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Permitted Calculators to use in FRM exam

August 29, 2014
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We have already discussed what not to do in FRM exam. One of the important details is calculators. GARP is pretty serious about what type of calculators one can use in their examinations.

The following are the accepted calculators for use in FRM exam:

I. Texas Instruments BA II Plus (both versions), including the BA II Plus Professional

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II. Hewlett Packard 10B II,10B II+,20B

III. Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum and the Anniversary Edition):

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Since the financial calculator is your trusted exam aide, it’s prudent to buy an approved calculator as early as possible to ensure maximum practice during preparation time. In this context, an open debate seems to have perplexed many students: which of the two models to buy?

Well, this being a choice rooted in subjectivity, there’s no dearth of opinion. One myth doing the rounds is that Texas BA II is for young professionals while HP 12C is a legacy piece. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The fact is both are professional and both are utility-rich. The choice really depends more on individual preference which invariably is a function of habit. There’s no point in hailing one at the cost of pinning the other down. After all, whatever the preference, the purpose remains the same: to have an approved calculator ready by your side on D-day.

Without making any outright for against recommendation for either model, here’s a handy tip that would help you rationalize your choice which would really depend on your willingness (or aversion) to learn Reverse Polish Notation (RPN). Developed in 1920 by Jan Lukasiewicz, RPN writes mathematical expressions without using parentheses and brackets. Not only does this save valuable calculation time (as much as 30%), it also allows the user to view intermediate results and define priority of operations.

Now, coming back to our choice of models, it’s prudent to note that HP 12C uses RPN. So, if you are open to learning RPN, HP 12C would prove a good choice especially in CFA® Program Level I where the range of calculator features would matter most. For Levels II and III, the formulas would tend to be more longhand, calling for minimal use of advanced features. Once you learn RPN, it won’t take you long to see the benefit of its refined logic and defined simplicity.

But if you would rather not embark upon the steeper learning curve of RPN to ensure undivided time and attention for the FRM exam preparation, then TI’s BA2 Plus is tailor made for you. Given its hassle-free layout, it’s very user-friendly.

Last but not the least, whatever the model of calculator you take along, use it well and give it your best shot in the exam. Wish you every success.


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