How to Minimize CPA Exam Cost (Pay Less with these 5 Tips)

minimize cpa exam cost

The path toward the CPA qualification can get expensive. However, you can use CPA discounts to help pay for the CPA Exam. I hope these tips help keep your CPA Exam cost down.

At the end of this article, you’ll find links to a Becker CPA discount, a Roger CPA discount, and many other CPA course discount codes, too.

My 5 CPA Exam Cost Saving Tactics

You can expect to spend $3,000 before you get your CPA license, once you factor in all of the study materials, registration, and application fees. So if you need help paying for the CPA Exam, here are my 5 suggestions to reduce the CPA test cost:

1. Take the Exam Only When You Are Ready

In my opinion, the #1 cost to avoid is the “retaker” cost. After all, the costs to retake a failed section really add up. Do you have to pay extra if you fail the CPA Exam? Well, if you fail to pass, you’ll need to pay the examination fees and related traveling expenses all over again.

Plus, you might have to pay additional review course fees if you need to keep studying past the date when an online course ends. To help, some CPA prep courses let you pay monthly for CPA Exam review.

Everyone wants to pass on their first try, but few actually sit down and make a solid plan towards this goal. For example, did you prepare a workable study plan to keep track of your progress? Do you realistically have time to complete the study? The suggestions may sound cliché, but they could make or break your passing success.

2. Take Several CPA Exam Sections Together

Is the CPA Exam cheaper if you pay all at once? The answer can be “yes” in some states. But only if you’re ready to take more than one section within the same time frame.

I’ll explain. Most jurisdictions charge several fees to take the CPA Exam. There’s usually an application fee to even see if you’re eligible to take the test. And then, you’ll pay an examination fee for every section that you sign up to take. So you might have an examination fee for AUD, FAR, REG, and your CPA Discipline section, regardless of when you take them. Plus, you’ll probably have a registration fee when you actually sign up to take a section.

In some jurisdictions, you have to pay a registration fee for each section of the 4-part CPA Exam. So let’s say a board charges $100 to register for each section. Well, even if you register for all four at once, you’ll end up paying $400.

Getting a break on registration costs

Or, some jurisdictions cut you a break if you register for more than one section at once. Illinois, for example, has a tiered system. The registration fee for just 1 section is $40. But it’s $76 for two, $108 for three, and $120 for all four sections.

However, most state boards give discounts to candidates who apply for several exam sections in one go. So in other jurisdictions—like Guam, for instance—you just pay a registration fee for each time you register. That is to say, if you register for one or two or all sections at once, you still just have to pay one registration fee. Registering for just one section right now? Well, in Guam that will cost you $100. But if you decide to register for two, three, or four sections at once, that will still just cost you $100.

What’s the downside?

Although registering for all four CPA Exam sections at once sounds like a great money saver, there is a catch. NASBA and most boards of accountancy recommend that you only sign up to take the exam sections that you will be ready for in the next 6 months. After all, in most jurisdictions, once you receive your Notice to Schedule, you only have 6 months to sit for and pass that section of the exam. So if you aren’t ready to pass them before your NTS expires, don’t register for them all at once.

Because after all, if your NTS expires and you haven’t passed that section yet, you’ll have to re-apply for that section. And in the end, you could spend more money when you were actually trying to save it.

Minimizing travel costs

Also, for candidates who need to travel far to a testing center, taking several sections in one trip can substantially reduce CPA Exam costs. For example, for international candidates who are traveling overnight to take the exam, you’ll save on accommodations as well as visa expenses.

3. Pick One Core CPA Review that Suits Your Learning Style

I’ve received numerous emails from candidates who want to switch from one review course to another. This isn’t a good idea if you can avoid it, in my opinion. Let me explain why.

Truth be told, the CPA Exam curriculum presented in many review courses is somewhat similar. They generally stick to the content covered by the AICPA’s exam blueprints that clearly outline the concepts likely to be tested. Then, most review providers gather all of the questions from previous exams that they can. These previously used questions might be supplemented with questions written by a review provider’s professional staff. So in the end, many courses have similar types of practice questions and review content.

However, how the content is presented can be vastly different from one provider to another. Some courses have stronger written textbooks, while others focus more on e-learning platforms or video lectures. So although a different course might have more or fancier tools than what you’re already using, the actual types of practice questions and review material might not change that much.

Switching CPA Exam study guides mid-review can be expensive

Plus, switching courses costs a lot of money. Even with my CPA review course discounts, it will set you back to totally ditch your course and start a new one.

Instead, you should spend a good amount of time picking the one course that fits your learning style. If the most affordable course happens to be your first choice, great. But if you think a more expensive course is better, I suggest you go with your instinct. Studying with the right tool substantially increases your chance of passing and minimizes the chance of a retake.

