CPA review

Actually, It Is Possible To Start Studying for the CPA Exam Too Early

Ambition is great. Maybe you're really into Intermediate and thinking "WOW, I just can't wait to be a CPA, I'm going to plunk down a bunch of cheddar and start studying NOW so I'm totally ready for the exam later!" Case in point:   Even though I'll be taking the CPA exam in a year […]

How To Pass the CPA Exam With a 20 Year Old Accounting Degree

It seems like after all these years together, we've answered just about every question possible. Plus, with the addition of Open Items, you can now post your questions directly and have them answered immediately by the GC faithful versus sitting in our inboxes for however long it takes for us to get around to it. […]

You Might Be a CPA Exam Candidate If…

Swiped from This Way to CPA: You may be a CPA candidate if… You finally decide to take a day off from studying and everyone comments saying, “shouldn't you be studying?” A successful night out on the town is heading to the library and acing multiple choice tests. You have cleared a store’s shelves of highlighters. […]

WHOA Wiley Just Bought CPAexcel

Big news in the CPA exam world today: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a global provider of content and workflow solutions supporting research; professional development; and education, announced today that it has acquired Efficient Learning Systems (ELS), Inc, an e-learning system provider in areas like professional finance and accounting, for $24 million. For the fiscal […]

Anyone Want Some Horribly Out of Date CPA Review Materials?

Oh dear. I've seen some pretty whacked out CPA review materials floating around for sale out there in the big scary Internets but this one takes the cake. At least the 100% photocopied and amateurly-bound Becker books I've seen cover current exam info. Ladies and bros, don't all line up at once to score on […]

Going Concern CPA Review Survey Results Are Here!

First, thanks to everyone who stepped up and not only provided me great answers but a laugh or two within their surveys. It's awesome to know you guys do, in fact, have a sense of humor. A few things: I included the average rankings with each course, after asking each respondent to rank their course from […]

Advice on Taking the CPA Exam From Actual CPA Exam Candidates

I am still in the process of soliciting and collecting CPA review surveys from you guys – if you haven't gotten in touch yet and want to participate in my little unofficial poll, please do so by Wednesday as I'm looking to get all the intel slapped up on the site by Friday. I haven't […]

CPA Review Students: We Want Feedback on Your Study Program

Hey folks, a concerned reader reached out the other day to vent about their current CPA review program and it got me thinking… instead of calling out one CPA review course, perhaps it's time to refresh our last guide to CPA review programs based on the insights of current students. Here's what I need: feedback! […]

What’s a Cheap But Effective CPA Review Program?

If you have a CPA exam question for me, get in touch and I'll try to put down the IPA long enough to give you a somewhat coherent answer. Hey Adrienne, From what I've read, Becker seems to be the way to go for CPA review… if you don't have to pay for it.  Since […]

CPA Exam Tips For the Overambitious, Impending Graduate

Way back in my CPA review days, right around this time of year I'd start getting calls from overambitious college students ready to tear up the exam before the ink had dried on their pretty new degree. For most of these eager beavers, I had the honor (read: joy) of destroying their unrealistic ambitions and […]

Can Commas Spell Doom on the CPA Exam?

Finally, a reader question. I've been so hard up for emails from you guys that I've actually considered trolling myself. If you have a CPA exam question, please (and I mean PLEASE) hit me up. Dear Adrienne, I am an avid reader on hiatus while imprisoned for crimes against God and man (taking the CPA). […]

Newt Becker, Founder of Becker CPA Review, Has Died

If there was no Newt Becker, I probably wouldn't be a CPA (inactive) and neither would you and GOD KNOWS we wouldn't have had the pleasure of knowing the sound of Peter Olinto's voice. From Brian Tankersley, a Becker instructor, at CPA Technology Blog, is the email sent by Becker Professional Education President John Roselli: […]

Beware Fly By Night CPA Exam Review Companies

This comes via Yahoo Answers: How to start a CPA exam review company? I have some spare money on my hand, and I would like to start a CPA(certified public accountant) exam review company. Can someone give me some advises about the procedures, or anything that would help me get started. How would I distribute […]

Becker Partners With GE China to Deliver CPA Review To Its Employees

With GE slowly but surely shipping most of its important business over to the People’s Republic of China, this could work out to be quite the lucrative deal for the folks at Becker.

Becker Professional Education announced last week that it has entered into an agreement with GE China to provide, through its licensee in the People’s Republic of China, its complete, four part CPA Exam Review course to GE employees in the People’s Republic of China. Becker will also be providing extensive assistance with the CPA Exam application process to GE China employees.

