Choosing the best CPA review course can be hard, especially with all the “features” each one offers, and all the review sites and rankings you can find online.
In this post we’ll break down the elements of a review course that really matters, and point out some things that aren’t that important.
I’m Nate with SuperfastCPA, and in this post, instead of giving you a ambiguous overview of the different review courses, we’re going to cover why most of the features and benefits that you see from the different review courses don’t really matter at all… or why they won’t actually help you pass your exams any faster.
In contrast to that, we’ll go over the 2 or 3 features that your chosen review course absolutely must have. And some of these features aren’t included in some review courses, and a lot of times, these things aren’t even something you hear talked about in the discussion about how to choose a review course. So, then, as we go through those 2 things and narrow things down, at the end, we will give you a simple 3-step process for identifying the absolute best review course for you personally. So, let’s get started.
So, as I said in the intro, this won’t be just a shallow overview of the different CPA review courses. We’re going to cover why the review course rankings or those review sites that they don’t really give you the whole story… or they give you too much of the story and they just talk incessantly about all the little details from each review course, when really, it only comes down to 2 or 3 things.
We’re going to cover the things that actually matter, like I just said, and then there are things pushed as features that really aren’t that important. And by explaining what matters and what doesn’t, we’ll also cover a decent amount of study strategy and how the elements of what does matter fits into effective studying. We’ll also cover a few things that you’ve probably never heard about CPA Review courses in general, so let’s get started…
Table of Contents
The “Secret” About the Best CPA Review Course…
First of all, here’s the big secret that’s not really a secret, any full review course has the information that you need to pass. So, any big-name review course that you’ve heard of, whether that’s Becker, CPA Excel, Roger, Sergent, Gleim… any of those has the tools that you would need to pass.
So in other words, you could pass with any review course. No review course is $2,000 to $3,000 better than any other review course.
The reason I say that is I get a lot of emails about this where someone’s like, “You know, I’m struggling with this review course, the one I have. I heard that this other review course is better for this, etc” and they just mention one very minor feature.
Or sometimes I’ll get an email and they’ve already done the deed, they ditched the previous review course that they had already paid for and they paid another $2,000 to $3,000 for the other review course that they thought was going to solve all their problems.
The Reality About Choosing a Review Course
Here’s the reality, your study process is going to account for 90% of the results that you get, not what review course you’re using.
No review course can give you the motivation and discipline to sit down and study every day. Nor do they help you figure out what study methods are high-impact and what methods are mostly a waste of time.
There might be some incremental benefit to some of the different features that each review course says makes them the best… or some of these minor features that one has and one doesn’t, but again, any major review course can get the job done.
You and your study habits, or in other words your study process, is what really matters.
Things That Don’t Really Matter In Choosing a Review Course
Now, here’s a few things that don’t matter… any kind of adaptive learning technology. I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to get less exposure or to skip certain topics entirely based on some type of diagnostic quiz or assessment.
CPA Adaptive Learning Technology?
If you’re not aware, the whole idea behind this adaptive learning technology is starts at the beginning of your study process, meaning if you’re studying for far, you take this pretty big assessment or some type of diagnostic type quiz where it’s anywhere from a dozen questions to a couple hundred questions. You take that and based off the answers you get right, it thinks that those are your strength areas, and the stuff that you get wrong, it thinks are your weak areas.
So, again, there are no magic features that make learning the CPA material passing the CPA exam easy, right?
It’s all there, no matter how they present it. You still have to get to where you understand a topic, assimilate the topic, and retain that information in your brain until test day; that’s the basic process, there’s no getting around that.
CPA Review Courses’ Published Pass Rates?
A review course’s published pass rate is another thing that you can safely ignore. Every single one of the main review courses claims to have pass rates higher than 90%, yet we know that across-the-board, pass rates of the real people taking the exams hovers around 50%.
I’m not saying that the review courses are lying about this, but they pull these statistics from a certain group of people. It’s not just across the board, it’s only from candidates that have qualified through certain parameters through the test prep software or their adaptive learning technology or whatever it is… they poll those people and then it’s based on the responses they get.
So, it’s not just, “Everyone who signs up for our course, 90% of those people pass,” it’s… it’s nothing like that. Anything besides just the basic things that you do need like video lectures, text, practice questions, practice simulations and flashcards… anything else is just kind of fluff and isn’t really something that you’re probably going to use that much.
Elements of a CPA Review Course That Actually Matter
Now, getting down to the 3 or the things that really matter. This is the big, big thing and it has nothing to do with quality of the learning material.
