Best CFA® Exam Calculator: TI vs HP Battle

CFA exam: review / Approved calculators

Approved CFA Exam Calculator

This blog post was created as a part of the CFA exam review series to help you in your level 1 exam revision, whether done regularly or shortly before your CFA exam.

CFA Institute is very strict about its calculator policy.

You can use only two types of financial calculators during your CFA 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).

Using an unauthorized calculator during the exam may even lead to the suspension or termination of your candidacy in the CFA Program.

Although the majority of candidates prefer TI BA II Plus Professional, we recommend you to choose a calculator that meets your preferences. Below, we describe both types of approved calculators. Get yourself an approved calculator way before your CFA exam and use it oftentimes during your exam preparation. Also, bring your calculator on the exam day (the same one you were practicing with).

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Approved CFA Exam Calculators

Here are some pros and cons of the most frequently selected models:

TI BA II Plus Professional:

  • has a 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 a hard case, which won't protect the calculator from pressure damage 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 to be able to use it effectively.

If you are looking for a calculator with RPN, then one of the HP 12C series is your only choice. 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 your calculator may run out of power during the exam, change the batteries a few days before the exam (and then use the calculator to make sure it works fine) or bring a spare battery (or calculator ) with you on the exam day.

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 is to fail the exam because you don't know your calculator.

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LAST UPDATE: 5 Nov 2023