This shouldn’t bear repeating but It’s not a good idea to tackle the CPA exam without using a review course.  Yes, yes, we know, you’re very smart.  But the CPA exam is too long and detailed to go it alone. – and will be even more so in 2017.  So, the question really is which one should you get.  Not surprisingly, we have some advice for you.

How do you learn?

This is the basis for your choice and you need to be able to answer it honestly.  It’s the key to picking the right course as everything else flows from this.  Are you:

  • A visual learner?  You like to see things written and worked out in front of you as with an instructor solving a problem on a blackboard.
  • Auditory learner?  You learn best when having things explained to you by someone as opposed to reading about it.
  • Kinesthetic learner?  You learn best through hands-on experience.  These types of learners should go with a self-study program because they will grow restless while sitting through long lectures.  

Course Format

Once you have determined what’s the best way you learn you’re ready to choose how the material is presented.

  • Classroom Lectures.  This is just how it sounds.  You’re in a classroom with an instructor just as you were in college.  If you like structure this type would be for you. The only downside is that you may not live close to where the lectures are given.
  • Audio Courses.  Just like books on tape
  • Online or Integrated Software.  If you’ve a lot of self-discipline and like to work on your own, you might find that an online course works for you.  It’s also the obvious choice for kinesthetic learners.  It’s main attraction is that it provides the most flexibility and choice.  You can fit it to whatever schedule you have.
  • Combination.  There are, of course, options that combine two or more of these types.


  • Try to find one that replicates the exam with realistic simulations or questions in exam format.
  • Make sure it’s updated frequently as regulations and legislation relevant to the profession change regularly.


This shouldn’t be a driver.  Putting yourself in the best position to pass the exam should be.  But you should know that there are ways to help offset the cost.

  • If you work at a firm, a lot of times they will help cover the cost.
  • Sometimes the review courses themselves will help out in exchange for helping promote them as a campus representative, for example.
  • Group discounts through associations for CPA and other accounting professionals.


If the course is good there shouldn’t be the need for a whole lot of questions.  But you should still look at the support for the reviews you’re considering and view it through the lens of the type of learner you are.

  • If you tend to ask a lot of questions, and would prefer to talk to your instructors over the phone, then make sure the review course you choose offers that kind of support.
  • If you don’t usually ask lots of questions, or prefer to get help online or by email, then a study guide with online message boards and forums might make more sense for you.

The Fine Print

Be sure to review the company literature that comes with the exam course such as the guarantee.  Make sure you are comfortable with what you’re getting.

Last But Not Least…

For more specific information on the top courses, you can visit our page of CPA course reviews to learn more about each.  Use the free trials to get a better idea if a particular course might work for you.  It will help your comfort level with your choice too, which you’ll want.  But don’t forget that the best course won’t matter if you don’t put in the time and sacrifice needed.  As one professor said,”The CPA exam isn’t an IQ test, it’s an endurance test.”


For a presentation of this post on SlideShare please click here.

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