The CFA is a gold standard in the finance industry and having it will greatly accelerate your career and even lead to better promotions. However, the CFA designation is a difficult exam with a 40-50% pass rate and requires a significant amount of study time with candidates averaging around 300 hours of time for each CFA level. To help you out with the exam, you can consider investing in a good CFA program prep course with the best CFA study materials to help you pass on the first attempt.
WHO NEEDS A CFA EXAM PROGRAM COURSE?
The CFA exam is a coveted designation for finance professionals and, similarly to CPA, the CFA exam is challenging and has a low pass rate. Finding your best approach to tackle the CFA exam can also be challenging since most CFA exam review courses can be time-consuming and expensive. The answer to whether you need to have CFA study materials will depend on several factors.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Study discipline – If you routinely find yourself having trouble maintaining a study schedule, then you’ll definitely benefit from a review course that will work to keep you on track.
Require improvement – You can take the free CFA program exam practice test to see where you stand. And if you have a low score and need improvement, then a CFA exam prep course may be a good option to consider.
Budget – CFA program courses can get expensive. If you’re working with a tight budget, you can consider our best value recommendation, or opt to self-study with CFA prep books.
Learning Style – If you have a history of successfully studying with books, then a self-study, self-paced approach with a good CFA exam prep book may just be your best plan.
BENEFITS OF A CFA PROGRAM PREP COURSE
Actual test simulation – The online exams included in a CFA review course do a great job of simulating the actual CFA exam conditions to help you familiarize yourself.
Identify strengths and weaknesses – the best CFA review courses come with advanced diagnostics to help you identify topics you need more focus on.
Comprehensive study plans – CFA exam prep courses are designed to help you craft and stick to a customized study schedule that works for you.
Pass rates – CFA exam has a low passing rate typically in the 40-50% range. If passing on your first attempt is critical, you should try a CFA review course.
Best CFA Prep Courses
Princeton Review CFA
- PRICE – Great price for content received in the course.
- GUARANTEE – Money back guarantee offered.
- CONTENT – 50+ hours of video lectures and 900 slides of comprehensive study notes.
- QUESTIONS – 1500+ practice questions and 2 practice exams.
The online self-paced course by Princeton Review costs $399 and offers candidates 12 months of access. This online course comes with 900 slides of comprehensive study notes, more than 50 hours of video lectures, over 1500 practice questions, and 2 mock CFA level I exams. This CFA prep course covers all 10 subjects that you’ll be tested on the CFA Level I exam. CFA experts have selected the most important topics that will be tested on and have created 900+ slides of study material for candidates.
Princeton Review is an established prep course provider and they take pride in the fact that their CFA course can save candidates up to 165 hours of study time for their CFA Level I exam. The average study time for the CFA level I exam is around 285 hours but Princeton Review claims that their students will only need 120 hours of study time to pass the CFA level I exam.
To further show their confidence in their course, Princeton Review backs up their study hour claim with a money back guarantee where students who do not pass level I of the CFA will get to apply for a refund on the money used to purchase the course. While Princeton Review only offers prep materials for Level I of the CFA exam, this is still a great course with an amazing combination in terms of price and value.
- Versatility: Princeton Review provides a variety of materials for students to learn from in order to keep themselves motivated. This well-made, self-study course is a great option for students who need a little more versatility in their CFA Level I exam. With study note-filled slideshows, hours of video lectures, and even mock exams, Princeton Review provides enough study material for students to work with such that they won’t ever feel bored.
- Experienced Instructors: Princeton Review prides itself on hiring excellent instructors who truly have an excellent grasp of the material they teach. With their CFA® Level I exam prep course, this is no exception. The six expert instructors highlighted on the Princeton Review course page are all professionally certified and experienced CFAs. In fact, many of them even possess several finance-related certifications under their belts.
- Reasonable Price: With a name as prestigious as The Princeton Review, you would most likely be expecting their services to come with price tags in the range of thousands. However, that’s far from the case, especially when it comes to their CFA® prep course! The student now only needs to pay a fraction of the cost that they otherwise would have to pay to enroll in most other CFA courses on this list to enjoy quality study materials.
