EduReviewerThe Best CFA Books for Levels 1, 2 & 3

The Best CFA Books for Levels 1, 2 & 3 (June, 2022)

Becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) opens up an incredible number of doors for anyone working in finance or accounting. However, there are some tough barriers in the way. The CFA Level I exam is quite tough and the Level II and III exams get progressively harder.

What does that mean? It means to stand the best chance of passing these exams and becoming a CFA, you need a whole lot of preparation. Some people prefer to use videos or online courses.

However, we stand by the assertion that books are the best way to prepare. They are not as expensive as a full-on course, but can still prepare you more than adequately without breaking the bank.

In this article, we will explore the best study books for CFA level 1 exams, followed by books for Level 2 and 3. With the best CFA exam prep books in hand, you are sure to succeed in your exams.

Best For the CFA Level I Exams

First up, we have the CFA Level I exams. These exams will test your basic knowledge of finance, investment, and economics.

The full list of topics include

  • Ethical and Professional Standards
  • Quantitative Methods and basic Mathematics
  • Economics
  • Finance Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Management of Portfolios
  • Equity Investments
  • Handling Fixed Income Assets
  • Derivative Assets

The questions in this exam are almost exclusively Multiple-Choice questions.

Now, let’s look at the best CFA textbooks Level 1 examinees should use.

1. CFA Program Curriculum Level I

This is a set of six books that are published directly by the CFA Institute. This book set does not just act as preparation books, but also introduces you to the entire curriculum that the exam will be tested on.

Want to know how comprehensive this set of books is? This book is a staggering 3,712 pages long, split over 6 volumes! Fortunately, it’s not necessary to purchase a cart to carry these books around. They are available in electronic form and are in fact given out for free to everyone who signs up for the exam.

That said, a lot of people prefer studying from physical books instead of e-books.

What makes this one of the best CFA books to study is the fact that it is designed to be the only study material you’ll need.

It covers every single one of the 10 topics that make up the exam paper. It includes sample questions, practice quizzes, and guided instructions from the same people who write the CFA level 1 Exam papers. The practice questions can be used to do mock exams.

Overall, considering it comes directly from the CFA institute, it is considered by many to be the best Study Books.

The electronic version is free. The physical version costs $250, mostly due to the sheer volume of printing needed. Physical books are better for learning, so why not get them now?

Pros

  • Extremely thorough and broad explanations of all the concepts.
  • A huge number of practice questions and sample answers.
  • Comes directly from the CFA Institute themselves, who write the CFA exams as well.

Cons

  • Too much unnecessary information compared to other books.
  • Not very portable. Takes up a lot of space and is also very heavy.

2. Kaplan Level I SchweserNotes and QuickSheet

The SchweserNotes are popularly considered one of the best study books. They might not be from the CFA institute directly, but they are far better when you consider time and efficiency.

For starters, the Kaplan CFA books are condensed into about 1,100 words. That’s less than a third of the CFA Curriculum books! Despite the condensation, these books are just as effective at teaching you all the necessary materials you need.

So, if you don’t want to dive into every single aspect of the CFA exam but rather pass it with a decent grade, then these are the best book for CFA level 1. They cover the same syllabus and topics. There are 6 unique practice exam papers for mocks or practice.

Keeping in line with the theme of efficiency, if you don’t want to carry CFA Level 1 prep books everywhere, you can use the QuickSheets instead. The six different QuickSheets summarize the most important, core concepts of the exam. You can study them when you’re on the go – a must for anyone currently in a fast-moving corporate lifestyle.

The SchweserNotes cost $399.99. It’s pricey, but for a good reason, so purchase them today!

Pros

  • Condensed into the necessary materials for efficient studying.
  • Six full sets of practice questions.
  • QuickSheets are portable and easy to study anywhere.

Cons

  • Does not cover all topics in as much depth.
  • Expensive compared to other CFA study books.

3. Wiley’s Level I CFA Program Study Guide

The Wiley’s CFA Program study guide is easy to use. It does not cover nearly 4,000 words like the Program Curriculum, but rather condenses it to five volumes and a third as many pages. It is slightly longer than the Kaplan books, at 1,300 pages.

