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Hi, I’m Stephanie! I’m a licensed CPA (not in public practice), CPA Exam Guide author, and publisher of I Pass the CPA Exam for 10+ years. I’m here to help you choose the right CPA Exam study materials because with the right CPA materials, you can pass on the first try just like I did 🙂
Like many future CPAs, you may be wondering if you need to purchase a review to study for the Uniform CPA Examination. In my experience, yes—you need a CPA review course. It’s going to make your CPA journey a lot easier.
CPA courses have come a long way since I was studying for my exam. Today’s review providers have thoughtfully developed comprehensive and innovative learning tools that help you study smarter. If you choose the right course, you will likely need fewer hours to study and will probably score higher on your CPA exam compared to CPA candidates who study on their own.
So how do you find the course that best fits you and your learning style? I hope this article about the best CPA study programs helps narrow down your choices.
To get started, here is a quick chart of some of the best CPA courses. To be fair, I will compare CPA review courses from each provider’s highest comprehensive product.
Price before Discounts
# Lecture Hours
Access Time Limit
|Surgent Ultimate Pass
||Best CPA exam prep e-learning platform||Check Price||100+||7,700+ with an extra 1,000 with Ultimate Pass||400+||Until you pass|
|Becker CPA Pro||Big name with a great reputation||Check Price||275+||8,100+||500+||Until you pass|
|Gleim Premium Review System||Best MCQs and SIMs||$1,999||100+||10,000+||1,300+||Until you pass|
|NINJA CPA||Excellent overall value||$67/month||65+||6,100+||200+||Monthly subscription|
|Wiley Platinum Review Course||Best bite-sized video lessons||$2,499||140+||12,000+||500+||Until you pass|
|Roger CPA Review Elite||Unique course with engaging lectures||Check Price||100+||6,000+||400||Until you pass|
|Yaeger CPA Review 4-Part Course Bundle||Great mentoring support||Price||120+||4,000+||164||18 Months|
Surgent CPA Review is one of the best CPA prep courses and has award-winning instructors. The team at Surgent packs their courses with lots of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and sample task-based simulations (SIMs). Plus, they include over 100 hours of video lectures, high-quality textbooks, practice exams, and access until you pass. And the Surgent CPA Review Ultimate Pass uses an adaptive learning platform—A.S.A.P. Technology—that builds your studies around your weak content areas. This method cuts down your study time. In fact, according to Surgent, their candidates spend less than 100 hours per section studying for the exam. And, they can boast an overall 89.7% pass rate.
What I love most about Surgent is that you’re provided with a READYscore which predicts, with stealthlike accuracy, your CPA Exam score. There’s nothing more satisfying when you’re studying for this exam than watching your READYscore get stronger every time you work in the course. And while I have never met Liz (the accounting professor who teaches the videos), I feel like I know her just by watching the lectures. I kind of see her as the CPA den mother for all the CPA candidates out there 🙂 She really wants everyone to pass and it shows in the videos.
Becker CPA Exam Review offers CPA prep courses that are standards in the exam prep market. And Becker comes with access until you pass, digital and hard-copy texts, 400+ SkillMaster videos with detailed problem explanations, and digital flashcards. Also, Becker’s final exam review looks and feels just like the real exam. What’s more, Becker also offers Live Online or Live courses and five one-hour tutoring sessions for personalized attention.
I personally used Becker to pass the CPA Exam. When I sat for the exam, Becker was renowned for its live classes, which were a bit difficult for me to get to after work. I love that Becker now has the entire platform online (no more downloading the PassMaster software). The new Becker interface is especially impressive and easy to use. So, now candidates get the great Becker quality (just like I did), and even more learning tools than ever before, like videos that walk you through task-based simulations (this is pretty rare)!
Gleim Premium CPA Review produces some of the most affordable CPA products without sacrificing quality. And Gleim has over 10,000 MCQs and more than 1,300 SIMs, making it one of the best banks of CPA questions available. In fact, Gleim gives you hundreds of more practice TBSs than other providers. I also appreciate that when you answer practice questions, you’ll get explanations for the right and wrong answers. Plus, Gleim’s practice exams closely mimic the CPA Exam, so you’ll feel more comfortable on the big exam day. Gleim also has digital and print books, audio lectures, SmartAdapt courses, personal coaching, access until you pass, digital flashcards, and the Gleim Instruct Video Series.
