What is the Best CPA Exam Review Course? [UPDATED 2019]

Surgent CPA is the best CPA exam review course according to several independent review sites, including Crush the CPA Exam, CPA Exam Guy, Beat the CPA and Accounting Institute. Surgent CPA is also a recipient of the Silver Stevie Award by American Business Awards and named Accounting Today’s Top New Product.

As you prepare to begin your CPA Exam journey, you’ll want to decide for yourself which is the best CPA Prep Course. We’ve put together this guide to help you decide between all the providers out there, and help you choose a course that is perfect for your learning style and individualized to you.

In this article:

 

Overview: Surgent vs. all leading CPA Review course providers:


 

Course Features Surgent CPA Review Other Leading Providers*
All-Inclusive Pricing All parts of the course and all materials included No
Unlimited Practice Exams Yes No
Student-friendly Payment Options We offer 3, 6, or 12 month payment plans through . Rates from 0-30% APR. Learn more. No. Some providers do not offer payment plans at all, while others offer payment plans with APR ranging from 10-30%.
Complete Access Until You Pass No strings attached access until you pass, includes updated online course materials at no additional charge. Varies by provider
Money-Back Guarantee If you’re not satisfied with our course, we’ll provide a full refund (see terms & conditions) No
Up to $1,100 Discount for Anyone Who Failed With Another Provider Yes No
Adaptive Learning Technology Proven to Save 50+ Hours per Part Yes Some providers claim to offer adaptive learning, but the technology (and results) are not the same
Short, Frequently-Updated Video Lectures 350 + bite-sized video lectures (10-20 min. long), updated quarterly to reflect the most recent changes. No
Task-Based Simulations Yes – including the new DRS format Yes
Includes AICPA recently released questions Yes – 7,700+ Yes
Flashcards Yes – free mobile flashcard app with 2200+ CPA Exam terms & definitions. Digital flashcards available free for iOS devices. Yes, but not free. Prices range from $99 – $179.
Adaptive Study Planner Yes – adapts to your performance: calculates study hours based on your test data & study performance, and includes personalized ReadySCORE™ No
Dedicated Instructor Support Yes, included at no charge. Available for a fee from select providers. Not available for others.
Average Study hours per Exam Part 58 hours** Over 200 hours***
Interactive Dashboard with Personalized Exam Readiness Indicator Provides updated visual snapshot of exam readiness by exam category No
Personalized Onboarding Support Yes No
Mobile Compatible Yes Yes
Free Updates Yes – until you pass Only before expiration for most providers
Customer Service Live chat, email, and phone support with dedicated accounting coaches. Plus, Ultimate Customer support, guaranteed 1 business day response to content and technical issues, included with Ultimate Pass. Varies by provider
**This comparison includes publicly available information about Becker, Roger, and Wiley CPAexcel courses.
***Based on actual observed study time for Surgent CPA Review course; For other leading providers, average study time was estimated based on each provider’s recommended study plan

Independent Research

We know independent reviews are the best reviews for CPA candidates, because it gives them an unbiased idea of whether or not a review course is going to work for them. Surgent is consistently listed as one of the best CPA Exam Review Courses by independent, third-party reviewers. We’ll discuss the highlights of these reviews, as well as include the related link so you can see exactly what each site has to say about Surgent.

Crush the CPA Exam

Bryce Welker started Crush the CPA Exam to help candidates find the best review course to help them pass. His rating for Surgent is 5 out of 5 stars and Crush the CPA Exam ranked Surgent CPA Review as the Best CPA Review Course for 2019.

Specifically, Crush the CPA Exam likes that Surgent’s content is consistently updated, and you have access to the course until you pass. The adaptive learning technology is also a highlight in his review. However, the part about Surgent Crush the CPA Exam loves most is that you learn while practicing multiple-choice questions, and there are detailed explanations for wrong answers. The 5-star review and comparison to other courses show that Surgent is one of the best courses out there, no matter your study type.

I Pass the CPA Exam

Stephanie Ng started I Pass the CPA Exam after her boss challenged her to pass each of the four sections of the CPA Exam on the first try. After studying with other review courses, Stephanie sought to help candidates determine which CPA Exam review course would work best with their individual learning styles.

Stephanie outlines three reasons why candidates should pick Surgent CPA Review: the course is tailored to your strengths and weaknesses, it’s the only course that offers an exam readiness indicator, and the lectures are taught by dedicated professors who genuinely teach candidates what they need to know to pass. These are just a few of the reasons that I Pass the CPA Exam ranks Surgent CPA Review #1.

CPA Exam Guy

CPA Exam Guy’s Team is there to help you learn about the best test-taking strategies and study materials out there to come out on top of the CPA Exam. They give Surgent CPA Review a 5 out of 5 star rating and have it as their “Best Pick” CPA Exam Review Course for 2019.

