Here are a detailed analysis of the best CPA review courses that you can’t find anywhere else — because it is written based on my own experience and the sharing of numerous CPA exam candidates around the world since January 2010.
Let Me Find The Best Course For You
I don’t believe in people who say their course is the absolute best, because different courses cater different needs. But I am confident that you will find one that suit you the best here.
You can also go straight to My Recommendations here
Becker CPA Review Courses
- Excellent lecture notes, MCs and software. The materials are comprehensive and user-friendly.
- Big 4 endorsement. The live lectures are recommended by the Big 4.
- Materials constantly kept updated. Becker has a professional team to update the materials on a very regular basis. Their proof-reading is also done well so there are few typos and errors. If there are errors, Becker does a good job in posting in their website and letting everyone to see.
- Overpriced. If you are paying full price on your own you are subsidizing those who get deep discounts from their employers through Becker’s partner program. Not Fair!
- Live classes way overrated. They show you a DVD in a classroom, tell you to “circle this, highlight that” for 8 hours straight. Quality of “lecturers” (whose main job is to turn on and off the DVD) is really mixed. Check out my experience at the Becker CPA Review Course.
- Expensive re-take. Software license expires in 12 months and this is often not enough time for many candidates. Re-take of classes costs $1,000+ (50% of retail price) with harsh attendance rate which I find ridiculous.
SKIP Becker. They do have great notes, but so do Yaeger (for lectures) and Wiley / Gleim (practice tests). Unless you are so lucky to get a star lecturer (who tend to set up their own shops), live classes are, in my own opinion, a waste of time.
- Bite-sized lectures: This is a god-send for those who hate long lectures as much as I do. The lecture length ranges from a couple of minutes to ~ 30 minutes. A more efficient way to learn in my opinion.
- Unlimited upgrade: Most generous in the industry — a real, no-gimmick no-nonsense offer. No more pressure of not finishing within 12 months and have to pay an extra $1,000 for a retake!
- State-of-the-art technology: CPAexcel fully utilizes the online capability and churns out personalized exam plan and a collection of diagnostic charts and analysis for you, which I (as a financial analyst by profession) finds very attractive.
- A Bit Confusing At First… candidates can pick and choose the offering and I find it quite intimidating when I first visited the site. But then when you think about it, the fact that they give you a choice could be a good thing, if you are willing to spend some time to navigate around and learn about the various offers.
- Better Suited For The PC-based learner. Since everything is delivered online or DVD, if you are a type of learner who needs “live support” (a real person to explain something to you, either in person or by phone); or if you are accustomed to highlighting, circling and dropping notes on the side of the textbooks, then CPAexcel may not fit your learning style.
- Practice Questions May Underprepare Candidates. *Solved – see below* I got quite a few readers who only used CPAexcel that the practice questions were either very different or too simplistic when compared to the actual exam. Many got Wiley/Gleim as supplement.
*Update* CPAexcel is acquired by Wiley. Watch out for bundled discount available from time to time.
- Another highly recommended program – users achieve 87% passing rate and the course is endorsed by one of the Big 4.
- Especially suitable for busy candidates juggling with work/family commitments.
- CPAexcel has recently been acquired by Wiley. In my opinion this will only make their product better.
- Check out my evaluation on CPAexcel
CPA Review For Free
- The questions are quite comprehensive and signing up is easy. There is no string attached — they may promote an ebook or something but they aren’t annoying.
- Some of the practice questions e.g. Information Technology within BEC are very helpful.
- You can’t work on the questions in the Exam Mode: that is, do all the questions, time it, and get a score.
- I may not have spent enough time to make a firm conclusion, but I think the overall “usefulness” or relevancy of the questions is not as high as the other paid providers. Afterall, it does take a lot of resources to keep the materials updated. There is no free lunch in my opinion.
Definitely a site that you want to bookmark to get some extra multiple choice questions in the future, but I wouldn’t rely solely on CPA Review For Free for my study.
Check out my evaluation on CPA Review For Free here.
Gleim CPA Review Courses
- Great practice test prep software. Practice questions are tough and great for those who want a higher comfortable level to pass the exam. Good supplementary to other lecture-heavy courses.
- Thoughtfully designed. Some readers find the Gleim Online merely a voice over a powerpoint presentation, but once you understand how the Gleim “system” works, it’s an effective way to teach you how to self-study.
- Personal Counselor is a great help. If you sign up for the Gleim CPA Review System, a personal counselor will be assign to take care of your needs in your CPA journey. These counselors are accounting gurus but they coordinate with the in-house experts to get you the answer, help tailor-made your study plans and cheer you up.
- Affordable. The full 4-part CPA Review System costs just below $1,000 — most affordable among the major providers.
- No lecture — the Gleim online is an audio-visual presentation instead of a video featuring a lecturer. I am fine but I understand that many students need to “see a face” to learn a concept.
- Books can be over whelming – it’s very detailed. While some of my readers really like the comprehensiveness, others seem to think it’s too lengthy. You will need to pick and choose what is necessary for you to study.
- Excellent choice for those who prefer self-study but need occasional help through personal counselor.
- A great alternative to Wiley test bank if you are looking for additional online test practice questions.
- Check out my evaluation on Gleim CPA Review
Kaplan CPA Review Courses
- Established name: Kaplan is well known for standardized test preparation, and its Schewser brand is an authority in CFA exam preparation.
