CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) is a designation granted by the CFA Institute. This certification will help you to bridge the gap between theory and practice, especially in asset management, investment research, and portfolio management profession.
Above all, this designation will help you pursue your dream career that stretches beyond the four years of higher education. Furthermore, it brings many career opportunities in Finance. Thus, the CFA exam is 100% worth pursuing.
However, the CFA exam can be very challenging. You cannot sit for the test without preparing for it. Based on my experience, the reading alone is more than adequate to overwhelm many candidates.
Fortunately, you can mitigate this problem by enrolling yourself in CFA prep courses. They will help you get familiar with the concepts required to clear the exam and maximize your chances of passing it.
Furthermore, the best CFA prep courses can reduce your study time, so the workload would not be too overwhelming, particularly for those with a full-time job.
At this point, you might be looking for a good CFA prep course to get you started. But which course should you choose?
In this blog, I have come up with the best CFA preparation courses to learn online in 2021. I hope this post will help you find the one that fits your learning style.
Things You Should Know About The CFA Exam
Q1: Can I study CFA on my own?
A: Yes, in fact, the CFA curriculum is designed for self-studying. However, this could be very time-consuming and unproductive. You need to spend hundreds of hours reading through a thousand or more pages of study materials.
According to the CFA Institute, successful CFA candidates spend 303 hours studying on average. I don’t think that would be a pleasant experience.
Online exam prep courses are better alternatives. You can learn live-online or self-paced from expert instructors and get tips and tricks to ace the CFA exam while spending much fewer hours studying.
Additionally, their study materials are much easier to understand than official ones from the CFA Institute.
Q2: What is the structure of the CFA exam?
A: The CFA program consists of three exams, Level 1, 2, 3. You need to pass all three levels and complete sufficient professional work experience to get a charter.
CFA Level 1 and Level 2 exams are 100% multiple choices, while Level 3 replaces some of those with the writing part. Furthermore, all levels will have different exam weights. Thus, some exam topics will have more priority than others on that certain level.
For example, Financial Reporting & Analysis, Ethics, and Corporate Finance have the highest priority on the CFA Level 1 exam, while portfolio management will rule level 3.
Q3: When should I register for a CFA exam?
A: As the CFA Institute offers an early bird discount for those who register early, make sure you register 9-12 months before the exam day to obtain this discount.
Q4: Are the CFA exams difficult to pass?
A: The CFA Institute provides information that approximately 50% of candidates will pass the exam each round. Still, the answer is subjective. It depends on your knowledge, skills, expertise, and, most significantly, diligence.
Based on my experience, I passed the CFA level 1 and 2 exams with ease. As a result, I put my guard down and spent much fewer hours preparing for level 3. I am not sure why I did so. I somehow underestimated the difficulty of the exam and planned to shift my career goals away from Finance at that point.
Undoubtedly, I failed the CFA Level 3 exam. (In fact, it was very close, lol.)
The bottom line is you should not underestimate the CFA exam; even you passed the former levels effortlessly. It would be best to spend sufficient hours (at least 120 for those who enroll in online courses) preparing for it.
Q5: Are six months of preparation enough for passing CFA Level 1?
A: Yes! I believe six months is more than sufficient. Honestly, I spent only three months preparing for the CFA Level 1 exam. Still, rigorous studying is always necessary to do the trick.
Q6: Should you use old study materials borrowed from former CFA candidates?
A: Yes and No. Some of you might be interested in borrowing old study materials from a friend of yours to save costs. Based on my experience, you can possibly do that, as some topics are still relevant.
Nevertheless, you must keep in mind that CFA Institute frequently makes changes to its curriculum. If those study materials are too old, they will not help you much in the upcoming CFA exam.
Affiliate Disclosure: This post from Victory Tale contains affiliate links. I will get a small commission from prep course providers in case you buy courses from my links. I will use this income to create better content for all visitors.
1. The Princeton Review CFA
The Princeton Review is one of the leading test prep companies. Though they focus more on standardized tests used for college and graduate school admissions (i.e., the SAT.), they offer a high-quality prep course for the CFA exam as well.
Below are all the CFA exam prep courses from the Princeton Review.
Essential (Self-Study prep course)
The Essential package is an on-demand CFA course offered by the Princeton Review. You will learn at your own pace from video lectures and other study materials.
The Princeton Review offers this option for both CFA Level 1 and Level 2 exams. There is no need to buy both levels simultaneously, as you will need to pass the Level 1 exam before registering for Level 2.
