Kaplan has a long standing reputation in the CFA space, with Kaplan Schweser leading the charge on CFA prep materials, and Kaplan UK providing world-class CFA classroom training.
A classroom course is one of our recommended options for candidates that want the best chance of passing the CFA exams, so we were intrigued when Kaplan UK offered to take us through the entire experience of their Classroom Enhanced CFA training programme.
We attended lectures, gained access to programme materials, and came away impressed. CFA training programmes have come a long way since the early days, and Kaplan definitely has a strong, solid offering. Read on for our review, which covers their tuition classes, revision course, materials and more.
Packages, pricing, schedules and locations
The Classroom Enhanced programme includes what seems like everything you could possibly need to prepare for the CFA exams. As standard, you get:
- Tuition sessions covering the entire CFA curriculum
- Revision sessions to build up your proficiency towards the exam
- Kaplan Schweser material, including SchweserNotes, QuickSheet and Practice Exams Vol 1 and 2
- Kaplan Schweser mock exam
There are also optional extras you can get in addition to the Classroom Enhanced programme, including:
- Core Elements Financial Reporting and Core Elements Financial Mathematics: these are preliminary online courses to refresh or build up your knowledge
- Kaplan Financial Mock Exam: an additional Mock Exam
- Kaplan Schweser Secret Sauce: providing insights and exam tips on how to effectively prepare and apply your knowledge on exam day
- 1-2-1 one-hour tutor drop-in clinic: A 1-2-1 coaching meeting with one of their tutors
Tuition starts about five months before the CFA exam date (which gives you plenty of preparation time), and finishes around 2 months before the CFA exam. Revision sessions provided right up to the CFA exam. This ensures you get full support from the day you start right up to the CFA exam hall.
Kaplan UK offers courses across two cities – London and Edinburgh, with the London CFA courses being held at Moorgate. However, if location is an issue, you can always opt for the Distance Learning package, which doesn’t require in-person attendance.
Thoughts and observations from attending Kaplan UK’s CFA Classroom Enhanced course
- Three-hour sessions over 14 weekday evenings
- Full-day sessions over six weekdays
- Full-day sessions over six days on weekends
All session configurations give you adequate study time. It’s just down to personal preference and how you like to approach your learning – such as choosing between many shorter sessions, or fewer full-day sessions. Evening and weekend sessions tend to be the most popular choice as it allows candidates to fit them around work commitments.
“A classroom course is undeniably better than self-study in helping you pass your CFA exams.”
A classroom course is undeniably better than self-study in helping you pass your CFA exams. Comparing it with the self-study route, classroom courses is a way, way, more comprehensive and less frustrating route. With self-study, any topics you’re having trouble with take a lot more time to sort out, mainly because you either have to figure it out on your own, or ask fellow candidates that may or may not be right. Having an instructor to walk you through it allows you to breeze through all of that.
Here are more highlights I took away from attending Kaplan UK’s tuition classes:
- Strong personal attention: The instructors were really approachable and friendly, clearly passionate about teaching. From our observations the lecturers also know their students’ progress well, helping them better address their specific challenges in understanding the CFA curriculum. Kaplan’s tutors also spend time on study methodology to ensure candidates studies are the most efficient they can be.
- High level of interactivity: Strong interaction with the instructor is something that you’ll only get with in-person lectures. Across lessons, the instructors are happy to pause the lesson and clarify any questions that students might have. Because it is a face-to-face lesson, instructors often use informal examples and explanations which greatly help understanding. The ensuing discussion and Q&A also helps reinforce the concepts learnt, so you don’t just learn it better, but you’re likely to remember it better too.
- Deeper understanding of the material: As long as you attend lectures and give it your attention, every concept is explained with simple-to-understand examples and you come out of it having understood a lot more compared to if you just read the notes. Even going through concepts familiar to myself as a CFA charterholder, I found that I was able to achieve a stronger understanding of the concepts discussed during the lesson.
- The ‘study group’ effect: This was an unexpected benefit of attending in-person classes. Classes mean that you also hang out with the same students – like-minded, driven people week after week that are all working towards passing the same CFA exam. This study-buddy effect helps keep you going and builds a sense of camaraderie that will keep you motivated with your studies.
- Continuity: Wherever possible, the same instructor is there with you from the start to finish, giving you continuity and allowing your instructor to better understand how to best develop your knowledge.
- Great facilities: Classrooms are modern with virtual whiteboards, with lectures showing the given handouts and instructors making annotations as they go through the lesson. There are also study spaces outside of the classrooms, with a lounge, restrooms and water-coolers. It’s clear that students also make use of these facilities to carry out a bit of self-study.
Perfecting your knowledge for the actual exam
- The revision sessions pick up almost immediately after your tuition sessions end. This consists of either 5 days of full-day sessions or 12 evenings of two and a half hours sessions, held in the same venues as your tuition sessions.
- The revision sessions run for a full month, ending weeks before the actual CFA exams. This gives candidates adequate time to focus on practice exams and self-revision before the real exam comes along.
- The revision sessions cover every topic except Ethics, which probably doesn’t benefit much from a revision session. However the workbooks and Mind Maps included with the revision sessions will cover all topic areas, including Ethics.
- The revision sessions cover all the key concepts, formulae and calculations you’ll encounter across the CFA syllabus. Again, the informal discussions that result from a classroom experience really benefit candidates here, as instructors share tips on how to understand and recall key CFA concepts with personal memory tricks and mnemonics that you don’t find in ‘official’ study notes.
Everything you need to pass the CFA exam – you can also read our full review of their materials here
SchweserNotes and their Quicksheet, which you get in both print and ebook format.
- SchweserNotes are the most widely-used third party CFA materials by candidates, so it should give you some comfort on reliability and should be your go-to if you’re a self-study candidate.
