Becker CPA Review: Why It is Costly and Overrated

Becker CPA ReviewBecker CPA Review  is the most well-known guided review course in the accounting industry.

The live lecture course is endorsed by the Big 4.  Becker has partnerships with prestigious MBA courses such as Kellogg to provide a hassle-free way to fulfill the CPA exam requirements for the candidates. Becker is also the only major company that provides live-classes in major cities around the world.

As a result, Becker CPA commands a significantly higher price for its products – $2890 $3,065 $3,315 $3,360 in any format (live class, home-study, online).

So, is Becker CPA THAT good? I am a past Becker student and I would like to share my experience.

Becker CPA Review Course Revealed

In order to provide a fair and objective review of all major CPA review courses, I decided to expand the Becker CPA review page to give a thorough and impartial evaluation of the program, in addition to my personal view based on first-hand experience.

What’s Great About Becker CPA Review

1. Excellent Lecture Notes and MCQs

As a past student of Becker, I have to say Becker’s notes are very good. They are comprehensive and the layout is user-friendly. They try to use different font and format to highlight important areas and leave plenty of space to write your own notes.

The multiple choice questions are also well written and help you sink in the concepts you just learned and get you prepared for the exam very well.

This is a typical testimonial from Becker CPA’s website:

Becker’s approach to review is concise and focused. It doesn’t overload you with extraneous or esoteric material. It teaches you to rely on your own understanding to get to the right answer.”

Tyler S. Wright (Watt Sells winner)

What’s Not So Great About Becker CPA

1. Live Classes are Overpriced and Overrated

The live classes are a waste of time, my time at least.

My classes were simply a group of people sitting in front of a screen watching the Becker DVD. There was no interaction and no live lecture from the tutor, whose main job was to turn on and off the DVD and announce it’s time for lunch.

Note: I understand that there are live classes with “real lecturers” instead of the just screen. For your own protection you should check whether this is the case in your area; if not, you might consider taking the self-study course instead.

2. Content of The DVD: Circle This, Highlight That

Let’s talk about the DVD. The lecturer in the DVD is supposed to guide you through the lecture notes, but what he does really is to read out the notes and asks you to “circle this, highlight that”… I could be wrong but I don’t pay $3,360 for this elementary school type of instruction. This research from the University of Mississippi has shown the ineffectiveness of this method.

3. “Unreliable” Quality of In-Class Teachers

The in-class tutors have little value-add. Their task, other than turning on/off the DVD, is to assign and correct your homework as well as to check attendance and see if you are qualified for the “Becker Promise”. I see them as a bunch of junior accountants hoping to make extra bucks on the weekends. Absolutely no passion with minimal teaching experience.

Note: this is my personal experience, and I understand that there could be Becker CPA courses exist somewhere with excellent lecturers or TAs. Ask around for the reputation of the course in your area and make an intelligent decision.

4. Long, Boring Class

With this type of classroom setting and quality of tutors, it isn’t hard to imagine that the classes are extremely boring (I know accounting is boring, but still…)

As if it isn’t enough, the classes run from 9am to 6pm with 1 hour lunch break in between. Typically, I tried to stay focused for the first 2 hours, then for the third I would inevitably zoomed out… after lunch I had to keep doodling (or mechanically circling and highlighting as told) to stay awake. At the end of the class, I would be lucky if I still remembered the content in the first 2 hours.

5. I Gave Up

I concluded that it was such a waste of time that I skipped the last one month and a half and switched to self-study at home. It was much, much better. But because of the low(er) attendance rate I was not qualified to retake the class at a discount if I fail the exam — something I find ridiculous when compared to what Becker’s competitors are offering.

A Note on Price

As you may notice Becker CPA charges >$3,300 for the 4 classes, a substantial premium to any competitors. You may not realize, however, that the Big 4 and most accounting firms get a deep discount from Becker.

For example, my readers told me (one working in a mid-sized accounting firm in the US, another at HSBC in India) who can get Becker lower than Yaeger’s price. As they advertise on their site, there are 1,500 such “partnerships”.

What does it mean? It means that if you are paying a full fee like me, you are subsidizing everyone else and are being, in my opinion, ripped off.

My Conclusion

I can understand that you may feel more comfortable sticking with the #1 brand name in the CPA review industry. If this is the case, I would recommend self-study course over the live classes.

