Several weeks ago we mentioned Fitch Learning had launched Cognition, their all-in-one CFA online suite of materials. Combining what technology today has to offer in online learning, we thought Cognition was a pretty solid product from what we could see.
Fitch Learning also kindly gave us an all-access account for us to have a proper look through Cognition. Here is our walk through and what we think of Cognition, and whether it should be your choice to help you pass your CFA exams.
The schedule isn’t overly detailed – for example, it doesn’t register a day-by-day schedule, but rather gives you topic-by-topic deadlines to work towards to. Although some candidates may prefer a detailed schedule, we think Cognition’s approach is the right one – giving just enough detail to organise the candidate’s schedule, but also allowing enough flexibility for the candidate to arrange their own weekly arrangement.
As we went through the syllabus, we did find ourselves wishing for a few more features. Although you can reconfigure start dates, we would love it if the schedule updates itself depending on what candidates have or haven’t studied. The good thing is that Fitch Learning is being proactive and constantly adding features – they are aware that this is a desired feature and this may be added in the future.
After every short lecture or so, you then get a few questions to really reinforce the taught material in your mind. This allows you to mentally take a break from absorbing information and take a few practice stabs at using it. I found that Cognition’s ‘question breaks’ format made learning a lot more effective than, for example, simply ploughing through video lectures one after another.
I found it a lot more helpful if I had the slides to hand, where I could take notes as I listened to the lectures. Fitch offers a choice between annotated or unannotated slides, but I found the unannotated ones better as I could make my own notes as I went along.
The audio in some of the lectures does leave something to be desired – something that should improve with time. For international candidates (and deaf-ish people like me), Fitch Learning has also developed subtitles for every video lecture – something I personally really like.
Every 2-3 lectures (i.e. perhaps every hour or so worth of lectures) there are sections called Knowledge Checks that candidates have to go through.
The Knowledge Check format is excellent for training your CFA knowledge. Each Knowledge Check is a quiz which has about 20 ‘steps’, with each question weighted on difficulty and generated according to your determined level. For every question you answer correctly, you advance a step. But for every question you answer incorrectly, you go backwards a step. You complete the Knowledge Check by answering enough questions correctly and reaching the goal. However, answer five questions incorrectly and you get presented with a tailor-made review based on your diagnosed problem areas. Win win!
In addition to the Knowledge Checks, there is also a Study Session Test at the end of each Study Session. Comprising of 20 questions, these are a closer simulation of exam questions in terms of style and level, to help you see where you stand in real-life performance.
4,500+ Questions included in Cognition
The in-lecture questions, Knowledge Checks and Study Session Tests are powered by a question bank with 4,500+ questions. These don’t include the practice exams you get later on, so it’s lots and lots of practice!
On top of the 4,500+ questions, Cognition also includes three full practice exams, plus a timed mock. The revision and practice exams section however will only be unlocked when the study material is worked through, or when it’s getting close to the actual CFA exam. This is to ensure candidates properly go through the study material – Fitch Learning’s stand is that in their experience, you’ll need a good grasp of the syllabus first to make the most of your practice exams.
The revision and practice exams section are unlocked during the review phase. This is to ensure candidates properly go through the study material – Fitch Learning’s stance is that in their experience, you’ll need a good grasp of the syllabus first to make the most of your practice exams. Otherwise, there is the risk of falling into the classic pitfall of just learning the answers to questions, without the understanding.
It’s not an essential feature, but I personally really like their Review tab. At any time, you can see a birds-eye-view of what you’ve studied so far, and what you have left to go. Here’s our Review section after completing a few readings:
Here are some of Cognition’s features we particularly like:
- Personalised, targeted learning: When you’re studying, everything is at hand, and tailored to your level. Failed a Knowledge Check? You get a review course immediately, based on your performance.
- Subtitles for lectures: Need to watch a video lecture in silence, or really capture every word? Subtitles are here to the rescue.
- Log in from any laptop: As Cognition is entirely web-based, there’s nothing to install. You can log in from any computer and pick up where you left off.
- Everything included in one package: In Cognition, you get everything you need to pass the CFA exams. There’s no need to think about or figure out anything else – everything is included.
- Need support? Just ‘Ask’: Need additional guidance? Just like in a classroom, you can ask an instructor. Just use the Ask feature in Cognition to reach out to a Fitch lecturer. I found it actually easier to ask questions this way – there’s no fear that you’re asking ‘stupid’ questions and the rest of the class is silently judging you.
- Over-the-air updates: Fitch Learning is not stopping here – they’re continuing to develop Cognition and pushing new features live. If you have Cognition, you’ll continue to receive these new additions as they become available.
Pricing, Free Trials & Discounts
Cognition arguably reproduces most of a full CFA classroom experience. Although there are cheaper self-study options out there, Cognition is overall a great way of getting proper guidance for your CFA exams, without having to attend classes.
There are tons of tiny features being added to Cognition all the time. Here are some big features expected to land on Cognition soon:
- Live class webinars: run through topic areas live with an instructor, plus access to all past recordings (launching in Jan17)
- Email-a-day reminders: get a daily summary of your study agenda sent to your inbox (launching in Jan17)
- Companion mobile app: watch video lectures on the go, and have your progress automatically synced (launching in Dec16)
- Level II and Level III: Cognition is currently Level I only, but Levels II and III will be launched in time for the June 2018 and June 2019 CFA exams respectively
I’m a technophobe at heart – dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century world of selfies, emojis, and… online learning.
And although I’ve always been a pen-and-paper person, I really can see the benefits of Fitch Learning Cognition’s online offering. After experiencing Cognition, I can see that my studies could have been a lot faster and easier. The slides are all available in the Library section, so you can print them out to be scribbled on as you progress through the lectures. And with everything stored online, there’s no more lugging around heavy books, or rushing to meet class schedules.
With a laptop, you can properly study for your CFA exams on the go with Cognition. And that’s pretty cool.