Who Are the Best CFA® Exam Prep Providers?

The CFA Institute® (CFAI) reports that more than 75% of CFA candidates leverage a third-party CFA exam prep provider. The material offered by the CFAI is good and should be leveraged, but is notoriously voluminous. Supplementing this content with an interactive or streamlined platform has shown to be highly beneficial. With the recent explosion of online-learning tools across academia, finding who offers the best CFA study materials to fit your needs and budget can be challenging. We’re here to help you navigate through the fog.

The “Must Haves” for Selecting a CFA Exam Prep Provider

  1. Remember that the core of your study should be from the curriculum

    The Council of Examiners uses only the CFA Institute program curriculum and Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) developed for that curriculum when writing the exam questions. Although the programs are distance learning and self-study programs, we understand that candidates have different learning styles. Some candidates may find that prep courses and review notes help them with the learning process.

  2. Make sure the provider is on the CFAI list of Approved Prep Providers

    The Approved Prep Provider Program was launched to help improve candidate preparation for the exams and establish a set of principles considered best practices for prep course providers. The CFA Institute developed the Approved Prep Provider Program for providers who build their preparatory products and services, or license approved prep materials and add value through their instructors.

    Providers participating in the Approved Prep Provider Program recognize the importance of candidates understanding the curriculum and voluntarily adhering to guidelines and high communication standards.

    Approved Prep Provider Program participants agree to reinforce the value and importance of the curriculum in effectively preparing for the exam and convey the role of their preparatory products as additional tools to complement the prescribed curriculum.

  3. Find as much information as possible before committing to any provider

    Question the quality of the content because it will ultimately make the difference between your passing or failing.

    • Does the prep provider employ full-time CFA charterholders to prepare their study materials? Ensure the content is written by professionals who have "been there, done that" or at least have significant experience assisting candidates for the exams.
    • Does the prep provider leverage only the CFA blueprint based on the LOS? Prep course providers should help you prepare for the exam, not speculate about what topics will appear on the exam.
  4. Question if the content is current
    • Does the prep provider claim to use actual questions from previous exams? If they do, you should know the CFA Institute has not released actual Level I multiple-choice questions since 1995 and does not release actual Level II and Ill item set questions.
    • Is the prep provider teaching the current curriculum? The curriculum typically changes from year to year, and it’s quite a task for prep providers to keep current. Ask the prep provider which readings they base their materials on, and compare that with the curriculum you receive from the CFA Institute.
    • Are the prep providers' practice exam offerings consistent with the current program curriculum and exam-question formats? Many preparatory providers' test banks are based on old material no longer included in the curriculum or exams. Ensure the question formats and structures are consistent with the current curriculum. Approved Prep Provider Program participants agree to the timely retirement of questions and materials that are no longer consistent with the curriculum and exam format.
  5. Question the accuracy and delivery of the material
    • When will the study materials be available? Study materials that are not available until a few months before the exam will not offer much study time for the exam.
    • How are candidates informed about study material changes and updates? Will the prep provider automatically send corrections to all users, or does the candidate need to seek corrections and updates?
  6. Question the provider's claims
    • If the provider guarantees your success on the exam, how are guarantees handled for unsuccessful candidates? Do they refund part of your money? Do they give you a discount on next year's products? Will it help you with future exams if the product was not helpful for your failed exam?
    • How is the pass rate calculated if the preparatory provider posts a pass rate for its products? Approved Prep Provider Program participants agree not to publish their pass rates. Pass rates published by non-participating providers should be questioned.
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How to Choose the Best CFA Prep Provider for Your Individual Needs

The simple answer to the question posed is to find a CFA prep provider that best fits your needs. The better solution is to research what each product offers, how it fits your study style, and what specific materials are included. Remember that, unlike most other high-stakes exams, the CFAI provides all the required readings and an online ecosystem when you sign up for the exam. With that in mind, look for a 3rd party provider that supplements, not replaces, these items. We highly recommend that QBanks and mocks are the only items needed to supplement these materials. Not to mention, there is a substantial additional cost associated with getting videos, books, notes, and other things that are not relevant.

