If you have spent any time around this blog, you will know that I do not believe purchasing a CFA level 1 study guide is a strict requirement in order to pass the test. In most cases however, if you are strapped for time and not deterred by the price tag, purchasing a study guide will be the right choice. Some people loose sight of this point, but your time is valuable… If a study guide helps cut your preparation time and helps you pass where you otherwise wouldn’t, then it was money well invested.
My own choice of CFA level 1 study guide was heavily influenced by the people around me. It seemed that most candidates that I spoke to used SchweserNotes™, and as such it seemed too much of a risk trying anything else.
Before I say anything else, I have to say that I was really happy with my choice at the time, but now that I have more time to do proper due diligence I wanted to figure out if there is anything better out there in the market place.
So far, I have managed to find one program that I believe is a serious contender. They used to be called Elan Guides, but they have now become part of Wiley, and their study packages have changed their name to Wiley CFA Exam Review Products.
Wiley Platinum Course
I have just taken Wiley’s new platinum course for a spin, and I will try and explain to you why I think it is a nearly perfect complement to our 20 week study program. They basically spoon feed you the information and one of the strengths of the program is that it is actually pretty enjoyable (or at least just about as enjoyable as I can imagine studying for the CFA will ever be). You can purchase a printed study guide from them (which is great by the way) but the “fun” only begins when you study through their integrated browser dashboard.
Create your own tailored CFA level 1 study plan
The dashboard enables you to create your very own tailored study plan. This may not seem like such a big deal, but I think this one feature is possibly the most important of all. You will be asked a couple of questions, including:
- when you are planning to sit the test,
- when you are planning to start studying and
- which weekdays you are planning to study.
The tool will then auto-generate a study plan for you in an online calendar. In this way it is laid out for you exactly which lessons you should study each day, and you can click through to the relevant lessons directly from the calendar all within the same browser window. I believe having a timeline like this is crucial. This is part of the reason why I send out weekly emails to everyone signed up to my newsletter, to gently nudge you guys to stick to the plan. Unless you have got a detailed plan, you will discover it too late if you are falling behind.
The tool will also provide a range for how many hours you should expect to spend on each lesson and each week given the amount of time left before the exam, this provides a useful tip off if your study plan is realistic or not. If your study plan informs you that you need to spend 30-40 hours a week to keep up, and at the same time you have got a demanding full time job requiring 50 hours+ a week, then you are clearly running low on hours in the week. I would recommend that you have a look at this post if you are unsure how many hours you can allocate each week.
Separating the content into small manageable pieces is a great idea. It is really the only way to keep your focus when faced with the task of absorbing roughly 3,000 pages worth of content. The Wiley course takes this one step further dividing each reading into 1 to 7 lessons centered around the LOS (Learning Outcome Statements).
I recommend that you create flash cards with every single LOS in the curriculum and “hunt” for the answer to the LOS and write it on the flip side including book-, reading-, LOS- and page number (This post explains why I think flash cards are so important). Wiley provide you a big leg up in accomplishing this with their so-called LOS Tracker feature. Rather than having to sift through each reading to try and find the answer to the LOS it is served up on a plate straight in front of your face. Each lesson in the Wiley study guide is centered around explaining the answer to the individual LOS and if you would like to go to the source document, each LOS is labelled with the book and page numbers where you can find the explanation in the underlying curriculum. This is a massive time saver and very helpful in keeping your focus on what really matters on exam day.
Wiley offer a set of formula sheets with all of their packages. It’s plain and simple, but imagine how much time you are going to save, creating flash cards based on this document rather than sifting through the entire curriculum to pick out every individual formula. Also revising the formula sheet is a great way to uncover areas of the curriculum that you might not yet understand in depth.
The Wiley program is designed to help you constantly test and asses your comprehension as you move through the curriculum. As you might know, I promote thorough use of the end of chapter questions to improve your comprehension and pick out weak spots. Wiley again take this one step further, enabling you to generate targeted mini-tests related to each lesson and/or broader study session that you are focusing on (using the Wiley Quiz builder). This feature helps ensure you cover all of your weak spots before moving on. There are 1138 so-called lesson assessment questions (similar to the end of chapter questions in the curriculum) and 409 additional test bank questions that you can use to generate your own bespoke tests.
I believe that ideally at the very least the last month leading up to the exam should be dedicated to revision. The Wiley Platinum course contains the so-called 11th hour review course, you don’t have to buy the most expensive package to get this guide however, you will be able to purchase it as a standalone product towards the end of March 2016. It is a “nice to have”, but with all of the other study aides available I don’t think it is absolutely crucial. All Wiley packages contain mock exams. The platinum course even provides a mock exam seminar.
The Pass guarantee
The pass guarantee really sets Wiley apart from many of the other study providers. We all know that the CFA level 1 exam has got a very low pass rate, and that the curriculum is updated every year. With many study providers you will have to fork out again if you are going to resit the exam the following year. You might get a discount the second time around, but still money out of the pocket. With Wiley there is no expiration date, you can use the course until you pass the exam. All content updates and software upgrades are free, simple as that.
At the time of writing, the Wiley products are priced in a range from $225 for the study guide alone up to $1,245 for the full platinum package with all the “bells and whistles”. You can see the prices and features of the various packages at this link, to compare and contrast the relative value you can have a look at the Schweser packages here. Also please note that as a Financial Exam Academy reader you will obtain a 10% discount on any purchases of Wiley CFA Exam Review Products if you use the voucher code FEA. (Please note that this discount cannot be combined with any other offers/vouchers). The self-study or silver course will be sufficient for a lot of candidates, especially if you are the self-motivated type. The more expensive packages contain more personal attention through seminars and classroom based learning + additional materials and support for the final month of revision.
Things I don’t like
Right, so that was a lot of positive chat about the Wiley CFA Exam Review Products. But I don’t want anybody to get big headed and as I pointed out in the title this is only an almost perfect CFA level 1 study guide. So here are a couple of points that I think could be improved.
- They use a weird fluorescent green color for highlights and headings in the study guide.
- You got the following statement on their video page (at the time of writing). This is perhaps not a big deal, but life is all about first impressions:
- “We have ensured that the following lecture content is applicable for the 2015 curriculum. However, reading numbers, LOS numbers and curriculum page references embedded in some of the videos refers to the 2014 curriculum. The Reading number provided in the playlist is accurate for 2015”.
The Wiley CFA Exam Review Products really do come close to being the perfect CFA level 1 study guide. And if I was doing CFA all over again they would be my preferred companion.