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CPA Exam Review Courses
In the spring of 2020, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy announced plans to debut a continuous-testing model for the Uniform Certified Public Accountants Exam (CPA). This new model allows candidates to take the exam year-round, over and over, without past restrictions. This allows those struggling with the famously difficult, four-part test required to retake the exam much faster.
Having an accounting bachelor's degree can open entry-level doors, but many advanced accounting positions require passing the CPA exam. The Journal of Accountancy published a 2016 report on the return on investment of the CPA exam. The study noted that gross lifetime earnings would total almost half-a-million dollars over someone without the CPA credential. Taking the CPA exam represented a massive net positive -- every hour of study represented almost 14 hours of future salary.
Read on to learn more about the CPA exam, the best methods of CPA exam prep, and where to find the CPA courses and material that improve your chances of passing.
WHAT IS THE CPA EXAM?
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) develops, scores, and maintains the CPA Examination. The testing company Prometric administers the test at its many centers across the country. The exam consists of four four-hour sections. These include auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. Sections feature multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, and written answers.
States maintain their own exam eligibility requirements. In most cases, these include a bachelor's degree in accounting, and a certain number of hours of experience. Those interested in sitting for the exam should check with their local Board of Accountancy. State officials also set exam fees in their jurisdictions.
Candidates must earn a minimum score of 75 on every section of the exam. Exam takers can retake each section they fail. Roughly 50% pass on their first time. For the majority, the financial accounting section proves the most difficult, with a passing rate of just 40%.
Until July of 2020, Prometric hosted four testing windows a year, making it difficult to fail, spend time studying for another attempt, and take the test again. Moving to year-round testing removes this concern.
The AICPA publishes a FAQ section on its site that helps with most questions.
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HOW TO STUDY FOR THE CPA EXAM
Because of its notorious difficulty, the CPA exam can feel overwhelming. Many candidates study for as long as 18 months to prepare for the exam. Many also take CPA exam preparation courses that cost upwards of $2,000 and require 12-16 months to complete.
The AICPA recommends candidates prepare for the exam by first learning what it entails. To that end, it publishes "blueprints" for each section (see below). It also recommends sample tests and tutorials to get a sense of one's own strengths and weaknesses. The institute points out that some who take the test succeed by only studying a few hours a week, while others may require upwards of 25 hours of focused CPA exam study.
Many commercial, professional education organizations offer courses that help with CPA exam prep. Some candidates find these CPA exam review courses invaluable, as they target each section and concentrate intently on study techniques proven effective on the exam. They often feature large texts, online CPA prep, thousands of sample questions, flashcards, and videos. Some also include one-on-one coaching. Several offer guarantees of help until you pass the exam.
Rather than pay college-like fees for this material, some candidates prefer to find their own content, buying CPA exam books and mobile apps ,or signing up for CPA exam tutoring. Many download the AICPA blueprints and use those as a guide.
We've prepared a list of some of the best courses and materials below. Just know this represents the tip of the iceberg of available options.
CPA PREP COURSES AND MATERIALS
Roger CPA Review
Becker CPA Prep Course
Surgent CPA Review
American Institute of Certified Public Accountant's Exam Study Materials
Gleim CPA Exam Guide
McGraw-Hill Education 2,000 Review Questions for the CPA Exam
Brainscape Ninja CPA Flashcards
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