Below is what you get from the CFA Level 1 Course:
- 50+ hours of video lectures created by experts
- 1,500+ practice questions with detailed solutions
- 2 mock exams that simulate the actual exam experience
- 900 slides comprising study notes
- Formula sheet
- 50 key definitions flashcards
- 1-year access to the entire package
- Pass guarantee (Pass the exam or 100% refund)
The Princeton Review claims if you take this course, you will reduce the required study time by more than half (from 285 to 120 hours.)
CFA Level 2:
- 60+ hours of video lectures
- 5+ hours for vignette-based multiple-choice questions
- 1,300 slides of study notes
- Formula sheet
- 1,500+ practice questions with detailed solutions
- 2 mock exams
- Pass Guarantee
- Unlimited Q&A Access
Level 2 will have more study materials than Level 1, which is normal since it has many more topics to test candidates on the exam.
Based on my experience, the formula sheet will be essential. I don’t think I would pass the exam without it. Hence, it is excellent that the Princeton Review provides one.
Both CFA exam prep courses will cost a one-time payment of $599 or $499 if you use discount codes on the Princeton Review’s website.
The Ultimate package will add 24 hours of live-online instructions from experts and 1-1 Q&A access to your self-paced course.
You will find up-to-date tips and tricks on passing the CFA exam comfortably and an engaging learning experience that you can freely ask questions to experts.
Nevertheless, as of February 2021, this option is only available for the level 1 exam.
The Ultimate package will cost $999 or $799 with discount codes (You can get it automatically from their website.).
Which Plan to Choose
Many might wonder in which study package you should enroll. The answer is, again, subjective.
Based on my experience, I believe the self-study packages are more than adequate to pass the CFA exam, especially if the study materials are created by a reputable test prep company like the Princeton Review.
Still, adding $300 to get extra 24 hours of live instructions is not too expensive. On average, you will pay $12.5 per hour. I think the pricing is very fair and 100% worth consideration if you do not like self-studying or need additional assistance.
After buying the course, you can try it risk-free for 7 days. If you are not satisfied, you will get a 100% full refund of your tuition (You can consider this offer a free trial.)
Pros and Cons
- Taught by top instructors: All of them are CFA charter holders who work as finance professors, portfolio managers, or Chief Financial Officers (CFOs).
- Uses slides as study notes*
- Formula sheet for level 2 exam
- Usually offers extra discounts.
- Pass guarantee
- Inexpensive than most other CFA exam prep courses
- Fair pricing for live instructions
- Overall excellent and well-structured CFA exam study material
- 7-day money-back guarantee
- As of now, no Level 3 CFA Exam prep course
- Fewer practice exams than peers
*The Princeton Review uses slides as study notes. This can be either a Pro or a Con for learners. Personally, I consider it a Pro, as you will read through fewer texts. Each slide also has more graphical representation of data, which is much easier to understand
From a general perspective, I think the Princeton Review’s CFA package is one of the best CFA exam preparation courses. You will get their excellent study materials at a relatively low price, providing good value for money.
2. Kaplan Schweser
Kaplan Schweser unarguably provides one of the best CFA prep courses on the market. With 30 years of experience in the pocket, Kaplan Schweser has always been the top choice for many candidates.
Unlike its peers, you can buy entire study packages or purchase the study materials you need from Kaplan Schweser individually. Therefore, you don’t have to waste money on CFA study materials you are not interested in.
Essential (Self-Study CFA Exam Prep)
The Essential package will provide core study materials for the CFA exam. I used this package when I prepared for CFA Level 1-3. Nonetheless, since then, the package has changed a lot.
What you get from the package is as follows:
- Diagnostic Assessment
- Schweser Notes – 5 books summarizing all topics in the CFA curriculum in easy and clear language (printed and online.)
- 40 hours of video lectures to help review class materials
- Q-bank – An online question bank that contains thousands of exam-like questions for students to practice
- 4 Full-length practice exams
- 3 Checkpoint Exams to check your progress
- Quicksheet – A compact physical sheet that summarizes all concepts and formulas, best for last-minute review (also accessible online.)
- Study Plan
- Instructor Q&A
- Pass Protection
This package of all three levels will cost $699 each for one-year access. There is no need to purchase all three simultaneously, as you need to pass the exam in order.
The Premium package will add more study tools to the Essential plan. However, for this package, not all levels get similar tools.