CPA Review Courses with Unlimited Access
You want to make sure that the package you sign up for offers you unlimited access, because people sign up for a course, some people cruise through and pass, but for a lot of people things come up, life happens, and that 18 months gets away from them and their access to their review course runs out.
I get emails all the time about this, like, “My Becker access ran out, which review course should I go with now?”
18 months goes by a lot quicker than you think, that’s just kind of the bottom line. And I have specific recommendations for this, I break it down by price in just a minute.
Ability to Generate a Custom Quiz
The second thing you want is the ability to generate a custom quiz of some kind where you can pull questions from topics of your choosing. Now, the reason you want this, and here is one of our absolute best strategies that will almost guarantee you pass your exam if you will do this every day…
The Best CPA Study Tip You’ll Ever Get
This is one of the main things that we teach our clients or our customers to do to end every study session. So every day, when you sit down with your review course, whether you do a 2-hour session or a 4-hour session, you end that session where you go in and you generate a custom quiz of 30 multiple-choice questions and it’s pulled from all the topics that you have studied so far, like up to that day.
For example, if today you finished lesson 5, you would pull 30 questions from lessons one through 5. If tomorrow you finished lesson 6 hypothetically, then that day, you would pull 30 questions from lessons 1 through 6. The next day, you do lesson 7, 30 questions from lessons 1 through 7… you get the idea.
That is so incredibly powerful for deepening your understanding and retention of all the topics you’ve hit so far, and that’s part of this idea of constant re-review of all the topics.
Again, to end each study session, you simply generate a quiz, custom quiz of 30 questions that’s pulled from all the topics you’ve studied up to that day. And you do that every single day and you will have sky-high retention of all the things you’ve studied by the time you get to test day instead of slowly forgetting everything you studied.
So, before we move on and get to the pricing, let’s do a quick reader poll.
In the comments below, what review course are you using or what review course are you planning to use? And why did you pick that course? Or if you don’t have a course, yet why are you interested in the course that you’re planning on using? Just put your response to that in the comments below.
CPA Review Courses with Unlimited Access By Price
So, to break down pricing for unlimited access for the different review courses, I went and did a couple hours of research on this.
Here’s kind of the breakdown, and this is from basically the least expensive package that includes unlimited access, meaning no time limits, down to the most expensive.
Best CPA Review Course with Unlimited Access
|Surgent||Essentials Pass||$1,360* - $1,599||Value|
|Wiley CPAexcel||Silver Course||$1,575* - $2,100||Tried & True|
|Gleim||Premium Review||$1,499* - $1,999||Most Practice SIMs|
|Roger||Elite Unlimited Course||$1,999* - $2,999||High-Energy Lectures & Technology|
|Becker||Premium Course||$2,999||Gold Standard|
*the lower side of each price reflects discounts that can sometimes be found for the given review course.
Surgent CPA Review Pricing
I have these… this range, because this is the regular price, $1,599 which is not bad. But you can get some discounts through their site.
For example, they have an exit pop which is one of those like pop ups that it’s like an exit… exit intent pop-up that pops up if you go to leave the page, and that will offer you 15% off of any package.
So, if you include that, that would take it down to around $1,360. The base sticker price is $1,599 and as far as what’s included in the essentials, in my opinion, it’s everything anyone would actually need.
You can pay higher for things like getting the physical textbooks and then having access to “CPA coaching”… stuff like that, these extra services that I never used and I don’t really… I don’t necessarily recommend or I don’t think everyone needs that. You might personally be interested in some of the other features for their higher plans and you can read through what those are in their site.
By the way, I would say Surgent’s “thing” is kind of the technology & overall value, and they really push that they have actual adaptive software. So, you know, again, I’m not an expert on that.
Wiley CPAexcel Review Pricing
The next one is the tried and true, Wiley CPAexcel. Wiley is the one that I’ve been recommending to anyone that asked me for the last few years. I just really like Wiley’s format.
Now, I should say Surgent really pushes the… pushes the technology side of their… of their service, and I mean, I never studied with Surgent. They get a lot of good reviews, there’s a lot of good things said about them online or, you know, from kind of the… in the whole CPA exam world I guess that I live in, I just hear a lot of good things about Surgent. And they are the lowest-priced, their essentials pass has the unlimited access.
CPAexcel is what I used to pass my exams. Their silver course is their lowest or least expensive course, and again, that includes everything that I think anyone would need. The base price is $2,100. At different times throughout the year, there are discounts that can get it as low as around $1500.
