When you’re ready to take the CPA Exam, you need to decide which CPA review course you should use. And at some point, you may find yourself wondering how Surgent CPA Review and Becker CPA Review compare. Becker is pretty much the biggest name in the industry, and Surgent is still fairly new to the game. So, should you go with tried-and-true or new and improved? As CPAs who’ve reviewed all the top courses, we’ve created this unbiased assessment to help you make the call between Surgent CPA Review and Becker CPA Review. Use our analysis to get the right CPA Exam prep for you!
CPA Review Attribute
Surgent CPA Review - Ultimate Pass
Becker CPA Review - Becker Bundle
Access Until You Pass
High -- Without continued access, you have to pay for a new course if your course expires before you finish the exam.
Medium -- Video lectures could be more important for visual and auditory learners.
Over 350 video lectures
Over 150 hours of video lectures
CPA Test Bank
High -- Without practice questions, you won't be able to apply the knowledge you've learned throughout the course.
High -- You'll want the books to learn the concepts, especially if you do not receive video lectures with the course.
Printed and digital
Printed and digital
Low -- flashcards reinforce the topics you've already learned, but research shows you'll be more likely to commit the items to memory if you create flashcards yourself.
1,000 printed and 2,200 digital flashcards
1,400 digital flashcards
In this round of best CPA review course, we declare Becker CPA Review the winner, as the company is more established, and the lecturers are better. Becker also has adaptive technology, access until you pass, a mobile app, a study planner, a final review, digital flashcards, and more. Becker’s price point is just a bit higher, but many people believe their industry longevity justifies it.
However, Surgent CPA Review does have a lot to offer as well. Surgent also has adaptive technology, access until you pass, a slightly bigger test bank, flashcards, and a final review. But Surgent is new to the industry, so they don’t yet have the same reputation for success. Therefore, I consider Surgent to be a better choice for candidates who failed a CPA Exam section after using one of the more popular CPA review courses. In that case, I think switching to Surgent can help you strengthen your weak areas with a fresh set of practice questions.
Becker CPA Review has been around since day one of the CPA Exam prep industry. In fact, because Newton Becker created Becker CPA Review in 1957, it was one of the very first CPA review courses. After Becker launched Becker CPA Review as a company in 1960, the course’s popularity grew quickly and has maintained a solid reputation ever since. Becker is now the largest provider of prep courses for the U.S. CPA Exam. Becker CPA Review also has a great track record as a course, as over 90% of Elijah Watt Sells winners from 2005-2016 used Becker to pass the CPA Exam. And, Becker serves all Big 4 accounting firms and 99 of the top 100 accounting firms in the U.S. Therefore, Becker CPA is quite a force in the world of public accounting.
On the other hand, Surgent CPA Review is aging well, but it is still a younger and consequently less storied course. Jack Surgent founded Surgent Professional Education in 1985 and then Liz Kolar joined him establishing Surgent CPA Review in 2013. Jack Surgent also manages a CPA firm, and Liz Kolar has decades of experience as a college professor. Then, in 2015, Surgent acquired ExamMatrix and the proprietary adaptive technology ExamMatrix developed. At that point, Surgent started applying this technology to their accounting exam prep courses, starting with Surgent CPA Review. Therefore, Surgent CPA Review was one of the first courses on the market to have adaptive technology, and this development increased the course’s popularity. However, Surgent still doesn’t have nearly as many years in the business as Becker.
The course interface of Becker CPA Review is one of the best available. The course is well-designed and features Becker’s Adapt2U technology, which tells candidates the next study steps they should take. The course supplies detailed reporting about your performance with the exam content and your progress within the course. In this way, Becker CPA Review takes the guesswork out of your studies and ensures that you’re completely prepared to pass. The course also contains an interactive study planner that sets up your study agenda with plenty of time to finish your review by exam day. Additionally, the Adapt2U technology directs you to complete a final review in order to refine your understanding of the most heavily tested concepts and ensure that you’re ready for every type of exam question.
Surgent CPA Review’s interface also has adaptive technology. Specifically, the course contains Surgent’s state of the art, proprietary A.S.A.P technology that aims to save candidates tons of study time. The course does so by using your performance on practice quizzes to determine the exam content you should study each day. Surgent CPA Review serves you practice questions about the test topics you struggle with. It also employs a tool called ReadySCORE to communicate how well you would score on the CPA Exam at any given time. With A.S.A.P. technology, Surgent claims to reduce their students’ study time by 50%. What’s more, Surgent has determined that students with a ReadySCORE of 75 pass the CPA Exam 88% of the time.
