best cpa review courses

Best CPA Review Courses | 27 Things To Know In 2024

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best cpa review courses

Table of Contents


Introduction to the CPA Review Courses


I am uniquely qualified to write a guide on ‘choosing the Best CPA Review course' because:

jeff elliott cpa

1) I own a semi-popular CPA Review course (NINJA CPA Review), am an AICPA licensee, and have direct access to the AICPA Examinations Team.

Note: for this reason, you should also take my opinions with a grain of salt, as I am inherently biased.

2) I know all of the major CPA Exam Review courses (some of them even like me!) and started several of their affiliate advertising programs.

3) I have been helping people pass the CPA Exam full-time since early 2010 and have seen all of the changes to both the CPA Exam (anyone remember when IFRS was a big deal? FAR had written communications? AUD testing TWO standards at once?) and the CPA Prep industry along the way.

Why you must get this choice right:

Choosing a ‘Best CPA Review Course' among the seemingly endless list of options is the 2nd-most important decision you'll make during your CPA Exam journey.

(The most important decision is to get your butt out of bed on a daily basis and study).

There are two types of CPA Reviews:

  1. CPA Review Courses
  2. CPA Review Supplements

Note: If you don't need a full course and just one of these as a supplement, check out NINJA as a Supplement.


1. The ‘Best CPA Review Course' is the One You'll Actually Use


Let's be real from the start:

There isn't a Best Course.

It's a myth pushed by Best CPA Exam Review fake “ranking” websites steering readers towards courses that pay them commissions.


There's only the Best CPA Exam Review Course for you:

  • ✅ Budget (What can you afford? Debt vs. No Debt?) Do you want to pay for your CPA Course long after you've passed and moved on to better things?
  • ✅ Learning Style (Powerpoint lectures? “Dry Erase Board” lectures? No lectures? Test Bank only?)
  • ✅ Peer Review (What is the course's reputation?)
  • ✅ Access (Are there usage limits or restrictions? Does it expire? )
  • ✅ Buyer's Remorse Protection (Can you return it if it's not actually the best CPA prep course for you after all? Is there a penalty?)
  • ✅ 5 AM Test (Can you stomach studying with this course at 5 am, or will you most likely hit snooze for the next 2 hours until you really have to get up?)
  • ✅ Free Trials (How will you know it's the best CPA course if you don't try it first?)
  • 🚫 Ignore advertised course pass rates (more on that below).
  • 🚫 Ignore the fake ‘review site' ranking, pushing a ‘Best CPA Review Course 2024'.
  • 🚫 Ignore anything that triggers your BS detector, Future CPA.

Here's a dead giveaway that it's an affiliate farm disguised as a review site:

  • They poop on UWorld and NINJA (if they mention NINJA at all).
  • Why? We don't have affiliate (commission) programs.
    • Hmmm…is that ethical, you CPAs? 😀

We're aware of only two objective and independent review sites: 1) Reddit and 2) Investopedia.

(If it ain't talked about on Reddit – people ain't using it to study.)

That said, there are “best course” qualifiers such as:

  • Best CPA Review Course for the money.
  • Best CPA Review Course for visual learners.

More on that below.

Bottom Line: The Best CPA Exam Review course is the one you'll actually study with.


2. Study the CPA Review Course Packages Before You Buy


The number of courses out there (and options within those options) can be quite overwhelming:

  • Lectures
  • Book
  • Test Bank
  • Study Guide (Notes)
  • Audio Review
  • Cram Course
  • Flashcards
  • Live Tutor
  • Return Policy

Why CPA Review Free Trials are important:

Would you buy a $2,000 car without taking it for a test drive? Of course not.

What if it smells like Grandma's dead cat?

Take your future CPA Exam Review course for a test drive before you drop the equivalent of a nice celebratory cruise on a review course.

Most CPA Prep courses have Promo Codes.

Like the Kansas weather (where I was born, raised, and still live), if you don't see a CPA Review discount, wait 5 minutes.


3. Compare CPA Review Courses & Pick the Final Two


When doing an online CPA Review Courses comparison, CPA prep course options are overwhelming.

Let's simplify it: Pick two of the following CPA Review courses and compare free trial experiences.

These 5 courses represent 95%+ of the CPA Exam prep market.

I subjectively chose the package from each course that checked off most of these boxes.

Ahrefs is one of the leading search analytics tools. All SEO gurus use it. It measures the number of people searching for a term in a month, i.e., its popularity.

