Best CFA Prep Books

Updated February 2022
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Buying guide for shopping guide for best cfa prep books

If you have a bachelor’s degree and are working in the field of finance and investments, you might be thinking about ways to improve your future career prospects. Earning a chartered financial analyst (CFA) certification is a good way to prove your knowledge and open up your job possibilities.

Essentially, holding a CFA certification is similar to earning a master’s degree in finance. But if you’re ready to take the multilevel exam to solidify your knowledge in accounting, investing, and economics, you first must be prepared to pass it. In addition to lots of hard work and planning, studying a CFA prep book will help increase your chances of earning the certification. But there are many CFA prep books available, so choosing the right one can be confusing. After all, you don’t want to waste time studying material that may not help you achieve the scores you need.

You’ve come to the right place. The BestReviews team is committed to helping consumers like you find the top products on the market, including CFA prep books. We’ve detailed our favorites and included a shopping guide below that’s packed with information, tips, and advice to point you in the right direction.

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Earning the CFA will help you when it comes to networking in the investment industry, because having achieved this charter demonstrates your knowledge and commitment to your chosen career path.

Why take the CFA exam?

Although it isn’t a necessity to work in some finance positions, a CFA designation awarded by the CFA Institute is highly regarded throughout the world as an indication of a financial analyst’s mastery of investment and other concepts. It’s an extensive testing tool that includes three exam levels. Certification as a chartered financial analyst is respected around the world.

The CFA helps those in the financial industry advance their careers in various areas, including:

  • Personal investments

  • Portfolio management

  • Financial advising

  • Consulting

  • Research analyzing

  • Corporate financing

  • Brokerage

  • Trading

If pursuing a CFA certification sounds good to you, there are some pros and cons to consider before you embark on the testing-taking journey.


  • Affordability: The cost of becoming certified as a CFA is quite affordable, especially compared to the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to earn an MBA.

  • No class time: You set your study regimen on your own time to work toward passing each level of the exam.

  • Career advancement: Charter holders have the flexibility to develop their own businesses. They are also in demand by employers in numerous careers that focus on investments and finance.

  • Highly respected: Recognized in 27 countries, CFA certification is often considered the “gold standard” for the field of financial analysis.


  • Required qualifications: You must meet certain qualifications to be able to take the CFA exams.

  • Extensive preparation: You must put in hours of study time if you want to do well on this difficult test.

  • High failure rate: It’s common for people to fail one or more levels of the CFA exam, but that’s no reason to give up. In fact, annual pass rates for any one of the three sections is around 43% to 54%, meaning that many candidates don’t pass one or more sections each year.

  • Long test times: Each of the three tests takes around six hours, which could be stressful for anyone, especially those prone to test-taking anxiety.

  • Passing required to advance: Any CFA charter candidate must pass a test level before moving on to the next one.

  • Annual dues: Once you earn your CFA charter and become a member of the CFA Institute, you must pay fees annually. However, the chances are good that you’ll be so excited about earning this coveted charter that the dues will be a minor inconvenience!
"The CFA Institute, which administers the exams, focuses on promoting high standards of ethics, professionalism, and education in the field of investments, all good reasons why the organization’s certification is so highly respected."

Qualifications to take the CFA exam

While holding a CFA charter is a great way to open doors along your financial career path, taking the exam requires a list of qualifications that you must earn first.

You need to have a bachelor’s degree or be in the final year of completing it or have qualifying school and work experience in financial planning totaling four years.

If you begin the exam process before completing your bachelor’s degree, you must earn it before moving on to level two of the testing. And you must complete additional educational experience in at least one related area, such as retirement, insurance, estate planning, taxation of income, or investing.

Structure of the CFA exam

The CFA has three test levels. Each one focuses on specific subjects and is available at specific times each year. Throughout each level you’ll be tested on tax, retirement planning, insurance, investments, estate planning, risk, and more.

Level one: This portion is offered in June and December. When studying in advance of this portion of the exam, be prepared to show your knowledge in ten subjects: economics, standards in ethics and professionalism, quantitative methods, financial reporting and analysis, derivatives, investments of equity, corporate finance, fixed income strategies, wealth planning strategies and management of portfolios, and alternative investments options.