I do have some info in a minute about how to get the best discounts on these review courses. CPAexcel also has unlimited access with their courses. They have a very simple process for renewing your access if you need to and you don’t need to submit “proof” or any documentation. If you get to the end of your access duration – and it always shows your access dates right when you log in – it’s as simple as live chatting one of their agents and saying, “I need more time on my account,” and they add a year, and that’s basically all you have to do.
Wiley’s “thing” is kind of the bite-sized lessons, they have there all their content broken out into a much more granular approach, so the lessons are much smaller than something like Becker.
I really like the look and feel of Wiley’s site and course as well. That might be biased because that’s the one actually used, but they did a major update that made it a lot better in the last year or 2 that the old way.
Gleim CPA Review Pricing
The next one is Gleim. So, it’s in the same price range as CPAexcel. Gleim is known for having the most practice simulations. I think they have almost double what the next most has. I don’t know how valuable that really is. Like, if you’ve gone through 200 or 300 practice simulations, how valuable would 500 or 600 be? I don’t really know, I don’t think it’d be that valuable. But anyways, Gleim is very thorough as far as what their “thing” is.
Gleim’s whole thing is getting you extremely prepared. I would say that their practice questions are harder or more in-depth than a lot of the real questions you would see on the exam. So, if you’re into that kind of a thing, it can get you just really, really prepared. It could also be overwhelming to somebody because it is so thorough and they go so deep in their explanations and they have… I believe they have the most questions as well. They just have a lot of practice material for you to use. And they have unlimited access on their premium review as well.
Roger CPA Review Pricing
The next one is Roger. Roger is more of a premium course… or it’s becoming more and more like that. Just kind of the name brand recognition, the technology that goes into it, and then the thing that Roger… Roger’s course is famous for is the lectures done by Roger himself.
Roger has by far the most engaging lectures because he just very high-energy. You can look up some of his YouTube videos to see what I’m talking about, but that’s the thing that everyone mentions.
If you can’t get through a video lecture to save your life, meaning you constantly zone out and, you know, it’s just very hard for you to pay attention because this stuff’s so dry and boring (which it is), then the Roger course might be something want to look into because he is so amped and high energy in his lectures, it’s almost hard to look away.
At the same time, he’s leading you through one topic after another. So, he’s known for… Roger’s courses known for the lectures, but they’re also very high on the technology and they really push their adaptive learning technology as well like Surgent does.
But as you can see, it’s… it’s close to double the price. Their elite unlimited course, they have a lower course that… that just has the 18 months access. I don’t think you should really get that for any reason when you can get the elite unlimited and at different times throughout the year with the discount.
Sometimes, it will be a $1000 off, the regular price is $3000 or $2999. So, depending on the time of the year, you watch for those discounts and you can get… get it for 2000; that’s their highest end course.
Becker CPA Review Pricing
Then of course, you have Becker. It’s another one that’s tiered where you have to buy their premium course to get the unlimited access, and it’s just a straight $3,000.
Becker doesn’t usually really do discounts or anything like that, so it’s pretty much just the flat $3000 for their premium course. Becker is another one that, you know, it’s kind of just the… the gold standard. They can charge a premium for their material because… because of the name brand recognition, the… the reputation they’ve established over the decades of CPA Review. And at this point, I think that any of these, as far as effectiveness, you could go head-to-head with Becker.
I don’t think that it’s, you know, $1,500 better, especially if you’re paying your own money. If your firm is just buying Becker for you, then, you know, it doesn’t really make a difference to you. But if you’re paying your own money, I don’t think that Becker is $1,500 better than something like CPAexcel or Gleim.
How to Get the Best Discounts on CPA Review Courses
Okay, so tips for getting the best discounts. You will usually get the best discounts from the site itself, you’ve got to be a little bit strategic; not that strategic, but here’s really the key: The main thing you want to do, you don’t just buy it the first day you land on their site, you want to get on their email newsletter or sign up for their email list somehow.
There will usually be a pop-up that just pops up that says, you know, “Get this discount for joining our newsletter,” or, “Get our free exam guide” … something like that.
Get on their email list and then you just kind of receive their emails for a few weeks, and see what offers come up. The other thing you can do is sign up for their free trial. You’ll enter your email address as part of signing up for a free trial, and you can be sure that they will be sending you emails, including any discounts that come up. Take advantage of any exit pops; I already mentioned that I know that Surgent does this. Several of the sites do this where there will be some sort of pop up, an exit pop just means the pop up that happens if it thinks you’re leaving the page or closing the tab. If you’re going to close the tab, then a discount thing will pop up, or some way of getting on their email list.
