uccess on the computer-based test (CBT) version of the Uniform CPA Exam comes down to adequate preparation. In addition to reviewing the online tutorials, sample tests and exam interfaces at www.cpa-exam.org and meeting the academic requirements, most candidates recognize they need some type of structured review program prior to sitting for the CBT, either in a classroom setting, online or through one of the myriad available self-study products. Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages. This article will review some of the more popular online and self-study options. Some providers also offer live classroom reviews.
With such a broad array of products to choose from, it’s important to do your research. Most providers offer free demos on their Web sites. Many also offer discounts or scholarships, as well as money-back guarantees, free updates and/or retakes, special Web prices and flexible payment plans. Here’s a review of the providers and products whose aim is to help you succeed.
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Becker. Becker offers its CPA exam review courses in live, online and self-study formats at $790 per section or $2,370 for all four parts. Students can mix and match formats for each section. The live format, offering the most instructor and peer interaction, is available in cities throughout the United States. The online format offers a structured learning environment with a dedicated online instructor assigned to each student and multiple start dates for each course. The self-study CD-ROM course includes instructor-led lectures and a flexible viewing format. All three course formats include comprehensive review books, PassMaster software with more than 5,000 multiple-choice questions, Simulation software with more than 50 simulations of business situations and Final Exam software. Becker recently introduced Final Review, an intensive, last-minute, on-demand, pre-exam self-study course offered only to current and former Becker students.
Bisk (CPAReady). Bisk offers its CPAReady products in live, online and self-study review formats. Live and online courses are professor-led intensive reviews of each section of the exam. The online review costs $495 per section or $1,780 for all four parts. Call Bisk for the price of the live course. Bisk also offers an intensive video review ($249.95 per section or $999.80 for the complete course) and audio review ($129.95 per section or $519.80 for the complete course), 25 specific topic (“hot spot”) videos and testing software (including thousands of exam questions and numerous simulations; $160 per section or $640 for all four parts). The software is available at slightly higher prices in packages with printed review books, audio CDs or video DVDs. Comprehensive review books sell for $46.95 per section or $187.80 for the complete set of four. Bisk offers a money-back guarantee on its review packages that include CPAReady Online and CPAReady Multimedia Software.
CPAexcel. This provider of CPA review material offers two online packages as well as self-study products. The Gold Medal Online Edition includes a guided seminar with unlimited online assistance from CPA exam review professors, scheduled assignments and professor-led online discussion groups, as well as electronic courseware, an exam simulation center and printed review books and flash cards ($399 per section or $1,400 for all four). The Guided Seminar includes all features of the Gold Medal Edition, except printed review books and flash cards, for $348 per section or $1,146 for all four. CPAexcel offers multiple start dates and flexible course lengths for its online review packages. Its CD-ROM testing software includes electronic courseware and an exam simulation center for $255 per section or $846 for all four. Review books and flash cards each can be purchased for $150 per four-part set.
CPApass. The Flying Colors Program is an online guided study system that includes online tutors to plan, structure and oversee each candidate’s review program. Online tests provide diagnostic information that helps tutors design personalized study programs, and flexible programs enable students to study at their own pace. Tutors are available online to answer candidates’ questions, compile and evaluate tests and provide remedial assistance. The package also includes testing software, review books and flash cards. The fee is $395 for one exam part, $645 for two parts, $895 for three or $1,095 for the entire program. The company offers a money-back guarantee or an unconditional repeat for candidates who score sufficiently well on all the diagnostic tests and on the final practice exam.
ExamMatrix/MicroMash. ExamMatrix acquired MicroMash CPA Review in 2003 and now provides self-study CD-ROM reviews for each section of the exam, which can be purchased individually or as a complete set. The software review and reference book package, which costs $295 per section or $995 for the total course, includes more than 3,000 multiple-choice questions, four review books, exam simulations and on-screen assistance. The software has the intelligence to adjust the number of questions in each category during each study session based on the student’s needs and continues to adjust after each study session. Under guidance of the built-in personal counselor, each response to a question is analyzed to see whether any remedial action is needed before moving on. The company recently introduced ExamMentor, which electronically monitors students’ progress, provides feedback to ensure they meet weekly exam review goals and encourages them to register and take the exam, rather than postpone it.