Level two: This section is only offered in June. It focuses on concepts, asset valuation, and different applications of a variety of investment tools.

Level three: Like level two, this section is only offered in June. For this part of the exam, you’ll use your range of knowledge to demonstrate your abilities when it comes to portfolio management and wealth planning.

CFA prep book features to consider

The CFA exams are challenging but not impossible. The right prep books with the best tools and information will help ease your studying and improve your scores.

Testing information: It’s helpful to know what to expect on each level of the CFA exams. A thorough prep book includes specific information about the testing.

Sample questions: Many CFA prep books have sample questions, including those you might see on a test and examples from past exams. Studying these questions will help you understand what to expect when you take the test.

Volumes: It takes passing three tests that cover a great deal of material to earn the CFA designation, so it isn’t surprising that you’re likely to see prep books that encompass several volumes.

Detailed sections: Whether you need to brush up on portfolio management or estate planning, good CFA test prep books have sections on all the topics you need to study.

Study guides: Another useful feature of CFA prep books is information on how to study and pace yourself without overburdening your schedule as you prepare for the exam.

Website access: Some prep books have links to websites where CFA candidates will find additional information about studying for the exams.

Other tools: Once you decide to take the CFA exam, there are other concerns you’ll need to address. Some thorough prep guides have not only financial information to study but also tips and advice for structuring your time, keeping focused on your goals, and checking your emotions and stress level as you face the challenging testing.

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Did you know?
Do you already have an MBA? Adding a CFA to your list of impressive credentials will further enhance your resume and career options.

CFA prep book prices

CFA prep books are available in a wide range of prices, from $10 to $300, with different types available for studying specific levels of the exam.

Inexpensive: Prep books at the lower end of the price scale, around $10 to $20, usually focus on one exam level and are suitable for guiding candidates on areas of study. They also make nice supplements to other prep books and study materials.

Mid-range: From $25 to about $100, you can expect to find prep books with more details and study tools such as questions, practice exams, and more.

Expensive: If you’re willing to spend a bit more, from $150 to $300, you can find comprehensive prep books that guide you on multiple aspects of the CFA exams. However, keep in mind that you have to purchase three prep books – one for each test level. While pricey, it’s an investment that’s likely to earn a good return if it helps you pass each section of the exam.


  • Don’t cram. Anyone who has taken the CFA testing will tell you just how difficult each level is. This isn’t the type of exam you can ace by cramming the week before test day.

  • Start early. The best time to begin studying is as soon as you decide you want to take the CFA exams. Given the difficulty of the testing, it’s never too soon to start.

  • Take your study time seriously. Set aside a specific time every day, and read your materials thoroughly.  Even if you get to the point where you feel you’ve mastered the material, don’t stop studying for the exams.

  • Avoid distractions. Because the subjects are so advanced and detailed, studying in front of the TV or in a busy room is likely to be too distracting for you to concentrate.

  • Use a variety of methods. Reading, taking sample tests, answering practice questions, and doing drills are all good ways to study for the CFA exams. And because the materials and information can be tedious, varying your methods will also break the monotony.
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Because the CFA exams are so challenging, it’s helpful to invest in more than one prep book. Reading different materials will give you a broad range of knowledge, tips, and tricks that will prove useful when you take each of the CFA exams.


Q. How much does it cost to take the CFA exam?

A. The cost to take each level of the CFA varies depending on when you register, with early registration costing a bit less. It typically costs between $700 and $1,500 to take each test level.

Q. How much time will I need to devote to studying for the CFA?

A. Although study time for each test level will vary with each individual test taker, it requires a lot of time and dedication to pass these tests. The CFA Institute estimates that the average person pursuing his or her CFA charter spends approximately 322 hours studying per test level.

Q. Can I retake levels of the CFA test if I fail one or more of them?

A. Some CFA candidates might be discouraged to find that they’ve failed a section of the exam. But this can merely mean a bump in the road on the way to earning the charter because you can retake any level.

Q. What’s the shortest and the longest amount of time it could take me to pass all three CFA test levels?

A. Technically, you could earn your CFA if you pass all three levels in as little as 19 months. However, it could feasibly take as long as four years, depending on how you pace yourself and if (and how many times) you fail one or more of the test levels.

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