CPA Reddit mentions are also a barometer for how much “chatter” there is about a particular course.

You can fake “reviews,” but you can't fake people talking about you.

On mobile? This table is best viewed sideways in landscape.

CourseBecker CPANINJA CPAUWorld CPASurgent CPAGleim CPA
Investopedia RatingBest OverallBest PriceRunner-UpBest A.I.Best Value
Ahref Rank#1#2#3#4#5
Reddit Mentions#1#2#3#5#4
PackageProMonthlyElite UnlimitedUltimatePremium Pro
Retail Price$3,799$67$3,899$3,799$3,499
AccessUnlimited1 MonthUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
AICPA-Licensed
EWS Award Winners
CPA Lectures
CPA Book
CPA Test Bank
8,000+ MCQ/SIMS
CPA Notes🚫
Free Trial
CPA Audio🚫
CPA Book (Digital)
CPA Book (Printed)🚫
CPA Cram🚫🚫
CPA Flashcards
CPA Tutoring🚫🚫🚫
CPE Included🚫🚫
Adaptive Learning
Refund Policy*10 Days30 Days10 Days10 Days30 Days
CPA ForumBecker ForumNINJA ForumUWorld ForumSurgent ForumGleim Forum

Course Price, Details, Stats, & Features as of 7/15/24. May not reflect current discounts & promotions. * See terms and conditions for refund limitations & details.
Ahrefs Search Rankings: July 2024

Becker CPA Review


Becker CPA Review is the biggest name in CPA Exam Prep.

Becker CPA Review

Even in today's more competitive environment, Becker is still king from a market perspective.

Historically, they have been the most expensive CPA Review course, but other courses, as you can see in the table above, have matched them in price and features.

Becker has the trust of Big 4 accounting firms, which offer steep discounts to firm employees.

Becker has a popular cram course called the Becker Final Review.

The four main Becker CPA Review courses are Concierge ($5,999), Pro ($3,799), Premium ($3,099), and Advantage ($2,499).

Investopedia also rated Becker as the “Best Overall” course in 2024.

According to Ahrefs, “Becker CPA Review” is the most popular search and the most mentioned CPA Review Course on CPA Reddit, according to Google.

See Also: Becker + NINJA


NINJA CPA Review


NINJA CPA Review (my company) is the second-most searched CPA Prep company in the US, according to ahrefs.

ninja cpa review

NINJA is also the second-most mentioned CPA Review Course on Reddit, behind Becker.

We have also been the #1 CPA Exam Study Supplement for over a decade.

NINJA has a popular CPA Study Guide called the NINJA Notes.

NINJA has one option: You get everything for $67 monthly and cancel at any time.

Investopedia rated NINJA CPA Review “Best Price” in 2024.

“NINJA CPA Review” is the 2nd most popular search, according to Ahrefs, and the second-most mentioned CPA Review Course on CPA Reddit, according to Google.

See Also: NINJA Study Paths


UWorld CPA Review


UWorld CPA Review features Roger Phillipp, one of the best CPA lectures around.

UWorld acquired Roger CPA Review and Wiley CPA Review a few years ago and made an already great course even better with the tech upgrades.

uworld cpa review

In addition to acquiring Wiley CPA Review and its content and team of instructors in 2023, UWorld also hired the ever-popular Peter Olinto, formerly of Becker, making a formidable lecturer duo alongside Phillipp.

UWorld CPA, like Gleim and NINJA, sells a standalone CPA Test Bank called the UWorld CPA Qbank.

Investopedia rated UWorld CPA Review “Runner-Up, Best Course” in 2024.

“UWorld CPA Review” is the is the 3rd most popular search, according to Ahrefs, and the third-most mentioned CPA Review Course on CPA Reddit, according to Google.

See Also: UWorld + NINJA


Surgent CPA Review


Although Surgent CPA Review isn't as established as Becker, it's run by industry veterans like Liz Kolar, who have as much experience as anyone.

surgent cpa review

Surgent has a popular course feature called the ReadyScore™.

Surgent CPA has three CPA prep course packages: Ultimate Pass, Premier Pass, and Essentials Pass.

Investopedia rated Surgent as “Best Artificial Intelligence” in 2024.

“Surgent CPA Review” is the 4th most popular search, according to Ahrefs, and the fifth-most mentioned CPA Review Course on CPA Reddit, according to Google.

See Also: Surgent + NINJA


Gleim CPA Review


Gleim CPA Review was founded by the late Dr. Irvin Gleim.

