4 Best Calculators for CFA Exam (and How to Choose One)

In this article, I share the four different calculators you can use to prepare for the CFA exam.

Exam Usage Policy for Calculators

The CFA approves use of ONLY these calculators: 

  • Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional)
  • Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C 25th anniversary edition, the HP 12C 30th anniversary edition, and the HP 12C Platinum)

There are strict policies in place with the CFA Institute regarding the use of calculators for all levels of the CFA Exam process, and all candidates must abide by their rules.

  • Keep in mind that your calculator will be subject to inspection prior to the start of the exam.
  • You have to keep your calculator on your desk so its in full view. 
  • Proctors will keep inspecting calculators throughout the exam.
  • Use of an unapproved calculator will result in void exam results and/or suspension or termination of CFA candidacy.
  • You must clear your calculator’s memory before the start of the exam. 

Texas Instruments BA II Plus

Often seen as the more user-friendly option, the Texas Instruments (TI) BA series uses the Algebraic Operating System (AOS) model, which is similar to the math we learned at school! They have larger screens than the HP models and are less expensive. 

Original TI BA II Plus

  • This device is faster than the HP 12C but not as fast as the HP 12C Platinum’s processing speed.
  • It supports permutation and combination formulas.

TI BA II Plus Professional

  • This upgraded model has more advanced functions like:
  • the calculation of Discounted Payback Period
  • saves keystrokes on Time Value of Money functions
  • and more..!
  • The battery case comes right out, so changing batteries is easier than the original model.
  • The display is also larger.

Hewlett Packard 12C

This calculator series has been the standard device for financial professionals since 1981. As mentioned they're smaller and more expensive than the TI models. They have a better battery life, but do not have built-in combination and permutation functions. They work in Algebraic mode and use the Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), a calculation system that can be counterintuitive and difficult to master.

Original HP 12C

  • The original model measures 5×3 inches with a small 10-character display.
  • Its slim design includes 120 built-in stats and functions.
  • The calculator boasts ease of use once you become accustomed to RPN.

HP 12C Platinum

  • The platinum edition of the HP 12C is updated with more functions, increased memory, and processing speeds up to six times faster than its predecessors.
  • This version of the calculator also offers an algebraic mode for more familiar input.

In Conclusion.. 

The Hewlett Packard Platinum calculators are faster, sturdier, and considered the industry standard. On the other hand, the Texas Instrument calculators are easier to learn for beginners. Regardless of your choice between the approved CFA exam calculators, repetitive use is key to becoming proficient enough to pass the exam. 


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