- Limited Curriculum: With so much to love about this prep course, we find that there’s one major disadvantage that’s cause for concern. Unfortunately, Princeton Review currently only provides review materials for CFA Level I exams. This means that any student looking to take their education and financial expertise to higher levels will need to supplement or purchase additional review courses from other companies.
Kaplan Schweser CFA Program
- PRICE – Most expensive course we reviewed.
- GUARANTEE – Pass guarantee offered.
- CONTENT – Most comprehensive course we reviewed. Option of both online and in-person classrooms. Books, eBooks, and online tools.
- QUESTIONS – Diagnostic exams, checkpoint exams, practice questions, and practice exams are all included.
Kaplan Schweser offers different CFA program course options available for exam candidates to pick from. Their essential self-study package costs $649, premium online class costs $1099, and their premium plus package ranges from $1499 – $2598. All of which are great options, but in today’s review we will be focusing on their premium online class package that’s available for $1099.
This premium online CFA program class is led by CFA charter holders and the course comes included with useful study notes, diagnostic exams, quizzes, customizable question banks, p practice exams, and key formulas. One unique feature of this prep course is that the candidate has the choice of participating in lessons live in-person or completely online. Candidates located in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Toronto, or Washington D.C. can attend live classroom sessions. Those not located in these cities can watch the recorded lessons made available on-demand.
Additionally, all courses by Kaplan Schweser come with a pass guarantee that makes the next study package available to the candidate free of charge if they do not pass the exam. The availability to attend live classes or on-demand lectures is also a cool feature that works to cater to a variety of different candidates living anywhere. The Kaplan program also included a diagnostic exam feature that will save CFA exam candidates plenty of time by pinpointing what material needs to be studied most in order to achieve the highest score improvement.
- Practice Tests: Kaplan Schweser provides 6 full practice exams and up to 4,000 practice questions that are designed to be very similar to those on the actual exam. The practice exams are great for helping you gauge your progress. The course even gives you numerous opportunities to put in your practice before the actual test day.
- Updated Content: This CFA program course is updated every year as the CFA exam continues to evolve. This will ensure that the course materials you see on the review course will closely match what you see on the exam. This way you won’t be wasting your time on material or questions that may not appear on this year’s exams.
- Instructor Support: Even with the Kaplan Schweser Self-Study package, you won’t have to fend for yourself if you have any questions about the material or need additional clarification since you have access to an instructor. The CFA instructor can be connected during specific office hours to give you guidance on more difficult concepts.
- Price: Premium packages cost upwards of $1,799, which is considerably more than other CFA® courses on the market. If you’re on a tight budget then you might want to consider another option even though Kaplan offers some cool study tools and live person support.
- No Free Trial: Not only are Kaplan CDA review courses expensive, which can intimidate many students with a tight budget, they also do not have an option for exam candidates to try them out before making a decision. The addition of a free trial would help make it much easier for prospective students to come to a decision.
- PRICE – On the higher end of pricing.
- GUARANTEE – Continued access until you pass.
- CONTENT – A hybrid learning style with live and on-demand videos is nice.
- QUESTIONS – Exam-style practice questions and 2 full-length practice exams included.
Wiley is well known in the education industry and they offer a suite of test prep subscriptions for all 3 levels of the CFA exam. For the CFA Level I exam, Wiley offers review courses ranging from $445 to $1395. In today’s review, we will be focusing on the CFA Program Gold Course that’s available for $995.
The CFA Gold Course comes included with 90+ hours of video lectures, personalized study schedules, printed or e-Books as supplementary study material, more than 1000 practice questions, and 2 full-length practice exams. The CFA program course is unique in that they offer 14 – 17 weeks of live online virtual classes where students can attend live lectures on different CFA topics. In case you’re unable to make it for lectures, you can also choose to watch them on-demand on your own time.
Other than that, the course even breaks down the CFA program course material into bite-sized lessons designed to keep your attention and increase knowledge retention levels. On top of that, candidates even get access to the course until they pass their desired CFA level thanks to their pass guarantee. The review course provider gives you access to its course including updates and upgrades until you pass your CFA.
- On-demand videos and live videos: Wiley gives you access to on-demand videos and live lessons in case you’re unable to attend physical lessons.
- Access until you pass – Wiley’s pass guarantee gives you full access to the course (including upgrades and updates) until you pass your CFA.
