Let’s Talk About CPA Review Again, Shall We?

Last week, Caleb respectfully requested you all participate in a TPTB-sponsored poll to tell us which review course you are using. As expected, a comment was made along the lines of “it doesn’t matter which review course you use,” which we hear just about every time we dare to bring up the subject of CPA review.


We’ve talked about picking a review course, getting the most out of yours and even got bold enough to name names but have thus far (mostly) avoided getting into the dirty details due to my perceived bias as a former CPA review hack. But for those of you who are new to this whole CPA review thing, I figured it might be useful to revisit the topic and offer some tips for finding a review course and making it work for you since I’m far enough away from the industry as this point not to have an interest either way.

As always, picking a review course comes down to a few simple questions you have to ask yourself.

First, is someone paying for it so you don’t have to? If so, take it but let me give you a small piece of advice based on what I saw working in CPA review for four years: treat it like you paid for it. Too often I would see people who took their good fortune for granted and blew off studying only to discover a year or year and a half later that their “free” course expired, leaving them with outdated books and a set of flashcards they never opened. Don’t be that guy, use what you’ve been given or trust me, you’ll regret it later when you really need it and don’t have it or, worse, end up having to pay for Round 2 yourself. Most firms will only pay once so make it count.

Second, as many many people have pointed out here and elsewhere, which review course you take doesn’t really matter as everyone teaches based on the same bank of information made available to them by the AICPA. What does differ is the way the material is presented, therefore it’s up to you to figure out what you need. Some courses teach straight from the book while others don’t necessarily “teach” at all; if you’re the type of person who needs to be guided (and/or hand held) through huge amounts of information, you will want to go with something that breaks down concepts.

For an idea of which courses do what, the CPAnet forums are still one of the best resources as responses are written (mostly) by actual candidates without being as spammy as some of the CPA exam marketing blogs put out to steer customers into certain products. It’s also worth checking out blogs written by actual CPA exam candidates for nearly real-time comments on what’s working (or what isn’t) for them. If you’re on Twitter, check #twudygroup for candid tweets about studying, which will inevitably include comments about the review courses the kids on Twitter are using (and love tweets to Peter Olinto, natch).

It’s true that any review course (or even a set of CPA exam textbooks) can get you through this, but it doesn’t happen just because you gave a company your credit card details. Hate to break this to those of you hoping a $3000 course plus flashcards will automatically make you pass but regardless of which course you choose, you’ve got to study and sit for the exam just like every other candidate.

Now stop playing around on the Internet and get back to those books, you’ve got an exam to pass.

Last week, Caleb respectfully requested you all participate in a TPTB-sponsored poll to tell us which review course you are using. As expected, a comment was made along the lines of “it doesn’t matter which review course you use,” which we hear just about every time we dare to bring up the subject of CPA review.


We’ve talked about picking a review course, getting the most out of yours and even got bold enough to name names but have thus far (mostly) avoided getting into the dirty details due to my perceived bias as a former CPA review hack. But for those of you who are new to this whole CPA review thing, I figured it might be useful to revisit the topic and offer some tips for finding a review course and making it work for you since I’m far enough away from the industry as this point not to have an interest either way.

As always, picking a review course comes down to a few simple questions you have to ask yourself.

First, is someone paying for it so you don’t have to? If so, take it but let me give you a small piece of advice based on what I saw working in CPA review for four years: treat it like you paid for it. Too often I would see people who took their good fortune for granted and blew off studying only to discover a year or year and a half later that their “free” course expired, leaving them with outdated books and a set of flashcards they never opened. Don’t be that guy, use what you’ve been given or trust me, you’ll regret it later when you really need it and don’t have it or, worse, end up having to pay for Round 2 yourself. Most firms will only pay once so make it count.

Second, as many many people have pointed out here and elsewhere, which review course you take doesn’t really matter as everyone teaches based on the same bank of information made available to them by the AICPA. What does differ is the way the material is presented, therefore it’s up to you to figure out what you need. Some courses teach straight from the book while others don’t necessarily “teach” at all; if you’re the type of person who needs to be guided (and/or hand held) through huge amounts of information, you will want to go with something that breaks down concepts.

For an idea of which courses do what, the CPAnet forums are still one of the best resources as responses are written (mostly) by actual candidates without being as spammy as some of the CPA exam marketing blogs put out to steer customers into certain products. It’s also worth checking out blogs written by actual CPA exam candidates for nearly real-time comments on what’s working (or what isn’t) for them. If you’re on Twitter, check #twudygroup for candid tweets about studying, which will inevitably include comments about the review courses the kids on Twitter are using (and love tweets to Peter Olinto, natch).

It’s true that any review course (or even a set of CPA exam textbooks) can get you through this, but it doesn’t happen just because you gave a company your credit card details. Hate to break this to those of you hoping a $3000 course plus flashcards will automatically make you pass but regardless of which course you choose, you’ve got to study and sit for the exam just like every other candidate.

Now stop playing around on the Internet and get back to those books, you’ve got an exam to pass.

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