Here we are in a brand-new year and here I am writing about the same topic I’ve written about since 2007. Oh well, I suppose there are worse beats out there for drunken tabloid writers, like that brief period I paid my rent with actual clickbait and had to come up with 15 high-fashion models who needed to eat a burger. Let’s not talk about that.
Back in my CPA review days, our phone lines were jammed with candidates from Thanksgiving well through Valentine’s Day asking the important question: Do I need to buy new materials in the new year?
The short answer is a resounding NO. The long answer is slightly more nuanced than that.
The truth is that CPA exam content changes very little from year to year, and understanding how CPA exam questions are developed and eventually deployed to exam content can help explain why. Basically, the process involves committee, analysis, pre-testing, and likely a sacrificial lamb or two before a question is ever officially tested on the exam. This process is long, complicated, and not something we imagine the AICPA Board of Examiners wants to do just for fun, despite what CPA exam candidates may believe about their sadistic tendencies.
Your CPA review course should offer updates to their materials that will include new tested content, which is added to the exam twice a year. Some years, there’s a whole bunch of new crap to learn, but in most years, these updates are modest and easy to throw in on top of what you already have.
Of course, we all know REG underwent significant changes recently and candidates can expect to see the new material going forward. Do you need new REG materials? Probably not (see above re: updates from your review course), but if you’re one of those ultra-anal people who absolutely requires the latest and greatest in order to focus, then feel free to purchase new REG materials. But it likely isn’t necessary.
Now, time for an important caveat: If you’re one of those candidates who signed up for a review course four years ago, watched one lecture, and then let your review materials serve as faithful beer bottle coasters in the time since, it might be time to look at new materials. One or two updates isn’t a huge deal, but eight updates is pushing into answering “yes” to the “should I buy new CPA review materials?” question. It’s worth noting here I haven’t been on CPA review payroll for years so I offer that advice purely out of concern and not because my employer wants me to say so.
The most important thing is that you shouldn’t listen to me, or Peter Olinto, or that one guy at your firm who claims he got 99s on all four parts. I’m not saying we’re all full of shit, but what I am saying is that if you have any doubt, go straight to the source: the AICPA. Their CPA Exam Blueprints document has been updated for 2019 and contains just about everything you can expect to be tested. Do your CPA review materials, including updates, cover those areas sufficiently? Then you’re good. If not, then think about getting new materials, or supplementing your current materials with another review course’s stuff.