I Pass the CFA Exam | Finance Certification and Resume Guide

Best CFA Calculator: Texas Instruments BA II Plus vs Hewlett Packard 12C

Product by:
Texas Instrument

Reviewed by:
On August 7, 2018
Last modified:August 8, 2018


TI BA II Plus is Amazon's #1 selling financial calculator:

Texas Instruments BA II Plus and Hewlett Packard 12C are the two CFA approved calculators. Which one is better for the exam?

CFA Calculator Comparison

1. Texas Instruments BA II Plus

Both Texas Instruments BA II Plus and Texas Instruments BA II Plus Professional versions are CFA approved calculators.

You can see this as a relatively inexpensive financial calculator that performs all basic financial calculations e.g. IRR and NPV. This is good enough for any financial courses and CFA exam.

best cfa calculatorPros

  • User-friendly: users have been generally pleased with the display and the design of this CFA calculator
  • Relatively easy to learn the basic functions
  • The Kaplan class examples use this particular model which makes it easy to follow along


  • 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

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, the feel is slightly better to the basic version as long as you don’t mind to pay more.

2. Hewlett Packard 12C

calculator for cfa exam : HP 12C reviewThis is the classic financial calculator that has been around for 30 years, with lots of fans in the finance and banking community. The following models are allowed in the CFA exam:

  • HP 12C Platinum
  • 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition
  • 12C 30th anniversary edition
  • HP 12C Prestige


  • 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.

My Recommended CFA Calculator: Texas Instrument BA II Plus

I used to have a HP 12C because everyone in the office carried it. Supposedly the symbol of finance guru back then… The calculator was not intuitive at all. I remember spending (wasting) time studying the instruction manual, and then more time practicing the Reverse Polish Notation.

If you haven’t got one yet, the TI BA II plus is really the best calculator for the CFA exam. It is much easier to use and more affordable.

TI BA II plus may require more keystrokes to calculate the NPV and as a result it takes 0.5 seconds longer to complete the computation. It will not make any difference in your exam.

Other Approved CFA Calculators

TI BA Plus Professional

HP 12C (Classic)

HP 12C Professional

Questions from Readers

1. Is there a specific CFA Level 1 calculator?

No, there isn’t one specifically for Level 1. You can use the same one for all three levels of this exam.

2. Can I bring a financial calculator other than TI BA plus or HP 12C?

No, and the CFA Institute is very strict about it. Here is their exact wording on unapproved calculators:

Possession or use of an unauthorized calculator at the test center will result in the voiding of your exam results and may lead to the suspension or termination of your candidacy in the CFA Program. Failure by the proctors to detect an unauthorized calculator prior to the start of the exam, or your use of an unauthorized calculator at any time during the exam, does not imply that the calculator is an approved model or that your scores will ultimately be reported.”

CFA Calculator Purchase Guide

1. Don’t buy second-hand

It make sense to save a few dollars, but when it comes to financial 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 around $30, pretty much a drop in the bucket when compared to your entire CFA investment. I would definitely recommend getting a new one.

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

Calculators are not available for purchase at the CFA testing centers. You must get one before the exam date AND remember to bring it along.

3. Keep things simple

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

For the really paranoid, we suggest that you bring two calculators instead (that’s right, quite a few candidates do that 😉 )

Get these CFA Calculator Discounts before It’s Too Late!

Recommended CFA Approved Calculator: TI BA Plus

TI BA Plus Professional

HP 12C (Classic)

HP 12C Professional

  • Meenakshi says:

    Thank you

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