Best CFA Exam Prep Courses

The CFA Institute Learning Ecosystem offers the best CFA exam prep course

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A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a credentialed financial professional that helps people make decisions about their money, including investment strategies, portfolio management, risk management, and more. There are three exam levels you must pass, and CFA exam prep courses are programs of study that help you learn and master the skills required to become a CFA. The courses can make studying easy, engaging, and fun, which increases knowledge retention and your chance of passing the exam.

The best CFA exam prep courses cover the CFA curriculum thoroughly, are taught by qualified professionals, include tools to enrich the learning process, provide student support, and are a good value.

The Best CFA Exam Prep Courses in 2021

Best Overall : The CFA Institute Learning Ecosystem


The CFA Institute Learning Ecosystem

The CFA Institute Learning Ecosystem

Why We Chose It: Our best choice overall, The CFA Institute Learning Ecosystem program comes from the same organization that awards the credential, and you can access it for free once you’ve registered for the exam.

Pros
  • No additional cost

  • Multiple learning tools

  • An adaptive digital portal

Cons
  • Must be registered for the exam to access

  • No instructor support

The CFA Institute Learning Ecosystem covers all three levels of the exam, includes the entire curriculum, and is presented in a fun and engaging way. The on-demand, self-study program includes:

  • curriculum-based readings that cover everything you need to know
  • study plans to guide you
  • mock exams that simulate the actual test
  • practice questions to check your learning
  • flashcards to memorize key terms and facts
  • learning games to make studying fun
  • a discussion board to interact with other students
  • test-taking strategies to help you feel confident

The course lets you track your progress and adapts to your learning needs as you answer questions. It suggests readings and activities to address your areas of weakness.

The curriculum is updated regularly with input from industry experts, and as you review the material, you can highlight important lines and take notes for future reference. You can also access the content from any device, and some system capabilities are available offline.

The discussion board gives you the chance to connect with other learners and discuss the material. However, since the program is entirely self-study, you won’t get any support from an instructor.

While access to the material is free with exam registration, that registration is pricey. If you register early, each exam costs $700. If you register during the standard period, the rate jumps to $1,000. Plus, you’ll have to pay an additional one-time fee of $450 to enroll in the CFA program and register for the level one exam.

Best Hybrid Option : The Princeton Review CFA


The Princeton Review CFA

The Princeton Review CFA

Why We Chose It: The Princeton Review CFA is our choice for best hybrid course since learners have the option of attending live online lectures on a schedule that works for them accompanied by self-study options.

Pros
  • Flexible yet intensive learning experience

  • Curriculum distilled to shorten study time

  • Pass guarantee offered

Cons
  • Course is expensive

  • Refund period is only seven days

This course allows you to learn directly from instructors in an interactive environment. You’ll also have access to a robust self-study course to augment your learning.

The Princeton Review offers two plans:

Essential On-Demand Ultimate Live Online
Currently $499; Regular price is $599 Currently $799; Regular price is $999
- Curriculum distilled into essential knowledge

- 1,500+ practice questions with explanations

- 50+ hours of video lectures

- 900 slides of study notes

- 50 flashcards with definitions

- 2 mock exams
- Everything from the Essential On-Demand plan

- 24 hours of live online classes with your choice of schedule

- Access to an instructor for questions

The program pledges to help you master the content in 120 hours of study time, which is far less than the CFA Institute’s reported average of roughly 300 hours. Current Chartered Financial Analysts created the program with the student experience in mind. As of now, The Princeton Review CFA program only covers exam levels one and two.

To try the course before you make a purchase, you can sign up for a 14-day free preview. Plus, you can book a time to speak with an enrollment advisor if you have questions. If you’re ultimately unhappy with your purchase, you can request a refund within seven days of enrollment.

The provider offers a pass guarantee, and currently, you can get your money back if you fail your exam. However, the company plans to change that to free continued access to program materials. To qualify for the pass guarantee, you’ll need to meet several conditions, including completing 1,425 questions and two mock exams. Please see the company’s website for the full terms.

Best Self-Paced Course : Bloomberg Exam Prep


Bloomberg Exam Prep

Bloomberg Exam Prep

Why We Chose It: Bloomberg Exam Prep won this category because the course is designed specifically for self-study learners.

Pros
  • Access to a tutor

  • Large bank of practice questions

  • Several package options

Cons
  • Course is expensive

  • Money-back guarantee has several conditions

Bloomberg Exam Prep caters to those who want a self-paced course but also offers guidance when needed. The course features:

  • the entire curriculum presented in bite-sized chunks
  • adaptive learning technology that tracks how you’re doing and focuses on your areas of need
  • 10,000+ practice questions
  • full mock exams
  • the ask-a-tutor system, so you can get help when you’re stuck
  • 1:1 tutoring (available on the Ultimate package only)

You can choose one of three main packages:

Essential Premium Ultimate
$699 $1,199 $1,999
- Full curriculum and program features

- 20 ask-a-tutor inquiries

- 7 full mock exams
- Full curriculum and program features

- 80 ask-a-tutor inquiries

- 9 full mock exams
- Full curriculum and program features

- Unlimited ask-a-tutor inquiries

- Unlimited full mock exams

- 5 private tutoring sessions with current Chartered Financial Analysts

Bloomberg has a test prep program for all three levels of the CFA exam. You may be able to get a discount if you purchase multiple levels at once. The company offers a 14-day free trial, so you can try out the course before committing.

