Best CPA Review Courses & 27 Things To Know (Before You Buy)
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:
1) I own a popular CPA Review course (NINJA CPA Review), am an AICPA CPA Exam Review course licensee, and have direct access to the AICPA Examinations Team.
2) I know the CPA prep industry as well as anyone. I know all of the major courses and started or helped grow many of their affiliate (advertising) programs.
3) I have been helping people pass the CPA Exam full-time since 2010 (it's the only thing I do) and have seen all of the many changes – not only to the CPA Exam but also to CPA Review courses – 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:
- CPA Exam Review Courses (your “main” study materials. Scroll down to a comparison of four of the Best CPA Exam Review Courses below.)
- CPA Exam Review Supplements (CPA Test Banks, Study Guides, Audios, CPA Crams, etc.)
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 or Best Courses.
It's a myth pushed by Best CPA Exam Review “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 be paying for your CPA Course lonnngggg 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 2023'
🚫 Ignore anything that triggers your BS detector, Future CPA.
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:
- Test Bank
- Study Guide (Notes)
- Audio Review
- Cram Course
- Live Tutor
- Return Policy
Note: If you don't need a full course and just one of these as a supplement, check out our CPA Study Materials page.
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 4 courses represent 90%+ of the CPA Exam prep market.
On mobile? This table is best viewed sideways in landscape.
|30 Day Refunds||✅||🚫||🚫||🚫|
Becker CPA Review
Becker CPA Review is the most-searched company because they are the biggest name in CPA Exam prep.
Typically, they also the most expensive CPA Review course.
Becker has the trust of Big 4 accounting firms, where they offer steep discounts to firm employees.
Becker has a popular cram course called the Becker Final Review.
Investopedia also rated Becker as the “Best Overall” course in 2023.
The three main Becker CPA Review courses are Pro ($3,799 retail), Premium ($3,099 retail), and Advantage ($2,499 retail).
Wiley CPA Review
Wiley CPA Review is the second-most searched company.
Like Becker, is an old-school CPA Prep course. They've been around forever and have a good reputation.
I've had a business relationship with Wiley for over a decade and even started their affiliate program back in the day.
Wiley also sells a standalone test bank called the Wiley CPA Test Bank.
Wiley CPA Review has two main CPA Review courses: Platinum ($2,499 retail) and Pro ($2,199 retail).
NINJA CPA Review
NINJA CPA Review (my company) is the third-most searched CPA Prep company in the US according to ahrefs.
We have been the #1 CPA Exam Study Supplement for over a decade.
NINJA has a popular CPA Study Guide called the NINJA Notes.
Investopedia rated us a top-5 CPA prep course in 2023 and named us “Best Price.”
UWorld Roger CPA Review
UWorld Roger CPA Review isn't as long in the tooth as Becker and Wiley (coincidentally, UWorld bought Wiley in 2023, so there's that), but the course features Roger Phillipp, one of the best CPA lectures around.
UWorld acquired Roger a few years ago and made an already great course even better with the tech upgrades.
Peter Olinto, formerly of Becker, also joined UWorld in 2023.
Roger has a popular course package called the Elite-Unlimited Course.
Investopedia rated Roger CPA Review “Runner-Up – Best Overall” in 2023.
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 is a good place 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.
6. Your Learning Style Matters
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
A course for visual learners features dry-erase board-style teaching or something similar where the information is presented visually on a screen.
Best CPA Review Course for Auditory Learners
An audio course allows you to study when you otherwise couldn't. Most major courses don't feature an audio option.
Best CPA Review Course for Kinesthetic Learners
If you're a fellow kinesthetic, you want a course with a CPA Test Bank approach.
Best CPA Review Course for Reading/Writing Learners
Reading, Writing, and Learning are as boring as it sounds.
7. You Need a CPA Study Plan
50% of CPA Candidates who walk into any exam will fail that exam. Why?
- Wrong Study Materials
- Wrong Study Method
- All of the Above
A good CPA study plan can salvage a bad CPA review course.
8. (Some) CPA Prep Courses are Expensive – But 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)
Ready to Finally Be a CPA? Choose Your NINJA Study Path.
This is an online CPA class. This ain't your live, in-person college accounting class (note: don't use “ain't” in your BEC Written Communications).
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.
Not Enrolled Agent (REG) or CMA (BEC) 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.
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:
- The first-time CPA Exam pass rate, according to the AICPA, is approx. 25-30%.
- 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).
- 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 is one with an Audio Review
What is the best CPA course for working professionals? One that has CPA Audio Course to maximize study time while commuting.
12. The Best CPA Review course for International Students is one for Visual Learners
What is the Best CPA Review course for international students (or ESL candidates)? One is tailored for visual learners, which is outlined above.
13. Live CPA Review classes are No Longer Offered
Are Live CPA Review classes still offered? No – Not among the “big box” review courses, anyway.
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, most courses have some form of adaptive technology. You can still pass the CPA Exam without it (as people have done for decades), but you could make a case that you're at a disadvantage vs. other CPA candidates using it. It's like buying a new car without cruise control. It will still get you from point A to B, but it's annoying that it's not there (first-world problems, I get it).
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.
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.
The 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.
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. If your course will expire at some point, it's important to know that.
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.
You can go to each course's website and dig into the legalese if you want, but here's the long and short of it.
20. You Shouldn't Buy a Used CPA Review 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.
22. CPA Review Courses are Always On Sale with Discounts & Promo Codes
The price is rarely the price. Sometimes 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. If you work for a CPA firm – best sure to ask about special pricing from your HR department. Then, take the savings and become a NINJA. 😀
24. Former CPA Review Students Get Discounts Too
CPA Review courses are always happy to get their former customers back vs. them going to a competitor, which is why most courses have attractive former student discounts.
25. FAR is the First CPA Exam Section to take – For Now
Which CPA Exam to take First? Always take the FAR CPA Exam first. A rare exception would be if a CPA Exam section is dramatically changing, but that doesn't happen often.
In general, the order of the CPA Exams should be
- FAR – You want FAR out of the way first before your 18-month clock starts
- AUD – AUD and FAR have a natural overlap. You're auditing (AUD) the financial statements (FAR)
- REG – A case could be made that REG could be second, as there is some overlap with Deferred Taxes (which will make more sense after you've taken FAR). I still like REG third.
- BEC – Take BEC last. Ignore the fact that BEC has the highest CPA Exam pass rate. Take BEC lightly, and you'll walk into Prometric and limp out. Ignore this advice at your expiring FAR credit's peril.
For the 2023 CPA Exam, however, you should get AUD & BEC out of the way before 2024.
In 2024, AUD will be a bear, and passing BEC will get you out of taking one of the “Discipline” sections.
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. 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.
Take notes & use the NINJA Study Framework regardless of your CPA study course.
To Your Success,
Jeff Elliott, CPA (KS)