- The ebook version of SchweserNotes and Quicksheet are hosted by VitalSource, which you can access online at any time. Throughout our use, the VitalSource software was speedy and error-free. Offline reading is also possible through VitalSource’s Bookshelf Desktop app, which is available for pretty much all operating systems.
- There are limited printing capabilities – printing is possible, but you’re only allowed to print out two pages at a time.
“The materials included in the Classroom Enhanced programme is extensive.”
Lecture and revision session handouts
- Candidates will also get handouts for all sessions, collated in folders.
- All notes are also cross-referenced with the SchweserNotes for easy studying. Each slide lists the specific reading and SchweserNotes page you’ll need to read more about the topic discussed.
SchweserPro Qbank, a very useful question bank with thousands of practice questions.
- The SchweserPro Qbank is hosted on their Learning Portal, and allows you to create your own custom quizzes for constant practice. These are drawn from a bank of over 4,500 questions.
- You can choose to filter questions by topic, reading or even LOS level.
- You can save your quiz to be taken online, or print it out to simulate the actual CFA exam.
Practice Exams Volume 1 and 2
- Each Practice Exam volume contains three full practice exams (i.e. 3 x AM + PM sessions), giving you 6 practice exams across both books. Together with the Qbank and the CFA Institute mock exam, this should be more than enough for your practice purposes.
- Print books will be sent to you, but you can also take the exam online through the Kaplan Learning portal. Although taking the exam with pencil and paper is closer to the real exam, taking the exam online means you benefit from automatic grading, and your performance is automatically tracked with their Performance Tracker, which can help you zero in on your weak spots.
On-Demand Video Lectures
- These are video lectures hosted online so that you can address any given CFA topic at any time. These lectures closely follow the structure and format of the SchweserNotes, so it’s great to be able to refer to any part of the topic and get an on-demand lecture whenever you want.
- The handouts referred to by the video lectures vary slightly from the handouts you get for the in-person lectures, but you can easily print out the video lecture handouts if you need them.
- Kaplan Schweser Mock Exam: The mock exam included in the package is provided by Kaplan Schweser. This is attempted in your own time and you submit your answers either by post or online. After submitting your answers, your performance is analysed and tracked. You can access this online, and there is also a full debrief of the mock exam, answers and explanations that you can access in your own time.
For those who want extra focus or support
Core Elements Financial Reporting and Analysis (FRA)
- For candidates who want to hit the ground running on one of the toughest topics in the CFA exam, Kaplan UK also offers the Core Elements Financial Reporting and Analysis course. This preliminary course includes more than 4 hours’ worth of instruction into the details of FRA, with lecture handouts all included.
- Throughout the course, the material works through examples and questions, giving you tips on how to answer and work your CFA calculator (based on the Texas BA II Plus Professional).
- The Core Elements FRA course covers these topics:
- Introduction to Financial Statements, Part 1
- Introduction to Financial Statements, Part 2
- Financial Reporting Mechanics
- Financial Reporting Standards
- Cash Flow
Core Elements Financial Mathematics and Investments
- Quantitative Methods is not just one of the largest topics in the CFA exam, but knowledge learnt in this topic area is also tested across other topics in the CFA exam. Candidates that wish to have a boost in their Quant powers can take up the Core Elements Financial Mathematics and Investments course, which has nearly 4 hours’ worth of instruction, with lecture handouts all included.
- Similar to the Core Elements FRA course, the material works through examples and questions, giving you tips on how to answer and work your CFA calculator (based on the Texas BA II Plus Professional).
- The Core Elements Financial Mathematics and Investments course covers these topics:
- Setting Up the BAII+ Calculator
- Interest Rates
- Time Value of Money
- Discounted Cash Flow Applications
- Statistical and Probability Concepts
- Bond Valuation
- Equity Valuation
Kaplan Financial Mock Exam
- The Kaplan Financial mock exam is a proctored, in-person CFA mock exam that you attempt in their premises, giving you the full experience of an actual CFA exam. And if that doesn’t suit your own schedule, they’ll send one out to you in the post.
- The mock exam also includes a full debrief, where an instructor will go through each question in detail and explain the method and concepts behind the answers. You will receive the debrief shortly after taking the mock exam.
Kaplan Schweser Secret Sauce
- The Secret Sauce is Kaplan Schweser’s compact guide for candidates as the exam day approaches. This smaller book is handy to bring around once you’ve completed the study notes. It contains concise, readable explanations of the major parts of the CFA curriculum, along with tips, strategies, plans and analyses that help inform your exam-day performance.
- You can choose to get the print copy, or access the ebook immediately via VitalSource.
One-hour tutor drop-in clinic
- For candidates who want some one-on-one coaching, Kaplan UK also offers tutor drop-in clinics, where candidates can bring topics and questions that they’d like to discuss and thrash it out with instructors.
- These sessions come at a £50 (ex VAT) which we thought was good value, and we were told that usually students usually only need just the one session.
Commitment to getting you to pass your CFA exams
- The Lifetime Pass Guarantee basically states that if you failed but have been attending classes and completing coursework in good faith, you will be able to attend revision sessions for free until you pass your exam. If you’d like to take tuition again, you only have to pay 50% of the full fees. This is a similar offer to most reputable CFA tuition providers.
- The Schweser Commitment guarantees that you will be able to get free online access to their content if you fail your CFA exam. If you’d like offline versions of the material, you’ll just have to pay for shipping and any duties that apply.
If you need more details on their guarantees, you can visit their website for full terms and conditions.
A fully-guided course to passing the CFA exams
If you want to want to find out more, there are plenty of information sessions offered throughout the year. Their online and telephone support are also great – just drop them a message and they would be happy to fill you in.