Kaplan Schweser CFA is the most established brand in the CFA prep course market. Candidates either use CFAI text book alone, or CFAI plus Schweser. Nothing else… until recently when real competition finally comes in.
Are Schweser really that good? Should you stick with the biggest name or is there better product in the market?
There are several packages with different pricing levels:
|1. SchweserNotes||The 5-volume Schweser notes are well known to be clear and concise, with practice questions at the end of each topic.|
|2. QuickSheet||A flashcard equivalent summarizing key formulas, definitions and concepts.|
|3. Practice Exams||There are 6 full-length practice exams together with online tracking to compare one’s scores to other candidates.|
|4. Study Calendar||A detailed (but static) study planner.|
|5. QBank||A test bank with thousands of multiple-choice questions with answer explanations. You can access QBank online or offline.|
The following are available to Premium and PremiumPlus customers only:
|1. Candidate Resource Library||Videos for your reference and learning of core concepts.|
|2. Ask Your Instructor||Questions are answered within 24 hours.|
|3. Online/live Weekly Classes||For live classes, there is an additional cost of $300-500.|
|4. Schweser’s Secret Sauce® (PremiumPlus only)||The final review, equivalent to the 11th Hour Guide from Wiley / Elan.|
Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of this review course:
1. Leader in the CFA Prep Market
After going through a series of acquisition (Kaplan, Schweser and Stalla), Schweser has pretty much consolidated all major players in the market, and became the de facto monopoly.
There are promising smaller players popping up in recently years (notably Elan, now Wiley), but the brand name is so strong that many candidates don’t find the need to check out other providers.
2. Precise Notes and Videos
The notes are written for busy candidates looking for efficiency. The notes are a lot more precise than the CFAI text book. If you are familiar with a certain topic, but need a nice summary of what is covered in the CFAI book, these notes are very helpful. Many candidates appreciate the brevity of the Schweser notes which makes studying more manageable.
The videos cover the important areas. They don’t mean to teach you concepts from scratch, but rather more of a recap for once you have finished a reading. Some people find it useful while others don’t. It depends on one’s learning style.
3. More Mock Exams
I am not 100% sure, but based on the information on the internet, Schweser has the most number of mock exams — 6 for each of Level 1, 2 and 3.
1. Some find the Product Slightly Inadequate
The flip side of being precise is inadequacy. For some readers, Schweser tends to gloss over vital details. This is especially so in the toughest readings, leaving out certain important points which are otherwise well covered in the curriculum.
The difference is more apparent in the video instruction. Elans videos are massively more in-depth than Schweser (it could be good or bad depending on your needs).
Similarly, for those who have tried both Schweser and Wiley / Elan, most seem to agree that the Wiley questions are closer to how the CFAI presents questions (close to those provided by CFAI text books).
In terms of final review, Schweser’s Secret Sauce is also considered less detailed than Wiley’s 11th Hour Guide.
2. Not-So-Engaging Lectures
Andy Holmes is great, but other instructors aren’t terribly impressive. Don’t get me wrong — they perform well in terms of delivering the concepts, and if you accept that CFA prep is destined to be a boring project, and that it’s fine for instructors to read from the script without adding their 2 cents of anything, there is nothing to complain about.
But the fact is that there are other video instructions that are a lot more engaging, lively and meaningful.
3. More Expensive
It is not surprising that Schweser demands the highest price given its dominant position in the market.
4. No Pass Guarantee, No Free Trial, No Extended Access
Schweser offers 50% discount to the Premium Packages if you need to retake the CFA exam.
This is almost pathetic given what the competitors are offering.
Both Wiley and Fitch offer free trial, which I think it is great (and necessary) feature. As a customer, I want to see how things work before shoving >$1,000 for one product. The free trial also proves that the provider is confident in their products.
The Schweser CFA prep guide is a solid offer with full set of notes, videos and qbanks. It does a great job summarizing concepts and notes for those who find the CFAI text book overwhelming.
However, the fact that Schweser doesn’t offer any “try before you buy” bothers me, and to me it isn’t fair to customers, given how easy it is to set up a 1-day free trial online. Because of this, my general recommendation goes to Wiley which offers everything as good, together with all the guarantees.
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