The packages above come with a money-back guarantee. If you finish 95% of the content but fail your exam, you’ll get a refund. To qualify, you must also:

  • complete all practice exams
  • attend all tutoring sessions (if applicable)
  • start the program at least 10 weeks before your exam

Please see Bloomberg’s website for a complete list of terms.

If you don’t need the money-back guarantee, Bloomberg offers two additional plans:

Sprint Endurance
$499 per exam level $1,299 per exam level
- Full curriculum and program features

- 4 full mock exams

- Program access for 2 months
- Full curriculum and program features

- 4 full mock exams

- 10 ask-a-tutor questions

- Program access for 4 years

The Sprint plan could be a good option if exam day is coming soon, while the Endurance plan may be a good fit if you need or want to take your time studying.

Best for Student Support : Fitch Learning


Fitch Learning

 Fitch Learning

Why We Chose It: Fitch Learning is our choice for best for student support because the program ensures you’ll have the help you need during your studies.

Pros
  • Three program options

  • Select products available à la carte

  • Money-back guarantee

Cons
  • Course is pricey

  • Program website somewhat tricky to follow

With Fitch Learning, you’ll have access to:

  • a 24/7 helpdesk so you can get answers from faculty any time you need them
  • personalized, one-on-one guidance from an instructor by request
  • three pre-scheduled formal mentoring sessions to gauge how you’re doing in the program

This support comes with any of these level one study options:

Virtual Classroom Online Learning Review
$995 $695 $475
- Instructor-led

- 16 live online lectures

- 4 live online review sessions

- Access to the whole online platform and mobile app

- Curriculum readings

- Custom study plans

- Slide pack with notes, tables, and other content
- Self-study

- Access to the whole online platform and mobile app

- Curriculum readings

- Custom study plans

- Slide pack with notes, tables, and other content
- Knowledge check

- 4 live online review sessions (on-demand version is also available)

- 3 full mock exams

- Bank of practice questions and quizzes

You can buy access to the bank of practice questions and quizzes (QBank) separately for $195. You can also purchase additional mock exams for $60 each. Fitch Learning offers a free trial so you can preview the online platform, but the website doesn’t specify how long the trial runs.

The online platform called the Fitch Learning Cognition guides you through the CFA curriculum with readings, videos, practice questions, mock exams, and more. The system will help you focus on and improve your areas of weakness. Fitch Learning offers study programs for all exam levels.

The provider also has a “No Pass, No Pay” guarantee. If you don’t pass your exam, you can get a refund. To qualify, you must meet a long list of conditions, such as attending 90% of the instructor-led sessions or watching 60% of the pre-recorded lectures. Please see the company’s website for details.

If you’ve failed your exam after taking a different company’s course, Fitch Learning will give you 50% off of their program. To qualify, you must submit your exam score and proof of purchase. Other conditions may apply, so please check with the firm.

Best Variety of Study Resources : Kaplan Schweser CFA Program Study Package


Kaplan® Schweser CFA Program Study Package

Kaplan® Schweser CFA Program Study Package

Why We Chose It: The Kaplan Schweser CFA Program Study Package is our choice for a variety of study resources because the course includes a robust suite of study tools.

Pros
  • Gives learners a lot of options

  • Multiple study packages available

Cons
  • Program is pricey

  • Free trial period is short

The Kaplan Schweser CFA Program Study Package includes various ways for students to learn and review the curriculum, and the core study tools include:

  • weekly study tasks to keep you on track
  • diagnostic exams to see where you stand
  • full-length mock exams to get ready for test day
  • five volumes of SchweserNotes for those who learn by reading
  • more than 40 hours of SchweserNotes Videos for those who learn by watching
  • summaries of formulas, key terms, and curriculum concepts to make review time a breeze
  • the SchweserPro QBank with practice questions, quizzes, and more to assess your learning
  • InstructorLink to contact instructors with questions

The provider offers study solutions for all three levels of the exam. For the level one exam, you can choose one of three packages:

Essential Premium PremiumPlus
$699 $999 $1,299 or $1,598
- Full self-study

- Access to the core study tools
- Everything from the Essential package

- PassProtection

- On-demand video lectures

- 5 live online workshops

- 55 hours of on-demand review workshops

- Schweser’s SecretSauce (print or e-book of the curriculum)
- Everything from the Premium package with two options:

- Live online review workshops ($1,299)

- Live online lectures and review workshops ($1,598)

You can also buy select core study tools individually. For example, Schweser’s SecretSauce is available for $149.