All levels will get
- OnDemand Classes – You will learn online with top-rated instructors for more than 50 hours. You can choose the class time that fits your own schedule.
Only Level 1 gets
- OnDemand Review workshops (Level 1 only)– These exam review courses will summarize all concepts, tips, tricks, and techniques you need to pass the exam.
- Secret Sauce (Level 1 only)– A short printed book (or e-book) summarizes all concepts, tips, tricks, and strategies. I used this review book before. It is very beneficial, especially if you are much behind schedule.
- Workshop Workbooks (Level 1 only) – Primarily used in workshop sessions, these two additional workbooks contain review slides and practice exams.
Basically, for Level 2-3, the Premium plan simply adds OnDemand classes to your plan.
This pricing of this package starts at $999 for Level 1 and 2, and $1,099 for Level 3
Premium Plus is the optimal CFA exam prep course offered by Kaplan Schweser. This package is very similar to the Premium one. However, you can select to have a live-online class and communicate effectively with the instructors in real-time.
For Level 2 and 3 test-takers, you will get live online CFA review workshops, workbooks, Secret Sauce, or simply everything that I labeled “Level 1 only” in the section above.
This package pricing starts at $1,299 for Level 1 and $1,499 for Level 2 and 3.
Individual Exam Prep Products
You can customize your study package freely according to your needs. Below is the pricing of some popular study tools.
- Question Bank – $199 for Level 1, $329 for Level 2 and 3
- SchweserNotes and QuickSheets – $399 for all levels
- Practice Exams – $59 for all levels
- Secret Sauce – $149 for all levels
- On-Demand Classes – $699 for all levels
- Live-online Classes – $999 for all levels
- Mock Exams – $109 for all levels
Which Package to Choose
As a former CFA test-taker who has experience using Kaplan Schweser’s study materials, I am certain you can pass all three levels by studying through the Essential package alone. I passed both Level 1 and Level 2 without touching official materials from the CFA Institute even once.
Based on the reviews, Kaplan Schweser’s classes are helpful. Nevertheless, they are expensive, especially if you compare them to other alternatives like the Princeton Review.
Hence, I believe the Essential package provides the best value for money if you are interested in Kaplan Schweser.
You can try the study package for 5 days for free.
Pros and Cons
- Unarguably the most comprehensive CFA prep course on the market. Kaplan Schweser offers complete study packages for all three levels of the CFA exam.
- Customizable self-study package
- One of the best CFA study materials
- Order printed materials at no extra cost except shipping fees.
- Quicksheets and Secret Sauce are particularly helpful for the final review.
- 5-day free trial
- Expensive compared to most CFA prep courses
- No money-back guarantee
- Personally, I think their practice questions and practice tests from Kaplan Schweser are easier than the actual exam.
The bottom line: Kaplan Schweser’s CFA study materials are unarguably one of the best CFA prep courses on the market. Unfortunately, their pricing is quite expensive, and they provide no money-back guarantee, despite being a costly prep course. Hence, they might not be the best you can find.
3. Bloomberg CFA
Bloomberg CFA is a CFA prep course by Bloomberg, one of the leading global financial intelligence companies. You might spend as little as 179 hours in total to pass the CFA exam of any level, compared to the average of 320 hours.
Unlike The Princeton Review and Kaplan Schweser, Bloomberg’s approach is different. The platform utilizes machine learning to create a customized learning experience for all students. In other words, you will self-study under AI study guides.
Study Materials and Pricing
The entire course is interactive. You will self-study from reading text and following instructions. The study materials comprises
- Interactive microlessons
- Adaptive Learning System – The AI will customize the curriculum automatically according to your strengths and weaknesses.
- 10,000 practice questions
- Up to 11 practice exams
- Ask-a-Tutor questions – You can ask an expert directly on the platform if you have any questions regarding the exam.
- Private tutoring sessions – You can discuss your progress and problem areas with the experts.
For pricing, Bloomberg CFA has three major plans for you to consider:
- Essential – $699
- Premium – $1,199
- Ultimate – $1,999
Each plan has access to similar content and features. However, higher plans will allow you to ask a tutor more and have more practice exams, while private tutoring sessions are available only to the Ultimate plan.
Which Plan to Choose
As there is no difference between features, the Essential plan is enough to prepare for the CFA exam for most students.
I don’t see the need to upgrade to higher plans. The Essential plan already provides as many as 7 practice tests, which is more than adequate for most students.
