We’ve been through this particular problem before but since this question is sort of unique, we’ll bite. How does an O.G. coming back to accounting after 30 years prepare for the CPA exam?
Doug in Milwaukee asks:
I’m a 50-something MBA and have just completed the extra six (advanced) accounting courses needed to qualify to sit for the Wisconsin CPA exam. Since it’s been 30 years since I’ve taken the basic accounting courses, I’m feeling weak in the areas that may be most heavily stressed on the exam. I’m interested in one of the “higher-quality” reviews that you mentioned, that will give me all the information I need.
Can you recommend a CPA review course for me?
First of all, I have to disclaim for those who don’t know that I came to accounting through the CPA review industry so while I am wholly independent, it doesn’t matter as I may appear biased were I to actually recommend a review course. Perceived bias aside, it is always best for candidate to do their own research and instead of only listening to bitter writers who don’t actually have to take the exam themselves. But we’re sure Doug already knows that and would simply like a professional opinion to supplement his extensive research on the matter.
Besides, everyone is different. Some candidates do well with a self study program while others need the structure of a classroom-style review. So the first thing you should figure out is what you need and how much you are willing (or can afford) to pay for it.
Once you have that part figured out, hit the CPAnet forums and check out their entire section on study materials and review programs. Actual candidates who have used the various review programs are generally more than happy to leave extensive information regarding each program but remember – people are more likely to rant about a negative experience than they are to glow about a positive one. The CPA exam is a difficult process and, unfortunately, my professional experience has been that many candidates are happy to blame everyone (college professor, boss, CPA review course, Father Time, some jerk on Facebook, etc etc) but reluctant to accept their own shortcomings in the event of failure. So keep that in mind.
CPA review is a pretty small industry and there are really only three or four courses that are considered “top of the line” – the others are either supplements or CPA review products offered by companies that also do a variety of other programs.
If you are able to, get as many free resources as you can from your prospective CPA review provider before you actually hand over your credit card. Visit their classroom location or watch samples of their lectures online (if they are reputable, they’ll have these readily available on their website) and call them to ask what is covered in their courses.
Remember too that CPA review is a business and, since I used to be a part of it, I can tell you it’s more cut-throat than this sweet online media gig. At the end of the day, the company exists not to help you pass the exam but to make money (like all companies, duh). So keep your eyes peeled for too good to be true marketing tactics, suspicious blog posts that read like ad copy and always read the fine print.
Follow these few rules and I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out the review that’s right for you in no time. Good luck!