- Price – Unfortunately, the CFA prep courses offered by Wiley come with a relatively high price tag. Those on a tight budget might want to consider elsewhere.
- PRICE – Middle of the pack in terms of pricing.
- GUARANTEE – Money back if you complete 95% of the course and fail the exam.
- CONTENT – Micro-lessons that cover the entire curriculum of the CFA.
- QUESTIONS – 6 practice exams and practice questions available.
Just like Wiley, Bloomberg offers CFA program courses for all 3 levels of the exam with a price range from $699 to $1999. For our review today, we will be looking at the CFA Level I Essential Prep Course which costs $699. Bloomberg classified their review courses by date on which the candidate will be taking the test to make it easy for candidates to figure out which course is best for them.
The Bloomberg Essential CFA Level I course comes with practice questions, 6 full-length exams, micro-lessons, and 20 ask-a-tutor questions. Bloomberg strictly hires CFA charter holders as their tutors. On top of that, the test prep company also uses adaptive learning software that analyses a candidate’s performance and focuses on target areas. The more the student studies, the more customizable the review course becomes to suit the student.
Bloomberg claims that 98.2% of their graduates are either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their preparation course. The CFA program provider also boasts that students who complete the course are only spending an average of 179 hours of study, which is much lower than the industry standard. In the event that you do not pass your CFA exam, Bloomberg offers a money-back guarantee for a refund.
- Top-Rated Instructors: Bloomberg instructors with this course are top-rated and extremely knowledgeable in the CFA exam. Thanks to this expertise, you can be assured that everything you’re learning here is in line with the latest tips and tricks available to anyone studying for the CFA. In fact, the tutoring services are what puts Bloomberg over the top, as it’s not a service offered by many other companies.
- Two-Week Trial: While some test prep companies pat themselves on the back for providing a one-week trial, or even just three days, the Bloomberg CFA program grants students up to two weeks of access to their course. This is an exceptionally long trial period to let you determine whether or not their content lines up with your learning type.
- Adaptive Learning Technology: Bloomberg features state-of-the-art technology to deliver a great study experience. Candidates have to take an initial assessment period where the course will figure out which of the areas are troubling you as well as to adjust your study plan accordingly. While other courses have adjustment mechanisms, Bloomberg is among the best in this regard.
- Dashboard: Bloomberg has resources that aren’t available to many prep companies with technology that is above and beyond any of its competition. One key feature is the unparalleled dashboard that comes with an aesthetically pleasing home page, great web design throughout, and easy-to-navigate headers and dropdown menus.
UWorld Finance CFA
- PRICE – One of the cheapest courses we reviewed.
- GUARANTEE – No guarantee provided.
- CONTENT – Not much content other than practice questions.
- QUESTIONS – 1100+ practice questions with answer explanations.
UWorld Finance offers prep courses for Level I of the CFA exam study with prices ranging from $199 to $299. Today, we will be focusing on the elite course offered for $299. With this course, candidates get 12 months of access to the study materials and will even have the option to renew the course when the 12 months expire.
The elite course comes with 1100+ practice questions that follow the exam blueprint. The practice questions are even continuously monitored and updated in order to reflect the most relevant material for Level I of the CFA exam study. All practice questions come with comprehensive answer explanations with step-by-step guides on how to answer the questions.
The CFA Level I course comes with customizable practice exams to allow candidates to create unlimited practice tests. Performance graphs are also included with the course for candidates to monitor their performance and personal progress throughout. Another cool feature of this course is its ability to let you compare your results with your peers.
- Updated practice questions: The practice questions on UWorld Finance are constantly updated to ensure they’re relevant to the latest CFA syllabus and exam.
- Peer Comparison: UWorld Finance CFA allows candidates to compare themselves with their peers to see where they stand among other candidates.
- Lack of content: Unfortunately, the UWorld Finance CFA course does not provide as comprehensive and as many study materials for students to study.
There are plenty of the best CFA preparation courses available online. But before making any final decision on which is the best CFA test study plan for you, do remember to take some time to note down exactly what you want from a CFA prep curriculum and see which ones match your list. We hope today’s review has given you enough information and knowledge to make an informed decision.