When I began studying for the CPA exam, I was fresh out of college. I’d just started a new job and a considerable chunk of my paycheck was going towards a mortgage, a car loan, and student loans. Always a goal setter, I was excited to start working toward the CPA designation but I have to admit, the cost of the exam and CPA exam study materials gave me a little sticker shock. I did a little investigating online to see if I could possibly use free resources to study for the exam. I soon realized that was a mistake, and a waste of time that could have been better used studying. Here’s why: The AICPA Is a Resource, but Only in a Very General Sense The AICPA’s website provides a few resources to help you along your path, but they are no replacement for real CPA exam study materials. Their Content and Skill Specification Outlines (CSOs/SSOs) are meant to make you aware of the content areas and question types covered by each examination session, but they provide no in-depth information on any of the topics. You could try reading through the CSOs and then reading up on those topics using authoritative literature from the FASB, PCAOB, AICPA, and the Internal Revenue Code, but that would be extremely cumbersome and an ineffective use of your time. Professionally produced CPA exam study materials are designed to give you the information known to be on the test in a condensed, effective manner. If you need to brush up on a certain concept, your CPA exam study materials will present that concept in a variety of ways – as a multiple-choice question, a task-based simulation, and maybe even as part of written communication practice. It will be spelled out in plain language. You won’t need to be flipping back and forth between code sections and wondering if you’re missing anything important. It’s all there. Pronouncements, Standards, and Laws Are Ever-Changing Before I became a CPA I had no idea how quickly new pronouncements come out and standards and laws relating to attestation and taxation change. If you’re trying to study using information found freely on the internet, you could be using out-of-date information and not know it. Providers of CPA exam study materials stay on top of new developments, not only in tax law and attestation standards, but in changes to exam content. When you pay for quality materials, you’re paying for the most up to date research and knowledge available. The CPA Designation Is an Investment in Your Future You spent an enormous amount of time and money on your education and it may be tempting to just rely on your degree for your career prospects, but spending just a little more to earn the designation, as efficiently as possible, will solidify your future prospects. The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, states that the job outlook or accountants and auditors is projected to grow 13% from 2012 to 2022. According to the Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance, CPAs earn 5-15% more than non-CPAs working in accounting-related jobs. Regardless of what area of accounting you go into, the CPA will separate you from the competition. Whether you work in public accounting or the private sector, many levels may be unattainable without it. Now is not the time to pinch pennies. Use quality CPA exam study materials, get the designation and get going on your career.