I recently published an article with several tips to help people pass the CPA exam. (See 4 Tips from a 20 Year CPA to Pass the CPA Exam). One of the tips I mentioned in the article was that they should take a review course for at least auditing, but I believe they should take one for all of the courses. Most of the responses I received on that point were positive, but I had one person ask me why anyone should bother taking a review course. They noted that they had bought a couple of review books and some test questions and done just fine on the CPA exam. I figured that there might be others who felt the same way so I thought I would do a post on the topic.
1. Impact of not passing. I agree that there is more than one way to pass the exam. I am sure that there have been people who have passed the exam without buying any CPA exam review materials. But why risk it? The impact of not passing the exam is obviously devastating on one’s career. Even the delay of a year can (i.e. not always) impact when you get a raise, bonus or promotion and impact your career path. As an accounting major, you have spent five years of your life and thousands of dollars in tuition for the chance to get your license. Why would you not give yourself the best possible chance to pass the exam? Even if someone told me it would add only 5 – 10% to my chances to pass the exam I would take it.
2. Time Most people looking at a review course only think of it in terms of learning or renewing their knowledge in a particular subject area, but that is only part of the value. A full review course is also going to provide you a detailed understanding of what areas to study and not study. Therefore, the candidate does not waste their time studying concepts that are unimportant to the exam testers or are outside the scope of the exam. For example, I took the old version of the exam which had business law while I was in my second year of law school. I still signed up for a review course on business law because I wanted to understand what the AICPA wanted me to know about the subject area instead of what law school had taught me. I probably could have passed the section without the course. But why take that chance when your career is on the line?
3. Grade Curve Unlike taking the driver’s test in the real world, the CPA exam is graded on a curve (even if only a few points). Therefore, knowing the material that everyone else has studied has an impact on keeping yourself level with the other people who are passing the exam. During my review courses I learned CPA exam test taking techniques and mnemonics that likely added points to my exam score. As many CPA exam test takers will tell you, the end result between a 73 and 75 is a whole lot.
4. Structure Most accounting majors when it comes to studying are a fairly disciplined group. Therefore, it is not that hard to get them to crack open a book to get them to study for something important. But there is a difference between studying the last couple of chapters of Intermediate Accounting and the wide open nature of the CPA exam. A CPA exam course gives the candidate a timeline and structure (which accountants by nature like) of how much work to get done between each class. Therefore, a CPA review course simply does a better job at providing discipline and structure than telling most candidates to grab a several hundred page CPA review book and have it memorized in three months. I went to law school five days a week and then took an all day review course on Saturdays and passed all four parts at the same time. If I can pass the entire exam under the old version while having that course load then I am confident that you can pass it with your busy schedule while taking a review course and taking only one part at a time.
Good luck on the exam!
The other issue I had with my CPA exam tips post is that many people wanted to mention the great experience they had with their review course. As a result, they wanted me to add their review course as a link in the article. Therefore, I thought all of us could have a little fun while spreading the word to future CPA exam test takers about the value of CPA exam review courses. So here is the plan. If you took a review course I want you to comment about your CPA review course experience and like and share the article. For every 100 people who like, comment and share a positive experience on a particular review course on the LinkedIn version of my article I will add their review course link to this article. I will also have an extra prize (which I will reveal later) for the review course that gets the most people to comment, share and like the article provided
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