As of right now, there are more than 1 billion mobile devices being used in the world. One. Billion. If you lined them up lengthwise, you’d circle the globe. Three times.
So with this much mobile usage, is it possible to harness this platform for your CFA prep?
That’s where BenchPrep comes in, and we’ve convinced them to offer ALL their products to 300 Hours’ readers for $35 in an exclusive deal. No, seriously.
For their CFA offering, they’ve partnered with Finsage Review, an approved exams provider by the CFA Institute. Finsage was founded and managed by Ray Sant, a PhD in Finance and a CFA charterholder. Besides a long and active career in teaching, Ray was also SVP in Kaplan Schweser.
BenchPrep & Finsage offer 2 CFA products for Level I: the CFA Level I Prep Course, and the CFA Level I Practice Exams. In this post we will review the Prep Course.
Review In A Nutshell – The Prep Course is Pretty Awesome Value-for-Money.
At $35, instead of the regular $200, this prep course great value, and we’d recommend it as supplementary material for your prep (click here for the $35 offer). The full list of what you get:
- Reading & review material
- 1,146 questions in total
- 7 mini-tests
- 10 quiz categories (or topics, that you can compare relative performance here)
The quality of the content is good, and the ability to study across all platforms (online, iOS, Android) is great. The only drawback is that it is based on 2011 content, but as long as you’re not using this as your main method of study, you should be fine.
Sync Across Online, Android & iOS.
- be more of a novelty rather than a legitimate method of study, and
- with chat programs and Facebook, there’s just too many distractions readily available
However, after reviewing BenchPrep, I’m beginning to see how this platform can add to study efficiency and effectiveness, rather than just being a novelty. BenchPrep has really built a nice experience that minimizes distraction, and included features that help studying rather than simply for novelty.
You can access the material through a wide variety of methods: online, Android and iOS (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad). In our review testing period, we tested all platforms and found the experience similar. I personally found the online experience most cumbersome – by the time I’ve set up my laptop, I might as well sit down with my study notes.
But Android and iOS were a different matter. Reading the review notes and taking tests on the iPad was great. Taking a quick quiz or test on my Android phone was also awesome – as the Android and iOS versions also work offline, you can use it pretty much anywhere.
Synced across all devices. When connected to the Internet, all platforms will sync with each other. Your tests and quiz progress, bookmarks, notes and everything else will be updated across all your devices. Ace!
Bring all your notes everywhere. Having BenchPrep on my iPad also solved another problem, which was a massive issue for me when I was a candidate. When studying in the library or cafes, bringing all my study notes (6 books!) was a pain. But sometimes I would really want to look up a particular concept that I wasn’t sure about, especially when taking practice exams. As BenchPrep has the complete set of explanations for the entire syllabus, this would have solved it nicely.
Content Is Complete, But From 2011.
Being a digital platform, BenchPrep has also included some features that adds quite nicely to the learning experience.
Scratch Paper function. When digesting particular concepts, or thinking in a test, the Scratch Paper function was a really useful feature to have. By tapping on the ‘squiggle’, you can record handwritten notes which serve as a quick alternative to pencil and paper. Slightly gimmicky, but I found it useful in some of the notes and test questions.
Notes and Bookmarks. The ability to annotate and bookmark is found throughout, which is quite useful.
The biggest drawback of this, however, is that the content is 2011 content.
What. The. Hell. BenchPrep.
Although providers should update their material every year (are you listening, BenchPrep, Finsage?), it’s actually not that big a deal for most candidates. Looking through the actual topic changes, the lack of 2012 content isn’t that much of an issue in most topics, save for Economics (full list here). But it would have been great to get the full, updated content on a platform as impressive as this, as almost all other aspects of the BenchPrep offering was great.
Quizzes and Tests Are Great for Additional Practice.
Being able to zero in on your weak spots is one of the cornerstones of prepping efficiently so we suggest that you utilize this reporting a lot!
The test experience is very similar to the quizzes with one exception – at the end of each test you’re presented with a report showing your time taken for each question, score reports and topical reports. Again, useful for honing in on specific weak areas.
All other features mentioned such as Confidence Level, Scratch Paper and so on are also available for the quizzes and tests, although some are only available in review mode.
There are some niggling drawbacks in the tests and quizzes feature though.
You can’t skip questions. Some annoying features are missing, however. When taking some of the tests, we quickly realized that you can’t skip questions. You have to submit an answer to view the next question, and there’s no going back to change your answer either.
This in itself doesn’t necessarily makes your prep any less effective, but it’s an unnecessary constraint and frankly makes little sense.
Can’t retake tests (although can review as much as you like). Once tests are graded, you can’t retake them either. BenchPrep’s official explanation is that it messes with the sync and also messes up your progress reporting, which I can appreciate somewhat, but come on, guys, can’t you just make the retake not count or something?
You can, however, review your test as much as you like and view the detailed answers. It’s just annoying not to be able to retest like the first time.
Over last week we took turns in taking tests and assessing the practice questions – we found the difficulty to be moderate. Some questions were fairly convoluted and tricky, which is a sample of what you might encounter in the exam. These were especially noted in word-based questions.
I did encounter some fairly easy calculation questions though. There were some compounding interest questions where the answer was obvious – the distractors (i.e. wrong answers) were very unlikely candidates. I found that I could answer them without calculation. But I suppose it’s fair to mix in easy with hard.
Overall – What We Like
- Availability and sync across laptop, Android and iOS
- Quality of material is good, all definitions covered
- Test score analytics available instantly
- Experience on tablets and phones is very smooth and ungimmicky
- Confidence settings feature makes review more efficient
- Bookmarks, notes and scrap paper functions also add to the experience
- Ability to revise and test anywhere in bite-sized chunks
- Value for money, and lifetime access!
Overall – What We Don’t Like
- No search capabilities
- Can’t skip test questions or reset tests
- 2011 content
Conclusion: Fantastic as Supplementary Material.
Despite the 2011 content, overall we really liked BenchPrep’s Prep Course. BenchPrep has really put together a slick platform and the digital format doesn’t come across as gimmicky, but puts the study material first. It’s easy to slip into the content of the prep material, and that’s key to actually being productive, rather than constantly thinking ‘ooh, look, I’m studying on an iPad’.
As a supplementary aid it’s fantastic. The experience readily converted some of us to see the advantages these new platforms can offer candidates. We probably wouldn’t recommend it as your sole source of learning for CFA Level I, though.
And at $35 for Lifetime Access, it’s a friggin steal. The standard price for the BenchPrep course and Practice Exams is $199.99. However, in the past week we’ve been in discussion with BenchPrep and they’ve agreed to put forth a 80%+ discount to $35 for 300 Hours readers.
And this is for Lifetime Access – this means you own the product and all future updates, no questions asked. BenchPrep is actually shifting to a subscription model soon (which from what we’ve seen looks a lot pricier). We’re not sure how long this $35 Lifetime Access offer will last, so if you’re interested you should look at purchasing pretty quick!
Click below to access the offer (search and select ‘Finsage CFA Level I Prep Course’).