“This partnership represents a tremendous opportunity for Becker to expand our leading international position with a strong partner in GE China,” said Matt Kinnich, Vice President, International and Business Development of Becker Professional Education. “We will be able to help a great number of GE China employees achieve their career goals through our quality course offerings.”

What this means, in simpler terms, is that some guys in China will be authorized to teach out of Becker books, likely using Becker’s own “lesson plan” text which all Becker instructors receive to teach from. I wonder if they’ll edit out some of the written-in jokes to translate for a Chinese audience?

Becker already offers live courses in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

Review Wiley’s New FAR Test Bank App for Free

Wiley CPA Review has been cranking out mobile-friendly versions of its print titles, priced pretty close to their tree-killing counterparts.

Like these AUD Focus Notes On-the-Go for Android, which run $34.99. The actual bound version of the new AUD Focus Notes (not due out until December of 2011 according to Wiley’s website) is $40.

Wiley has an entire series of “candidate-friendly” (read: SFW) options for CPA review, including the online test bank and above mentioned Android (and iPhone) apps of their Focus Notes but making the Test Bank (some of you know this as the CD-ROM or software) available to Androids and iPhones opens up all new possibilities. Studying on the train or with a privacy screen in your own cube or in the bathroom (if they ask why you are in the bathroom so much, tell them sorry, must have been those hours I ate).

Per FCC regulations (I think), we have to say if we have been compensated to write a blog post about a product, service or company. We haven’t been paid to write about Wiley’s new offering but we were asked if we’d like to test one of their CPA review apps for free to write this post. I own a BlackBerry so that’s useless to me, plus I’m not (now nor ever) studying for the CPA exam. Therefore, Wiley has entrusted me to figure out which one of you gets a new FAR Test Bank app (presumably you need to have an iPhone or Android device to qualify).

We could have run some lame ass caption contest but instead, tell us in the comments how you best utilize the extra 30 – 120 minutes a day of review you can gain by studying from your mobile device. Creativity counts.

The answer with the most likes wins (unless Caleb and I reserve executive authority and declare it rigged and/or not funny, so don’t cheat by clicking 100 times from the client’s IP). Contest ends… uh… Friday 7/29/11 at 12:00 AM Eastern.

Be sure to use a real email address so we can contact you to let you know you’ve won, so trolls are disqualified.

All we ask is that you check in at some point and let us know what did and didn’t work (if applicable) for you. Get crackin’

UPDATE: Are Deeply Discounted CPA Review Programs Legit?

I Pass the CPA Exam was asked if a $799 “Becker” program being sold online could possibly be legit. After asking the owner of the site peddling the stuff, Stephanie asks Becker directly if they allow affiliates to sell their product wholesale to other retailers so they, in turn, can cut the price. Something about this just doesn’t seem right, why would Becker want to get ripped off on its own product, which it routinely sells for $3,000 (give or take)?

When in doubt, maybe you should ask the review course:

I continue my due diligence and ask Becker directly whether the serial number from CPApassmaster would indeed verifiable at their site. This is their answer:

“The only legal site for Becker material is www.becker.com.”

Well, I would appreciate if Becker can just be a little bit more helpful in terms of explaining this further, but knowing how Becker is (big and institutionalized with little “real” customer service), this is probably the best we can get.

Then, I heard from industry sources that in fact Becker is trying to stop this offering via an injunction, and supposedly Becker can render all their materials with serial number from this reseller unverifiable if / when they are allowed to do that.

Interesting. I agree with Stephanie’s assessment that whoever she spoke to at Becker is probably just some hack in a headset who barely knows what the CPA exam is, let alone is high up enough to actually comment on their policies.

It would be interesting to hear this directly from, say, a Becker high up. Hint, hint. Perhaps a qualified Becker manager would like to get in touch and clear the air.

UPDATE: Becker spokesperson Molly Tarantino wrote me last night to clarify Becker’s policy on unauthorized dealers. Please consider her comments before going for a cheap review course that is NOT offered directly from the company:

Becker Professional Education does not support materials purchased through unauthorized dealers. Only materials received directly from us are guaranteed to be authentic. Unauthorized dealers, such as CPAPassmaster, are either in violation of their license with Becker or selling counterfeit materials. Counterfeiting is illegal and purchasing counterfeit products supports this illegal activity. This type of activity is especially troubling since it is occurring within a profession whose foundation has always been and always will be based on ethics and integrity.

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.