Gleim. This long-time provider offers an extensive suite of CPA exam review products. Its online review is a flexible, interactive program with personal counselors who provide individualized assistance. It’s available in a package that includes review books, testing software and audio tapes for $274.95 per section or $989.95 for all four parts, or in a stand-alone online package for $169.95 per section or $589.95 for all four. The online review comes with a money-back guarantee if a candidate does not pass on the first sitting. Gleim’s audio review covers core concepts in each of 80 study units; it costs $89.95 per section or $359.80 for the complete review. Its testing software on CD-ROM, which includes more than 1,000 multiple-choice questions per section, costs $54.95 per section or $219.80 for all four parts; it also can be purchased in packages with review books or audio CDs. A stand-alone simulation center is available for $99.95 per section and review books are $44.95 per section or $179.80 for a complete set.
Kaplan. Kaplan offers live, online and self-study review packages. The live classroom programs are offered in the New York City area for $649 per section. Complete study solutions in online and CD-ROM versions that incorporate on-demand lectures and problem-solving videos sell for $449 per section and can be upgraded to include audio CDs, testing software, review books and flash cards for an additional $200 per section. Online testing software is available for $69 per section. Kaplan also offers audio CDs for $69 per section, review books for $49.95 per volume and flash cards for $59 per section. The company soon will offer MP3 audio downloads.
Lambers. A wide variety of live, online and self-study products is available. Lambers offers live review courses in several U.S. and international cities and has teamed with Wise Guides to offer a comprehensive online review. One month of online access costs $49 per section or $179 for all four; two months access is $59 per section or $219 for four; or three months of access is $69 per section or $249 for all four parts. A self-study video review (DVD or CD-ROM) is available for $200 (BEC and AUD) to $250 (REG and FAR) per section or $900 for all four. Testing software that includes multiple-choice questions and simulations is available for $70 (BEC and AUD) to $80 (REG and FAR) per section, $250 for all four parts or $320 in a combo pack with review books. Review books also can be purchased separately for $40 each. Lambers offers a free update of self-study materials for up to one year.
MDS. Martin Dalton & Spettel provides live CPA exam review courses in the Columbus, Ohio, area and self-study products, including a lecture-based DVD review package with testing software, review books and flash cards ($425 per section or $1,499 for all four parts). A Techniques DVD that explains how to do homework efficiently and take the test effectively is free with the purchase of all four parts. MDS also offers, via e-mail, personal assistance with its live and self-study reviews. Other review products include testing software ($249 per section or $849 for four) and flash cards ($29 per section or $99 for the complete set). The company offers a full refund on its self-study products within 15 days of purchase and a free repeat of live and self-study reviews to students who complete all homework and earn a grade of 90% on an open-book random exam.
Northern Illinois University. As a provider of live review courses in the Chicago area for 36 years, Northern Illinois University (NIU) serves more than 1,000 CPA exam candidates each year. Live course fees for first-time participants are $650 (AUD), $480 (BEC), $700 (FAR) and $610 (REG); fees are reduced by $50 for prior participants and by $45 for early registrants. NIU also offers a self-study review composed of online testing software, review books and audio CDs for $780 (AUD), $535 (BEC), $820 (FAR) and $730 (REG). Students also can purchase audio CDs for each section or record their own. Vendor-produced software is available at discounted prices and the university offers refunds up to two weeks before course start dates as well as updates, online testing and e-mail access to the experts, all free, until candidates pass the exam.
Rigos. This company provides live and self-study review products. Live classes in the Seattle area are intensive reviews in 20-hour weekend workshops. The company believes this format minimizes commute time and memory loss and maximizes comprehension and motivation. Rigos also markets a self-study review package that includes a comprehensive review book with about 1,000 previous exam questions and explanations and CD-ROM testing software (for $97 per section or $360 for all four). The software’s Magic Memory Outlines help students make their own final review outlines, and question maps allow students to find questions on topics they need to review. The courses and products also are available through domestic and international affiliates.