Moreover, Gleim has been producing CPA materials since 1974, so they know a thing (or two) about the CPA Exam. The test bank is really the best I have seen, and you can use it to target your weak areas to the deepest levels. For instance, you can drill down not just to derivatives, but the type of derivative and more, all in the test bank.
NINJA CPA Review is a little different from other review providers. Consequently, NINJA CPA offers a monthly subscription, which is a good option for CPA candidates on a tight budget. The NINJA approach uses “weapons” like MCQs, SIMs, notes, flashcards, textbooks, cram videos, and audio lectures to develop a “battle plan” of study.
Additionally, NINJA CPA has stripped away all fluff and tightly focuses your studies on the most important content that is likely to appear on the CPA Exam. What’s more, NINJA is a great option if you need to supplement your existing CPA study materials (and quite affordably, too). Check out how NINJA compares against the competition.
I personally used NINJA when I studied for the CPA Exam (in addition to Becker). Back then, NINJA was only a supplement, whereas now, it’s a full course. However, the NINJA notes are still as concise and helpful now as they were when I sat for the CPA Exam. In my opinion, there’s no better way to quickly solidly all the topics covered in the AICPA’s CSOs than NINJA notes. And if you’re unhappy with your NINJA products, you’ll receive a no-questions-asked refund.
The Wiley CPAexcel Review Courses are part of a family of exam-prep courses in the business and finance fields. Wiley’s CPA Platinum Review Course comes with textbooks plus an additional 2,000+ pages of online resources, 140+ hours of video lectures, and a substantial test bank with 12,000 MCQs and 500+ TBSs. Also, Wiley provides digital flashcards to study on the go.
Lastly, Wiley CPAexcel’s Virtual Classroom Series presents live CPA exam classes in real-time online in a classroom-like environment; students and instructors can even interact as they would face-to-face!
Roger CPA Review courses use an innovative platform, SmartPath Predictive Technology, to guide students through high-quality study materials that help candidates pass the CPA exam faster. In fact, according to Roger’s website, their AI platform helps users pass the exam three times sooner than other candidates. And Roger also has a notable 91% CPA Exam pass rate.
However, Roger’s comprehensive Elite course includes fewer MCQs and sample problems when compared to other review providers. But Roger’s creators claim they provide quality over quantity. They focus your study time on high-quality problems versus endless busywork with easy MCQs.
Plus, Roger’s lectures have a reputation for being quite engaging. One of the members of the I Pass team used Roger to pass and still remembers many of the funny jokes and mnemonics Roger mentioned in his lectures.
The Yaeger CPA Review 4-Part Course Bundle comes with 120+ hours of in-depth video lectures per section, textbooks, audio lectures, CRAM courses, and printed flashcards. However, it’s Yaeger’s personal touch that really grabs my attention. This bundle comes with personalized phone calls with Phil Yaeger himself to set your study plan and review your progress.
Plus, for a small monthly fee, you have access to a 1-on-1 instructor hotline that directly connects you to Phil Yaeger and other instructors for up to 2 hours per exam part per month. Wow—that is a lot of personalized instruction.
I want to mention a few other CPA exam review providers that might be lesser known in the market but are definitely worth your consideration.
Universal CPA provides 4,200+ MCQs, 200+ SIMs, 40+ hours of highly engaging video lectures, unlimited progress tests, real-time Adaptive Learning Technology, and unlimited access until you pass. Plus, Universal CPA has high-quality resources at a more affordable price.
I-75 Tutoring offers a CPA review bundle with 5,000 MCQs and final exam testlets that mimic the real CPA Exam. The narrated question videos really explain problems; they don’t just lecture to you through a screen like some other review providers’ videos. Also, I-75 tutoring provides students with 5 tutoring sessions via Skype with Darius Clark, the company’s founder.