Ten Most Expensive iPad Apps List Includes Becker’s Mobile Flashcards

The Most Expensive Journal recently came out with a top 10 list of most expensive iPad apps and – surprise, surprise – it looks like Becker’s mobile flashcards made the list.

The mobile flashcard set includes over 950 cards with questions on the front and brief answers on the back, which will look familiar to any of you who have used Becker’s regular flashcards.

The app works on iPhone or iPad but you don’t have the option to use it on both if you happen to own both devices; you’ll have to buy two copies of the app if that’s what you’re trying to do.

Curious to hear what your most expensive app is and whether or not you’d buy these.

Going Concern Poll: What CPA Exam Review Course Are You Using?

TPTB, in their never-ending quest for world domination, respectfully request a moment of your time to answer the following question. Simply comply (if applicable) and we’ll never have to speak of it again.

I’ve been instructed to ask those of you answering “Other/Self Study” to kindly share which review course you are using. Thanks.

CPA Candidate, Who Hasn’t Taken a Single Exam, Is Already Freaking Out

Side note: I’ve never seen anyone use double periods in a sentence like this..So it goes without saying that the following has been edited and please, don’t do that on BEC. Here’s a tip: if you are looking for more written communication practice, try it on lazy, F-bomb-obsessed bloggers or even in emails to your mom. That’s all the AICPA is looking for; you don’t even have to be correct, just on topic. They make up 15% of your BEC score so get in the habit of pretending like random communications are being graded by a machine. It’s an undervalued commodity in your professional lubmission from the mailbag was close to correct (a beginning, a middle and an end, somewhat on topic) but needed a little work to be aesthetically pleasing to the CPA exam robots. Working on our emails would be a good supplement to whatever CPA review materials you bought, and I don’t say that to be mean.

Adrienne,

I am just about to begin the grueling process of the CPA exam..

I have been debating whether to take BEC or FAR first before starting work in July. Because I have more time to study now than I will for future tests I want to take the hardest one first. For me I feel like this will be BEC because this seems like it has the most new material and I did pretty well in Intermediate accounting. However it sounds like no matter how much studying some people do, they just can’t get prepared for BEC because it has recently changed. Should I just play it safe and use all this time I have to get prepared for FAR or should I take a shot at BEC?

Also, my firm only supplies me with Gleim self study books. Have people done alright on BEC with just these? How should I supplement these?

Sincerely,

Already freaking out

First, stop freaking out. You haven’t even started yet. Start and then let me know if you are still freaking out. You might like it. Get words like “grueling” out of your head now but you’re more than welcome to pull it out later if your experience proves to be exactly that. Until then, try to stay neutral on how much of pain the next 6 months – 2+ years of your life will be.

Second, we’ve discussed CPA review plenty, you can check the CPAnet forums for comments from actual review students who are taking whatever you bought or are looking at buying and any combination thereof. My experience has been that BEC is pretty hit or miss and that no review course covers it in as thorough detail as FAR, AUD or REG. That doesn’t mean they don’t do that section well, it just means I tend to hear the most complaints across the board regarding various review courses’ inability to truly cover BEC.

Don’t blame that on the new exam; that complaint goes back several years. It isn’t fair to compare the last version of computerized testing (CBT 2004 – 2010) to this one (CBT-e) as they are different exams, it’s too early to judge whether review courses and candidates promptly catch up to the new material, along with the AICPA. They have been clear about this being an improving work in progress for 2011, therefore it would be equally unfair to make a call at this time. Don’t say everything is “because of the change” as if you’re a Boy Scout with a flashlight under your face trying to scare everyone around the campfire. Was it this bad when the exam went from paper and pencil to blips on a screen and digital fingerprints?

Third, don’t get high on study drugs while studying for BEC or you might really be freaking out.

I always tell candidates to start with the section that will be hardest for you as that’s when your 18 month timeframe begins so your plan sounds good. If you bomb a section a few times, the clock isn’t ticking. Of course, this also leads to procrastination if you continuously bomb, which is an entirely different problem. Not to make you freak out.

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Save Money on CPA Exam Review Materials

As anybody who has done even remedial research on CPA review materials knows, exam prep doesn’t come cheap. The major review programs run from $1,500 to $3,000, and usually come with access limits anywhere from 9 months to a year. The larger review courses don’t guarantee a pass and often include hidden fees for administrative costs (what is that, anyway?), so-called free repeats and updates to books. There’s no doubt that CPA review is a big business, and you can trust me on that because I used to be in it.

That being said, CPA review doesn’t have to cost you a metric shitton of cash you don’t have. Here are a few ways to save some money if you’re not one of the lucky few getting your course paid for by either your employent parents.