But I urge you to check out Becker’s competitors that may better suit your background, budget and learning style. You can find my CPA review comparison on the pros and cons of 10 major CPA review programs.

Whether you agree with me or not, feel free to drop a note on my Facebook Page. Best of luck to your exam!

Comments

  1. Caro says

    I totally agree with u, I took the 4 live classes 2 times a week, paying all by my self, and they were boring and zero value added… and yes… too expensive.

    And what caught my attention was what you say about live classes, first time I heard “circle this, highlight that”… I said WHAT???

    The best, of course, are the books and tons of exercise you can do.

  2. Stephanie says

    Caro — thanks for your comment, and glad you agree with me.
    And all the best to your exam! Stephanie

  3. Sandhya says

    Hey Stephanie,

    I have registered for Becker’s Live classes..I just read up your comment on live classes…i’m now in a fix!..Do i change to self study option, believe i can do that..Is the self study material effective??

  4. Stephanie says

    Hi Sandhya,
    If you’ve signed up, don’t worry… maybe you get luckier than me and have a wonderful lecturer.

    Maybe you can ask around if the lecturer in your area is good or not before making the switching?

    Stephanie

  5. Dan says

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks you very much for all your insight.

    One thing I noticed that Becker advertised and you didn’t give much attention to: They claim to offer software that is identical to the format of the CPA exam, giving the student a feel for how to navigate through the CPA exam and therefore saving valuable time come exam time. What is your take on this? Were you still easily able to navigate through the CPA exam despite dropping out of Becker or did starting out with Becker possibly help you in this regard?

  6. Stephanie says

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for the note! Yes the reason why I didn’t mention it here is that, in fact, many of the CPA review course providers have very similar offering. Gleim software is a good example.

    When you think about it, it isn’t hard at all to make the software “look” idential to the exam format… so everyone is doing it.

    Just my 2 cents :)

    Cheers, Stephanie

  7. Sandhya says

    Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for your response

    I did check with Becker, believe it will be video based instruction for most of the classes. I guess it’s better to switch. Do i have to get material of other review course providers apart from Becker? I’m planning to give FAR by end of October. Do i have sufficeient time??. I don’t work since i’m on H4, have most of the time to me, except for occasional distractions :)..How should i work on setting up a study plan?….Please guide..

    • Stephanie says

      hi Sandhya,
      Yeah I would switch if it’s video based — better to do it at the comfort of your home right?

      Since you’ve invested the money on Becker, I’d hate to see you spend more for now… why don’t you try Becker for a few days and study on your own. If you can grasp the accounting concepts, then with Becker you should be fine (test yourself with some practice questions and see). If not, just come back here and we can discuss what to do.

      As for study plan, yes definitely make one even though you’ve all the time to prepare for it. A good plan is motivating and keeps you on track, so you won’t panick when it approaches October. October should be ok if you can pretty much do it full-time. Remember to give yourself the breaks though. The stuff can drive you crazy! Cheers, Stephanie

  8. Sandhya says

    Hey Stephanie,

    Appreciate your quick response..As you said, i will try to make
    best use of Becker and see how it works for me.. Have few more questions

    i’m thinking of squeezing in Auditing in November, can’t judge if study time will be sufficient. On second thoughts, i’m thinking if i should push Auditing to 2011, may be in Feb, to give myself some time for preparation. i’m aware of the changes in 2011, since i’m taking the exams for the first time, i don’t see any advantage in giving Auditing 2010, anyway it’s all new and fresh..
    Let me know your thoughts on this..i’m yet to receive my NTS, thought i can “freeze” on my exam dates before i get it.

    Thanks for the help :)

  9. Sandhya says

    Hey Stephanie!
    For FAR, apart from Becker’s material, do i need to read US GAAP , Auditing Standards and other pronouncements separately or will they be included in my material??. There is a huge list of reference reading in CSOs/SSOs 2010..How should i go about this?..

  10. Stephanie says

    Hi Sandhya,
    No I don’t think you need to do that. yes there were also lots of reference reading back then when I took the exam. I ignored all of it and managed to pass. I don’t think any of those appeared in the exam.

    There is a chance that some of the references appear in the research tab but since that’s a test of your research capability there is nothing to memorize.