The following chart compares the base-level features offered by current CFA exam prep providers. This chart should only supplement the information provided, as user experiences vary widely between CFA course providers.

CFA Prep Provider Free Trial? Level 1 Course Price Full-Length Practice Exams QBank Questions Level 2 Course? Level 3 Course?
UWorld Finance L1: 90 days full access $199 subscription 2 2,200+ Sept. 2022 2023
Kaplan Schweser 7 days $999 4 3,500+ Yes Yes
Wiley Efficient Learning 14 days $895 2 3,700+ Yes Yes
Princeton Review 7 days $799 4 3,150+ Yes TBD
Bloomberg Exam Prep 14 days $1,199 9 10,000+ Yes Yes
Salt Solutions Full topic free $599 or subscription 3 2,000+ Yes Yes
Fitch Learning Yes $695 3 5,000+ Yes Yes
IFT Yes $555 3 3,000+ Yes Yes
Analyst Prep Sample Videos $399 5 4,000+ Yes Yes
Mark Meldrum Yes $315 3 Yes Yes Yes

*Pricing as of 7/1/2022; package details can change overtime.

Strong Recommendations From Others

The best place to start is by asking people you trust what their preferences are. Have they used a particular CFA preparation product in the past? Did they like it? From here, scan customer reviews to see if the listed product offerings live up to customer expectations.

Provider History

While some companies have provided CFA prep services for decades, several newcomers have been highly competitive thanks to their innovative approaches to test-prep services. We're an excellent example. UWorld is a well-established, high-stakes exam preparation company. Does the company you're interested in have a history of helping students prepare for career-altering exams?

Practice Questions and Mock Exams

Learning the information you'll be tested on is a significant step, but understanding how to apply it is just as important. An appreciable portion of your study time should be spent practicing questions and taking mock exams. For example, the CFA Level 2 exam's format is well-known for its difficulty. Many CFA candidates fail simply because they don't practice the exam structure enough.

Learning and Materials Formats

Any CFA prep course you use must make sense for your situation. If you work a full-time job, have a long commute, and need to take care of your family, then a CFA prep service featuring in-person lectures might not be your best option. Pay attention to what you're paying for. Many CFA candidates are professionals with limited time, making flexible learning and mobile access a must.

How Is UWorld CFA Different From Others?

Since the beginning of our business, we've pioneered a distinct methodology that has actively involved students in their education, broken down complex concepts into manageable explanations, and provided the most realistic exam simulation possible. All of this takes a passion for student success, a commitment to resources, finding the best subject matter experts and writers in the business, and a refined process to deliver this content on a state-of-art platform. And over the years, the results speak for themselves. Here are some highlights demonstrating this commitment to our students.

Customizable Tests

At UWorld, we recognize the importance of taking mock exams to prepare you for the exam day. So, we let you take as many as you want to make you best for exam day. It's not just about knowing the content; it's also about being conditioned to take it. Like an athlete preparing for a marathon, you must learn to prepare for your race day. Our advice for preparing is to focus on taking online practice assessments over and over and over again. You have to grow accustomed to the design of the exam.

As you move forward with your studying, online tests allow you to focus on your weaker subject areas because tracking your progress is a great way to identify which study strategies work for you and which you should abandon. With each practice test you complete, you'll get more data points and gain more subject matter expertise. With UWorld, you can either pick the questions for you or select from the topics you need the most focus on. Finally, when you get close to the exam date, set aside a few days to directly simulate the actual exam per the number of questions and the allotted time. This exercise will gauge your test-taking stamina and time management skills for getting through all the questions. The platform puts practice front-and-center. Once you're signed in, you're brought directly to the 'Create Test' page to start practicing.

