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.
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
Roger CPA offers candidates two long-form CPA exam review courses, which provide 18 months of lessons or unlimited access. It also hosts shorter, year-long sessions on the four sections of the exam. The full packages include a four-part review, more than 6,000 practice questions, and over 100 hours of video lectures that rank among the nation’s best. It features digital flashcards, study planners, e-textbooks, and a four-part cram course. The individual sections comprehensively explore each of the four parts of the test, using similar methods. The company even boasts a mobile app for audio lessons on the go.
Becker CPA Prep Course
Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, Becker’s courses cover all aspects of the CPA exam. Students can select the pro and premium packages, which feature digital flashcards, a four-part review course, 400+ videos, a dozen simulated exams, and unlimited access to the company’s materials. Candidates can also enroll in the advantage package, which includes most of the company’s content over two years. They can also sign up for shorter sessions on each of the exam’s four parts on a subscription basis.
Wiley’s suite of offerings includes platinum, gold, and silver CPA review packages. All three boast the company’s Partner Until You Pass Guarantee, which allows free online content and course updates until you succeed. All packages also offer 2,200 hours of online study text, 6,000 multiple choice questions, 4,000 digital flashcards, study guides, and a mobile app. The platinum class also offers professional mentoring, virtual classroom with live online instruction, focus notes, and access to a web database with over 6,000 more questions. Candidates can also buy several of the components separately.
Surgent CPA Review
Surgent backs its CPA preparation course with a 100% money back guarantee. The company boasts a pass rate 40% above others and offers those who pay tuition for the entire course a refund if they fail but meet certain conditions. Surgent’s Ultimate Pass course features one-on-one CPA exam tutoring, adaptive algorithms designed to help each student, printed textbooks, printed flashcards, an Excel certificate course, unlimited course access, and unlimited free updates. The company also allows candidates to try a course free of charge, and provides a discount to those who switch to their class from another.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountant's Exam Study Materials
The AICPA’s Uniform CPA Examination Blueprints essentially provide the blueprints to the exam. Published one or two times per year, the guide includes all the latest updates and the framework needed to understand what the exam entails. Intended for use alongside other study materials, the blueprints show candidates the grading methodology, the skill levels needed for each part of the test, and the number of items necessary to successfully complete in order to pass. Highlights include sample questions, reference materials for the task statements, and content organized by area, group, and topic. The AICPA also offers sample tests and a FAQ about the exam.
Gleim CPA Exam Guide
A professional CPA exam preparation company with its own comprehensive course and forty years of instruction behind it, Gleim publishes a free annual guide to the CPA exam. An introductory overview, it features information on how the exam works, what it costs, an analysis of the grading rubric, pass rates, and where to sit for it. It also includes AICPA blueprints, example questions, task-based simulations, and strategies for success. You must register with Gleim to download a copy. The company also offers free course demos, free instructional videos and webinars, and a sample free test to give you a sense where you stand.
McGraw-Hill Education 2,000 Review Questions for the CPA Exam
As the title suggests, this book from one of the nation’s largest educational publishers revolves around sample questions. The 560-pages of content follow the real exam, with questions similar to those that appear. McGraw-Hill breaks them out for each of the four sections and provides analysis of each question. Detailed answers give context, allowing candidates to see how the correct answer derives. The company designed the book to give candidates a sense of where they stand and areas of focus. Available at most online bookstores, it also comes in a searchable digital format.
Brainscape Ninja CPA Flashcards
Everyone learns differently, and these flashcards help those who benefit from short, quick bites of information. These 1,300 concepts run both online or on Brainscape’s mobile app, which allows students to study on the go. The content lets users track their learning, focus on areas of struggle, and study with friends. Brainscape based it on its own Confidence-Based Repetition Study algorithm, which the company boasts makes users able to absorb concepts faster. It breaks out into one unit per exam section, 50 decks, and a total of 1,262 cards.