Gleim is still family-owned, has a great reputation in the CPA Review industry, and is often known for its red books and CPA test bank.

Gleim CPA Review

Gleim, like UWorld and NINJA, also sells a standalone test bank called the Gleim CPA Mega Test Bank.

Gleim CPA Review has three main courses: the Gleim Premium Pro, Premium, and Traditional Course.

Investopedia rated Gleim CPA Review “Best Value” in 2024.

“Gleim CPA Review” is the 5th most popular search, according to Ahrefs, and the fourth-most mentioned CPA Review Course on CPA Reddit, according to Google.

See Also: Gleim + NINJA


4. Course Reviews Matter


No, not the fake reviews that you've undoubtedly read online.

I'm talking about real customer reviews.

The Another71 Forum (Rest In Peace) still has 600,000 posts to sift through – lots of ancient wisdom in there) and CPA Reddit are good places to start.


5. You Need a Second CPA Test Bank


Regardless of your current CPA Review course, you need a second CPA Test Bank.

Consider it a “hedge” against an exam day disaster.

Don't have a second CPA Test Bank? Try NINJA MCQ for free:


Get Your Free CPA Test Bank


FAR, AUD, REG, BAR, ISC, or TCP

No Credit Card Required – Only Your Best Email for Your Login

Full CPA Practice Test + Simulations Included



6. Your Learning Style Matters


best cpa review course for visual learners

According to the VARK model, there are four types of learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Reading/Writing. Most people are likely a combo of a few and maybe all of these. I like Kinesthetic, but I also learn well via audio while I'm driving. I can knock out an audiobook at 1.4x speed with a quickness. If you're a combo learner, go with the course you like, as all of these courses have features that cater to most of these learning styles (not all courses have audio lectures, for instance).

If you know you're specifically one of these, then consider checking these out first:

  • Visual Learners like to “see” the information to process it.
  • Auditory Learners process information through “hearing” it.
  • Kinesthetic Learners learn by “doing.”
  • Reading/Writing Learners like to read and write stuff down.

Best CPA Review Course for Visual Learners: Becker, NINJA, or UWorld

A course for visual learners teaches the course material on the screen.

Becker and UWorld feature more of a PowerPoint-style lecture, whereas NINJA teaches visually through Microsoft Excel via “Sparring.”

Best CPA Review Course for Auditory Learners: NINJA, Gleim, or Surgent

An audio course allows you to study when you otherwise couldn't.

Gleim and Surgent should give you a taste of their audio in their free trials. You can also check out the NINJA Audio.

Best CPA Review Course for Kinesthetic Learners: Gleim, Surgent, or NINJA

If you're a fellow kinesthetic, you want a course with a CPA Test Bank approach. All three of these courses are known for their test banks, which, like NINJA MCQ, you can try for free.

Best CPA Review Course for Reading/Writing Learners: NINJA

Reading, Writing, and Learning are as boring as it sounds.

NINJA CPA Review is the only study option allowing you to study with the textbook (NINJA Book) without videos (with the exception of Gleim CPA Traditional, which is still $2,499 retail).

Otherwise, you wouldn't need to pay $2,000 for a video course.

Summary: We tried not to pick NINJA for each one, but that's how it goes. Try all the courses free of charge and decide if you agree.


7. You Need a CPA Study Plan


50% of CPA Candidates who walk into any exam will fail that exam. Why?

  1. Wrong Study Materials
  2. Wrong Study Method
  3. All of the Above

A good CPA study plan can salvage a bad CPA review course.

You can download the NINJA Study Planner and use it with any CPA prep course.


8. CPA Prep Courses are an Investment – and Worth It


Are CPA prep courses worth it? Is traveling cross-country with a phone that has Google Maps worth it?

You could whip out your grandparents' Rand McNally map collection.

No, you should not study with your college accounting textbooks.

They aren't designed to help you pass the CPA Exam.

(on a side note, it's debatable as to whether they actually teach you how to be an accountant)

You need study materials that are specifically designed for one thing: passing the CPA Exam.

Not IRS regs or FASBs – that's an incredibly poor use of your valuable time.

These are not Enrolled Agent (REG/TCP) or CMA (BAR) materials—those are beyond the scope of the CPA Exam.


9. Don't Buy CPA Review Course Materials that aren't AICPA-Licensed


Only AICPA-Licensed CPA Review companies know what will be testable on the CPA Exam.

You will see some supplements touting that they don't use AICPA questions like that other guy (NINJA), as if that's an asset.

