Which CFA Prep Course Is the Best?

Let us help you in your quest for glory.
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Would you like to be among the 43% of people celebrating their first step towards the three coveted post-nomials? Well, take it from the 57% who are not: You’re going to need some help.

Happily, there are all sorts of folks ready to provide all sorts of help, at all sorts of price points. Unhappily, this sets up a CFA-exam-level exercise in choosing the right prep course.

Happily once again, however, we at DealBreaker are here to offer our own sort of help: Sifting through the choices, offering you something many of these providers’ websites do not: easily comparable costs, structures and guarantees of success.

We’ve limited ourselves to those providing live, in-person classroom instruction, although most of these offer cheaper online alternatives for the fiscally-responsible (or non-metropolitan-area-dwelling) would-be charterholder. We’ve also listed only those courses that meet the CFA Institute’s prep provider guidelines, because you wouldn’t want to cross the Institute now, would you? Of course, receiving the Institute’s imprimatur means following all sorts of rules, including a prohibition on publicizing pass rates, so you’ll have to make do without that admittedly key piece of information. The figures below are for Level I prep programs; chances are, if you’re getting ready for Level II or III, you’ve already got a guy.

Kaplan Schweser

COST

  • $1,099

ADDED COSTS

  • upgrade to live classroom instruction is $300
  • three-day final review (live or online) is $400, live five-day final review is $700
  • one-week all-inclusive residential program WindsorWeek in Windor, Ont., is $1,399 to $2,599
  • Schweser’s Secret Sauce review book is $129 (included in PremiumPlus Package)

FORMAT

  • 15 weekly classes
  • additional video lectures
  • six full practice exams
  • in-person or online

GUARANTEES

  • If you take a premium course and fail, next available program is 50% off

DISCOUNTS

  • available for CFA Society members
  • university students get 25% discount
  • CFA Institute scholarship recipients entitled to 43% to 70% off

Boston Security Analysts Society

COST

  • BSAS offers the Kaplan Schweser program outlined above, ranging from $1,099 to $3,698

ADDED COSTS

  • online test bank is $99
  • BSAS live mock exam is $80
  • hard copies of Schweser course materials is $50

FORMAT

  • same as Kaplan Schweser program outlined below

GUARANTEES

  • same as Kaplan Schweser program outlined below

DISCOUNTS

  • same as Kaplan Schweser program outlined below
  • six full scholarships available from BSAS

CFA Society San Francisco

COST

  • $1,000

ADDED COSTS

  • Kaplan Schweser mock exam is $75
  • three-day cram course is $500

FORMAT

  • 18 classes

GUARANTEES

  • none

DISCOUNTS

  • 15% discount on select Kaplan Schweser study materials
  • fellowships awarded offering a 50% discount

Exam Success

COST

  • C$499

ADDED COSTS

  • upgrade to live classroom program (Toronto) is C$600
  • upgrade to live classroom program with three-day final review (Toronto) is C$1,200
  • online students can add three-day final in-class review (Toronto) for C$200
  • online students can add three-day final in-class review (Calgary) for C$400

FORMAT

  • 15 weekly classes

GUARANTEES

  • free use of resources until you pass
  • up to 60% off live classroom program repeats

DISCOUNTS

  • scholarships of up to C$300, primarily for current university students or recent graduates
  • CFA Society Calgary members receive C$100 discount for online program

Financial Accounting Workshop

COST

  • $550

ADDED COSTS

  • none

FORMAT

  • two-day, 16-hour workshop in New York led by founder John Harris

GUARANTEES

  • students unsatisfied at the first-day lunchbreak will receive a full refund

DISCOUNTS

  • none

Fitch Learning

COST

  • $995

ADDED COSTS

  • upgrade to live classroom program is $400

FORMAT

  • 120 hours of online recordings and live classroom webcasts
  • classroom program offers 15 evening classes or eight Saturday classes (New York or Toronto)
  • live two-day review course (New York, Toronto or San Francisco)
  • three mock exams
  • monthly study-tip articles

GUARANTEES

  • If you are a first-time Fitch Learning candidate, attend 80% of sessions, attempt all 18 hurdle tests and score 70% on both the progress test and final mock exam, you are eligible for a full refund OR 50% the next available program

DISCOUNTS

  • 50% off for students who have failed with a different prep provider
  • scholarships available for online learning course

