The Best CAIA Exam Prep Courses of 2023 (2024)

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So you’ve decided to take the next step in your financial career by earning the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Charter, but you’ll need to prove your qualifications by passing the exams first. With a completion rate of just 40%, the CAIA Charter program is notoriously intense. For many people, the best shot at success is enrolling in a CAIA exam prep course.

The CAIA Association publishes a list of recommended third-party preparation providers. Even among these options, however, some are better than others. CAIA exam prep courses can cost anywhere from close to $500 to more than $1,100, so it’s important to choose carefully. We took a close look at all the options available and identified the best courses based on curriculum, materials, instruction, pricing, and more.

The Best CAIA Exam Prep Courses of 2023

Best CAIA Exam Prep Courses

Best CAIA Exam Prep Courses

  • Our Top Picks
  • Kaplan Schweser
  • Wiley Efficient Learning
  • UpperMark
  • Varsity Tutors
  • See More (1)
  • Bottom Line

  • Compare Providers

  • What Is the CAIA Exam?

  • Who Should Take the CAIA Exam?

  • What Does a CAIA Exam Prep Course Cost?

  • Methodology

Best Overall : Kaplan Schweser

Wherever you are in the world, Kaplan Schweser is the gold standard of CAIA exam prep. From OnDemand classes to mock exams, every step of this course is top-notch.


  • Both self-study and instructor-led options

  • Local course providers in six global regions

  • Flexible 0% APR financing available

  • No charge for your second course if you don’t pass on the first attempt


  • Pricier than competitors

  • No weekend technical support

  • Extra fee for flashcards

Since 1999, Kaplan Schweser has been the most well-recognized provider of CAIA exam prep worldwide. In fact, the company and its distributors make up a quarter of the CAIA Association’s list of recommended preparation providers. Through this network of partnerships, Kaplan Schweser is able to offer courses in seven different regions across North and South America, Europe, and Asia helping it take the overall best spot.

Kaplan Schweser’s CAIA prep program is divided into three packages. One of these is a self-directed course, providing access to a library of study materials with the option to add a review workshop and online mock exams. The other two feature live weekly classes and access to instructors, who can answer questions at any time.

If there’s a drawback to the Kaplan Schweser CAIA exam prep course, it’s the price tag. Self-study packages start at $499 per level; for access to live classes, review workshops, and mock exams, you’ll have to pay $699-999. On the bright side, 0% APR financing is offered to all United States residents except people living in Iowa, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico with flexible payment terms of three, six, or 12 months. If you fail your exam on the first try, Kaplan Schweser will provide free access to the same course you originally purchased on your second attempt.

Best Value : Wiley Efficient Learning

CAIA exam prep courses are a major investment, but Wiley Efficient Learning gives you the best value for your money with a no-commitment trial, generous student discount, and continued access until you pass the exam.


  • Offers a 14-day free trial

  • Students get a 20% discount up to 90 days after graduating

  • Includes course access for as many retakes as you need to pass

  • Lessons broken down into short 30- to 45-minute bite-sized lessons

  • Free study resources


  • No live classes

  • Mentor response time takes up to 48 hours

  • Only provides one mock exam

CAIA exam prep course fees start at $450, no small cost especially given exam registration fees total an additional $1,650, and that’s assuming you pass on the first try. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have an employer covering those costs, Wiley Efficient Learning will give you the best bang for your buck.

Right off the bat, Wiley Efficient Learning offers prospective CAIA exam takers a 14-day free trial of its premium study package with no credit card required. University students who decide to continue with the program can benefit from a 20% discount on all packages and study materials until 90 days after their graduation date. If you fail the exam, the company will continue providing access to the study package you purchased for as many attempts as it takes to pass. (Every other provider we reviewed either limited this guarantee to a single retake or gave a nominal discount on subsequent courses.) All of this combined makes Wiley Efficient Learning the best value of our providers.

Wiley Efficient Learning does offer fewer course options than competitors, selling just two study packages priced at $175 for each section. The program lacks live online classes, although the premium package includes pre-recorded video lectures and access to ask instructors questions. You’ll also be limited to a single mock exam instead of the multiple exam options provided by some competitors.

Best Study Materials : UpperMark

UpperMark’s proprietary software that generates customizable mock exams isn’t the only reason we picked the company for best study materials. Packages also include a wide selection of handbooks, flashcards, formula sheets, and more.


