How to Choose a CPA Exam Prep Course


The CPA exam is difficult, but for those who are prepared, it’s certainly passable. The key is to find the right exam prep course and remain disciplined enough to put in consistent effort over a period of several months. 

Do You Really Need a CPA Exam Prep Course?

In order to become a CPA, you have to meet a certain number of requirements. These requirements vary by state, but are generally similar. Here’s what’s expected:

  • All states have a basic requirement of at least 150 credit hours of approved coursework to become a licensed CPA. 
  • Most states don’t have a minimum age requirement. For those that do, you typically have to be 18-21.
  • In addition to passing the standard exam, you’ll also have to pass an open-book ethics exam within your first two years.

Though it’s not required that you take a CPA exam prep course, anyone who is serious about passing the exam understands the importance of taking a prep exam. These courses not only prepare you for the material, but they also help you acquire test-taking strategies that enable you to ace the exam according to its unique formatting. A failure to take a CPA exam prep course is essentially a plan to fail.

6 Factors to Consider

With a variety of options to choose from, how do you know which CPA review course to choose? Here are some factors we recommend considering in your evaluating process:

  • Reputation

Thousands of people go through CPA review courses every year and word gets around pretty fast. While there are plenty of courses to choose from, you’ll find that only a few have a high reputation for helping students pass. Do some online digging to find out which ones offer the best pass rates. This isn’t a guarantee by any means, but it does speak volumes about the course’s quality. 

  • Instructors

Who is teaching the course? Are there live instructors or is all content recorded? Can you interact with them, or are they off-limits? What are their qualifications?

The best courses have instructors who are thought leaders, professors, authors, and CPAs themselves. Do your research on the instructors before signing up for a course to figure out if they’re a good fit for you.

  • Curriculum

Evaluate the course curriculum and how it aligns with your learning style. If you’re more of a visual person, you’ll want plenty of videos and illustrations. If, however, you’re someone who likes to read and take your time processing information, you may benefit from a self-paced course style. 

  • Additional Resources

Look past the basics and consider if there are additional resources included that set a specific course apart from the rest. For example, how many practice exams are there? And how closely does the exam mimic the real thing?

While some courses have a static format, there are a few that possess a more dynamic approach. Wiley CPA is an example of the latter. Their course features something called FocusMe™, which is an adaptive technology that reviews aptitude levels and proactively adjusts the questions based on difficulty to fit each student’s individual needs. This can provide a huge boost for those who want to tailor their studying to their biggest shortcomings.  

  • Repeat Policy

Some programs will offer  something known as a “repeat policy.” This is usually phrased as a guarantee – giving the student a chance to retake the course if they fail the CPA exam. 

When it comes to policies like this, read the fine print and see what criteria must be met to qualify. Policies like this are great, but you need to know what you’re getting. 

  • Pricing

While pricing is not the most important factor, it’s certainly a factor. Good CPA exam review courses can cost thousands of dollars, so you don’t want to throw your money at the wrong one.

As you compare pricing between various courses, think about all of the aforementioned factors. Which ones offer the best support? How many supplementary resources are there? Do you get direct access to the instructors? All of these elements come into play. 

Adding it All Up

Preparing for the CPA exam can be a rigorous process. But if you choose the right exam review course, you’ll dramatically improve your chances of passing the first time around. Use this article as a guide to help you vet all possible options and make an educated decision.

Leave a comment