CPA Exam Self-Study vs Online vs Live Class: Which Is Better?

You have sent in your CPA application and getting all ready, but how exactly are you going to start your CPA Exam preparation?

With 4 parts covering a wide variety of topics, the CPA exam can be overwhelming. You have 3 choices:

  1. Self-study
  2. Online courses
  3. Live classes

Which is the best way — or should we say, best way for your unique background and learning style?

Which CPA Exam Preparation Course is Best for Your Learning Style?

1. Self-Study

If you are knowledgeable in financial accounting and audit procedure, and you are a very, very disciplined person, you can try the self-study route.

However, CPA is not just a test on accounting knowledge — you’ll need to know how to tackle multiple choice questions and be familiar with the simulation questions.

If you aren’t sure whether you are good at both knowledge and tactics, you can test yourself by doing sample CPA questions in “free sites” such as CPA Review For Free.

If you can consistently score 70+, congratulations — you are all set. All you need to do is to get a Wiley CPA book and test bank (known for very comprehensive questions) and complete the practice tests to make sure you are well covered. Gleim is also a great choice for trickier, out-of-the-blue questions.

2. Online Courses

Most people fall into this category — they need a guided CPA exam preparation course to walk through the topics for the CPA examination. If you are busy and can’t commit to CPA exam study on a full-time basis, I’ll recommend you go for this route.

Why? Because the guided course can make sure you finish studying all the exam materials in a specific time, even if you are at times distracted by your full-time job or your family.

Also, statistics have shown that those taking the review courses have a much higher passing rate (generally 85%+ vs <50% for overall candidates).

You can look at my comparison on the CPA exam review courses here, or go straight to my recommended home study CPA Review.

3. Live Classes

Learning in a classroom setting was once popular among CPA exam candidates, but it is less and less common with the proliferation and success of online courses. Roger has stopped giving live lectures a few years ago, and NIU CPA Review closed its doors in September 2015. Becker still runs classes in selected cities but I personally am not a fan of those 3-4 hour teaching sessions.

For Your Further Reading

Are You Walking Alone in Your CPA Journey?

Come on in and join our expanding community of aspiring CPA with this free e-course. I have two versions designed for candidates with different background:

For US candidates
(Those with US degrees, or
graduate/live/work in the US)
For Intl Candidates
(Those who study abroad, or
graduate/live/work outside of the US)

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • Megha Maheshwari says:

    My name is Megha Maheshwari. I have done CA , B-com and M-com from India. I want to pursue CPA but I am confused as from which state I should apply for. I am aware that with my academic qualification I am eligible for all the states of US but I want to know from job prospective. Which state offers more job opportunities and which state CPA is widely acceptable ?

    kindly advise…

  • Megha Maheshwari says:

    Hi ,
    Request you to kindly with below queries.

    -Once we register ourselves for CPA exam , how many attempts we are allowed to give?
    -I want to know if it is possible to give two exams from Middle east and rest 2 exam from US ?
    -If it is possible then from where we should apply for licensure ?

  • Tukube Corpriam says:

    yes ,I am Tukube corpriam a Ugandan but currently Persuing bachelor of economical science and commercial management in Algeria and on a scholarship .I would like to do CPA online but I don’t know how to do it

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