Additionally, you have 10,000 other practice questions on the platform. I don’t think many candidates can complete these many questions before the test day.
Furthermore, all concepts and practice questions are well-explained, so you do not need to ask the tutor much.
The bottom line is that the Essential plan works best. You don’t need to spend money on what you will not use.
You can try Bloomberg CFA for free for 14 days.
Pros and Cons
- Bloomberg CFA is available for all levels
- Adaptive and Interactive lessons
- Money-back guarantee
- Private Tutoring
- Huge number of practice questions and tests
- 14-day free trial
- More expensive than most peers
- Limited Ask-a-Tutor feature
4. Analyst Prep CFA
Analyst Prep‘s CFA prep course is one of the most affordable in the market. If you do not want to invest much in study materials, this exam study is probably your best option.
Analyst Prep offers two self-study plans for those who want to take the CFA Level 1 Exam.
- Practice Package – $149
- Learn + Practice Package – $249
The practice package will have a question bank (approximately 3,000 questions in total), mock exams, and performance tracking. There will be no interactive lessons or video lectures at all.
Learn + Practice Package will add video lessons, study notes, and review summaries to the Practice package, thus becoming a full self-study prep course for the CFA exam.
Level II and III
Analyst Prep does not offer video lessons for both Level 2 and Level 3. You could buy only the practice package. The pricing is $129 for Level 2 and $99 for Level 3
However, in both plans, you will be able to ask a tutor about concepts, practice questions, and other inquiries related to the exam.
The Unlimited Package is a lifetime package that you can use the study materials to prepare for various levels of CFA exams. Analyst Prep offers two unlimited packages for students to consider:
- All 3 Levels ($499) – You will get all study materials available on the Analyst Prep platform at this point: Practice packages for all 3 levels and video lessons and study notes for Level 1
- Level 2 and Level 3 ($199) – Practice packages for Level 2 and 3
Unlike normal packages, the Unlimited packages have no limit for students to ask a tutor. Feel free to ask any questions you want.
Which Package to Choose
If you have not taken the CFA exam before but have the ambition to complete the entire CFA program, investing in an unlimited package that includes all three levels is the best idea.
At $499, You will get a full CFA prep for Level 1, which is enough to help you pass the CFA program’s first level.
Furthermore, the other two work well with the study materials owned by the CFA Institute. After finishing the reading, you can start practicing by working on practice questions or mock exams provided by Analyst Prep.
Hence, you may not need to pay for any other prep courses to pass all three levels. What you spend on CFA study materials for the entire program will be only $499, compared to $3,000 or more if you choose Kaplan Schweser or Bloomberg CFA.
Pros and Cons
- One of the most affordable CFA prep courses
- Lifetime offer available
- Learn anytime, anywhere
- Unlimited Ask-a-Tutor Questions
- Numerous practice questions and mock exams
- Video lessons available only for Level 1
- No final review materials such as formula sheets
- No Pass Guarantee
- No Free Trial
5. Wiley CFA
Wiley, one of the leading academic publishing companies, offers another comprehensive review course for the CFA exam. If you want to learn with a trusted name in education, this course is definitely worth considering.
This option is the most affordable CFA prep course that Wiley offers. Below is everything you will get from the course.
- 30-45 minute Interactive lessons
- 1,000+ practice questions
- 90+ pages of formula sheets
- Printed or e-book study guides
- Performance Tracking
- 2 Full-length mock exams
- Mobile app
The CFA exam review course is available at all levels. The regular pricing starts at $595. However, you will need to pay an extra $50 if you want printed study guides.
Available at all levels, the Gold Course will add more study materials to your arsenal, including:
- 90 hours of video lectures
- Live-online or OnDemand virtual classes
- Downloadable Flashcards
- Professional Online Mentoring (Similar to Asking a Tutor)
This test prep will cost $945. If you want to replace ebooks with the printed ones, you need to pay $50 extra.
The platinum course is an optimal CFA test prep from Wiley. This course costs $1,345. What you get beyond the Gold course are the review add-ons, including a mock exam, a review study guide, and an additional 25-hour CFA review course.
11th Hour Final Review Course
This final review course is 100% similar to the review add-ons of the Platinum Course. However, Wiley offers an opportunity for students to purchase the add-ons separately at the price of $395 (ebook option.)
