Kaplan Schweser Exam Sim: An Exam-Day CBT Experience for CFA Mock Exams

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By Zee Tan

As you likely know, the CFA exams will be moving to a computer-based testing (CBT) format for all levels in 2021.

How would the CBT exam experience be like? To help candidates prepare for that, Kaplan Schweser has launched an Exam Sim mode for their mock exams that simulates the actual experience that you’ll get when you’re taking the CFA exam.

We tested it out to see how it works – read on to find out more!

Exam Sim Will Launch for All CFA Levels and Exam Windows, Available for Feb21 Now

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Kaplan Schweser’s Exam Sim feature is available right now for the Feb21 Level 1 CFA exam. All other levels and windows will have this functionality available for the next exam. If you haven’t gotten mock exams from Kaplan Schweser you can find them here.

Exam Sim mode, upon loading, shows pretty much the exact same interface as what Prometric (CFA Institute’s CBT exam provider) shows on their demo interface for the CFA exams.

There’s a menu on the left showing all the questions you have in your exam, with navigational buttons on the lower right. The exam timer is right on top, and the question and answer choices dominate most of the screen real estate.

​Here is a side-by-side comparison of Exam Sim mode with Prometric:

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Pretty much like-for-like visually. But what about functionality?

Most CFA exam functionalities are also replicated in Exam Sim mode

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The next thing we did was to test functionality – does Exam Sim mode behave the same way as the real thing?

Time limits

The Exam Sim is timed using the same time limits and built-in breaks that you’ll see during the real CFA exam.  However, Kaplan’s interface does not force you to complete the exam within these time constraints, but rather serve as guidelines for you to simulate exam day conditions without actually being constrained by them if you don’t want to.

For example, once the timer hits zero on Exam Sim mode, you can still continue completing the mock exam. This is handy since at the start of practice you might need more time to finish your exam than the allocated time! 

Answering functionalities

Candidates can flag, skip, and filter questions the exact same way Prometric does on CFA exam day. All questions must be answered in order to complete the mock exam.

Results will be shown on your learning dashboard upon completion, and you’ll be able to use the Mock Exam Tutorial to view answers and explanations. 

Are there any key differences?

There are two differences between Exam Sim mode and the actual CFA exam interface. The actual Prometric interface has two extra functionalities:

  1. A Preferences tab, which allows you to select a different colour scheme to the default white, green and grey, and lower screen contrast. These features are likely to do with accessibility, but when we went through all the colour schemes we didn’t think any were better than the default one.
  2. Prometric’s interface has the ability to highlight text, which was not (yet) built into Exam Sim.

Apart from that, the interface is like-for-like, so practically speaking, the Exam Sim mode is an excellent replica of what you’d expect to see on CFA exam day.

Kaplan Schweser have also stated that the two functionalities will be added in future iterations.

How do I access Exam Sim mode for my CFA exam prep?

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If you have an online mock exam from Kaplan Schweser for the Feb21 Level 1 CFA exam, you can activate Exam Sim right now.

​As mentioned, all 2021 CFA levels and exam windows will get this feature for their mock exams as well – you can get them directly from Kaplan Schweser here.

How to Access Kaplan Schweser’s CFA Exam Sim feature:

  1. Log in to Kaplan Schweser’s Learning Management System
  2. Select your CFA exam
  3. Click the ‘Study Tools’ icon in the top right of the navigational bar
  4. Under the ‘Exam Practice’ heading, select ‘Online Mock Exams’
  5. Select the mock exam you’d like to launch
  6. Select ‘Launch’ and Select ‘Exam Sim’ 


So with Exam Sim, there are now three modes to Kaplan Schweser’s mock exams:

  • Online: This is the traditional Online Mock Exam using the Kaplan interface.
  • Exam Sim: The newest mode that replicates CFA Institute’s Prometric interface used on CFA exam day
  • Print: Allows you to print the questions and answer them on paper

Our thoughts on Kaplan Schweser’s Exam Sim mode for the CFA exams

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With the changes and chaos going on because of the pandemic, it’s really good to see that providers are rising to the challenge and innovating their study packages and platforms to adapt.

Anything bringing candidates closer to the actual CFA exam experience is always a good thing. Kaplan Schweser’s Exam Sim feature is a swift and slick reaction to the CBT CFA exam format, especially considering we’ve only recently learned how the actual CFA exam interface would look like.

Kaplan Schweser have also said that they’ve got “more improvements in the pipeline”, so we’re looking forward to seeing what those are!

CBT-specific CFA exam advice from Kaplan Schweser’s instructors

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We also took the opportunity to ask Kaplan Schweser’s instructors for some tips on how computer-based testing will affect prepping approaches. If you have any additional questions just let us know in the comments, and we’ll get them answered.

Should there be any differences in CFA study & preparation under the new CBT format?

The general approach to studying for the exam should be the same whether taking a paper-based exam or computer-based exam.

Candidates still must learn and practice all topics within the CFA curriculum and incorporate a proper review program in the month prior to the exam.

