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

There are only two CFA approved calculators you are allowed to use during your exam: the Texas Instruments BA II Plus and Hewlett Packard 12C. While these two calculators serve the same purpose, they are designed differently, and each has its own set of pros and cons. When it comes to the HP 12C vs. BA II plus, which financial calculator is best for the CFA?

CFA Calculator Comparison

1. Texas Instruments BA II Plus

There are two specific models of this calculator that are approved for the CFA — the Texas Instruments BA II Plus and Texas Instruments BA II Plus Professional. What is the difference between the BA II plus and the professional version?

Let’s start with the basic version. For most candidates, this is a relatively inexpensive financial calculator that can perform popular financial calculations such as IRR and NPV. This is good enough for any financial course and a great option as a recommended calculator for CFA level 1.

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

CFA Calculator Texas Instruments BA II PlusPros

  • User-friendly: Most people are 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., 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 VersionCFA Calculator Texas Instruments BA II Plus Professional Financial Calculator (IIBAPRO/TBL/1L1) : Texas Instruments BA II Plus Professional Financial Calculator

When deciding between the Texas Instruments BA II Plus vs. Professional 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 design is superior to the basic version as long as you don’t mind paying more.

2. Hewlett Packard 12C

CFA Calculator HP 12C Hewlett Packard 12C

The Hewlett Packard 12C (otherwise known as the HP 12C) is the classic financial calculator that has been around for 30 years. This calculator has lots of fans in the finance and banking community. The following Hewlett Packard calculator 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


  • This calculator was designed using Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) — expect to learn another “language” in order to use this calculator.
  • More expensive than the Texas Instruments calculators.

HP 12C versus HP 12C Platinum Edition

  • The HP12C Platinum Edition is a faster, enhanced version (e.g., 6 times faster speeds for calculating TVM, loan payments, interest rates, and standard deviation).

My Recommended CFA Calculator: Texas Instrument BA II Plus

In the past, my preferred calculator was the HP 12C because everyone in the office carried it. Unfortunately, it is not the most intuitive of devices, and more time is spent studying the instruction manual and practicing RPN rather than actually studying the content itself.

If you haven’t gotten 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.

While the TI BA II plus may require more keystrokes to perform calculations like the NPV, the extra 0.5 seconds longer it takes to complete the computation will not make any difference in your exam.

Other Approved CFA Calculators

Texas Instruments BA II Plus Professional Financial Calculator

HP 12C (Classic)

HP 12C Professional

Questions from Readers about CFA Calculators

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 this. Here is their exact wording on unapproved calculators:

“Your calculator will be inspected prior to the start of the exam. Your calculator must remain on your desk in full view and proctors will continue to inspect calculators throughout the administration of the exam. Failure by the proctors to detect an unauthorized calculator prior to the start of the exam, or your possession and/or use of an unauthorized calculator at any time during the exam, does not imply you are in compliance with the calculator policy.”

CFA Calculator Guide

1. Don’t Buy Second-Hand CFA Calculators

It may make sense to buy a used calculator to save a few dollars, but in this instance, the calculator may not function properly, and you won’t have a warranty to get it fixed. Even if it works fine, you can’t be certain that the battery will be operational, and this could end up costing you even more.

The TI BA II plus costs around $30, which is 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 Your Calculator on 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. My Final CFA Calculator Tips

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

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