- Too comprehensive: If Wiley / Gleim book is a dictionary, Kaplan is an encyclopedia.
- No one talks about Kaplan CPA: If you are good, people talk about it. But it is difficult to find any discussion at all on Kaplan CPA…
- Can’t think of a reason to recommend Kaplan, at least for now.
- Check out my evaluation on Kaplan CPA Review
Lambers CPA Review Courses
- Established Provider. Lambers CPA Review has been around for 45 years, although it is now part of a company called ExamForce.
- AUD Is The Hidden Gem. Professor Garland is excellent and I can feel his passion of teaching and helping the candidates. I only watched his first lecture but what he says makes so much sense.
- The iPod Courses Is Quite Popular. The ipod format is helpful if you are busy and want to utilize all your “dead time” during commute and between meetings and children’s naps. The screen is too small to view the practice questions though, so you can take this mostly as an audio review.
- Good But Not Great. I really like the AUD lecturer and one of the lecturers in FAR, but others remind me of the very average accounting professors.
- Salespeople Are Quite Aggressive. I bet the salesperson has never taken the exam or even seen the study materials before, so stand firm and make the decision based on your own preference.
- Few People Talk About Lambers. Similar to the issues faced by Kaplan.
- Get AUD module if you don’t like your existing provider.
- Check out my evaluation on Lambers CPA Review
MDS CPA Review Courses
Formerly known as Martin, Dalton, Spettle CPA Review, MDS is now headed by Steve Martin and is based in Ohio. Steve has been teaching CPA review courses for the last 28 years (since 1985). He is a former law update instructor and editor for the Becker course.
- If you live in Ohio and are looking for live classes, the MDS CPA Review looks like a great option.
- I personally like Steve’s style — a down-to-earth type of guy who has the experience in teaching CPA review courses and writes his own lecture notes.
- I haven’t got access to the product so I won’t be able to comment on the features and specific product offering, but at $1,895 I can’t say it is very attractive in price and product offering when compared to other major CPA review providers.
- Go to this MDS CPA page for my preliminary evaluation.
Roger CPA Review Courses
- Entertaining lectures: Roger Philipp (the founder) has a very unique teaching style — entertaining and “intense”. Many of his students are die-hard fans.
- Quality Is Guaranteed. Roger writes his own notes. He also records the lectures for every class so you know for sure who is teaching you.
- No More Live Classes. Roger CPA stopped offering live classes since Feb 2013. It’s not as entertaining watching him on video vs in person.
- Talking Too Fast For International Candidates? Roger speaks fast. If you are not very used to the US accent it could be hard to follow.
- If you like an instructor that can even make accounting somewhat interesting, give Roger CPA a try.
- Check out my evaluation on Roger CPA Review
Wiley CPA Exam Review
- #1 Selling Review Book and Test Bank. The book and test bank (test prep software) are both very popular and proved to be useful for many CPA candidates. Even competitors (Yaeger and Roger) choose Wiley to bundle-sell as supplementary material.
- It’s cheap! The software costs ~$79 (all 4 costs $229) — a good bargain in the world of CPA exam prep course.
- Book Could Be Overwhelming. Especially when there is no guided review, it could be discouraging to go over the entire guide. Too much material in my opinion.
- Get the test bank if you need additional practice questions as supplement, or if you are a retaker.
- Check out my evaluation on Wiley CPA Review
Yaeger CPA Review Courses
- Champion Of The Old-School Approach. If you like someone who writes on the board and explains concept to you in the old-fashioned way, you’d appreciate Yaeger. I personally like the way they “hold your hand” and explain the multiple choice questions and possible tricks.
- Live Phone Support. This is quite unique, and you can often reach and talk to the owner (Phil Yaeger) himself.
- Good Value For Money. One of the most affordable guided review courses out there.
- Old School. Obviously this can be a turn-off for some people.
- Somewhat Unorganized. There are times when you would expect the team to retape the video (e.g. a typo on the white board, or the guy accidentally talked to his wife…) but Yaeger just let it go live. The ones I spotted did not affect the quality of the course but it could be a nuisance.
- Great for people who need help in accounting concepts, or a “real person” that can explain things to you via the myYaeger forum or even by phone.
- Check out the demo to see if you are fine with the old-school teaching style. The books and test prep software are good because they use Wiley’s.
- Check out my evaluation on Yaeger CPA Review
My General Recommendations
I try to keep this list as objective as I can, but since many of you are asking which provider I generally prefer (and I have a hard time keeping it with responding to comments and emails), here you go…
Go For CPAexcel If You Want To:
- Study in short intervals by watching the bite-sized lectures
- Track how much you study and how well you study using CPAexcel’s robust analytical system
- Have no worries about any extra cost if you decide to take some time off or need a retake
Go For Gleim If You Want To:
- Cut out the lectures and self-study effectively
- Get personalized support from real people — the personal counselor
- Keep your CPA review affordable with full version below $1,000
Go For Yaeger CPA If You Want To:
- Have an instructor to walk through hundreds of multiple choices with you
- Get a great value for money (good lecture, unlimited access, live phone help, quality homework)
- Learn from someone with an impressive record (88% passing rate)
Thanks for going through this long post with me. Drop me a note below if you need specific recommendation.