  • Choose from four customizable packages

  • Digital and hard copy options for most study materials

  • Advanced test bank software contains more than 1,800 practice questions

  • Premium packages include 3.5 hours of live instruction per week

  • 25% discount for enrolled students


  • No trial or refund period for course fees

  • Digital materials expire after the exam period

A large part of the value offered by a CAIA exam prep course is the quality of its study materials, and you won’t find a more comprehensive toolkit than UpperMark, which is why it leads this category. The company’s claim to fame as a preparation provider is its proprietary TestBank software that generates customizable exams from more than 1,800 practice questions. The software even includes analytical tools that help you track progress over time and identify topics that need more review.

UpperMark’s four study packages also come with a wide range of helpful study tools such as handbooks and formula sheets. Most materials are available in both digital and printed format; choosing digital materials may save you a bit of money on your course costs, while both can be purchased together for an additional fee.

Pricing on UpperMark CAIA exam prep courses starts at $499 and goes up to $979 per level, although actively enrolled college students can request a 25% discount. Each package is extremely customizable, with the ability to remove products you don’t need and even opt out of live classes for topics you’re already comfortable with.

Unfortunately, UpperMark doesn’t offer any type of trial period for its course and won’t refund fees once they’ve been paid. The company’s pass guarantee is also much less generous than other preparation providers. If you fail on the first try, you’ll only receive a 40% discount on your next UpperMark study package. Most competitors will give you this for free.

Best One-on-One Instruction : Varsity Tutors

Varsity Tutors is the best choice if you’re looking to incorporate one-on-one instruction into your CAIA exam prep plan. These flexible online sessions can be personalized according to your existing knowledge and study progress.


  • Personalized, one-on-one tutoring sessions offered online

  • Discounts offered when buying classes in bulk


  • Most expensive CAIA exam prep option

  • Price doesn’t include the cost of study materials

  • Only a handful of tutors to choose from

  • Not included on the CAIA Association’s list of recommended preparation providers

Formal CAIA exam prep courses are helpful, but they don’t always provide the level of individualized attention you need to pass an incredibly difficult test. Varsity Tutors’ CAIA exam tutors are a great way to get one-on-one guidance, whether as a standalone preparation method or to supplement a formal course, giving it the edge in the category for one-on-one instruction.

Varsity Tutors’ convenient online tutoring sessions can be scheduled from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Typically, CAIA exam prep sessions last two hours and are purchased in packages of hourly credits; the more hours you buy, the more you’ll save. Credits expire after one year, although you can use them to prepare for either the Level I or Level II CAIA exam. Pricing is structured as follows:

  • 12 to 23 hours: $105 per hour
  • 24 to 35 hours: $100 per hour
  • 26 to 47 hours: $95 per hour
  • 48 or more hours: $93 per hour

It’s important to note that Varsity Tutors is the only company in our review that isn’t included on the CAIA Association’s list of recommended preparation providers. The quality of the tutoring you receive may depend on the individual, so make sure you verify their independent credentials before signing up for sessions. Only a handful of tutors with CAIA curriculum knowledge are available through Varsity Tutors.

Bottom Line

CAIA exam prep courses aren’t cheap, but they can easily pay for themselves when you consider that every retake requires a $450 fee and six-month wait for the next exam period. If you’re concerned about passing on the first attempt, look for a program with a pass guarantee such as Wiley Efficient Learning or Kaplan Schweser. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with most of the curriculum and only need to review a handful of topics in depth, UpperMark’s customizable, subject-based plans might be a better fit.

Compare Providers

CompanyWhy We Picked ItInstruction TypeCost Per Level
Kaplan SchweserBest OverallSelf-directed, live instruction$499 to $999
Wiley Efficient LearningBest ValueSelf-directed$175 to $1650
UpperMarkBest Study MaterialsSelf-directed, live instruction$499 to $979
Varsity TutorsBest One-on-One InstructionLive instructionVaries; $93 to $105 per hour

What Is the CAIA Exam?

The CAIA exam, short for Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst, is a professional charter program designed to prepare you for a career in alternative investments. The exam is broken down into two parts, Level I and Level II, which are taken in separate sessions. Each exam is administered twice per year in March and September. A minimum of 200 hours of study is recommended and most candidates take 12 to 18 months to pass both exams and become a CAIA Association member.

Who Should Take the CAIA Exam?

Compared to the more sought-after CFA exam, the CAIA exam has a very narrow but in-depth focus on specific alternative investments. With this in mind, the CAIA exam is best suited for financial professionals pursuing a career in private equity or hedge funds.

What Does a CAIA Exam Prep Course Cost?