So, why go for the Wiley Books? Wiley is well known as one of the biggest and most well-known firms in the sector. They have more than 40 years of experience doing this, after all.

The book itself is designed first and foremost for ease of use. It is extremely well organized. Most of the material is color-coded according to topic and importance. All the required topics and studies covered by the exam are included in this.

There are lots of examples and cases given here. Guides and helpful tips about managing your time while studying, and then actually giving the exam, etc. are all included as well.

The Wiley’s CFA Program Study guide is priced at $235.00. This is quite affordable, so what are you waiting for?

Pros

  • More focused on guided preparation with a learning tracker.
  • Colour-coding and an efficient, streamlined approach to teaching different concepts.
  • Covers all the necessary information without skipping anything or going too deep in.

Cons

  • Does not include all the online test prep tools by default.
  • Additional practice materials like the Calculations Workbook has to be purchased separately.

Best For the CFA Level II Exams

Once you have completed the CFA Level I exams, what’s next? The Level II exams, of course. Don’t just throw away your CFA Level 1 Study Books yet. While the material in the Level II exams is different, you can still use those books for reference.

The CFA Level II exam also focuses mainly on Multiple Choice Questions, with more focus on evaluating assets and determining investments.

1. CFA Program Curriculum Level II

Just like level I, the CFA Institute gives out these prep books upon registering. The Level II books are very similar to the CFA Textbooks Level I. They have over 3,000 pages and cover every single aspect of the exam in plenty of detail.

Even if you don’t intend to study the book set in full detail, you should go through it a few times. They are the ultimate books for familiarizing yourself with the material. Plus, there are lots of questions and sample tests given alongside it.

The CFA Program Curriculum Level II book set costs $250 in paperback, though, just like the Level I books it is available electronically.

Pros

  • Covers all the concepts you need to know thoroughly.
  • Comes directly from the CFA Institute themselves, who write the CFA exams as well
  • Designed to help you adjust to the exam structure.

Cons

  • Too much unnecessary information compared to other books, so it takes a long time to cover.
  • Takes up a lot of space. It is hard to carry around all the volumes.

2. Kaplan SchweserNotes Level II and QuickSheets

Just like the level I SchweserNotes, these Kaplan books are best when you want to make your learning process efficient. They condense the thousands of pages from the CFA Program Curriculum into just over a thousand words.

However, the Level II test is more focused on your in-depth knowledge and understanding. So, while SchweserNotes are the best books for level 1, they may fall short in Level II for some people.

Pros

  • Condensed into just the necessary information for efficient studying.
  • Online prep materials are available.

Cons

  • Can be too concise at times, leaving out valuable detail or depth explanations
  • Does not guarantee you will score highly, only pass.

3. Wiley’s Level II CFA Program Study Guide

The Wiley’s CFA Program study guide is easy to use. It makes preparing for the CFA quite easy. It does not cover nearly 4,000 pages like the Program Curriculum, but rather condenses it to five volumes and a third as many pages. It is slightly longer than the Kaplan books, at 1,300 pages.

So, why go for the Wiley Books? Wiley is well known as one of the biggest and most well-known firms in the sector.

The book itself is designed first and foremost for ease of use. The color coding and organized study guide is very helpful in this regard.

Pros

  • Condensed into just the necessary information for efficient studying.
  • Online prep materials are available.
  • Does not cost additional if you already purchased the Level I Notes.

Cons

  • Can be too concise at times, leaving out valuable detail or depth explanations
  • Does not guarantee you will score highly, only pass.

Best For the CFA Level III Exams

You’re nearly at the end of the line! For the last hurdle, these are the best CFA study books for Level III.

1. CFA Program Curriculum Level III

This is a set of six books that are published directly by the CFA Institute. This book set does not just act as CFA preparation books but also introduces you to the entire curriculum that the exam will be tested on.

This book is a staggering 3,712 pages long, split over 6 volumes. What makes this one of the best CFA books to study is the fact that it is designed to be the only study material you’ll need.