It's not an asset – it's nonsense.

Why this has become a thing, I have no idea.

Anyone can flood their test bank with random off-brand accounting questions, but that's a terrible idea.

There's no reason not to use a reputable and vetted AICPA-Licensed course.

All courses featured on this page are AICPA-Licensed.


10. CPA Review Course Pass Rate Marketing is MathMagic


Q: Which CPA review course has the best pass rate?

A: Who knows?

A few things to know about CPA Exam pass rates:

  1. The first-time CPA Exam pass rate, according to the AICPA, is approx. 25-30%.
  2. 1 out of every 2 people (i.e. 50%) who walk into any given CPA Exam section will fail it (also according to the AICPA).
  3. Some CPA courses advertise 80-90% pass rates.

Ok, future auditor, what stands out to you? 😀

I don't know what Mathmagic CPA Exam Review courses use to arrive at their pass rate numbers, and I don't really care.

That's between them and the AICPA.

What I do know is that you shouldn't factor them into your buying decision at all.


11. The Best CPA Course for Working Professionals contains an Audio Review


What is the best CPA course for working professionals? One that has a CPA Audio to maximize study time while commuting.

NINJA, Gleim, and Surgent contain an audio course. Becker is the most popular course and it doesn't feature an audio review, so take this with a grain of salt.


12. The Best CPA Review Course for International Students is tailored for Visual Learners


What is the Best CPA Review course for international students (or ESL candidates)? One is tailored for visual learners due to the language barrier.

Becker, UWorld, and NINJA are my recommendations for visual learners, but try Gleim and Surgent too – you might like their lectures better.


13. Live CPA Review Classes are Making a Comeback


The pandemic basically killed the live class market. It's making a comeback, albeit online. Becker and NINJA feature live classes.


14. Adaptive Learning in CPA Test Banks is Now a Standard Feature


Adaptive Learning in a CPA test bank was a major feature a few years ago. Today, it's a standard feature. It's like buying a new car – you assume it has cruise control.

Adaptive Learning allows the test bank to ‘feed' you more questions based on your weak areas.

Your strong areas are still tested but less frequently. Different courses have different names for it – and each company uses its own adaptive algorithm, so they aren't the same.

All CPA Review courses on this page feature adaptive learning of some type.


15. Some CPA Review Courses have Military Discounts


Do CPA Review Courses have Military Discounts? Some. There are two types of Military Discounts for CPA Review: Direct Bill and your regular “discount” code used at checkout.

Direct Bill

The Becker CPA Review course has a direct billing relationship with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Flat Military Discount

Other courses have a flat military discount, but with the competitive nature of the CPA Review course industry right now and courses discounting the packages $1,000+ OFF, the military discount isn't likely going to be any better than the regular discount, and depending on the timing, it might be a lower discount.


16. CPA Review Courses offer Financing


Do CPA Review Courses offer Financing? Yes – most courses offer financing.

Double-check the fine print.

Some of those payment plans have crazy interest rates.

At $67 monthly, NINJA is like financing – but without any interest or commitment.


17. You Don't Need a CPA Exam Tutor


CPA Exam tutoring is more popular (and profitable) than ever. ‘CPA tutors' are popping out of the woodwork now.

Your favorite message board or study group may have even been overrun by CPA Exam tutor “success stories” seemingly overnight.

CPA Tutoring is an easy way to enter the online CPA class market without actually developing a course (or investing the necessary time and capital).

It's also an easy way to get scammed.

Anyone with a pulse, a Zoom account, and an internet connection can be a “CPA Tutor.”

If you want a CPA tutor, go with a CPA prep program that has the tutoring feature built-in.


18. Unlimited Access to a CPA Review course does not mean Lifetime Access


When comparing CPA Exam Review courses, it's important to keep it apples to apples. It's important to know if your course expires at some point.

Thankfully, the courses now make it easy. They basically don't expire until you pass the CPA Exam (except for the “lower-tiered” packages).

When a course advertises “unlimited access,” that's like a hotel advertising that they have “Free Cable.”

In the context of CPA Exam prep, “Unlimited” means you get access for as long as you're studying for the CPA Exam. It doesn't typically mean you get lifetime access.


19. CPA Review Course Return & Refund Policies Matter


Most CPA Review Return Policies Suck Are Not Friendly.

Why are CPA Free Trials so important? Because it's hard to return a course that you don't like.

Some even have a stiff monetary penalty for returning their courses.

Gleim and NINJA are the only courses that feature a 30-day refund policy.