Creating a test is relatively straightforward – you have a choice of 'Tutor' mode, which walks you through the explanations and theory as you go through each question, or 'Timed,' which resembles a timed CFA test. You can also choose the question difficulty you'd like to include in your test, the topic areas you want to test, and the number of questions in your analysis. The question difficulties came in three categories: Fundamental, Advanced, and Challenging. Fundamental questions most closely reflect the exam-level complexity, whereas Advanced and Challenging (about 13% of the total available items) go beyond exam-level difficulty.

You can also filter by topic area and set the number of questions for your test – perhaps topic-by-topic when you're learning the curriculum, then mix-and-match when you want to get exam-ready. Our platform includes 2000+ questions, equivalent to more than ten CFA Level 1 exams. There might be other providers that may offer more questions, but, as far as we are concerned, it's quality, not quantity, that makes our platform helpful.

Other features include:

  • It shows how others answered. Upon checking your answer, we also reveal the percentage of other users that chose each answer option – a nice touch that gives you an idea of how challenging or confusing the question was.
  • Cross out answer options. Clicking on the answer text crosses them out, which is handy when you're thinking about the question and eliminating one answer option.
  • Notes. You can write and assign letters to each question as you go along. All your notes will then be accessible for review from the dashboard.

Flashcards. Just like notes, you can create flashcards as you go along. You can also one-click text or formulae from answer explanations to your flashcards, which is a nifty feature. All flashcards are also accessible for review and practice from the dashboard.

In-Depth Explanations

Being at the forefront of education makes us obligated to provide students with only the best practice questions and explanations. Our goal is not only to prepare you for the CFA exam but to help you become a better finance professional. At UWorld, we are renowned for our unparalleled explanations of correct and incorrect answer choices. Students often describe these detailed explanations as a primary reason for their success on the exams because they help them understand the why behind each question. Knowing the correct answer is imperative, but there is also value in knowing what corresponding answers are incorrect because often, the concepts are closely related. See below for an example of a question and answer with detailed explanations.

Vivid Illustrations

In addition to our top-quality, in-depth explanations, our QBank also features vivid illustrations. These are practical, professionally-produced images, graphs, charts, tables, and other visuals designed to help students master the concepts. Our illustrations are straightforward and highly intuitive, adding value to students who prefer a more visual learning style.

Mock Exams

Like the actual exam, our mock exams consist of the exact time, quantity of questions, question weights, and interface. You can even switch to CFA Mode, and your screen simulates the natural Prometric® interface preparing you for the actual test day environment. And ultimately, our mocks help you identify your development areas and compare your relative ranking to other users.

UWorld's mock exams closely replicate the actual CFA exam experience to help you prepare and boost your confidence on test day. With our mock exams, you can be sure when you're ready to take the CFA level I exam.

Performance Trackers

After you have completed a few tests, the UWorld dashboard populates the 'Reports' and 'Graphs' sections, analyzing and charting your test performance.

The 'Reports' section shows you four main reports, which are sensible, to-the-point, and critical to informing and improving your exam performance:

  • Answer summary. A split of your correct, incorrect, and omitted answers so far.
  • Answer changes. This shows you the number of times you changed your solution and whether it helped your test score. Studies generally show that when you change your answer, your chance of correcting it increases – but with this report, you'll know your real opportunities based on your performance.
  • Average spent time on each question. Managing a good time per question is crucial to passing the CFA exams. Knowing how fast (or slow) you've been in your practice tests is an excellent way to determine if you need to improve on answering speed.
  • Performance by topic. Crucial to understand what you need to focus on to improve your score.

The 'Performance Graphs' section shows you two graphs – performance by tests taken and performance by date. In each chart, there are three metrics:

  • Your Score: Your scores for your tests taken so far.
  • Cumulative Score: This seems to be a calculated average score based on your test scores, which will hopefully trend towards 70% and above by exam day.
  • Average Score: The equivalent average test scores from other UWorld candidates' performance.

Digital Flashcards

Flashcards work! And they are even easier to use when digital! Flashcards can be one of the most versatile and effective ways for students to study and retain the knowledge of the CFA content. And not just for simple facts, but complex concepts and formulas too. Flashcards engage active recall, improve information retention, create repetition, and are quick and easy to produce on our platform. You only need to highlight the information you want to capture and select the flashcard feature.

