Ed. note: today, Amber tackles a question we've gotten no less than 1000 times. Our answer is always the same: we can't tell you which review course is "best" (both due to my obvious conflict of interest having earned my shill stripes in CPA review and to the fact that only you know what will work best for you). We can, however, gently nudge you in the right direction, which Amber is happy to do below. If you have a question for our merry band of roving accounting dropouts and degenerates, shoot us a note any time.
Dear Aspiring CPA,
Adrienne is too busy being a boss lady and rescuing cats, so she asked me to pinch-hit on this one. The good news is I know a lot about the CPA exam and spent a fair number of years advising candidates in my learning and development gig.
My name is [redact]. I am planning to study and take the CPA exam starting this January. I am looking for advice on the CPA exam review courses. The firm that I am going to work for will pay for Becker or reimburse me for up to $1,950 of expenses. I am trying to figure out which CPA exam service/s I should use. I learn best when the type of studying is varied. I wouldn't mind going to CPA review classes but there are no Becker classes in my area. So I am trying to figure out if there are any services that offer classes in the area. Would you suggest I go with Becker or try to go a combination of some of the others? I'm trying not to spend any money out of pocket. Let me know if I can provide you with any more information.
First off, I love the vantage point from where you are looking: “I learn best when.” If every CPA candidate chose their review course from this place, instead of which company has the best brand on their campus or who their firm has a direct billing agreement with, I think candidates would all have a much better shot at selecting a course that fits their own needs. This is because there are different types of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
Visual learners learn best by seeing things done, such as watching a professor solve a problem on a whiteboard (or chalk if they still have those things). I used a combination of courses when I studied for the CPA exam, and can say that Roger was awesome at this while the Becker failed miserably. I am a visual learner so seeing Roger break a problem down all the way to the t-accounts worked really well for me.
Where I felt the Becker course excelled is in addressing the needs of auditory learners. Auditory learners prefer have things explained to them rather than to read them. Becker’s go-to is to read the textbook aloud and then talk over a problem and explain it from another angle. This approach is perfect for auditory learners.
If you are a kinesthetic learner, you learn best through hands-on experience. This does not mean you should go out and get a gig at HR Block to prepare for REG, although that would totally help a kinesthetic learner. Rather, these types of learners should go with a self-study program because they will grow restless while sitting through long lectures. Self-study courses allow a person to take in the information at their own pace.
My invitation to you is to reflect on how you have learned best in the past and then chose a single product based on your learning style. You can also do this online quiz that is designed to provide you with awareness on your preferred learning style.
Whatever course you choose, one of the soundest strategies is to have a rock solid study plan. The investment of your time is one of the greatest costs of the CPA exam and one that is often overlooked by green candidates.
I recommend you detail what your schedule will look like. What days will you study? What days will you take off to rejuvenate? What time of the day is best for you to study? How many hours does it take to pass the section you are sitting for and can you realistically get those hours in by the date you scheduled your exam? Get really clear on what your time commitment will look like. Otherwise, it is too easy to postpone your studies by a day, your exams until another window, and CPA licensure to another year. Thousands of candidates, including myself, have been there and done that.
Thanks for asking and good luck to you!
Amber Setter, CPA