Schweser Kaplan offers financing options through Affirm, subject to credit approval. The company also provides a five-day free trial of select core study tools. That way, you can see if the program would be a good fit before making a purchase.

With Schweser’s PassProtection, if you don’t pass your exam, you’ll get your next study package for free. To qualify, you must:

  • use the benefit within one year of the exam
  • submit proof of the failing score
  • have answered at least 50% of the questions in the course

Other terms and conditions may apply. For complete rules, please visit the company’s website.

Best Value : IFT


IFT

IFT

Why We Chose It: IFT is our choice for best value because you can access course material at low or no cost.

Pros
  • Multiple plan options

  • Money-back guarantee

  • À la carte products available

Cons
  • Website is somewhat confusing

  • Refund period is short

If you're on a budget, IFT can help you prepare for your CFA exam. The course offers four plans for level one exam takers:

Free Basic Basic Plus Premium
$0 $150 $275 $525
- 70 hours of video lectures - Everything from the Free plan

- Slides to accompany videos

- Mobile app

- Quizzes 

- Curriculum summaries
- Everything from the Basic plan

- Study notes

- Practice questions
- Everything from the Basic Plus plan

- Formula sheet

- Access to the instructor for questions

- Mock exams

- Pass protection

For a complete comparison of the plans, please visit IFT’s website. Payment plans may be available, but you’ll need to contact customer service for details.

IFT also offers some à la carte options, including:

  • live online classes with access to practice questions: $500
  • study notes and video lecture slides: $115
  • access to practice questions: $100
  • three mock exams: $65

With IFT’s pass protection, you’ll have access to the program materials until you pass your exam. You must submit your exam results to maintain access.

The provider offers CFA exam prep courses for all three levels of the exam. To make sure IFT is the right fit for you, the company offers a seven-day free trial.

Your satisfaction is also guaranteed. You can request a full refund (less than 5% to cover bank fees) within three days of purchase for any reason. You must not have viewed more than 20% of the content or downloaded the material to your device to qualify.

Final Verdict

There are many CFA exam prep courses on the market, so it can be challenging to select the program that will meet your learning needs. Before you enroll in any CFA exam prep course, make sure you read reviews from other students, carefully look at all program literature, and speak with a representative from the company. Doing so can help ensure you make the right choice.

However, the CFA Institute is a great place to start your search. The learning material comes directly from the organization that administers the exam and grants the credential. Plus, the organization’s Learning Ecosystem tailors the study experience to you and offers several different ways to engage with the material.

Compare the Best CFA Exam Prep Courses

Course Course Format Individual Tutoring Available? Cost
The CFA Institute Learning Ecosystem
Best Overall
Self-paced online No Free after the exam registration
The Princeton Review CFA
Best Hybrid Option
Self-paced or hybrid of self-paced and live online instructor-led No $499 for Essential On-Demand, $799 for Ultimate Live Online
Bloomberg Exam Prep
Best Self-Paced Course
Self-paced online Yes $699-$1,999, depending on the plan selected
Fitch Learning
Best for Student Support
Self-paced online Yes $475-$995, depending on the plan selected
Kaplan Schweser CFA Program Study Package
Best Variety of Study Resources
Self-paced or hybrid of self-paced and live online instructor-led No $699-$1,598, depending on the plan selected
IFT
Best Value
Self-paced online No Free to $525, depending on the plan selected

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is the CFA Exam? 

The CFA exam is a series of tests you take to demonstrate your mastery of the concepts required to be a successful Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). The exam has three levels that cover different material. You must pass all three to earn your credential.

How Much Do CFA Exam Prep Courses Cost?

CFA exam prep courses range in price. Some companies offer free or low-cost study materials. Other programs can cost several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. Fortunately, you should see a return on your investment because Chartered Financial Analysts typically earn a decent salary.

Are CFA Exam Prep Courses Worth It? 

A CFA exam prep course can be worth the investment if you need the extra support and the program helps you pass your exam. Some companies offer a pass guarantee, which either grants a refund or extends your access to the course content if you don’t pass the test on the first try. This assurance adds to the value of the course. Plus, you may be able to deduct the expense on your taxes.

How Long Does It Take to Prepare for the CFA Exam? 

According to the CFA Institute, the average learner spends roughly 300 hours preparing for each level of the exam. However, your experience may vary based on your existing knowledge and how you learn. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to study before exam day.

Is the CFA Exam Difficult to Pass?

The CFA exam is fairly difficult to pass. According to the CFA Institute, only 44% of exam takers passed the level one test in February of 2021. You may be able to increase your chance of earning a passing score by studying hard and taking a CFA exam prep course.

Methodology

We thoroughly examined 10 CFA exam prep courses before making our selections. We factored in the breadth of content included, the qualifications of the instructors, the learning tools available, the student support provided, and the price. We also considered if the course came from a CFA Institute-approved provider or if it offered any special perks to learners. All providers we selected except for The Princeton Review CFA are CFA Institute-approved.

All of our top picks are robust, supportive CFA exam prep solutions designed to help aspiring Chartered Financial Analysts pass their exam.