ReadyDecks - Pre-Filled Flashcards to Get Your Studies Started Quickly

Browse hundreds of pre-filled and ready-to-use flashcards that cover the most critical formulas, concepts, and examples across all chapters.

My Notebook - Record Crucial Information Specific to Your Needs

A customizable electronic notebook ideal for detailed note-taking, organizing content, and quickly recalling complex subjects. You can copy any written or visual content from the questions or explanations into My Notebook within the test interface. You can also use basic editor functionality like bolding, highlighting, and bullet points.

Calculator Keystrokes

As a finance professional, your calculator has become one of your most-used tools of the trade. In mastering the CFA exam, you have approximately 90 seconds to answer each question. Whether it's simple interest, compound interest, cash flow, amortization, or conversions, you need to know how to get the correct answer as efficiently as possible from this trusted partner. For all of our questions requiring a calculator, we show you the accurate keystrokes for both approved calculators. That way, you can quickly grasp the concept and muscle memory to get to the correct answer.

On the Go Access and Always Sync'd

The best CFA prep material in the world is useless if delivered poorly. Our platform was always created to be digital versus adapted from written materials. Our comprehensive app syncs seamlessly across all your devices, allowing you to maximize your study time with convenient, on-the-go access to your entire CFA exam prep, which syncs seamlessly with all your favorite devices.

Proven Results

Our passion is helping students and professionals alike prepare for their high-stakes exams. While UWorld Finance is a newcomer to the CFA program, we draw from our comprehensive explanations and advanced digital-learning technology that has already assisted over 2 million students in becoming doctors, nurses, lawyers, and CPAs, in naming a few. Our optimized CFA study materials are regularly updated by CFA charterholders and streamlined to ensure CFA candidates don't drown in irrelevant information. Our dashboard compares your progress and performance with successful past candidates to best guide you in your studies while identifying your opportunity areas.

Student Reviews About UWorld CFA

Despite UWorld CFA being a relatively new product, we’ve already received outstanding reviews comparable to our other exam preparation platforms. Don’t just take our word for it:

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FAQs

The CFAI does not allow CFAI Approved Prep Providers to list their pass rates. With that being said, CFA candidates who use a CFA review course tend to have much better pass rates than those who do not.

The CFA exam is only administered in English, so having a strong understanding of the language is highly recommended. That aside, finding a CFA course provider with detailed, easy-to-understand rationales is a major benefit. This is a point of emphasis at UWorld Finance.

At the heart of UWorld CFA is active-learning technology, which leverages study methods that have been shown to improve student-learning outcomes over traditional, passive-learning methods (such as watching video lectures). It works through 3 simple tenets:

  1. Learn by Doing: Practice up-to-date UWorld CFA QBank problems to refine your knowledge.
  2. Focused Learning: Customize practice tests using performance metrics that highlight your weaknesses.
  3. Simplified Learning: Our in-depth rationales and detailed illustrations simplify critical concepts and decrease the need for memorization.

Even if you’re a slow learner, active learning will maximize your information retention and give you the greatest odds of passing the CFA exam.

UWorld CFA offers a highly interactive and user-friendly digital interface designed from the ground up with online-learning best practices in mind. This allows you to study on the go, pick up where you left off, and stay engaged through professionally-produced illustrations and active-learning technology.

Some CFA review courses offer their own version of a pass guarantee, but most revolve around the candidate receiving the course again. However, if a candidate fails the first time, why would they want to use the same study approach a second time? At UWorld Finance, we offer a subscription service (with discounts to extend your access) so that you only pay for what you need. This allows you to save money over our competitors even if you fail to pass the first time.

Read more about the CFA exam

Thinking about pursuing a CFA designation? Learn about common CFA career paths and what to expect when you get there.

The road to becoming a CFA charterholder is nothing to scoff at. Learn about eligibility requirements, costs, and how long the process takes.

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