When writing our test prep course reviews, we compare several different factors to determine the ability for these educational resources to accomplish one task: help you pass your exams.
But how do we rank our courses? Furthermore, how do we pick courses worth reviewing in the first place, and what makes one course better than the other?
Here’s what you need to know about our review process:
User Interface: This is the most important ranking factor. We grade each course based on how the future CPA exam candidate will interact with the product. We test each course and see what components we like and which ones we don’t think make the cut, and then we adjust our rankings accordingly.
Value: The point of a CPA review course is to help you pass the test. However, cost is certainly a factor to consider, as some companies charge into the $3,300 range. So, we try to asses the price of these courses while also considering how many extra features and materials you get compared to cheaper options.
Support: We have done the legwork on this one—we submit questions and inquiries to CPA prep course companies in order to test the customer service that is provided. While this isn’t the make or break point for the course, it’s important that the top companies give users a certain level of support and respond to claims quickly.
Customer Feedback: We listen to you. That’s right, your input is a significant factor for our ranking system. If we think one thing, but hear a differing opinion from our users, we adjust the rankings accordingly. We want our list of the top CPA exam prep courses to reflect what we’ve heard, and thanks to some great input we have a lot to work with!
Dashboard: This is incredibly important in our ranking system users need a great platform with which to work. We do thorough inspections of the dashboards for each offering, as we like to test the progress tracking, how easy it is to find certain materials, and whether or not the course is designed in accordance with aesthetics and intuitiveness.
Content: (video lectures, flashcards, etc.): The content is arguably the most important part of any CPA review course. We’ve unboxed, gone through, and used every single part of each of the review courses. Whether it’s watching video lectures to see how well the instructors cover the content, or checking out the physical study materials page by page, we’ve done the groundwork.
Mobile Friendly: If a course is going to be truly effective for the modern student, it needs to have a certain level of mobility. Some courses have pretty basic mobile options while others have much more extensive offerings—whether the CPA review course is the former or latter factors into our overall rankings.
Financing and Access: Money and time are invaluable to anyone, especially those who are studying for the CPA exam while working full time. We know that your studying may be interrupted, as life happens, so we factor in the level of access—18 months, 24 months, or unlimited—that each course provides. Also, if you’re looking to pay it off over time, financing options are a great value add that also factors into the rankings.
How We Select Courses For Review
While we try to cover as many online study materials as we can, we don’t review every single one. When deciding which products and services to cover, we follow these criteria:
How legitimate is the company and their study materials? To determine this, we conduct a great deal of research into each organization’s history and staff. Additionally, we verify that their course websites are in line with Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines.
Companies that we consider legitimate have all of the following:
- A staff with experience. Would you trust an accounting course taught by someone who’s never worked in accounting? Would you take a course from someone who hasn’t taught a single student? Us neither! All of the courses reviewed on this site are founded and taught by experienced authors, professors, and industry professionals with a reputation that suggests longevity.
- Verifiable Information: As you’re probably aware, it’s surprisingly easy to tell lies on the internet. In order to ensure that none of the courses we review are engaging in falsehoods, we make sure they have legitimate mailing addresses and phone lines staffed with real people. And if they offer mobile apps, we check their ratings and reviews to ensure they’re not populated by bots.
- Accreditations and Rewards: If a course claims to help you pass a test held by a governing body, it’s a good sign if that same governing body approves. But if the AICPA or NASBA doesn’t explicitly endorse a specific CPA review company, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. There are many other reputable organizations that have endorsed these courses, including universities, publications, and the Big 4 Accounting Firms.
- Results and Guarantees: If a test prep course has statistical data demonstrating their effectiveness, that’s good. If they offer a guarantee so you don’t lose any money or access in the event that you still fail, that’s even better. The best companies have both; they won’t waste your time or money, so we can comfortably recommend them.
How relevant is this company to our readers’ goals and interests? Remember, the #1 goal for our intended readers is to help them CRUSH their certification exams. But aside from that, these are the factors we consider when determining a product or service’s relevance:
- Popularity: Make no mistake, the reviews and comparisons we make aren’t popularity contests. However, a particular company or review course that generates a lot of attention is worth discussing, whether it’s the good kind or bad!
- Subject Matter: There are all kinds of resources you can use to prepare for a certification exam— including materials that weren’t intended to help you study in the first place. In order to stay focused on what matters, we review and rate companies that are specifically geared towards helping you pass the exams we cover.
In addition to single reviews, we have charts ranking the best review courses for several different certification exams. But if they’re all capable of helping you pass your exams, what makes one course better than the other?
Here’s what we consider when determining which courses get the top slots in our comparison charts:
Quality and Quantity
Before you sign up for a test prep course, you want to get your money’s worth. If a course offers hundreds of video lectures and thousands of practice questions, it’s a waste of time if these materials can’t teach you anything. On the other hand, a well-made curriculum won’t be very helpful if it doesn’t have enough content. The top-rated courses on our lists have the best balance between quantity and quality.
Depending on your learning style, there are different forms of educational content that will be more effective at preparing you for exam day. But aside from that, it’s still preferable to have a review course with variety. This is yet another balancing act: the top-rated courses have enough variety to avoid burning you out, but not so much that you’re confused and lose progress.
As someone smart once said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” If you experience any issues answering a practice question or accessing a specific part of your review course, it’s going to take a capable support team to resolve your issues. When comparing two review courses with similar features and benefits, the winner is the one that offers better student support.
When do we update our reviews? We strive to perform a full audit of our published content on a yearly basis, but we’re always making small changes to articles throughout the year.
- Whenever the AICPA, NASBA, Prometric, or any other authoritative institution makes a change, we will update any existing content to highlight and accommodate these changes.
- Whenever a company we’ve reviewed updates their curriculum, catalog, or pricing, we will update our single reviews and comparison charts in turn.
Finally, whenever one of our readers contacts us because they noticed an error, omission, or outdated content, we will quickly respond to verify the right information and make an update.
Bryce Welker is a regular contributor to Forbes, Inc.com, and Business Insider. After graduating from San Diego State University he went on to earn his Certified Public Accountant license and created CrushTheCPAexam.com to share his knowledge and experience to help other accountants become CPAs too. As Seen On Forbes