Most CAIA exam prep courses start around $500 per level for a self-study program. Instructor-led courses can cost between $900 and $1,100. Keep in mind that the CAIA exam is divided into two levels, so you’ll need to purchase separate packages if you want help preparing for both.

How We Chose the Best CAIA Exam Prep Courses

To choose the best CAIA exam prep courses, we first reviewed the program curriculum covered by each provider, making sure it met CAIA Association standards. Next, we examined the different formats of study materials provided, including textbooks, notes, flashcards, and practice exams. We also looked at options for live classes and ease of access to instructors. Finally, we considered the price of the course, available discounts, and any pass guarantees offered.

The Best CAIA Exam Prep Courses of 2023 (9)

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in oureditorial policy.

  1. Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association. "The CAIA Charter."

  2. Schweser. "Level 1 CAIA Exam FAQ: Chartered Alternative Investment."

  3. Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association. "Preparation Providers."

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The Best CAIA Exam Prep Courses of 2023 (2024)


What is the best way to study for CAIA? ›

To ensure you pass the CAIA exam, enroll in prep courses (either in class or online) and take as many practice exams as you can. You also need to keep up-to-date on information that is being published on your CAIA exam topics because the exam relies on that material.

How many months to study for CAIA? ›

75% of CAIA candidates who earn their CAIA Charter do so in 12-18 months. In contrast, CFA candidates take 4 years on average to pass 3 levels of the CFA exams, and is a Masters equivalent degree.

How many hours should you study for the CAIA? ›

CAIA Association recommends that candidates spend 200 hours studying for the CAIA exam. And, you should do that over a period of several months. Cramming in the last few weeks for the exam won't work.

How many hours to study for CAIA level 2? ›

How Much Time Does It Take to Study for the Level II CAIA® Exam? CAIA Association reports that the average Level II candidate studies for at least 200 hours. It's important that you do your studying over a period of several months, and that is why registration opens five months before the exam window opens.

Who is the best CAIA prep provider? ›

Wherever you are in the world, Kaplan Schweser is the gold standard of CAIA exam prep. From OnDemand classes to mock exams, every step of this course is top-notch. Since 1999, Kaplan Schweser has been the most well-recognized provider of CAIA exam prep worldwide.

Is CAIA more difficult than CFA? ›

That said, it's important to note that CFA exams have 3 levels, whereas CAIA exam has only 2 levels to pass. That combined with the fact that CFA exams have lower pass rates (22-56% depending on level) compared to CAIA's pass rates (50-69% on average), CFA exams are often said to be tougher.

Can you skip CAIA Level 1? ›

How long does the CAIA Stackable Credential Pilot Program take? Qualified CFA Society members are allowed to bypass the CAIA Level I exam, meaning that those who register for the upcoming September 2021 Level II exam can earn their CAIA designation as soon as early Q4 2021.

Is a CAIA worth it? ›

The CAIA is useful in large part because alternative investments are an essential part of many institutional investment portfolios. The CAIA is relevant to financial professionals who want to focus on alternative investments at pension funds, foundations, and sovereign wealth funds.

Does CAIA expire? ›

There are no time restrictions on the validity of your exam results. To enjoy a full year of benefits, we encourage you to apply for Membership as soon as possible after passing the CAIA exams.

How long does it take to clear CAIA? ›

Both levels of CAIA exams are conducted twice a year in March and September. This provides candidates the opportunity to complete the CAIA program within 1 year, if they passed consecutively. That said, CAIA Level 1 and Level 2 exams cannot be taken within the same exam window.

Is CAIA Level 1 or 2 harder? ›

In my opinion, from easiest to most difficult is CAIA L1, CFA L1, CAIA L2. That being said, a lot of the quant stuff (among other sections) I learned in CFA L1 definitely put me a step ahead for my CAIA studies.

How hard is it to get CAIA? ›

How difficult is the CAIA exam? Slightly more than half of those who take the exam pass it, which is a better average than the CFA® Program exam and the FRM® exam. However, taking both levels of the exam isn't exactly a walk in the park.

Does CAIA require work experience? ›

Candidate must meet one of the following requirements: Bachelor's or equivalent degree and more than one year of business experience in the financial industry, or. Four years of experience in the financial industry.

Do you get a formula sheet on the CAIA? ›

CAIA Association will not provide a formula list on the exam. At a minimum, make sure you know the formulas associated with LOs that use the command word “calculate.” Note, however, that equations presented in LOs without the “calculate” command word may also appear on the exam.