New York Society of Security Analysts

COST

  • $750

ADDED COSTS

  • upgrade to live classroom instruction (Manhattan) is $200
  • course materials must be purchased from Kaplan Schweser for $379 to $584.10

FORMAT

  • 17 weekly classes

GUARANTEES

  • none

DISCOUNTS

  • NYSSA members receive $100 discount on online program and $150 discount on live in-class program
  • full-time undergraduate and graduate students receive $200 discount on live in-class program
  • limited-time 2-for-1 offer for referrals (50% off for both students who enroll)
  • full scholarships offered for live classroom program

Sharp Seminars in New York

COST

  • $1,340

ADDED COSTS

  • Last-six-weeks CFA Sample Questions Review (four classes plus in-class practice exam) is $350
  • HP-12C or TI-BAII Plus financial calculator required

FORMAT

  • 12 weekly classes
  • weekly take-home quizzes
  • in-class practice exam
  • 10 CFA SharpNotes summary outlines
  • About 3,000 self-testing multiple-choice exercises

GUARANTEES

  • If you take the Comprehensive course and fail, attend all 12 classes, score at least 75% on each weekly take-home quiz and in-class practice exam, you are entitled to a refund minus $400 for materials. One refund per student.

DISCOUNTS

  • $20 off for early registration

USC/CFALA

COST

  • $1,499/$1,349 for CFA Society Los Angeles members

ADDED COSTS

  • parking in the USC garage is $12 per day. Limited street parking available.
  • hard copies of Schweser Study Notes is $50 (e-book provided free)

FORMAT

  • 13 classes at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles; recording available online
  • full-length practice exam
  • Schweser Study Notes e-book and SchweserPro Online Question Bank

GUARANTEES

  • If you fail, you can retake the program within 12 months for $700, which is refundable after you have retaken the CFA exam

DISCOUNTS

  • CFALA offers full scholarships
  • active-duty U.S. military and disabled U.S. military veterans have access to online recorded classroom lecture for free

Related

CFA 2012: Good Luck To All

As those of you who took the week off to study are well-aware, Saturday is CFA exam day, for all levels. And while we have complete confidence in all of your abilities, some people have expressed feeling a bit jittery about the test. For the vast majority, those fears, while normal, are unwarranted. You just need to talk it out and should consider this space a safe place to do so. For a smaller group of people, though, your fears are totally founded because, statistically speaking, you will fail. Having said that... Back in January, after Matt found out he'd passed Level 1 (with a perfect score), a conversation occurred at Dealbreaker HQ that went something like this: Me: So are you going to sign up for Level 2? Matt: Eh, I don't think so...I mean, I don't really feel like spending the next 5 months of my life studying, y'know? And then what am I going to do? Wait around another year to take Level 3? Me: Uh....YES, I thought that's exactly what I thought you were going to do. Don't you want to be a CFA charterholder? Don't you want to go to CFA Camp? Matt: Meh. Fast forward to last Thursday, when we're sitting around l'office shooting the shit and someone casually mentions, "I wish I were taking the CFA next week." Unfortunately, said someone is not because he choose not to sign up, strangely forgetting how much he loves standardized tests. That being said, if anyone is scheduled to take Level 2 but a) is suffering performance anxiety and b) wants the opportunity to read another recap of how things panned out for an editor of this site, Matt is happy to go in your place and pass it for you. With two nights of studying he gives himself a 50 percent chance (I think it's closer to 75), you'd get those 8 hours back, and it'd make him really, really happy. If he doesn't get to take Level 2 he's considering the idea of the Connecticut Bar in July. Let him have this.

Let's Talk About: How Many Of You Are One Step Closer To CFA Camp?

Thirty-eight percent of Level I takers and forty-two percent of Level II'ers have reason to feel pretty good about your lives this morning. Your studying was worth it, your plans are right on track, the promise land is so close you can taste it. The rest of you are likely feeling less good. Your (hours and days and weeks and months) of studying did not end up being worth it, you're right back where you started, and the path to the quote ultimate honor unquote--the land of milk and honey and stacks of CFA exams in need of grading, as high as the eye can see-- seems littered with insurmountable obstacles. Your family and friends and colleagues told you they never wanted to hear those three little letters in that sequence again but if you need to vent, we're listening. You're safe here.