Becker CPA Review contains over 150 hours of video lectures. Expert CPAs and accounting, law, or business professionals lead these lectures, and thousands of organizations in the accounting industry trust Becker’s videos. While Becker’s lectures have a bit of a reputation for being boring, they are comprehensive and allow candidates to truly comprehend the subject matter. Furthermore, the SkillMaster videos do a very good job of walking candidates through the process of answering TBSs. TBSs are usually the hardest exam questions, so this extra instruction from Becker is very valuable.
Surgent CPA Review includes 350 video lectures, each of which lasts for about 10-20 minutes. These lectures also feature Surgent’s team of experts, but these individuals are not as well known in the industry. And while I like the fact that Surgent’s lectures are bite-sized, I don’t think they are as well done as the Becker lectures.
The CPA Exam Blueprints can change several times in one year. Furthermore, the CPA Exam itself can experience major modifications from one year to the next. And to finish the CPA Exam, you must pass all 4 sections within 18 months. However, the pass rates are low enough that most candidates fail at least 1 section. Therefore, your CPA journey can last at least 2 years or longer. For these reasons, studying with outdated materials or a course with a limited access length is a big risk to your CPA Exam success. But if you purchase a CPA review course that includes access until you pass, you don’t have to worry about learning the wrong information during your review or losing access to your course if life gets in the way of your exam studies.
Using a course with access until you pass lets you study as long as you need to without worrying that your course access will expire or that your materials will go out of date. Consequently, preparing with a course that doesn’t offer access until you pass makes it very likely that you’ll have to pay to renew your course access or get updated study materials.
Thankfully, both Becker CPA Review and Surgent CPA Review grant access until you pass with the purchase of their courses. The Becker Bundle, which is Becker’s most complete course package, includes access until you pass. And only receiving access until you pass with the purchase of a provider’s most expensive course is industry standard. However, Surgent CPA Review supplies candidates with access until you pass for all 3 of their course packages. Therefore, Surgent is surprisingly more generous with this course concession.
With both Becker CPA Review courses, candidates can ask questions of experienced professors and receive a response within 48 hours. These questions can be exam-related, and the professors will provide thorough answers. Furthermore, candidates can also search through archived discussions to find answers to their questions there.
Surgent’s help from experts is a bit different for 2 reasons. First of all, Surgent’s candidate support improves depending on the course you buy. Secondly, the cheaper course only gives you access to a study expert. You have to purchase the more expensive course to also get access to an accounting expert.
Specifically, the Premier Pass course includes 3 30-minute sessions with a CPA Exam success coach for each exam section (so, 12 total). During these sessions, the coach will help candidates create their study and exam schedules, discuss study strategies and test-taking tips, and hold candidates accountable for their review progress. On the other hand, the Ultimate Pass course also includes 4 hours of virtual tutoring from accounting professors. These professors will help candidates understand confusing exam material with which they have been struggling.
In this way, Surgent CPA Review allows candidates to receive more varied support, but they also ask candidates to pay more for it. And, they set a time limit on your access to that support. In contrast, Becker candidates get the same quality of unlimited support even if they buy the cheaper course option. And, in my opinion, the unlimited access to accounting professors is more valuable because candidates can’t pass the exam unless they understand all of the content at a deep level.
Also, because these courses already contain adaptive technology designed to guide candidates through their studies and eliminate the guesswork, access to a CPA Exam success coach seems a little redundant. Candidates can get good study strategies and testing tips from my website and the review provider sites, so receiving help with the exam content is more important.
Just as Becker and Surgent offer help from experts differently, so they also take an opposing approach to flashcards.
For example, all 3 Surgent CPA Review courses include access to Surgent’s flashcard app. The app contains 2,200+ flashcards covering CPA Exam terms and definitions, and you can download it on iOS and Android devices. However, this flashcard app is actually free on Surgent’s website, so you could use it without buying a Surgent course.
