CFA Institute is very strict about its calculator policy.
Using an unauthorized calculator during the exam may even lead to the suspension or termination of your candidacy in the CFA Program.
There are only two financial calculators allowed during the exam:
- Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional)
- Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige).
Although most candidates prefer TI BA II Plus Professional, we recommend you to think it through and get the one that meets your preferences. Choose the calculator before you start your exam preparation and take your calculator to your exam (the same one you were practicing with).
Here are some pros and cons of the most frequently selected models:
TI BA II Plus Professional:
- has stats worksheet,
- is much cheaper than HP 12C,
- is faster than regular HP 12C,
- is said to be more intuitive and easier to learn and use than HP 12C,
- has more functions than 12C and BA II Plus (like discounted payback period or net future value),
- has a soft case instead of hard case, which won't protect the calculator from pressure demage or from accidentally pressing buttons.
- uses AOS (Algebraic Operating System) or CHN (Chain model). In CHN, the user has to remember the order of operations. It's the standard setting in financial calculators. AOS is more typical of scientific calculators. It remembers the order of operations.
HP 12C Platinum 25th anniversary:
- is more expensive than TI BA,
- compared to regular HP 12C is very fast,
- uses RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) or Algebraic entry mode. RPN is very useful because it substantially reduces the number of keystrokes when doing complex calculations. However, first you need to spend some time on RPN in order to be able to use it effectively.
If you are looking for a calculator with RPN, then HP 12C series are the only choices available. RPN is more flexible if you are familiar with it, but AOS or CHN are easier and do math like you were taught in school.
If you are worried that you calculator may run out of power during the exam, change the batteries a few days before the exam or carry a spare battery (or calculator ) with you.
Whichever calculator you choose, spend time working with it so that you can learn it by heart and get enough practice :). The last thing you want to experience is to fail the exam because you forgot how your calculator works.