How many CAIA holders are there in the world? ›

The CAIA Association is an independent, not-for-profit, global organization committed to education and professionalism in the field of alternative investments.
Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst.
Area servedWorldwide
Membership12,000 (2021)
3 more rows

What score do you need to pass CAIA? ›

Candidates who earn 70% or more of the total points are assured of passing the exam. However, because the CAIA association compares each candidate's score against the average exam score, there is the potential for a curve, which would effectively move the passing score below 70%.

Can I do CFA and CAIA together? ›

Earning the CAIA designation, combined with your CFA charter offers you: Industry Credibility: Have your achievements recognized and your currency elevated in an increasingly competitive and complex space.

How much does a CAIA holder earn? ›

According to PayScale, salaries can range from $44,946–$119,264, with the average being $64,146.

Is CAIA equivalent to a masters degree? ›

It's a professional qualification, equivalent to a masters.

Do I need CAIA if I have CFA? ›

More specifically, the CAIA Association recognizes that there is an overlap in the knowledge requirements for the CFA and CAIA credentials. Therefore, CAIA Association has taken it a step farther with this program by exempting qualified CFA charterholders from having to take Level I of the CAIA exam.

Can you put CAIA after your name? ›

You may only use the CAIA designation after you have met the Membership Requirements in the Member Policy Manual.

How many hours does CAIA take? ›

It takes, on average, 200 hours of study per level to get to grips with the whole curriculum.

Do you need CAIA for private equity? ›

Deciding which designation to pursue really depends on what you want to do as a financial analyst. If you're more interested in specializing in unconventional investments, such as hedge funds or private equity, then the CAIA Charter is right for you.

How much are CAIA annual fees? ›

The total CAIA fees ranges from $2,440 – $4,828 for both Levels.

What is CAIA yearly fee? ›

A Full Member shall pay membership dues in an amount equal to US$350 per year. An Affiliate Member shall pay membership dues in an amount equal to US$175 per year. A Retired Member shall pay membership dues in an amount equal to US$175 per year. amount equal to US$100 per year.

How do you show CAIA on resume? ›

What is the proper way to use the CAIA marks?
  1. You may use CAIA after your name with or without the registered marks. Proper: Jane Smith, CAIA ® -OR- Jane Smith, CAIA.
  2. For details on the proper usage of the CAIA marks, please refer to the Intellectual Property Policy in the Policies section of our website.

What is the pass mark for CAIA Level 1? ›

Pass marks are initially set at 70% but may be adjusted downwards depending on the average score in a particular sitting. You must, therefore, aim to score over 70% to be sure of success.

How long does it take to get CAIA results? ›

When should I expect to get my results, and how will I receive them? Level I exam results are usually released within five weeks of the last examination day. Level II, which includes essays, takes more time. Level II results are generally released within eight weeks of the last examination day.

How do you beat level 2 on CAIA? ›

How to Pass the CAIA® Level II Exam
  1. Tip #1: Know What You're Preparing for. Like Level I, there is a multiple-choice component to the CAIA Level II exam. ...
  2. Tip #2: Get an Early Start on Studying. ...
  3. Tip #3: Use a Structured Study Plan. ...
  4. Tip #4: Prepare for Constructed Response. ...
  5. Tip #5: Set Yourself Up for Success on Exam Day.
Jan 8, 2021

Is CAIA Level 1 multiple-choice? ›

CAIA Level 1 consists of six topics (also known as subjects) which are mandatory and examined by a multiple-choice computer based exam. The exam has 200 questions in total, which are divided into two sections of 100 questions each. You have two hours for each 100 question section with an optional 30 minute break.

Can I do CAIA before CFA? ›

To be eligible for the pilot program, candidates must: Not have any prior CAIA exam history (e.g. history means previous registration or passed/failed any CAIA exams) Be a CFA charterholder 'in good standing' – i.e. no past or current Professional Conduct Program (PCP) cases.

Is getting a CAIA worth it? ›

The CAIA is useful in large part because alternative investments are an essential part of many institutional investment portfolios. The CAIA is relevant to financial professionals who want to focus on alternative investments at pension funds, foundations, and sovereign wealth funds.

How much do you need to pass CAIA Level 2? ›

Candidates who earn 70% or more of the total points are assured of passing the exam.

Is CAIA equivalent to a Master's degree? ›

It's a professional qualification, equivalent to a masters.

Which is better CAIA or FRM? ›

If you're more interested in specializing in unconventional investments, such as hedge funds or private equity, then the CAIA Charter is right for you. Certified FRMs typically hold managerial and executive-level positions that concentrate on risk and investment risk.

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