Fast Forward Academy offers 80+ hours of videos, 7,000+ practice questions and simulations, unlimited practice exams, a digital flashcard creator, and real-time progress analytics. And the “FastFocus” final review condenses the most important material in your weakest areas to give you an intense review right before your exam.
MDS CPA is another good review course to consider. Unlike some courses that overwhelm you with large amounts of information that might not be on the CPA Exam, MDS CPA focuses on the development of core skills. The program builds overall analytical skills. In fact, according to their website, MDC CPA can get you ready to sit for the exam in as little as 15 weeks. In addition, they include options for online learning or traditional in-class learning at Ohio locations. MDS CPA also has a unique “Bootcamp Program” to get you caught up fast.
Most CPA study programs include standard materials like textbooks (hardcopies, PDFs, or online text), test banks with sample multiple-choice questions (MCQs) often gleaned from previous exams, sample task-based simulations (SIMs), video and/or audio lectures, and other study materials like flashcards. Plus, some of today’s best CPA reviews are developing innovative e-learning platforms to help students study with more efficiency.
Some courses also include classes that are held live (an instructor and students gather in a classroom setting) or live online (an instructor in a classroom is connected with students via a live video stream).
I think it’s helpful that some providers no include one-on-one support via live chat forums, face-to-face mentoring, or phone calls to answer questions and provide encouragement when needed.
Of these standard materials, which is the most important? Honestly, that depends on your learning style. I’m someone who likes to read hardcopy texts and highlight important passages while taking notes (I refer to this as active reading). But maybe you learn best by listening to audio lectures over and over during your daily commute. I suggest taking a few moments to think about your learning needs, learning style, and budget before purchasing a CPA review course.
How do you learn? It might be a short and easy question, but the answer could guide your journey to become a CPA. Most people are tactile or visual learners or a combination of the two.
If you are a tactile learner, you probably use “hands-on” methods to learn. Therefore, you benefit from courses with big test banks, lots of MCQs of varying difficulties, and plenty of task-based simulations.
If you’re a visual learner, on the other hand, you might want more from video lectures. You may find that videos that incorporate multi-media elements will hold your interest longer, allowing you to grasp more of the material.
Surgent CPA Review has a great test bank. Unlike many review providers, Surgent doesn’t just give you a bank of questions to quiz yourself. Rather, questions are highly referenced with explanations of the answers, links to videos, and notes. However, Surgent doesn’t sell its test bank separately.
As I mentioned earlier, Becker CPA also has high-quality test banks. Most questions come straight from previous CPA Exams. Becker regularly updates the test bank to match what you will likely encounter on test day. That way, you won’t be stuck studying concepts that aren’t even on the exam. If you want, you can even purchase the Becker test bank as a supplement to another course.
Gleim CPA Review claims that it has the largest and most “realistic” test bank on the market, meaning that their review questions are very similar to the ones on the real exam. With over 10,000 multiple-choice questions, over 1,300 task-based simulations, and more than 350+ SIMs with exhibits, Gleim’s CPA Mega Test Bank is impressive. It’s easy to use, and I haven’t heard from a candidate yet who was unhappy with it.
In my opinion, Becker’s comprehensive video lectures are the best available. First, Becker’s Pro package includes an incredible 275+ hours per section. But don’t worry—they are broken into chunks of 2-5 minutes, so you’ll have plenty of mental breaks in your studies. The instructors are professionals with ample experience in law, business, and/or accounting.
To explain complicated task-based simulations, Becker’s SkillMaster videos clarify the reasoning behind each problem’s answer. Becker video lecturers have risen to CPA-level stardom. I could easily identify Becker’s instructors in a crowded room, as they are memorable in the best way.
Wiley CPAexcel includes an incredible 140+ hours of video lectures in the Platinum Review Course. The “bite-sized” videos are shorter than 30 minutes, so you can squeeze several videos into your busy day. Wiley also has a great “Deep Dive Videos” series that breaks apart complicated problems in just 10-20 minutes.