But Surgent also has printed flashcards. Both the Premier Pass and the Ultimate Pass packages include the flashcards, but you can buy the flashcards separately if you purchase the Essentials Pass course instead. This set of spiral-bound flashcards addresses 1,000 terms and definitions total, with 250 flashcards each for AUD, BEC, and REG and 300 flashcards for FAR.
As mentioned, Becker diverges from Surgent with their flashcard offering. Meaning, you must pay for digital or printed flashcards separately if you don’t buy the Becker Bundle. This a la cart option contains over 1,300 cards with questions and brief answers.
However, the Becker Bundle includes 1,400 digital flashcards within the online course. So, you can search these flashcards to find cards about certain topics, and you can drill yourself with the cards in random order or in order of lecture and topic. You can also discover your progress with the flashcards from the in-course statistics.
In light of the flashcard variations between these 2 providers, I believe Becker uses their flashcards to fill their more complete course option with even more valuable features. Therefore, the Becker flashcards are more advantageous. And I think Surgent candidates aren’t benefiting as much from getting the printed flashcards with the more expensive course options because the digital flashcards are free, more numerous, and just as easy to use on a phone as they are in printed format.
Pass rates are a pretty controversial topic in the CPA review industry. Some courses don’t publish their pass rates at all. And of the ones that do, each takes a different approach to configuring and explaining their pass rate. Furthermore, neither the AICPA nor another trusted third party provide pass rate data for the review courses. Therefore, pass rates aren’t really the best indicator of how well a course will work for you.
That being said, both Becker and Surgent have published pass rate information for their courses in the past. Becker says that the pass rate of their students is twice that of non-Becker students. And Surgent claims a pass rate of 88% among students who have a ReadySCORE of 75 or higher.
Between the 2, Surgent’s pass rate claim is a bit more compelling because Becker’s pass rate profession is a little confusing. Non-Becker students would be candidates of other courses such as Wiley, Roger, and Surgent, each of whom declare pass rates of 90%, 91%, and 88% respectively. And Becker can’t have a 180%, 182%, or 176% pass rate. Therefore, their pass rate statement is harder to accept than Surgent’s.
Because Becker CPA Review and Surgent CPA Review both offer video lectures, they address the study needs of audio and visual learners. The fact that they both have flashcards also enables them to connect with kinesthetic learners. Linguistic learners can benefit from the physical books that both courses supply, and logical learners will appreciate the test banks.
But, while both courses have something for each learning style, the quality of their materials for that learning style differ. Becker’s video lectures offer better explanations, but Surgent has more flashcards. Furthermore, while Becker’s books are clearer and more comprehensive, Surgent’s test bank is bigger and includes answer explanations. So, you need to determine which learning style you’ll lean on the most to help you decide between these 2 courses.
Becker CPA’s courses are more expensive, but Becker discounts both of their course options quite frequently. And, these Becker CPA discounts are usually quite deep, as they may be as much as $500-$1,000 off. Therefore, if you can take advantage of Becker’s discounts, you can get the most expensive course on the market for a fairly average price.
Surgent CPA Review also offers a discount, but this discount only applies to their Premier Pass course. Therefore, if you want the maximum amount of Surgent CPA Review course features, you’ll still have to pay the maximum amount. And, you’ll still be paying more for Surgent’s middle course option than you would pay for Surgent’s cheapest course.
Becker has 2 course package options. Their most complete course, the Becker Bundle, costs $3,987. Their standard course, the Backer 4-Part Review, costs $3,393. Finally, separate parts of their course cost $1,131.
Surgent has 3 review course options. Their most basic course, the Essentials Pass course, costs $1,599. Their medium option, the Premier Pass course, comes in at $2,399. And, Surgent’s most complete course, the Ultimate Pass course, has a price of $2,899.
If you purchase the Becker Bundle, you will receive access until you pass, so you won’t have to pay a course renewal fee. However, if you buy the 4-Part Review, you will have to pay $299 for a 3-month extension to your course if your course expires before you finish your review.
All Surgent CPA Review course options come with access until you pass. Therefore, you will not have to pay a renewal fee to maintain access to your course until you finish your review.
The access length for the Becker Bundle is until you pass the CPA Exam. However, Becker maintains the right to disable your account if inactive for 3 years. But if Becker does disable your account and you have not passed the CPA Exam, you can call Becker and they will reactivate your account at no additional charge.
