of problems as you go. All of the questions in the test bank have different assigned difficulty values, and if you are crushing questions, they will ratchet up the difficulty. Likewise, if you miss a run of questions, they will dial it back so you can build some confidence and work on fundamentals.
Following the lessons and practice work within a study session, you are directed to take an assessment. This assessment tests your knowledge in the area after having learned the material and put it to practice. These assessments aren’t very long – usually just 12 to 25 questions. Once finished, you are given a detailed score report and can review your answers.
Accompanying each problem (in the test bank and assessments) is a written solution. These text explanations demonstrate why the correct answer is correct. For me, these explanations were a little lacking. Reviewing missed problems is usually a big part of the learning process and these solutions are just on the thin side. Many of them are just a sentence or two. I would really like to see Wiley flesh these explanations out a bit and add some material around all around answer choices – not just why the correct answer choice was correct.
That is generally how the study plan proceeds until you wrap up all your study sessions within the given level. Overall, I really liked this course plan. Given the simple, repetitive nature of lesson, practice and assessment, it is easy to find a groove and plan out your studies through a busy week. Further, I loved the recorded lectures and practice work. While the text explanations were a little thin, I otherwise had few complaints about the Wiley CFA curriculum. This is a comprehensive and detailed study package.
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At the end of each level you are given access to take two, full-length mock exams. These practice tests put everything you’ve learned over the course of a few hundred hours to the test. They are long, stressful and you won’t look forward to it. But the CFA exam itself isn’t pleasant either, and these mock exams do an excellent job replicating the real test and conditioning your mind and body.
In my opinion, these are a huge benefit to Wiley students. It would be really hard to walk into the test center after having only studied material at a slow pace and never actually sitting for a practice test. These mock exams provide some significant value for getting prepped. For me, these almost have more value in terms of just getting you mentally prepared for the rigors of the exam, including the stress of pacing and length of the exam, than the value in the substantive content of the test.
Wiley CFA Review Books
The other core component of your Wiley CFA prep course is the set of study guides. When you sign up with Wiley, you will get a 5-volume set of both print and digital prep books. This book set covers everything on a given level of the exam across a couple thousand pages. These books are thorough, insanely comprehensive and some of the best I have seen in the CFA prep space.
And fortunately, you don’t have to read them all in detail. Large swaths of the books are covered directly in the video lessons and live classes, so you don’t have to separately read these sections. This cuts down on the study time and makes things more efficient, which I liked.
But if you ever get caught up on a topic or issue, the books are sure to have the answer. These books are crazy detailed. You can always drill down to the particular topic and get what you need.
11th Hour Final Cram Course
If you sign up for the Platinum Course, you will get access to Wiley’s 11th Hour final cram course, study guide and mock exam. While I didn’t take the Platinum course (I took the Gold), I got a preview of these materials and think they would be a true value add. The 11th Hour cram course has around 30 or so hours of additional video lectures, some live class time and additional practice questions.
It narrows in on the most heavily-tested topics and the areas where candidates are usually tripped up. In other words, this cram session goes for the low hanging fruit to make sure you don’t miss out on otherwise easy points. In addition to the course, you will get another study guide (tailored to the most relevant material) and one more mock exam. If two is good, three is better.
If you’re nervous about the exam or know you’re going to procrastinate and need some high-yield cramming, strongly consider jumping up to Platinum for this benefit.
Interface and User Experience
I love, love, loved the Wiley dashboard and interface. Their digital platform is modern, sleek and very easy to navigate. All of your study resources are neatly laid out along the navigation bar on the left-hand side, and are clear as day to find. You can quickly jump to your current assignment, next assessment, performance metrics, test bank and a number of other study tools and resources. I can’t say enough about the look and feel of this portal.
In addition, the functionality is great as well. Everything is agile and responsive, with load times never being an issue. This is an all-around very professional digital platform.
In addition to your core study materials, Wiley tosses in some nice supplemental resource materials to help you prepare. Among these extras, you will get:
Detailed performance metrics
Downloadable and printable flashcards
Instructor email support (they call it “expert mentoring”)
90+ pages of formula sheets
Of these resources, I really liked the performance metrics. Wiley provides some powerful analytics that give you some helpful insights into your performance. You can view your performance by assessment, practice set, mock exam and more. Wiley allows you to slice up this data so you can zero in on where you are weak, which in turns lets you target those areas through some extra practice. I also like the visual presentation of this data.
Also of note is Wiley’s “expert mentoring.” I am not sure why they label it that way, because there is no real mentoring or tutoring going on, but it is some helpful support. If you ever have a content-related or CFA exam strategy question, you can message the Wiley team through the portal. You can then expect an answer in 24 to 48 hours. This isn’t exactly lightning quick, but the answers I got were helpful. And to be clear, they generally were closer to 48 hours than 24. But I did like this feature, as you’re not left out in the cold if you get hung up on an issue.
Content Access Period
Another cool feature of the Wiley CFA prep course is that they give you unlimited access to your online materials. Until you pass the level of the exam you are on, they give you unrestricted access. In fact, they will update your online materials as they update their other content, so you’re not stuck with outdated study material. This is a fantastic benefit to students, particularly if you have to take one of the level exams twice. However, this does create one downside, as explained below…
No Money Back Guarantee
Because Wiley grants you unlimited access to their materials until you pass, there is no money back guarantee. In essence, you get a “partner for life” type guarantee, where Wiley promises to stand with you until you get over the hump and pass your given level of the exam.
While I’d like to see them offer a money back guarantee, this isn’t the end of the world. If you fail the first time, you’re very likely to take the exam again anyway, so at least you don’t have to pay for a course twice.
Wiley’s Mobile App
In addition to accessing your materials through Wiley’s primary online portal, you can also get access to your study content through Wiley’s mobile app. While I am personally not a huge fan of studying on my phone, I recognize that a lot of people these days do so – especially working professionals with busy lives.
While I didn’t use the app that much, I will say it is very good (and highly rated, with a near perfect rating across hundreds of reviews in the app store). Their app gives you access to your video lectures, practice problems, flashcards and more. So if you’re on the train or sitting at the airport, you can get slip in a quick lesson or practice a few questions. Over the course of months, this “in between time” type of studying can really add up.
Verdict: Wiley CFA Exam Review Course
On the whole, I was incredibly impressed with the Wiley CFA prep course, and can’t contest it being cited as one of the best review courses in the industry. The course curriculum is thorough and offers a varied approach to studying that I found highly beneficial. Between recorded video lectures, live class sessions, detailed study guides, practice problems, and assessments, there is a healthy mix of material for all learning types. And generally speaking, you will never run out of study content.
In addition, I found most every study resource to be incredibly high quality. While I think the problem explanations are a little thin and would like to see more instructor facetime in the video lessons, this is an otherwise stellar course. I have no problem giving this review course a 5-star rating and putting it right near the top of our list of best CFA prep courses.
How much does the Wiley CFA exam prep course cost?
Depending on which course option you go with, the Wiley CFA review course costs somewhere around $650 to $1,400. That applies to all three levels of the exam.
Does Wiley have live CFA prep classes?
Yes. Wiley’s Gold and Platinum course packages offer students access to live online virtual classes, which take place in three-hour blocks over a few months’ time.
Is the Wiley CFA prep course worth it?
In our team’s opinion, yes. Wiley is recognized as a leader in CFA prep for a reason. Their coursework covers every testable point on the exam in great detail, and accomplishes this at a reasonable price point.