Plus, unlike other courses that might just use one or two instructors, the Wiley videos feature several instructors from top-rated U.S. colleges and universities. This variety makes it more enjoyable to watch hours and hours of CPA videos.
Surgent CPA Review also has really high-quality videos. Surgent’s bite-sized lectures are only 10-20 minutes in length. Each video covers a single topic. The expert instructors also provide study notes for each video to reinforce the concepts.
Many online CPA exam prep providers are developing adaptive learning platforms. I want to highlight a few that I think are getting it right.
Surgent’s A.S.A.P. Technology is a new platform that advances your studies. A lot of platforms track your progress and suggest new study materials based on your content weaknesses. But Surgent takes it one step further. Surgent’s MyMCQ feature also adjusts the difficulty of your multiple-choice questions as you master the material. Surgent’s CPA candidates claim that using the MyMCQ feature has saved them, on average, 17% of study time. And no other adaptive software also predicts your actual CPA Exam. So, Surgent’s software gets it right and then some.
And Gleim CPA Review uses the SmartAdapt platform. It detects your weak areas and recommends a study plan to get you caught up. Unlike some other courses that use e-learning platforms that were generically built for multiple fields, SmartAdapt was specifically designed for CPA candidates.
Becker CPA has also developed a successful learning platform, Adapt2U Technology powered by Sana Labs. You start your Becker course with an evaluation of your current skills. Then, the Adapt2U study planner directs your studies towards the areas you need to strengthen. It constantly re-assesses your progress and makes adjustments to your personalized study path.
Nowadays, more and more CPA exam review courses are taught online via e-learning platforms. A few, however, incorporate live or live online classes. If you go with the Becker CPA Pro review, you can attend live classes that are taught across the United States. Some classes are offered on weekends, but some weekday classes are available, too.
Check out Becker’s live classroom schedule to see if there is a class near you. (Although, in my opinion, Becker’s live courses are a little overrated. Given that you can learn the material from the very qualified instructors via the pre-recorded videos within the course, I see no reason to deal with traffic, going somewhere after work, etc. Instead, I recommend choosing the Becker online course.)
If you live in the Columbus, Ohio area, you may want to see if MDS CPA’s live classes are a good fit for you. The company offers CPA classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Class sessions focus on one section of the CPA Exam—audit, financial, business environment, or regulation—so you can pick the class that will strengthen your weak content areas.
Of course, because of our modern hectic lifestyles (and traffic!), it can be hard to get to a classroom at a certain time every week. Thankfully, some providers now offer “live online” courses that you can “attend” from the comfort of your home. Becker offers LiveOnline classes, as does Wiley. Wiley’s CPA Virtual Classroom Series blends live recorded instruction with pre-recorded lectures to review the most frequently missed questions in the Wiley CPAexcel courses. Students can ask instructors real-time questions during the live sessions or access archived recordings to review lectures at their convenience.
In college, I was one of those students who took advantage of my professors’ office hours as often as I could. So, I’m impressed that many review providers understand the benefits of face-to-face mentoring and offer exam coaching for their students. Yaeger CPA, however, takes it one step further. Yaeger’s Instructor Hotline gives you on-demand tutoring and one-on-one mentoring from CPA-licensed accounting professors. Students can schedule same-day appointments that include 15-45 minute phone calls with Yaeger instructors of their choice. When you get stuck on a difficult study problem, this type of personalized direction could be a big boost to your confidence.
A lot of my readers use flashcards, and I appreciate Becker CPA’s flashcards. The Pro course comes with both printed and digital versions on the Becker flashcards. Additionally, you can also purchase Becker’s flashcards separately. Becker’s flashcards are the best I have found at helping candidates commit topics to memory and improving overall retention.
It’s important that you can access your study materials from anywhere to maximize your study time, so mobile apps are a popular feature to consider. Unfortunately, not all providers have developed proprietary apps yet. Roger CPA, however, offers a great mobile app that lets you access your course materials, including your progress metrics. The app includes audio lectures, MCQs, TBS, practice tests, and a full set of digital flashcards.