They love that Surgent has the most experienced instructors in the industry (the ones behind your videos and 1-on-1 coaching), and also enjoy the adaptive learning technology. Also, just like Crush the CPA Exam, CPA Exam Guy notes the unlimited access to study materials until you pass as a pro of Surgent CPA Review. The only con they note is the trial period isn’t very long (5 days).

Beat the CPA

Jess of Beat the CPA has distilled everything she learned from her own exam experience into this site, with constant updates as the exam and exam materials change. She gave Surgent CPA Review a 5 out of 5 stars rating, and also listed it as the best CPA Review Course of 2019.

Beat the CPA is very impressed with Surgent’s A.S.A.P. Technology™, and specifically with ReadySCORE™. This coincides with their positive review of how individualized the course is with tailor-made study plans and customizable options. Their overall view of the course notes it’s great for CPA Candidates who have busy schedules (like candidates who work full-time) and need a course that is going to help them pass efficiently.

Accounting Institute for Success

The Accounting Institute for Success (AIS) wants to help CPA Candidates take control of the exam process and pass the exam on their first try. They want to help candidates pass the exam without having to put their entire lives on hold. The Accounting Institute gives Surgent 5 out of 5 stars and also ranks it as the number one CPA Exam Prep Course on the market.

The AIS notes that Surgent has one of the most robust analytic packages of any course on the market, making your results throughout the course very accurate compared to the actual CPA Exam. Just like all of the other independent reviewers, the AIS lists Surgent’s access until you pass as one of the best features of the course, along with the A.S.A.P. Technology. Surgent’s customer service is also high on their list of pros for the course.

Comparing Leading CPA Course Providers

To see more in-depth course comparisons, check out our Review Course Comparisons for Wiley CPA Review, Roger CPA Review, Becker CPA Review, and Gleim CPA Review course.

Wiley CPA Review

Wiley’s CPAexcel® Review course uses score comparisons to successful CPA Exam candidates to help you assess your progress as you study for the exam. However, the software isn’t truly adaptive. While Surgent’s software continually adapts to your progress throughout the course, starting from the Assessment phase, Wiley CPAexcel Review creates performance metrics that need to be self-assessed and self-corrected throughout the course. Wiley CPAexcel Review also has a static study planner, which means what and when you study does not automatically update based on how you’re progressing through the course. Wiley’s biggest pro is its test bank; it provides 12,000 multiple choice questions and 500 task-based simulations. However, Wiley’s study hours per part, despite the larger test bank, is 281 hours compared to Surgent’s study time of 58 hours per part. Read our full review of Wiley CPAexcel.

Roger CPA Review

Roger CPA Review Course’s SmartPath Predictive Technology™ is similar to Wiley’s in that it compares your scores throughout the course to the scores of successful past CPA candidates who also took the course. While there is no initial assessment to test a candidate’s knowledge, and the study planner is not adaptive, the SmartPath Technology does use a candidate’s data to ensure they’re getting the right questions when they need them. However, comparing a current candidate’s scores to a previous candidate’s scores may not take into account any new exam changes. Roger does have a robust mobile app, but overall it’s not as individualized as Surgent’s truly adaptive course, which means it’s hours per section are still markedly higher, at 195, than Surgent’s 58-hour study time per part. Read our full review of Roger CPA Review.

Becker CPA Review

Becker has historically been one of the go-to brands for CPA Review. Recently, Becker has attempted to update its platform to compete with truly adaptive technology. However, Becker’s Adapt2U technology, powered by a third party company, is not adaptive. Students may complete a brief, optional quiz that determines whether they should start with lecture videos or skills practice videos. Students are still required to work through each module in a linear fashion, without taking into account what the student already knows and therefore does not need to spend time studying. The end result is that students spend hundreds of hours studying for each section of the CPA Exam. Becker also introduced “personalized review sessions” (PRS) to each study module. Unfortunately, work done in the PRS does not impact the student’s study plan – in fact, it may simply prolong students’ study time. Becker is one of the most expensive options on the market, costing almost $600 more for their top tier package compared to Surgent’s Ultimate Pass. Read our full review of Becker CPA Review course.

Comparing CPA Course Features

When you’re looking at CPA Prep Courses, there are a few features you’ll want to compare between the materials:

Adaptive Technology

Check to see if the course truly is adaptive. An adaptive course should automatically update based on your progress; you shouldn’t have to manually change your study schedule or what you study on any given day.

Course Materials

You have a specific learning style, so you’ll want to make sure you get a course that’s conducive to that style; physical textbooks, self-study, an audio course, or interactive materials are a few examples.

Course Access

Sometimes life happens and you don’t pass the exam as quickly as you’d like, or you don’t pass every CPA Exam section within the 18-month window. Find a review course that gives you access until you pass, so you don’t have to purchase them again at some point in the future.

