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The Ultimate List of TI BA II Plus Calculator Tips for the CFA Exams

Picture of Shoaib Farooq
The Ultimate List of TI BA II Plus Calculator Tips for the CFA Exams
by Shoaib Farooq - Tuesday, 30 December 2014, 2:55 AM

Time management is a common problem CFA candidates normally struggle with in the exams. 

While doing tons of practice papers would help calm the nerves, one could also take a little bit of time to get to know and use the calculator better for some epic time-saving tips!

Her'e a list of a few lesser known functions that I used for my exams for the BA II Plus calculator. I hope it helps speed up your calculation process in the exams and reduce errors at the same time!


Recommended BA II plus calculator settings for CFA

A few introductory notes:
  • Note the syntax. [ ] is for buttons, " " is for the (beige) words on top of the buttons. " " is only applicable when we use the [2ND] button for additional functions. 
  • Press [CE|C] button twice to clear your calculator before moving to the next operation.
  • Don't press the RESET function (i.e. [2ND] "RESET") unless you want to reset all your settings back to factory settings. If you accidentally did that, you would have to reconfigure your calculator settings as below.

[2ND]  "FORMAT"  [9]  [ENTER]
  • This is for the decimal setting, we recommend a 9 decimal setting for CFA exams for floating decimals. Your calculator's default is 2 decimals. To check if you have set it correctly, the screen will show "DEC = 9". If there is no " = " sign, press [ENTER] again to register your settings, the " = " sign should pop up then.

[2ND]  "P/Y"  [1]  [ENTER]
  • This is to check that the setting is right for most calculations you need for CFA. Set "P/Y", i.e period per year = 1.

[↑] [2ND] "SET"
  • Set your calculation method to Algebraic Operating System (AOS). This means that when you calculate 1 + 2 x 3, it will show 7. The chain method (Chn) however, will show 9. We recommend AOS method setup to avoid confusion. Use [2ND] "SET" to toggle until you get "AOS", then press [CE|C] to clear.

General tips

A few general tips here that applies to all levels, try them, and choose whichever works best for you. This section is not meant to be a comprehensive section about all the TVM and CF functions that you need to know for your exams, but rather a few tips that hopefully speeds up your calculation process whilst maintaining accuracy.
[ ( ] and [ ) ]
  • I find these parantheses buttons quite helpful in making sure I compute correctly, as putting brackets (just like writing them on paper) ensures that the computation is done in the preferred order and logical way.

  • This is a useful delete button, especially when you make a mistake in the middle of typing out a long equation, you don't have to restart. For example, pressing [2] [x] [3] [→] [2] [=] will give you 4, as you have reversed the mistake of pressing [3] without the need to restart the whole operation. You have better control and can delete by character/numbers, rather than clearing the whole previous entry like the function below.

  • Using the same example previously, pressing [CE|C] once clears the previous entry entirely, whereas pressing it twice clears everything. So [2] [x] [3] [CE|C] [2] [=] will also give you 4.

[2ND]  "K"
  • This is a quick compounding function, especially when discounting or TVM questions. For example, if you press [1] [x] [1.05] [2ND] "K" [=], it will give you 1.05 (compounded once). Pressing [=] continuously n times will give you the answer for 1.05^n, where n=2,3, 4...

[STO] [number/answer] [assigned number]
[RCL] [assigned number]
  • Crucial for more complex calculations. Storing [STO] and recalling [RCL] numbers in the calculator's memory speeds things up significantly. To store the number on your calculator screen, press [STO] then for example [1] to assign it the [1]. To recall that same number, press [RCL] [1]. Lifesaver!
  • To clear all 10 stored memories (numbers 1-9), press [2ND] "MEM" [2ND] "CLR WORK".

[2ND] "ANS"
  • A feature that recalls the last answer of your computation. It updates the value continuously and reflects your last answer. Handy if you forgot to store it or need it as an input to the next equation.

  • Might sound obvious, but make this a habit before you start any TVM calculations to clear all previous work.

Statistics function - the hidden gold

While I'm not going to go into detail of how to use TVM or CF functions (you should know this anyway), I find that Statistics function is one of the relatively unknown functions that actually saves a ton of time especially for Quants or Portfolio Management topics. Basically any question that requires calculation of the standard deviation or mean from a data set. 

Here's a sample data set: 20, 15, 5, 3, 8

[2ND]  "STAT"

[2ND] "SET", repeat until you reach the "1-V" setting


[2ND]  "DATA"

[20]  [ENTER]  [↓] [↓]
[15]  [ENTER]  [↓] []
[5]  [ENTER]  [↓] []
[3]  [+|-]  [ENTER]  [↓] [↓]
[8]  [ENTER]  [↓] [↓]

[2ND] "STAT"
[↓] as needed
To setup your calculator to do single variable statistics, press [2ND] "STAT". 

Toggle using [2ND] "SET" until you see 1-V. The other 4 settings: LIN, PWR, EXP, Ln are for regression analyses which we won't be needing for CFA exams.

Clear screen and let's input the data above.

Enter the data setting, and always clear memory of previous entries before entering new data.

Enter data into X01, X02, X03.... etc, and leave Y01, Y02, Y03... as default of 1. X represents data, whilst Y represents frequency of that data point.

The screen would be showing "X01   0". Proceed to do the data entry for the 5 points, as per instructions on the left.

Then, you enter into the Stats function to see "1-V", which is the correct setting. By toggling with the [↓] button, you'll see the results: n=5, mean x̄=10.2, sample standard deviation S(x) = 7.12, population standard deviation = 6.34. A quick way to get the population mean and standard deviation!
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