Which CFA Exam Prep Course to Choose
Wiley’s plans are very similar in features and pricing to Kaplan Schweser. However, you can access live-online classes at a cheaper rate. Thus, the Gold course may be rewarding for some students who want an engaging learning experience.
Considering the self-study course, I don’t think Wiley’s is attractive compared to its competitors. Students don’t have access to video lectures and tutors. The platform also provides only 2 practice tests, fewer than peers, who charge the same price.
However, regarding the CFA review course, I think it provides good value for money. At $395, you will obtain everything you need for a last-minute review. You may use it with Analyst Prep to ensure better results, especially if you plan to take the Level 2 and 3 exams.
Pros and Cons
- All three levels are available.
- Formula sheets
- Learn anywhere, anytime from a mobile app
- No expiration date (Access the platform until you pass the CFA exam)
- 14-day Free Trial with no credit card required
- No money-back guarantee
- Not the most expensive, but stay in the costly range
- Self-study learners cannot ask the tutor.
6. Fitch Learning
Fitch Learning is part of Fitch, one of the three most influential credit rating agencies. The platform offers comprehensive training for the CFA Exam. If you want to learn with experts who know the financial industry well, don’t hesitate to try Fitch Learning’s CFA exam study.
Online Learning (Self-paced CFA Prep Course)
Online Learning is a self-study option offered by Fitch Learning. After enrolling in the course, you will be able to access the study materials below.
- Adaptive knowledge checking system – The system will measure your skill levels and selectively steer you toward eliminating your weaknesses.
- Bite-sized Video Lectures
- Question Bank (5,000 practice questions in total)
- Study Notes and Mind Maps
- Mock Exams
- The Instructor Helpdesk (20+ full-time instructors are ready to assist you at any time)
- Mobile app
* Fitch learning does not provide information regarding how many practice exams and hours of instructions on their website*
The pricing starts at $695 for Level 1, $835 for Level 2, $955 for Level 3
Virtual Classroom is an Online Learning package with live online and OnDemand classes and webinars. You will learn from top experts from the financial industry with the ability to ask questions online.
Additionally, you can access webinars that will review all concepts, tips, and techniques shortly before the test day.
Level 1 pricing starts at $995, while Level 2 and Level 3 are $1,075 and $1,195.
Which Plan to Choose
Unlike other CFA exam prep courses, I don’t think the self-study option is appealing. It is more expensive than other alternatives, especially Level 2 and Level 3 packages.
For example, at $995, you can get only a self-study prep course for CFA Level 3 exam from Fitch Learning, while our friend can learn live-online with Wiley’s instructors.
In contrast, the Virtual Classroom package is more interesting, as you will pay only $200-$300 (depending on levels) to access extra tens of hours of expert instructions and reviews.
The bottom line is Fitch Learning is worth enrolling in only if you are interested in the live-online option. For self-study learners, you can find better alternatives elsewhere.
Pros and Cons
- All three levels available for purchasing
- Learn effortlessly via the mobile app
- Thousands of practice questions
- Excellent support from instructors
- Inexpensive virtual classroom package compared to peers.
- Extremely Clunky website
- Level 2 and Level 3 CFA online prep courses are pricey.
- Lengthy classes (7 hours for each session)
You can start a free trial to try Fitch Learning’s CFA prep courses.
Other Affordable CFA Study Materials
Udemy – Udemy offers several high-quality video courses for the CFA exam. You can buy these at a discount. The price of each course should not exceed $15.
Below are some Udemy courses that you might want to consider
- Exam Prep: CFA Level 1 Bootcamp 2021 Curriculum by 365 Careers – This course has two parts, so you have to purchase both to complete the entire curriculum.
- CFA Level 1 by PrepNuggets – This series of video courses provides in-depth instruction on every topic on the CFA exam. However, you have to purchase lectures for each topic separately so that the total course fees will be higher than the 365 Careers course.
Best of the Best CFA Prep Courses?
Many may wonder which course is the best CFA prep course among the best. I think it is impossible to answer, as every course has flaws. The answer will depend on your learning style as well.
Still, if I am going to take the CFA Level 1 or 2 exam right now, I will enroll in the Princeton Review’s self-paced CFA prep course and possibly Analyst Prep to get sufficient practice exams, video lectures, and other study materials.
On the other hand, if I prepare for Level 3, which I failed before, I might try the Gold Course from Wiley to learn from experts at a reasonable price. Otherwise, I might stick with Kaplan Schweser and spend more time studying!