I Pass the CFA Exam | Pass the CFA Exam & Other Finance Exams

CAIA Calculator: Review and Recommendations


Candidates need bring their own CAIA calculator in the testing center, but only two brands are allowed. Now, which brand is better? Let’s look at their pros and cons.

CAIA Calculator #1: Texas Instruments BA II Plus

For the purpose of the CAIA exam, both “Texas Instruments BA II Plus” and “Texas Instruments BA II Plus Professional” versions are allowed.

This is a relatively inexpensive financial calculator that performs all basic financial calculations e.g. IRR and NPV — good enough for any financial courses and the CAIA exam. However, if you are looking for advanced calculations, check out HP 12C below.


  • User-friendly: users have been generally pleased with the display and the design of the calculator.
  • Relatively easy to learn the basic functions.


  • Often requires more keystrokes to accomplish the same tasks, e.g. in NPV calculations
  • Keyboard is not as sensitive when compared to HP 12C
  • Feels a bit flimsy
  • Because it is lightweight and does not come with those “rubber feet,” the calculator tends to wobble when you try to push the button with one hand. If you don’t mind holding the calculator with your other hand, it is not an issue.

CAIA Calculator: TI BA II Professional The Professional Version

When compared to the basic model, the professional version has a more solid case. The keypad is less flimsy, but there are still some complaints of the keys being too hard to press or too slow to register. Overall, it is superior to the basic function as long as you don’t mind to pay more.

Note: the professional version is NOT allowed in the CMA exam in case you are thinking about this certification.

CAIA Calculator #2: Hewlett Packard 12C

This is the classic financial calculator that has been around for 30 years, with lots of fans in the finance and banking community. Both the standard and platinum versions are allowed in the CAIA exam.


  • Superior financial functioning capabilities.
  • Fewer keystrokes to accomplish the same task.
  • Sturdy case with “industrial strength” keypads.
  • Pocket size measuring at 5 x 3 inches.


  • It still uses Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) — expect to learn another “language” in order to use this calculator.
  • More expensive than the Texas Instrument calculators.

The Platinum Edition

  • Faster, enhanced version, e.g. 6 times faster speeds for calculating TVM, loan payments, interest rates, standard deviation.

Our Suggestions

1. These brands are also good for CFA exam

If you are also taking the CFA exam, you may want to know that the same brands are allowed. Check out the CFA calculator policy for details.

2. Don’t buy second-hand

It make sense to save a few dollars, but when it comes to calculators (and electronic device), it often gives you a lot of trouble getting second-hand products. The calculator may not function properly and you don’t have the warranty to get it fixed. Even if it works fine, it is often low in battery and it is such a hassle to change the battery.

The TI BA II plus costs $28, pretty much a drop in the bucket when compared to your entire CAIA project. I would definitely recommend getting a new one.

3. Don’t forget to bring it on the exam day

You’ll likely need to get your financial calculator for your study anyway, but do note that these (or any) calculators are not available for purchase at the exam site. Also, make sure it won’t run out of battery on the day!

4. Keep things simple

Please note that instruction manuals are not permitted at the exam site. Although you are allowed to bring spare batteries and even a small screwdriver for the replacement, I would highly recommend that you have this done before the exam. Keep your desk clean and tidy and keep the proctor happy.

Check Out These CAIA Calculators at Amazon: Up to 36% Off!

TI BA II Plus TI BA II Plus Professional
HP 12C HP 12C Platinum