20. You Shouldn't Buy a Used CPA Review Course


Nowadays, many things are digital, and reselling a course – especially a digital version of a course with logins- violates the terms of use for a course. Not only is it unethical (to violate the terms of use) as an aspiring CPA (oh, the irony), but you also run a significant risk of buying someone else's course access only to have it shut off by the course.

If the “customer” lives in California and logged in 435 times from LA, and you live in New York and start logging in, good luck explaining that.

Don't start cutting ethical corners to save a buck. Not a good start to your CPA career.


21. You Might get College Credit for your CPA Review Course


Some MAcc programs have the CPA Review course integrated into their program. If you're looking into a Master of Accounting program, it might not hurt to email the CPA Review course you're looking at and ask them if they have any partnerships with colleges or universities where you can accomplish this very thing. Then, see if that school has an online program. While we're all still pretending like the 150-hour rule is beneficial to anyone other than the colleges and universities, you might as well study for the CPA Exam while jumping through these arbitrary (and expensive) hoops.

Becker and Surgent are among the courses with university partnerships.


22. CPA Review Courses are Always On Sale with Discounts & Promo Codes


The price is rarely the price. Most courses have their discounts directly on the site.


23. Large Accounting Firm employees get discounted CPA Prep courses


The bigger firms have relationships with the various CPA courses. The courses set up bulk pricing with the firms (usually far below retail), and then new hires pick from the list of “approved” courses, and the course gets paid whatever the contracted amount is. If the employee leaves within X amount of time, they have to pay the firm back for the course. If the firm employee needs a second course or an add-on like NINJA, it's on the employee's dime.

Basically, all of the big courses have discounts with the big firms.

CliftonLarsonAllen associates get a discount with NINJA CPA Review.

If you want your firm added, have your HR department email me.


24. Former CPA Review Students Get Discounts Too


CPA Review courses are always happy to retain their former customers rather than lose them to a competitor, which is why most courses have attractive former student discounts.

That said, the competition among courses is so fierce that the discounts aren't typically that much better than the regular discounts.


25. Start with FAR or AUD. Always.


Which CPA Exam to take first? Always take FAR or AUD first. A rare exception would be if a CPA Exam section is dramatically changing, but that doesn't happen often.

Our recommended order of CPA Exams depends on what Discipline section you plan on taking.

If you plan on taking BAR…

  1. AUD
  2. FAR
  3. BAR
  4. REG

Our Reasoning: Start with AUD, as it's the “most difficult” exam now, then FAR…then BAR, which has a lot of overlap with FAR…then finish with REG.

If you plan on taking TCP…

  1. AUD
  2. FAR
  3. REG
  4. TCP

Our Reasoning: Again, starting with AUD/FAR…then REG/TCP due to overlap in taxation topics.

If you plan on taking ISC:

  1. AUD
  2. FAR
  3. REG
  4. ISC

ISC is kind of its own thing – similar to BEC, it was somewhat of a unicorn. Save it for last.


26. It Takes 5 to 7 Weeks to (Properly) Study for a CPA Exam section


How long does it take to prepare for CPA? You should plan on studying 20 hours a week and 7 weeks per exam. If you fail twice (the average, according to NASBA), the CPA Exam will take you around one year to complete.

Some take a lot less time to pass, and some take a lot more. This is why the NINJA Study Planner comes in two flavors: 4 weeks and 7 weeks.

Everyone is different, and opinions on CPA Study Materials vary greatly, which, again, is why there is no “Best CPA Review Course” 😀


27. You Won't Likely Pass the CPA Exam on the First Try – And That's OK


How to Pass the CPA Exam on the First Try? Great question.

The odds of passing the CPA Exam on the first try are 1 in 4.

25% of CPA Candidates pass on their first try.

Four people walk into Prometric to take their first CPA Exam.

One person walks out passing.

On an individual section basis, it's slightly better.

Two people walk in to take FAR – one person passes.

If you want to improve your odds of passing the first time, you must study correctly.

See Also: You Failed – Now What!?


Closing Thoughts


In closing, pick a course that matches:

  1. Your Budget
  2. Your Learning Style
  3. The one you'll actually study with

Again, I'm biased—I own a course. Try two or three courses and then pick the Best CPA Review Course for you.


jeff-elliott-cpa-ninja-cpa-review-another-71

To Your Success,

Jeff Elliott, CPA (KS)

NINJA CPA | NINJA CMA | NINJA CPE | Another71