    On whether to freeze auditing in, the advantage of doing it is that FAR and AUD is quite closely related, but if you don’t think there is enough time to study, taking AUD in early 2011 should be fine in my opinion.

    Are you good at memorization or familiar with auditing procedure? If yes, then you can squeeze in AUD.

    Cheers,
    Stephanie

  11. Sandhya says

    Hey Stephanie,

    Really really appreciate your replies and ideas! :)…Guess i will try manage to take AUD by this year end…i’m hoping my Indian CA qualification will come in handy..quite familiar with auditing procedure…

    Thanks!

  12. Ramya says

    Hi Sandhya
    Just read your post. I am planning to give the CPA exams this year if possible. I am also an Indian CA on H4 and in the same boat as you are in :-) Thought it will be a good idea to touch base – do drop me an email : rangarajan.ramya@yahoo.co.in

    Thanks
    Ramya

  13. Stephanie says

    Hi Sandhya,
    Glad you find my suggestions helpful!

    Ramya,
    All the best to you too. Maybe you two can be study buddies…? Just a thought :)

    Stephanie

  14. Karla says

    Hello Stephanie,
    I am just beginning my study for FARE using Becker. I attended their live classes and I do agree with you they were no help in understanding the concept. I did pay for the course but I have been trying to do the home study listening to the class and once I started to go through the MCQ on Chapter1 and Chapter 2 I was not able to get a better score than 40%-50%. I am not sure if I made the right decision but have just ordered Yaeger for this part. I know is an additional cost but felt that I was just about to give up on this whole idea. I also took REG which I felt confortable using BECKER whoever with FARE don’t seem to be able to do it!
    Please let me know your recomendations .
    Greatly appreciate your feedback
    Karla

    • Stephanie says

      Hi Karla,
      That would be exactly what I’d recommend you! Yes, just try one part of Yaeger and see if you like it first. While I recommend Yaeger for the content/customer service, people have their preference based on their own learning styles.

      Another thing is to work on the practice questions until you get them all correct (after a few attempts) and with the right reason. Yaeger goes through the actual MC questions and why they are right/wrong which many students find very helpful. The Becker practice questions are actually quite good in terms of exam preparation, if you have time to do both.

      By the way, if you have any pros/cons on Yaeger please let me know because I always want to get reviews from current students. Thanks very much and best of luck to your exam! Stephanie

  15. WillPass2011 says

    Hi Stephanie:

    I am so happy that I ran across your website!

    In 2008, I took BEC for the first time. I scored a 71, much to my disappointment. I had not taken the CPA exam in 10 years. I took the exam again this past August and scored a 64. I was DEVASTATED!!! I have not studied since I got my score back last month. I lost courage and became unmotivated. Yet, I know this is something that I want to do and is crucial for my accounting career.

    I’m not sure if its my study habits, lack of focus or what. Also, I don’t feel that I can move on to the other 3 parts until I get this one completed. I don’t want to keep paying money and taking the exam over and over again and not pass. I don’t know what to do.

    I’ve always used self-study material (Wiley/Gleim and the CPAREVIEWFORFree). I am now considering whether or not I should invest the $3,065 to take the Becker Review. Most people who take Becker report that they pass on the first try.

    What is your advice?

    Thanks Stephanie

    • Stephanie says

      Hi WillPass (I like your alias :) ):
      I hear you… but I admire you determination to conquer the CPA exam!
      My general recommendation is Yaeger, but it is better if you can check out the pros and cons of top 10 CPA review courses to pick one that suits your own study style. Best of luck! Stephanie

  16. GV says

    Stephanie:
    I am taking and enjoying the self study becker material – however i have a problem: i ordered all 4 parts for the 2011 and it seems like their updates are only on their website as fyi’s, there’s no effort to re-integrate this into the documents nor update any of the materials, flashcards, etc! There are updates but there are no SW patches nor even replacement pages to replace the out of date materials from the textbooks. Is there any web resource where people discuss their troubleshooting with becker’s FAR (at the minimum since that’s what i’m working on)?

  17. Stephanie says

    Hi GV,
    Not that I know of, unfortunately. Have you called Becker customer service? You can email them too although I find the typical email response not too useful… better put in a call.
    Stephanie