The access length for the 4-Part Review course could be one of 2 time periods. The first access length period is 18 months after you log in to the course for the first time, which involves visiting the Becker home page and using your user identification and password to log in. The second access length period is 24 months from the time you purchase your course. Whichever of these time periods ends first is the duration of your course access.
Again, all of Surgent’s course options come offer access until you pass. Therefore, you can retain use of your Surgent course until you have finished the entire CPA Exam by passing all 4 exam sections.
Becker CPA Review goes on sale quite frequently. My site has a Becker CPA Review discount that usually ranges from $500-$1,000 off.
Surgent CPA Review also has a regular sale. My Surgent CPA Review discount of $700 off is usually available.
If you purchase an online Becker CPA Review course, you can receive a full tuition refund if requested within 10 days of your initial purchase or your first course login, whichever comes first.
Surgent’s refund policy alters according to the course purchased.
So, if you bought the Essential Pass course, you can receive a full refund within 10 days of purchasing so long as you didn’t complete any practice exams during that time.
If you purchased the Premier Pass course, you can receive a refund within 10 days of the date of your order. However, your refund will be less a $300 cancellation fee. And you will only qualify for the refund if you didn’t complete any practice exams or use any of your coaching sessions yet. Surgent will allow you to keep your printed books and flashcards.
Finally, people who bought the Ultimate Pass package also have 10 days from the date of purchase to receive a refund. This refund will also be less a $300 cancellation fee. To be eligible for this refund, you may not have completed any practice exams, used any coaching sessions, or accessed the Excel® for Accounting and Finance Professionals on-demand course. But again, you can keep the printed textbooks and flashcards.
And no matter which Surgent course you purchase, you can’t receive a refund for cancelling after 10 days.
Becker CPA Review may be the best course for you. If you have the budget to pay for Becker’s elevated prices and plan to prioritize the brand name of your CPA course, then you may want to try Becker. Becker does have all the essentials candidates need to pass, such as video lectures, printed books, a test bank, candidate support, access until you pass, flashcards, adaptive technology, and more.
However, we do not generally recommend Becker over Wiley CPAexcel or Gleim CPA Review. We believe these other courses have some superior features and offer a better value for your money. For these reasons, Becker does not top our CPA chart, but we also don’t discourage candidates from buying Becker if they’ve considered all of their CPA course options.
Again, you may find that Surgent CPA Review is your ideal CPA course. Surgent offers a lot of useful materials such as books, a test bank, flashcards, an adaptive course, candidate coaching, video lectures, access until you pass, and more. Therefore, Surgent’s most complete course has all of the study materials we feel candidates need to have the best chance at achieving CPA Exam success. So, you may find that Surgent is the course for you.
On the other hand, Surgent is also not the course that seems to work best for most of our readers. We’ve seen more of our readers pass the CPA Exam with courses such as Gleim CPA Review and Becker CPA Review. Therefore, we don’t have evidence that Surgent CPA Review is the best course overall at this time.
Becker CPA Review
Surgent CPA Review
Access Until You Pass
Help From Experts
From this table, you can see that the Surgent CPA Review course only scores 4 points. In contrast, Becker CPA Review scores 5 points. Therefore, in our estimation, Becker beats out Surgent. Becker’s course has a better reputation, better materials, and better discounts. So, even though it is more expensive, you’re getting something that justifies the price. On the other hand, Surgent’s course is so new that reconciling the high cost is hard.
Now, one of us did use Becker to pass the CPA Exam. But we did so many years ago, and Becker is still around. We found Becker to be a quality course back then, and the fact that their position in the industry hasn’t really moved remains a testament to that quality.
Furthermore, Surgent has made impressive strides since entering the CPA review course scene rather recently. Their technology is unique, and their commitment to innovation is encouraging. So, we believe this course has a lot of potential that move prove very effective in the future.
Additionally, both courses have room for improvement. Their prices are high, their video lectures lack engagement, and their customer support could be more all-inclusive. So, neither is necessarily the perfect CPA course.
However, one of them could be the perfect course for you, depending on your situation. And we encourage you to consider them both before you invest in CPA Exam prep. Still, the course that more candidates seem to benefit from is Becker CPA Review, so find Becker to be the best choice between these 2 courses.
If you're still not sure which course is the best for you, please contact me for a personalized recommendation. You can also sign up for my free CPA e-course to learn more about the process of becoming a CPA.
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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