Look for discount codes – CPAnet often has discount codes posted on CPA Exam Club, whether you are looking for cram courses, a full review or just Wiley materials. Check out their discount page for more details.

Avoid supplemental products like flash cards – Flash cards are an easy way for review courses to make a few extra bucks. Save the $100 or more dollars, buy a $2 pack of index cards and make your own. You’ll learn more that way and have more money your pocket when all’s said and done, which you might need if you end up having to retake any exam parts.

Call or email the review course to ask about discounts – They’ll probably tell you no and try to sell you into their bundle CPA review/masters program for $125,000 but hey, can’t hurt, right? Like any other business, CPA review programs sometimes run special deals so pick up the phone and ask.

Order through someone other than the review courseCPA Review Materials sells verified products at a discount and includes free shipping on orders over $400 – something you can’t get if you buy from the review course directly. As a trusted vendor, you know you’re getting what you’re paying for since the site deals directly with the review courses to provide products to candidates. But this brings us to our next point which is…

Do NOT buy from unsavory sellers – When you buy second-hand CPA review materials through eBay or Craigslist-type sites, remember you are taking a risk that the “book” you think you are buying is really just a photocopied binder full of outdated, pirated material. Products you purchase from individual sellers are not covered under review courses’ policies, and in many cases it is a direct violation of these courses’ copyrights to buy or sell materials. But CPAs would never dream of breaking the rules, right? If you are absolutely broke and in need of second-hand materials, you can usually find the Wiley CPA Exam Review books on Amazon for cheaper than retail and won’t be violating any rules by buying them that way.

Do NOT buy materials from your friend who passed four years ago We won’t suggest that you buy materials from your friend who passed just last quarter since that would also be against most review courses’ rules and we would highly recommend you stay away from materials any older than one year. The CPA exam changes twice a year and especially with the implementation of CBT-e, you will want to make sure you have the most up-to-date information available, even if you need to spend a little more to get it.

Lastly, a money-saving suggestion is to do a cost-benefit analysis of cheaping out on a review course over having to pay additional retake fees if you do not pass the first, second or third time out. There’s no reason why you have to spend a lot of money to get through the exam (plenty have passed using just the Wiley books, which are usually around $50 a piece), just make sure to analyze your own needs and plan accordingly. And remember: you can’t buy your way to a 75, all the money in the world does you no good if you don’t actually use the materials and study!

Comparing CPA Review Courses

We’ve gone over how to choose a CPA review course in the past but it seems we’ve been getting more emails than usual asking about specific review programs. Due to a potential perceived bias (this author was employed in CPA Review for four years), we have avoided covering this subject in detail until now.


The following list of review courses is by no means comprehensive and we do not endorse any of these courses (unless, of course, they would like to get in touch with our advertising folks and set up a sweet deal to be pimped out). CPA exam candidates are highly encouraged to do their own research by checking blogs and forums. Coworkers can also be a good source of info but keep in mind colleagues are less likely than strangers on the Internet to be honest about their own performance so take any information you glean from them with a grain of salt.

Many have asked if additional supplemental products are necessary when dropping a big chunk of cash on CPA review. I generally tell candidates to save their pennies, get a $2 pack of index cards and make their own flash cards. Not only do you save money, by writing them out yourself you’ll actually see that you’re understanding the concepts better simply due to the mechanical motion of putting pen to paper.

We’ve included links to CPAnet where appropriate so you can check out actual candidate feedback (the positive and negative) which former students of each of these courses have posted on the forums there.

Becker: Retail Price: $3,065 (all four parts)
Per part if ordered individually: $990 (CPAnet)

CPAexcel: Retail price (Gold Medal option): $1690 (four parts) Per part if ordered individually: $580 (CPAnet)

• Kaplan, Gleim and Bisk: Considered self-study or supplemental, check CPAnet for feedback on these courses.

Roger: Retail Price: $2095 – $1695 (all four parts) Per part if ordered individually: $595 – $695 (CPAnet)

Wiley: Price varies based on options. (CPAnet)

Yaeger: Retail price: $1787 (four parts) Per part if ordered individually: $545 (CPAnet)

This is where our lovely GC readers come in. We know you all are really proud of how you’ve kicked the CPA exam’s ass, so please let us know in the comments what worked for you. If you all can get extra excited about this, we can put together a GC reader CPA review deathmatch based on your input.

Note: prices current as of 3/29/11 based on available information. If you have a correction, please get in touch.

Finding a CPA Review Course for a 50 Year-Old MBA

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!