So really, even if you end up spending a little more for the review course that you think will really work for you, you could save money in the long run. How? Well, if you study properly and pass your exam on the first try, you won’t have to worry about expensive re-take fees.

Pick what’s best for you

But the last thing to do is to blindly follow the crowd and get whatever course people think is the “best.” Only you know what’s best for yourself. So how do you pick? Here are some ideas:

Note: It’s fine to get practice questions from different providers as supplements. But still, I recommend that you rely on one review course as the core study guide.

4. Check Out the CPA Review Discount Coupons

Discount coupons are available from CPA review providers from time to time. I have a list of the latest promo codes and offers for easy reference. Here are some of the most recent discounts:

* Becker CPA review discount

* Surgent CPA discount code

* Roger CPA review discount

* Wiley CPA discount code

(I do not have a Superfast CPA discount, however.)

5. Make Good Use of Free Materials

Yes, there are free lunches after all! In fact, you can find some good free CPA materials online if you know where to look. However, please stick to current and reliable sources. After all, the content on the CPA Exam occasionally changes. You don’t want to waste precious study time by downloading outdated—or just flat-out incorrect—material from an undependable website.

(a) AICPA official tutorial and sample tests

I definitely recommend checking out the AICPA’s sample tests and tutorial video. The AICPA has four sample tests, one for each section of the CPA Exam. (That is, they have a sample test for AUD, FAR, REG and the CPA Discipline sections.) The sample tests are not as long as the “real” exam; each one only takes about 2 hours to complete instead of 4. And you don’t get a score after finishing a test, so you can’t learn anything about your potential score from taking the AICPA practice tests.

So therefore, these sample tests also do not offer enough practice for your CPA exam preparation. But still, they give a good idea about the exam format and style. Plus, the short video explains some of the exam’s functionality, so it’s important to watch before your exam day.

* Official CPA Exam tutorial and sample tests.

(b) 6-month access to AICPA Authoritative Literature Database

Did you know that the AICPA gives all CPA Exam candidates a free 6-month access to the Authoritative Literature Database? This is really great, because you use it in the exam’s task-based simulation sections.

However, it takes a little practice to get used to the database’s search function. So, I recommend signing up for this free access and learning how to use the database to save you time on exam day. It could especially help you with the simulations in the REG section, as candidates often feel rushed to finish REG.

* More info on CPA Exam authoritative literature

(c) Free trials from selected CPA review courses

BeckerWiley CPAexcelGleim, and Roger offer free trials. That’s right! They have absolutely free access to their online content, test banks and practice questions, and even video lectures. Some free trials are good for only a few days, but other providers give you access for a couple of weeks.

Free trials are important to your CPA journey for two reasons:

  1. Remember point 3 above? When you work through free trials, you can “try on” review courses and find the one that works for you.
  2. You can use free trials to gain additional access to more sample questions and study materials.

So please, check them out and click the free trial buttons on the respective pages.


Will Big 4 pay the fee to sit for the CPA Exam?

Do Big 4 firms pay for your CPA Exam fees? For example, does Deloitte pay for the CPA Exam? Likewise, does PWC pay for the CPA Exam? Well, I can’t speak for every Big 4 firm. However, many firms do offer to cover their employee’s exam fees as an incentive to go after the credential. After all, the more training their employees get, the stronger the firm is in the end.

Does the federal government for the CPA Exam?

Some of my readers employed by a public agency ask me if the government will pay their exam fees or cover the cost of study materials. For example, will the military pay for Becker CPA Exam review? You should check with your supervisor, as each government agency is a little different. However, Becker does have relationships with over 200 agencies to give discounts to their employees. So, it’s worth checking with your HR department.

Do I have to pay to retake a failed CPA Exam?

If you’re wondering, “Do I need to pay again to retake a CPA Exam,” the answer is “yes.” It is costly to retake a failed exam because of the additional registration and/or re-application fees charged in many states.

Is there a CPA payment plan?

Several CPA Exam review providers actually have financing options for their course material. For example, I know about Becker CPA financing, Gleim CPA financing, Roger CPA financing, and even Surgent financing options.

How can I finance Becker CPA or finance Surgent CPA?

If you are interested in learning more about Becker CPA or Surgent CPA, just hop over to my pages devoted to them. Plus, these companies have good customer service staff, and you can always reach out to them via their websites to help.

Do You Have Other Ideas for How to Pay for the CPA Exam?

Share your ideas below! I’m sure your fellow readers will appreciate learning from your experience!

Further Reading

Free CPA Questions: Sources for Free CPA Exam Study Material and More

You are also welcome to check out my frequently asked questions page, or sign up for my free e-course to learn about the CPA exam process here:

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For Intl Candidates
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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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