You only want views from those who sat in 2014? I sat in November 2015 but I’ll give you my thoughts anyway…
I got both Schweser and Bionic Turtle material to study with, along with the official GARP text books (which may have been overkill but there you go).
To sum up briefly, the GARP material is dry as hell, and contains next to no practice questions. The chapters have been selected for use from various textbooks and read very much like a more academic/textbook style as you would expect. Looking back, reading them did provide benefit no doubt, but for many I would assume they would be tough to get through. There are lots of derivations and space afforded to material that just will not be tested in the exam. If you have time on your hands, or if there are any concepts that you just can not seem to get your head around using a 3rd party provider material, then these GARP books are good for going back and getting an indepth explanation. I have OCD so I tend to NEED to read the official material for whatever exam I’m doing to feel like I’ve done “enough” but for $240 I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether they are worth your money. You certainly don’t NEED to read them to pass the exam.
With regards to the Schweser vs BT debate, you’ll get people who say Schweser was enough and BT is overkill, and you’ll get people who say that Schweser left them ill prepared and BT is the only way to go. Personally I found the Schweser material much easier to read, and would page through the material if I wanted an “easy” study session. The BT material is a little more sparse but much more technical and rigorous. To be honest, because I read all of the official GARP textbooks I spent most of my time after that actually doing practice questions rather than just rereading the material again and again.
I put in around 230 hours of work in total and hammered every single one of BTs practice questions at least twice. They have around 2000 questions for part 1 so yeah…lets just say I did quite a few practice questions. By the end I would say that I was scoring around 90% on their question bank, with a few of the more difficult questions just out of reach. I did all their mocks, along with the GARP mocks and was scoring between 65-80% on the BT mocks and around 80-95% on the GARP mocks. The Schweser end of chapter questions were an absolute joke to be honest so I don’t even count them as “study”.
When it came to the actual exam, I found it quite easy to be honest…I walked out 100% sure I absolutely smashed it. Being able to do those BT practice questions set me up for the win, no doubt. The exam was a notch below the BT questions in terms of difficultly I’d say. So the difference between Schweser and BT in my opinion is that if you go the BT route, and you can end up nailing all their practice questions, you will have no problems in the real exam. Nailing the Schweser questions means nothing…nothing at all.
For that reason alone, I would say hands down, choose BT over Schweser. If you can do BT, you can smash the exam.