If you’re getting down to the wire, you might find a cram course helpful for that last study push. For example, Roger CPA’s cram course is a two-week curriculum that reinforces critical topics and provides an intensive last-minute review. The cram course has the potential to boost your CPA Exam score by up to 10 points!
The Yaeger CPA Review CRAM Course is another good final review to consider. The course is available to any student, even if you chose another review provider for the bulk of your studies. In this course, Yaeger instructors lead you through key concepts and core proficiencies needed for the CPA Exam as outlined by the AICPA Blueprint.
Do you like to listen to Audible? Audio lectures are not as popular as video lectures, but some providers like Gleim CPA Review do include audio as well as video lectures in their programs. I wouldn’t call Gleim’s audio lectures “fancy” by any means, but they are a good study tool if you want to have CPA review materials in your headphones at all times.
Yaeger CPA also has a series of Listen-N-Learn audio lectures that cover all of the CPA Exam’s major concepts. Students can download the lectures to their mobile devices and listen on the go.
Let’s be honest about something: The path to your CPA license is not cheap. Your courses and fees add up, so I understand if you are concerned about costs. Remember, though, that this is an investment in your future and your career.
NINJA CPA one of the best cheap CPA review courses. It’s for budget-conscious CPA candidates who might not need to invest in an entire comprehensive course. Although NINJA CPA does not offer adaptive learning platforms like some of the other courses, they have high-quality videos, texts, and MCQs at an affordable price point. Plus, NINJA CPA Review allows you to subscribe to the content on a month-by-month basis, which could save you money in the long road.
If you’re a fairly recent college graduate who has already taken a lot of coursework that overlaps with the exam study material, I suggest a course that will quickly pinpoint your content weakness. Because of their outstanding A.S.A.P. Technology learning platform, Surgent CPA Review might be right for you.
If you’ve been working in the field, you may already have many of the skills needed to pass certain sections of the CPA Exam. Therefore, you may want to consider a provider that can quickly access your weaknesses and develop a personalized study plan to fill in those content gaps. For that reason, I suggest Surgent CPA Review for the same reasons that I recommend their products to recent college grads.
Here are some brief evaluations of top review providers. For more information, read my article about the Best CPA Exam Review Courses.
Becker CPA Exam Review and Wiley CPAexcel are both strong courses with good reputations among CPAs. Although they each have their strong points, Becker has many more hours of video lectures (275+ hours per section), and that’s an important point to consider if you are a visual learner. However, Wiley offers many more practice questions and task-based simulations in the Platinum course than Becker.
In the end, I’d choose Becker over Wiley if budget was not a concern.
Becker CPA Review is one of the most well-respected names in CPA exam review courses. With a personalized study planner, a mobile app, plenty of MCQs and TSBs, digital flashcards, and a final review, I understand why Becker comes highly recommended by so many CPA professionals. However, Surgent offers similar products but with a slightly bigger test bank. Plus, Surgent has a sophisticated learning platform that cuts down your study time, all at a lower price point than Becker. Surgent is better for recent grads and professionals who need to cut down their study time (because work is all-consuming, right?).
Consequently, Becker is an excellent option for candidates who need more detailed teaching and hand-holding. So, if you sat in a tax class but have no recollection of it, you’ll probably do best with Becker, as you’ll likely need to “relearn” all the concepts.
Roger CPA Review is a strong course that gives Becker a run for its money. Becker CPA’s Pro plan comes with more lecture hours, MCQs, and SIMs than Roger CPA’s Review Elite package. However, I can’t ignore Roger’s engaging lectures. If you learn best from unique presentations of complicated materials, I suggest taking advantage of Roger CPA’s free trial and checking out the sample video lectures.
If you are wavering between Gleim CPA Review and some of Wiley CPAexcel’s products, think about how you learn. Wiley has some of the best bite-sized videos. So, if you are a learner who enjoys short bursts of engaging content, you may want to consider Wiley CPAexcel.
However, if you are more of a hands-on learner, you may benefit from the realistic test bank that comes with the Gleim Premium Review System. Plus, Gleim’s system includes an incredible 1,300+ practice task-based simulations. Since TBSs are such a large component of the CPA Exam, Gleim’s MCQs and SIMs could help you feel more prepared for the real exam.
