CPA Review For Free: Is There Really Free Lunch?

CPA Review For Free: Pros and cons analysisCPA Review For Free is a truly unique review program that offers CPA review – yes – for free.

It makes no sense that such free lunch exist in the word when everyone else is charging thousands for the same stuff. What’s the deal, and what’s the catch?

CPA Review For Free Overview

The Founders

CPA Review For Free is founded by three individuals with vast experience in the CPA exam review industry.

Joe Hoyle has 40+ years of industry experience. He was the owner and chief instructor of Richmond CPA Review and HoyleCPA Success.

Lynn Sheehan is formerly a regional manager for Becker for 15 years. Steve Chaplin has taught in CPA Review programs for approximately 20 years, as well as a law firm partner and university lecturer.

First Impression…

As an Economic student and financial analyst by profession, I was skeptical but curious of what is being offered here. I signed up for the access in for a first-hand experience.

The sign-up process is smooth and simple. There are around 450 – 600 questions for each of the 4 parts of the exam. They were around 2,400 questions altogether. You can click the links to get to the subtopics, and hit the questions right away.

One feature I find interesting is that you can create a set of questions using “keywords”. For example, if you need more practice in cost accounting, you can type in the term to get 20 questions on this topic. It isn’t perfect though. When I typed in “governmental accounting” nothing came out.

Current Owners?

I started noticing  “Cram Coah LLC” shown at the botttom of the website in 2015. A quick lookup reveals the manager as Rain Hughes, CEO of Fast Forward Academy, a commercial CPA review provider.

It’s not surprising that CPA Review for Free’s #1 recommendation is Fast Forward Academy…

The Pros

1. It’s Free – Why Not?

I guess the most obvious advantage is that the product is free. During the sign-up, I deliberately left the little check-box marked and expected to get a train of marketing materials on upsells. Surprisingly, I’ve got none of this except, maybe, an non-intrusive introduction of their ebooks and other products for purchase.

I’m still figuring out CPA Review For Free’s business model. So far they are generous enough to share their database of questions (with answers) for free and I do appreciate that. (Update: guess I figured it out)

2. Lots Of Questions On Tough Sub-Topics

Another pleasant surprise is to receive a good number of questions in difficult test areas, such as IT in BEC. IT has the largest number of questions so it is going to be helpful for those looking for more practice in this area.

3. Easy to Navigate

The site is generally easy to navigate and is user-friendly.

The Cons

1. A Promotion Site for Fast Forward Academy?

Joe’s name is still mentioned on the site, but I don’t see Lynn and Steve. Lynn used to be active in answering readers’ questions and comments.

The current set up looks like a cloaked advertisement for Fast Forward Academy. I guess there is nothing wrong with as long as we understand that the information and recommendation may not be objective.

2.  No Guided Review

CPA Review For Free is great if you are looking only for practicing questions. You’ll need additional support to clarify accounting concepts.

3. Practice Questions Not Presented in Actual Exam Format

Since the CPA exam is 100% computerized, it is important for candidates to get used to the way questions are presented. Most test prep software simulate the actual exam taking experience. You won’t get this in CPA Review For Free.

Another related problem: Since the system gives you the correct answer after each question (instead of presenting the answer in one go at the end of each section), it is difficult to practice time management, an important element to prepare for the actual exam. This is especially the case for FAR and REG where candidates tend to run out of time.

4. Diagnostic Report Not Available

Unlike other test prep software where you can mark off wrong answers for future revision, CPA Review For Free simply spit out the % of correct answer in each sub-topic.

For a free service I can never expect anything beyond a database of practice questions, but as a user it would be nice to have a tool to keep track of my performance and progress. CPAexcel is the champion in this area, but other software have similar capabilities.

One More Detail Comment From My Reader

I’ve got another wonderful reader Lawrence who took the time to type up his thoughts on CPA Review For Free. Direct quote below:

CPAReviewforFree has allowed people to purchase and download pdf files of SIMulations (FAR, REG, AUD) and the written communications for BEC.

Here’s the info from the website:

SIMs problems and Written Communication questions (and their answers) can be purchased by section or for all four parts of the exam. These examples help you experience the look and feel of the actual CPA Exam. Within the SIMs, the research questions do not allow you to search a database but, instead, focus on the truly essential step in this process: entering appropriate search terms to locate the desired answer. There are 10 full SIMs for FAR, 10 for Auditing & Attestation, and 10 for Regulation. There are also 29 Written Communication questions for BEC.”

Pros: there’s more practice simulations problems and the solutions/explanations compared to some other CPA exam review materials. These SIMs’ solutions/explanations help summarize all the key points to know to prepare even for the toughest sections of one of the CPA exam sections.

For instance, Leases. I was a pro on this, however one part of the leases SIMs threw me off and the solution/explanation taught me one thing to watch out even for the actual CPA exam.

Cons: the level of difficulty and actual length of these simulations is not up to par with those of Wiley, which are by the way contains actual, previous CPA exam questions.

Like all CPA Review For Free materials, it’s good as a supplemental learning materials to get a good, bit-sized to-the-point summary of the important concepts of various CPA exam sections.

Conclusion

If you are on a really tight budget or using it as a supplementary material, go for it.

While I applaud Joe in providing such an affordable product to all aspiring CPAs, in my own opinion, I wouldn’t use CPA Review For Free as my primary source of review guide. All in all, if I can afford it, I wouldn’t risk a CPA exam retake with only this offering.

What To Do?

Take the time to compare the major CPA Exam Review Courses, with pros and cons of each program to help you make a firm decision:

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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  • Irene f. Amor says:

    Great..

  • Beto says:

    Many of the questions are in wiley cpa excel, ninja and becker. All these questions are obtained from the same database. I used them for FAR and REG to test myself.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Yeah, CPA Review for Free said the questions are unique (created by Hoyle) but I keep hearing how people have seen the questions somewhere else. If so they are just AICPA retired questions. Nothing’s wrong with using AICPA questions, but now we question the other claims on their website.

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