Know Your Pro

Know Your Pro

One of the most underused tools for the CFA exam is the BA II Plus Professional calculator. In over 16 years of coaching CFA candidates all around the world, I know that many candidates fail to grasp some of the more advanced features that can really improve the speed and accuracy of some lengthier calculations. Your calculator comes with a user guide, and like the cryptic instructions for assembling IKEA furniture, I suspect that the user guide is not consulted prior to use.

Here are three calculator tips:

  • 1.Get the Professional version. The Pro costs almost double the basic BA II Plus ($60 versus $30) but this is not the time to quibble over a few bucks. With the Pro, you can easily change the battery – open the hatch; no need for a screwdriver – and you also get some more features that are tested on the Level I exam, such as the discounted payback period (Corporate Finance) and Macaulay duration (Fixed Income).
  • 2.Learn the formatting features. If you press [2nd] [.] you will get into the FORMAT mode of the calculator. Here, I recommend that you set your calculator from Chain (Chn) order of operations, the default setting, to algebraic operating system (AOS). AOS follows a hierarchy of steps when making a calculation, starting from exponents, division and multiplication, then addition and subtraction. If you use AOS, you will need fewer brackets and can perform faster with fewer intermediate calculations.
  • 3.Work the memory registers. Many candidates are surprised to know that the BA II Plus Pro has 10 memory registers for storing numbers from intermediate calculations involving lengthier formulas. When you need to save a number, simply press STO then the number corresponding to one of the ten memory registers, numbered 0 to 9. When you need to use that number for another calculation, simply use the recall RCL and the number. Now, there is no need to hand-write intermediate steps in the exam booklet.

Click here for our ongoing calculator Pro courses starting in 2018.

Daren E. Miller, CFA, is founder and CEO of Calgary’s Financial Talent Exchange, which boasts one of North America’s only permanent classrooms dedicated to CFA exam prep, located in the Sun Life Plaza. Daren is internationally recognized as a leading authority in CFA prep and has over 20 years of experience with the CFA Program. Daren is a former CFA Level III grader and is an active volunteer with CFA Society Calgary.