So, you want to get on their email list. Also… if you miss the exit pop-up or you closed it by reflex, because you’re used to doing that, you can open the site again in an incognito tab and it will pop up again.
If you have a few months before you’ll start studying, you just kind of want to watch the different sites and see how they do promotions. The best discounts will be around Memorial Day, Labor Day, the whole back-to-school thing in September, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas or New Year’s, so you’re never more than a month or two away from one of these big sale periods that will come up.
CPA Review Course Elements That Might Matter To You
Alright, so a few unique features that might matter to you personally, I kind of mentioned this with Roger, that would be the big differentiator I think. Here’s when I recommend Roger to somebody. If you’ve been out of school a while, or basically… if you feel like you’re starting from scratch with the CPA exam material, then Roger is a really good choice, because the lectures are so engaging and so easy to pay attention to.
CPA Mentoring Feature
Now, another thing that a lot of review courses offer with some of their higher packages are things like ‘Mentoring’ or ‘Ask a professor’ type services. I know with Wiley, with the higher packages, they basically just have forums attached to each lesson, where if something is really confusing or really for any reason, you can ask a question in the forum related to that lesson, and within 24-48 hours, an actual professor will give you an explanation for your question. I didn’t use that much at all, and again, I don’t… I personally don’t think that’s worth 1000 extra dollars to buy one of the highest packages, but maybe it is to you.
Some of these types of services in this area kind of differ where some, you can send emails directly to a “CPA coach”. I don’t really know what’s all included in that, and for me, I just like to study solo. If I had a question, I found the question in the material… or I found the answer in the material and I just never would have even thought to use something like this, but it might matter to you.
The “Look and Feel” of the Site and Course
The overall “look and feel” of a CPA review course isn’t really a feature, but I think it’s a very important element. The way that you interact with and use the different elements of a review course on their website can either be a smooth process and very user friendly, or more on the clunky side that borders on annoying. So take advantage of free trials and spend a few hours in each of your top choices. Which brings us to how to choose the best CPA course for you personally…
How to Choose the Best CPA Review Course for YOU
Here are the 3 steps to picking the best review course for you personally.
- Based on your budget and what features really matter to you, choose your top 2 to 3 options. Okay, so that’s pretty simple.
- Then all you do, you sign up for a free trial which all of them offer, sign up for the free trial with each of your top 2 to 3 choices.
- Then spend at least 5 hours actually taking quizzes, doing lessons, trying out practice simulations, watching some video lectures, using all the tools in the… in the review course during your free trial. Spend at least 5 hours with each one because this is a big decision. You’re going to be spending a lot of time logged into this interface, whichever one you pick. So, spend at least 5 hours with each one.
By the end of that, there we’ll be one that you just simply like the best based on the look and feel and the usability just how… how the different features work, and that’s the one you go with, that’s all you have to do.
You’ll be happy with your choice, you will have, you know, the other two choices to compare it to so you’ll never feel like, “Well, I wonder what this review course is like,” or, “Maybe I should have gone with this one.” And actually, using the review course inside for 5 hours each, you will have a very good idea of which one you personally like the best, and that… that is the one you should go with.
So, hopefully you found this video and post helpful. Again, I’m Nate with SuperfastCPA. We focus on helping busy CPA candidates pass their CPA exams via strategy and study tools. We’ve helped thousands of candidates pass their exams at this point.
The best place to start with some of our strategies is to read our “Busy Candidates Guide to Passing the CPA Exams Fast”. You can get it at superfastcpa.com/free, or you can just text FASTCPA (one word) to 44222. And also, feel free to subscribe to our channel, hit the little notification, buttons so that you’re notified when we publish new videos. I hope you found this video helpful and thank you for watching.
CPA Review Giveaway
And for the info on the giveaway, so for this giveaway, we’re giving away full access to the Wiley CPA test bank to 3 winners. So, that is a full account to the Wiley CPA test Bank, that’s a $600 value each. The Wiley test Bank has over 6000 multiple choice questions and over 200 simulations, so you just add that to your CPA study process and it just gives you another huge resource to tap into as you work on your CPA exams.
To enter that, the first step is to like this video, subscribe to our channel, the SuperfastCPA YouTube channel, and then leave a comment on this video from that previous question during the video, comment on what review course you’re using or what review course you’re planning to use and why.