First, visit the NASBA website. Check out the jurisdiction where you will apply for a license and confirm those particular requirements. Next, fill out your application with NASBA and wait for your NTS, or Notice to Schedule. Finally, using the info on your NTS, schedule your exam at a Prometric site near you. If you need more advice, check out my longer article about the CPA Exam application.
I’m not going to lie to you: The CPA Exam isn’t what I would call easy. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult professional licensing exams and only has a 50% pass rate. That’s why it’s important to be prepared by using a review course that best suits you. But I definitely think the CPA Exam is not overly hard, and it’s certainly passable. And if you’re curious, here are the common reasons candidates find the CPA exam to be hard.
Each section has a different focus and format. BEC requires a lot of writing, while FAR, AUD, and REG are weighed with more MCQs and TBSs.
Since the content of FAR covers a range of financial accounting and reporting topics, I often recommend CPA candidates start with FAR followed by AUD and REG.
Since the contents of BEC are a little more unique with its themes of governance and economic analysis, I usually recommend tackling it last. (I have more recommendations about which CPA sections to take first, too.)
Although every state different requirements to become a CPA, some are fairly common. For example, most states require CPA candidates to have a combination of education and experience.
The education requirement is usually fulfilled with 150 credit hours earned through an accredited college or university. Once you’ve met certain education requirements, you can take (and hopefully pass!) the CPA Exam, and in some states, a CPA ethics exam. Once those pesky exams are over, you’ll need 1-2 years of professional accounting experience before you apply for your CPA license. (If you want more information about becoming a CPA, check out my article.)
The Certified Public Accountant designation, which is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), is recognized in the United States and places with U.S. regional offices.
However, the CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant) certification for CPAs is globally recognized. Two organizations grant the CGMA: the AICPA and the CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants).
If you’ve reached the end of this article and you’re starting to wonder if becoming a CPA is worth all the effort, let me reinforce a few points. As a CPA, you’ll have access to significant CPA benefits. First, CPAs have more job opportunities. Your license will open the door to careers in multiple government agencies, international business firms, non-profit organizations, and even educational institutions. Second, you’ll have greater job security and flexibility, which is especially important in a down economy. And third, CPAs make 10-15% more than accountants without their CPA license. Some firms even give their employees a bonus after passing all exams and obtaining their license, in addition to raising their CPA salary.
Most CPA candidates study for 80-100 hours per section, for a total of 300-400 hours. Learn more about how many hours you’ll study for the CPA Exam in my detailed article.
The United States has 55 different accountancy jurisdictions. Although jurisdictions used to have widely different requirements, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy have been collaborating with each jurisdiction to develop more commonalities across the nation. I’ve outlined many of the details in my article, CPA Requirements by State.
Yes—you can take multiple exams for different CPA sections in the same window. But the exam windows are going extinct — the AICPA has adopted continuous testing that means you can sit for the CPA Exam year-round. However, if you fail a section, you do have to wait to receive your score before you can apply to retake it.
Many CPA exam review providers provide substantial discounts to my readers. You can find a list of CPA discounts and promo codes on this website.
CPA candidates often ask me about the best CPA review course for 2020. Every future CPA is different, and everyone has different learning needs and time constraints. So, it’s hard for me to give an award of “best.” But if I had to purchase one exam review for myself, I would purchase Surgent CPA Review.
Let me tell you why. First, we are all busy. If I had to study for the CPA Exam again, I would want a review that gave me the biggest advantages in terms of study time. Surgent’s A.S.A.P Technology e-learning platform will help you do just that. Not only does Surgent provide high-quality study materials, but their personalized learning approach will help you study more effectively and more efficiently, pushing you to the finish line.
I hope this article gives your search for the right CPA Exam review a little direction. If you’re still wondering, “Which CPA review course is best for me,” please message me. Plus, sign up for my free newsletter for lots of CPA Exam information, study tips, and advice on passing your exams the first time.
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!