Which CFA Question Bank Is Better? CFA Institute vs Prep Providers

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There are 3 main sources of CFA exam practice questions:

  1. 10-30 end-of-chapter (EOC) questions found at the end of each reading in the CFA Institute curriculum books,
  2. 1-3 sets of CFA mock papers from CFA Institute’s Learning ecosystem, or
  3. CFA question banks from third party providers like Kaplan Schweser, IFTUWorld, Wiley, Bloomberg and Salt Solutions.

​Which source of practice questions deserves most of your time?

Here’s our advice on which sources to focus on when you’re drilling the practice questions, by CFA Level.


CFA Level 1 practice: Go heavy on CFA question banks from prep providers

cfa question bank

I only cracked the CFA Institute books once in CFA Level 1, and then quickly put them away for good. 

From that moment forward, I relied exclusively on third party providers to study for Level 1, without a finance background. I passed in the top percentile in every topic, so I believe that this strategy worked well.

The CFA curriculum books’ end-of-chapter (EOC) questions weren’t poorly written or useless. It’s just that there weren’t enough questions.  

CFA Level 1 is all about practice and repetition. I drilled practice questions before work, during lunch, after work, on weekends, all the time. The end-of-chapter problems were simply too few and far between. I needed more. Literally thousands more.

So, I turned to third party prep providers instead. They really hit the mark with quality questions that taught me to avoid traps that I eventually saw on the real exam. Using these question banks, I became quite good at spotting trick answers that I could foresee them before I even finished reading a question. You can, too, with enough practice.

I really wouldn’t stress too much about which CFA prep provider to choose either, there’s quite a variety to choose from currently that are all good quality.

I would, however, look for a provider that offers at least 1,000 practice questions in CFA Level 1. Again, practice, practice, practice.


CFA Level 2 practice: Use a mix of CFA Institute and prep provider’s question bank

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CFA Level 2 is a different ballgame due to the vignette question structure.

Basically, the Level 2 exam presents a short “story” that might be a page or two in length, followed by 4-6 questions about the material you just read. To get accustomed to this new structure, I suggest using a mix of end-of-chapter questions and third party providers.

I wish I could go back and give myself this advice. Instead, I repeated the same strategy at Level 2 that worked so well for me in CFA Level 1. I did not open a CFA Institute book in CFA Level 2. Big mistake. I still passed on my first try, but not by much. And it was a constant struggle.

Looking back, I would have mixed the end-of-chapter questions with my study providers’ questions to ensure complete coverage and comfort with the vignette test structure.


CFA Level 3 practice: Prioritize CFA Curriculum Books’ Questions

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Well, I learned from my mistakes and used the curriculum books extensively in CFA Level 3. This prepared me well for both the essay and multiple-choice questions.

In Level 3, the same rules apply as previous Levels. Namely, we must practice, practice, practice.

For the essay questions, the curriculum books tend to have far-ranging, challenging essay questions that will test your will, stamina, and knowledge – exactly what you want a practice question to do. 

As a complement, study providers help you to learn the new tricks that might have shown up on recent CFA Level 3 exams (remember, the online question banks are fresher).

Meanwhile, don’t forget about the other half of the CFA Level 3 exam: multiple choice questions. Your third party provider is a great source for this. I managed to pass this exam on my first try, too, but those multiple choice questions gave me a run for my money. They were actually more difficult than the essays.


Practicing is the key to beating CFA exam’s passing score. Whatever tools and sources you use, practice as much as you can. What is your current CFA practice question strategy? Share that with us via a comment below!

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5 thoughts on “Which CFA Question Bank Is Better? CFA Institute vs Prep Providers”

  1. I’m sitting for level 1 in June and was advised to read your book Direct Path to the CFA Charter, which I found lots of value in, and I have a quick question for you. You suggest reviewing the Ethics book 4 times before the exam, but in the sample schedule it shows ups twice, plus the final weeks review that include Ethics. Would you suggest reading the Ethics that fourth time in segments throughout the entire study process, or should I try to fit in another review all at one time somewhere else on the schedule?

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  2. I would add that CFA Institute provides a question bank of approximately 2000 questions at Level I, 120 item sets at Level II and 85 item sets at Level III. These questions are good because they are written in the same style as the exam questions. Also, I would mention that it’s a good idea to take the mock exams offered by CFA Institute for all levels. Next, CFA posts the last three years essay question and answers for Level III candidates which is an excellent prep tool. Finally, half the Level III exam are item sets (like Level II) which is slightly different from multiple choice. I would advise Level III’s to practice with the 85 item sets provided in CFA’s Qbank as part of their registration fee.

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  3. CFA Institute has a great free question bank (QBank). You can find it in the candidate resources. For Level 3, it has around 400 multiple choice questions (grouped by study session) and seem more difficult than the end of chapter questions. I assume that each level has a QBank. I used the QBank for my L2 preparation, but for this session (june 2019) CFAI introduced nice stimulents for learning: virtual badges. I don’t know if they existed before.

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