Instructor Support

Some concepts are harder than others and need a little more explanation. A great CPA Prep Course will not only be created and taught by expert instructors, but it will also have support for those tough topics, should you need it.

Updates

The CPA Exam isn’t static; the AICPA updates exams corresponding to updates to standards and innovation in the industry. You want CPA Exam Review materials that automatically update, so you aren’t stuck with old materials that don’t teach you everything you need to know.

Practice Exams

Having unlimited practice exams will help you get familiar with the exam format and exam questions in your final review. Your CPA study materials should come with plenty of practice exams to help you prepare for exam day. Make sure they’re meant to simulate the actual exam and help you get familiar with all of the tools, like spreadsheets, testlets, and the time clock.

Pricing and Payment

We all want to make sure we’re getting the best value for the money, especially since the full price for the CPA Exam and review materials can cost upwards of $5,000. Read reviews about courses and check pass rates to make sure the value is there. Also, many courses offer payment plans, allowing you to pay over time as opposed to making one large payment upfront.

Competitor Hidden Truths

Surgent has truly adaptive technology, but there are several other courses that also claim to have adaptive learning technology. So how can you really tell what is adaptive and what isn’t? There are several key areas to look at, such as how (and if) you take an initial assessment to discover your stronger areas, how the study planner is created and adjusted throughout the course, and how the content adapts to your strengths and weaknesses as you learn. Compare our adaptive learning technology to other review courses to see which one will work best for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which CPA course has the highest pass rate?

A: Pass rates are generally self-reported by CPA Exam Review providers, and not all review providers provide pass rates. Self-reported rates are generally between 80% and 90%.

Q: Which CPA courses are mobile-friendly and setup so that I can learn on-the-go?

A: Below is a listing of each review course and whether or not they have a mobile app:

CPA Exam Review Company Mobile App
Surgent CPA Review Yes
Wiley CPA Review Yes
Roger CPA Review Yes
Becker CPA Review Yes
Gleim CPA Review No, but optimized for mobile

Q: Which courses offer live, instructor support?

A: Below is a listing of review courses and if they offer live instructors support:

CPA Exam Review Company Live Instructor Support
Surgent CPA Review Yes (with highest package)
Wiley CPA Review No (a mentor will get back to you within 24 hours)
Roger CPA Review No
Becker CPA Review Yes (as an option)
Gleim CPA Review Yes (with top two packages)

Q: What’s the difference between Surgent’s A.S.A.P. Technology, Roger’s SmartPath Tech, Becker’s Adapt2U Technology, Wiley CPAexcel, and Gleim’s SmartAdapt Technology?

A:

Surgent A.S.A.P. Technology
  • Constantly adapts to your strengths and weaknesses as you go through the course.
  • Algorithm automatically updates what you need to study each day to stay well-rounded in all areas.
  • Helps you focus on weaker areas without you thinking about it.
  • Highly individualized
Wiley CPAexcel
  • Software is not adaptive, but provides bite-sized audio and video lectures and score comparisons to successful CPA Exam candidates.
  • Meant to be self-assessed
Roger's SmartPath Technology
  • Based on targeted recommendations that compare a CPA Exam candidate’s progress and scores with other successful candidates who have passed the exam.
  • Mines a candidate’s data to see which and how many practice questions they need to be presented with in order to hit pass rate targets
  • Helps you focus on weaker areas without you thinking about it.
  • Mostly individualized experience
Becker's Adapt2U Technology
  • Interactive tools to assess readiness are presented as students progress throughout the course.
  • Students work through recommended study path.
  • Relatively consistant from student to student
Gleim's SmartAdapt Technology
  • Video lectures, audio lectures, multiple-choice questions, and task-based simulation questions are presented throughout the course and are said to constantly recalibrate based on your performance in a specific unit.
  • Mostly individualized experience

Q: I’m a visual learner. Which CPA course would work for me?

A: As a visual learner, you want to make sure you have access to visual aids, such as graphs and charts, as you progress through your course. Audio lectures and textbooks with long sections of text won’t help progress your learning quite as much. Engaging video lectures and interactive study materials would be best for your learning style. Below are the top three courses for visual learners:

CPA Exam Review Company Visual Learning Aids
Surgent CPA Review Bite-sized video lectures that are easy to watch and process, and most learning done through multiple-choice questions with detailed explanations for wrong answers
Wiley CPA Review Constant rotation between videos, text, and questions to create an engaging learning environment
Roger CPA Review Engaging and entertaining video lectures

Q: What if I use Surgent and don’t pass?

A: We stand behind our CPA Review course 100% and offer a CPA Exam Pass Guarantee for qualifying candidates. If you do not pass the CPA Exam and meet the requirements, you’ll receive a full refund of your tuition.

Q: Does Surgent Offer Financing Options?

A: Yes! We know paying for your CPA Review course upfront isn’t always possible, so we offer a variety of financing options to help you spread out the cost.

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