Roger Philipp. Roger Philipp offers live, online and self-study review products. The live review course is an intensive structured classroom review in four California locations, costing $595 (REG, BEC and AUD) to $695 (FAR) or $1,995 for all sections. The online course has more than 100 hours of streaming video lectures (filmed from live classes), review books and testing software, including multiple-choice questions and exam simulations, for $595 (REG, BEC and AUD) to $695 (FAR) or $1,495 for all four sections. An intensive video review, available on USB mini storage drive and video tape, includes nearly 100 hours of lectures (filmed from the live class), plus review books and testing software priced from $650 (REG, BEC and AUD) to $705 (FAR) or $2,095 for the total review. Roger Philipp also offers a 40-hour video cram review online, on CD-ROM and on videotape. The online cram review costs from $195 (REG, BEC and AUD) to $275 (FAR) or $860 for the four; the CD-ROM and videotape versions cost from $395 (REG, BEC and AUD) to $475 (FAR) or $1,095 for all four. The company also markets vendor products such as software, audio CDs and review books. Its new products include video review courses stored on mini storage drives rather than on CDs.
Tutorial Group. This company’s flash card review system includes more than 1,000 color-coded flash cards with questions on one side and answers on the other that focus on the most heavily tested exam topics. The system costs $99 per section or $149 for two, $199 for three or $249 for four. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee on all products.
U.S. CPA Success. This company offers live review courses in several Canadian cities for the U.S. Uniform CPA Exam and the U.S. CPA Reciprocity Exam or International Qualification Exam (IQEX). The Uniform CPA Exam intensive course, a comprehensive four-day review that requires no advance preparation, costs C$825 per section or C$2,495 for all sections. Guided self-study packages for the Uniform CPA Exam are available with binders and testing software for C$2,095 (C$749 per section) or with binders, testing software and audio CDs for C$2,295 (C$799 per section). Review books cost an additional C$200.
IQEX course fees range from C$749 (cram course) to C$2,295 (intensive course). The IQEX cram course is a weekend final review that is offered immediately prior to the exam; the intensive course is a three-day review that usually is taken near the beginning of the student’s review program. Guided self-study for the IQEX cram weekend is available for C$449. A 7% goods and services tax (GST) is charged on all live review courses but not on self-study products. U.S. CPA Success offers free repeats of live review courses. Beginning in 2007, it will offer live reviews in the United States and other international locations.
Wiley. John Wiley & Sons Publishing Company Inc. offers online and self-study CPA exam review materials. One of its latest ventures, developed in partnership with the Boston Institute of Finance, is a full-fledged online review course (CPA e-Prep) that includes slides with audio narration, simulation downloads, an “exam builder” that enables students to create unlimited practice exams and custom quizzes, and unlimited access to Wiley exam materials—for $99 for one month’s access, $249 for three months or $299 for six months, with a 15-day money-back guarantee. There’s also an audio review on CD-ROM for $75 per section or MP3 download for $100 per section, as well as review books, study guides, testing software and review notes. Wiley’s review books cost $53.95 each or $215.80 for all four volumes; study guides with problems and solutions run $59.95 or $119.90 for the two-volume set; testing software that includes multiple-choice questions and exam simulations costs $79 per section or $229 for all four parts; and review notes for $38 per section or $152 for all four.
Yaeger. One of the largest CPA review course providers in the Washington, D.C., metro area, Yaeger offers live, self-study and cram CPA exam review options. Live courses are $520 for the BEC or AUD sections. Self-study video reviews are available on CD-ROM for $395 (BEC or AUD) or $445 (REG or FAR) per section or $1,289 for the entire course, or on DVD or videotape for $400 (BEC or AUD) to $450 (REG or FAR) or $1,299 for the entire course; an audio cram review, designed as a pre-exam wrap-up, costs $79.95 (BEC or AUD) to $99.95 (REG or FAR) per section or $359.80 for all four. Online testing software is available for $50 per section or $200 for four.
Yaeger also sells a 90-day online subscription to tax code research through the Research Institute of America (RIA) for $50 and markets other vendors’ testing software, review books and flash cards. Combo packages to suit any review need also are available, and a new online cram course will be released soon.
Holly R. Rudolph, CPA, DBA, is associate professor of accounting at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. Her e-mail address is email@example.com .