It it possible to do well on the CFA exams without any review books?

Dense question, but why is it that everyone seems to be using review books when CFA gives you all the materials to study for? Is it because the CFA materials aren’t straight-forward enough, do they contain way too much background information that most test takers are already too familiar with, is it too painful to read, or WHY?

I know that review books are much more condensed, and I wonder if that would actually be a bad thing for someone like me. Coming from a non-finance/commerce/economics/math background, the thought of writing my first CFA exam is just so daunting.

Are review books absolutely necessary to pass or do well on the exam?

Thanks in advance!

Many people don’t want to read the actual books. Some people only care to pass and will memorize and understand just enough to get by on the exam. Other people like seeing the material in different ways.

I started reading a Schweser curriculum book at L1 and put it down after a couple of chapters-- it wasn’t very good (this is after I forked over about 600 for a package deal). I found the q-bank to be limited in difficulty, but good for repeptition at L1. The Schweser mock exams were poorly done in my opinion (they confused difficulty of material/questions with poorly written and vague questions). About 95% of my curriculum at L1 came from the official CFAI books. Their online questions and mock are also good to use (CFAI, again).

At level 2, I ordered Wiley 11th Hour guide as a summary review and I read the CFAI curriculum. For practice material I only used CFAI questions and the mock they offered. The Wiley 11th Hour guide was great for review after I completed the official books.

I passed both levels with almost a negligible amount of 3rd party material. I know some people on here have used legitimately nothing but the CFAI material and have passed.

You can definitely do well without 3rd party materials. (The fullness of the curriculum books will probably help your understanding if you study well.)

I passed L2 using only tickersu posts. Wish he was taking Level 3 laugh

Thanks buddy! I’m sure your prep is going quite well wink

People tend to use third party books as the CFA books are too dense. They have a huge amount of information in, a lot of it not relevant to passing the exam. It’s a lot of background and historical information on the markets (which finance people may already know). I did L1 with just the CFA books and learnt a lot of interesting things that weren’t in the exam. However, it did increase the time taken for studying. For L2 and L3 I used third party books as I had a new job and couldn’t afford to spend all the extra time reading the CFA books.

As for whether you can you pass without using review books, absolutely. I didn’t touch one for L1 and got >70 in every subject, as did many others on this board.

If you’re new to finance I would advise just using the CFA books, you’ll learn a lot and save yourself some money.

Yes, they are.

In the entire recorded history of the CFA exam, including its predecessors, there is no record of anyone having passed the exam without external study material.

never touched any 3rd party material, the official CFA texts are very good and cover everything you need

In all seriousness–here’s the difference between official CFAI curriculum and the Schweser books that I used. (I imagine other 3rd party providers are similar, but I don’t know for sure.)

CFAI curriculum - Long. Boring. Too wordy. Not written in ways that are conducive to learning. (That is, there’s a lot of “paragraphs”, but not a lot of bullet points and “easy to read” material.) Lots of “fluff”. (That is, there’s a lot of information that won’t be on the test, but it does provide some background and history.)

Schweser - Short, sweet, and to the point. They tell you what you need to know to pass the test. No extras, no fluff, no background or history, no philosophy. Just the necessities to pass the test.

Personally, I believe you get a better “all around” education by using CFAI, but it’s not very good at prepping for the test. So if I were you, I would study using Schweser (or your preferred provider), and after you pass the test, then you can go back and read all the fluff later.

^ what he said

I’d say its definitely possible but necessarily the most efficient w/regards to saving time.

It’s possible, but it’s an extremely poor bet.

For what it is worth, my study program is the official books only with some practice test in the final months. I find the books to be helpful in some areas, but in a lot of areas, you just want them to get to brass tacks on what is important and to maybe consider an inverted pyramid instead of rambling flow-of-consciousness.

If you are starting now for June, I would definitely say unless you are ready to dedicate 8 hours a day for most of the next two months, don’t try to brute force through the books. I have been at them since January and still haven’t cracked Economics.

Do you really think it’s a bad idea to study only from the official CFA Institute resources? Legitimate question, by the way…

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with studying only from the CFA Institute study guides.

Some candidates do benefit from the distillations in the prep providers’ materials, however.

I would agree. I was a little confused by the “extremely poor bet” part of the post. I took it to mean most people need the 3rd party material.

My mistake: I misunderstood the original question.

I took the “without any review books” in the title to mean “without studying”. Upon reflection, that’s not what OP meant.

I used only the CFAI materials and passed all 3 in a row. But whether that means “well”, I don’t know…

OP: Definitely it’s possible to pass all three levels w/o using material from any service providers. But many people find their material easier because it is somewhat easier to study / more concise / summarized neatly.

I think the biggest problem w/service providers is their practice questions. I found them way too easy. Many candidates are making the crucial mistake of making no use of the EOC-questions from the official books and using those of service providers only.

One of the reasons WHY so many people use 3rd party materials is that their employers pay for those. Of course not all people have thier employers picking the expense, but it’s a meaningful chunk.