A well thought out study program and a disciplined approach to completing the program are essential. Being able to apply the curriculum to the exam questions is the deciding factor in exam success, not whether the questions are delivered on paper or on a computer.

Are there any ‘problem areas’ with CBT that CFA candidates should be aware of?

CBT has been around for quite a while and we’ve worked with test providers on many exams. We’re confident in their ability to deliver a secure exam experience.

One caution would be to familiarize yourself with the exam day procedures at the center. The more you understand about the check-in procedure, what you are allowed to bring, etc., the less stress you will have on exam day.

​The other bit of advice relates to technical problems with the equipment. We don’t anticipate this to be an issue, but if it happens, follow the procedures to get the proctor’s attention right away and stay calm. Once the issue is resolved, focus on moving forward with the exam.

Should I still be practicing mock exams on paper, or should I try and focus exclusively on computer-based practice?

Candidates need to practice a lot of questions to properly prepare for the exam. Most candidates underestimate just how much practice they really need. Not all practice needs to be on the computer.

That said, we recommend candidates do a significant amount of practice under exam-like conditions. That means taking exams on the computer, using a realistic simulation, staying within the actual test time for each session, and completing an entire exam in one sitting.

Practicing in this way will remove some of the unknowns on exam day and allow candidates to better focus on the questions themselves rather than the exam environment.

Will there be more upcoming changes to Kaplan Schweser’s prep materials in light of the CFA exams’ full shift to CBT?

We are always working on improvements to our study experience and have already launched several changes for the Level 1 2021 season, including our video explanations for our Qbank questions, our OnDemand Class, our OnDemand Review, and additional functionality in our online platform.

Level 2 and Level 3 will have similar product rollouts over the course of 2021.

We have more improvements in the pipeline based on feedback from our customers and will have more to say on those launches in the future.


Kaplan Schweser’s Exam Sim mode is available now for all February L1 online mock exam purchasers on their Learning Management System. If you’ve already purchased the online mock exam for another window, this feature will automatically apply.

You can check out Kaplan Schweser’s full CFA product range here.

If you’ve got any questions for us (or Kaplan Schweser), let us know in the comments below!

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11 thoughts on “Kaplan Schweser Exam Sim: An Exam-Day CBT Experience for CFA Mock Exams”

  1. I purchased the book kaplan mock exams vol 1 and 2 in feb 2020 and have access to the online version of these in the ‘online practice exam’ section of the Schweser Q bank. But it seems this is different from the Sim mock exam? Do I have to pay extra for this? If so, do you know if the questions are actually different and it’s not just the format?

    Reply
    • Hi Lydia – the Kaplan Schweser Exam Sim mock exams are purchased separately – currently for $109 each. There are two mocks available for every CFA exam window. It’s a different mock exam from the mock exams in Vol 1, Vol 2 and Qbank.

      Reply
      • Hi Lydia, just to follow up from Zee as I’ve heard back from Kaplan Schweser on this. They said:

        “It sounds like you have our 2020 version of practice exams. This is different from our mock exam with the exam sim feature as it is only included in our 2021 mock exam products. Because the curriculum did not change between 2020 and 2021, the questions are relatively the same but the 2020 version does not have the 2021 format.

        I would recommend contacting our customer support team to see what upgrade options are available and answer any specific product questions.”

        Reply
  2. Hello Zee I wrote to Kaplan and i phoned but it’s impossible to have an answer.
    Finquiz and mark meldrum have provide the cbt exam for those that purchased the 2020 mock exam for free.

    Reply
    • Hi Claudia, unfortunately as per my answer to Joseph earlier below, Kaplan Schweser is only providing the CBT exam free for those that purchases 2021 mock exams.

      Reply
    • Hi Lucas, Kaplan has advised that candidates will only have 1 attempt per exam.

      Once you start the exam sim mode, you must finish the entire exam in that mode.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  3. Hello Zee, Once again thank you for keeping us updated with the latest information. I have a question about the way the exam will be conducted in CBT mode. Earlier there used to be 2 sessions, AM and PM and during those two sessions, all the 10 topics were tested twice throughout both sessions. But since the timing of the exam is reduced significantly to just 4.5 hours, should we expect the syllabus to be tested twice or should we expect the syllabus in 2 parts? E.g. during the first session, the first 4 topics weighing exactly 50% of the syllabus and the rest in second session? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Jinesh, you’re welcome 🙂 My understanding is that the format is the same as before, albeit with a shorter time with less questions, but still the same allocated time per question. So, there will still be (shorter) AM and PM sessions, with all the 10 topics tested twice throughout both papers.

      Reply
  4. Will Kaplan Schweser provide free access to these CBT mock exams to current users who’s exams previously been cancelled and postponed to 2021 or will there be an additional charge?

    Reply
    • Hi Joseph, we’ve asked Kaplan Schweser about this and they mentioned that the Exam Sim feature is only available for those that purchased a 2021 mock exam, and that they will not be providing it for free to those that purchased the 2020 mock exam. However, it’s best to refer directly to Kaplan Schweser to double check on their latest policy on exam postponement.

      Reply

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