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 employer or your co-dependent 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 course – CPA 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remember you are taking a risk that the “book” you think you are buying is really just a photocopied binder full of outdated, pirated material.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!