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

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

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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:

us-course intl-mini-course
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 I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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