It covers all the Level III topics in depth. Overall, considering it comes directly from the CFA institute, it is considered by many to be the best Study Books.

The physical version costs $250.

Pros

  • A huge number of practice questions and sample answers.
  • Extremely thorough and broad explanations of all the concepts.
  • Comes directly from the CFA Institute themselves, who write the CFA exams as well.

Cons

  • Too much unnecessary information compared to other books.

2. Kaplan SchweserNotes Level III and QuickSheets

The Kaplan books are condensed into about 1,100 words. That’s less than a third of the CFA Curriculum books! Despite the conciseness, these books are just as effective at teaching you all the necessary materials you need.

If you don’t want to dive into every single aspect of the CFA exam but rather pass it with a decent grade, then these are the best books for you.

There are also six different QuickSheets that summarize the most important, core concepts of the exam. You can study them when you’re on the go – a must for anyone currently in a fast-moving corporate lifestyle.

The SchweserNotes cost $399.99, but this gives you online access as well as print and digital.

Pros

  • Condensed into the necessary materials for efficient studying.
  • QuickSheets are portable and easy to study anywhere.

Cons

  • Does not cover all topics in as much depth, causing you to miss out on a lot of marks.
  • Not as good at preparing for essay-based questions.

3. Wiley’s Level III CFA Program Study Guide

The Wiley’s CFA Program study guide is easy to use. It does not cover nearly 4,000 words like the Program Curriculum, but rather condenses it to five volumes and a third as many pages. It is slightly longer than the Kaplan books, at 1,300 pages.

So, why go for the Wiley Books? Wiley is well known as one of the biggest and most well-known firms in the sector. They have more than 40 years of experience doing this, after all.

The book itself is designed first and foremost for ease of use. It is extremely well organized. Most of the material is color-coded according to topic and importance. All the required topics and studies covered by the exam are included in this. They also include a lot of tips for the essays.

The Wiley’s CFA Program Study guide is priced at $235.00

Pros

  • More focused on guided preparation with a learning tracker.
  • Colour-coding and an efficient, streamlined approach to teaching different concepts.
  • Covers all the necessary information without skipping anything or going too deep in.

Cons

  • Additional practice materials have to be purchased separately.
  • Not as effective for in-depth studying for essay writing

Comparison Chart

CFA Program Curriculum Kaplan SchweserNotes with Quicksheets Wiley’s CFA Program Study Guide
Format Print and Digital Print, Digital & Online Print and Digital
Length 3,700 pages 1,100 pages 1,300 pages
Best For Thorough, in-depth study for scoring top marks in the exam. Efficient and concise study for passing the CFA exam quickly
Guided study with a balance between depth and conciseness.
Price $250 per Level $399 for all Levels $235 per Level

Conclusion

The CFA Exam is a much-dreaded one for accountants and investment analysts all over the world. However, there is an immense amount of study material and guides for this exam out there.

You can use the Program Curriculum if you wish to truly excel at the exam and get top percentile marks. But if your ambitions are more towards simply passing, then both the Wiley and the Kaplan books would be suitable.

Whether you’re looking for CFA level one books now, or have already moved onto Level II or III, you could use some study materials. Check out these recommendations to get the best prep possible!

FAQs

  1. Which is the best CFA study material?

The best and most thorough study books would be the CFA Program Curriculum for all levels. However, it takes a lot of time and effort to learn everything in detail.

  1. Which book is best for CFA level 1?

Level 1 covers a lot of different topics and is the easiest. We recommend Kaplan SchweserNotes with QuickSheets for this, as you don’t need to learn everything thoroughly.

  1. Which book is best for CFA level 2?

For CFA Level 2, we recommend the CFA Program Curriculum and the Wiley’s CFA Program Study guide both. These two cover the topics in more detail, allowing you to give better answers to the in-depth questions.

  1. Which book is best for CFA level 3?

For CFA level 3, the best prep books are the CFA Program Curriculum. It is best to learn as much as possible. The Level 3 exams are focused on essays, so the more in-depth you can answer, the better.

By Alina Burakova
Updated on January 24, 2022
Verified by Max Zabairatskii
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