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Free CPA Exam Resources

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA

Many CPA candidates will find it advantageous to investigate which resources exist to help them pass the CPA exam. The majority of the best resources are generally commercial, so potential CPAs may not be able to adequately prepare using entirely free means. Some of the free materials, however, can provide good additional information, practice, and advice. Although saving time and money is dear to the heart of accountants everywhere, a current investment can produce a substantial increase in future income and career satisfaction.

Tools to help pass the CPA exam should be selected after thorough consideration of as many facts as possible, including cost, time requirements, ease of use, and timing of updates. There are many mobile apps that could be of use to CPA candidates, just a few of which are discussed below. Furthermore, being able to leverage the efforts of those who have gone before can be an incredible advantage. In that regard, two enthusiastic young CPAs host websites, also discussed below, that feature many great resources that can help candidates select preparation materials and strategies. The sidebar lists the official information sources available to candidates.

Free Mobile Applications

While there are some free mobile applications, most are not up-to-date, nor are they designed to offer a complete review experience. Many are also designed to encourage users to buy add-ons, but some are still relatively inexpensive. Trying out a free mobile app might be a good idea before purchasing a commercial review course and will come in handy for on-the-go study time. Be sure to investigate whether the app is included in a review course purchase or requires an additional fee, as well as whether it contains simulation practice or just multiple-choice questions and review notes.

Becker, CPA Excel, Fast Forward Academy, Gleim, Lambers, and Roger have free iOS apps. Becker CPA was the most up-to-date app at the time of this review. Becker and Surgent have Android apps, and Becker again is the most up-to-date. Interestingly, there are some non–brand-name CPA review apps for Android devices that look worth checking out. CPA Exam Prep by Appitur, updated in May 2016, includes questions from prior exams, flashcards, and performance tracking. Appitur also offers CMA and EA exam preparation apps (http://bit.ly/29IaBK9). CPA Practice Test by Loxo, updated in July 2016, includes multiple-choice questions, flashcards, and progress statistics. Loxo also makes practice tests for other exams (http://bit.ly/29OGuFS).

Best Self Learning Apps also creates test apps for other fields. It has by far the most colorful mobile apps, offered separately for each section of the CPA exam and up-to-date as of July 2016. Best's apps include practice questions and flash-cards (http://bit.ly/29PEM3W).

CPA Exam Guide

The CPA Exam Guide website (http://www.cpaexamguide.com) is created and maintained by Bryan Kesler. All of the website's resources are free and displayed as a web page guidebook organized in “chapter” format (https://www.cpaexamguide.com/cpa-exam-101). For example, Chapter 1, “What is the CPA Exam and What Can It Do for Your Career?,” includes specifics on the four sections of the exam and a nine-minute video on the five benefits to becoming a CPA.

Chapter 3, “CPA Exam Requirements … Everything You Need to Know,” includes links to the website's summary of the basic requirements for each state, a table of states with no 150-hour exam requirement, a table of states with no residency requirements, and a table of states with no citizenship requirement. Chapters 4 through 6 cover the logistics of how to sign up, test-taking procedures, and exam grading. Chapter 7 discusses how to pick a CPA review course, and Chapter 8 recommends time-saving study techniques. More chapters are forthcoming.

The site also reviews the eight different CPA exam preparation courses: Becker, Exam Matrix, Fast Forward Academy, Gleim, MDS, Roger, Surgent, and Wiley (https://www.cpaexamguide.com/best-cpa-review-courses). For each review, Kesler provides a downloadable PDF write-up, free trials, and purchase discounts. His top four courses are Becker, Gleim, Roger, and Wiley, and for these he provides a side-by-side comparison table. Reviews of add-on or stand-alone materials, such as best flashcards, best mobile apps, best cram courses, best multiple-choice test banks, and best audio lectures, are also available.

In addition to free trials, CPA Exam Guide offers a free 42-page downloadable “CPA Exam Study Play Book & 100 Multiple Choice,” with multiple-choice questions from Roger CPA Review, available in various locations on the website. Users can also select from six downloadable “cheat sheets,” including a CPA Exam application checklist, a review course cheat sheet, and a “make time to study” cheat sheet (https://www.cpaexamguide.com/resources).

Accounting instructors and supervising CPAs should take a look at the site's hidden jewel, “15 Actionable Strategies to Increase CPA Exam Pass Rates in Your Class” (https://www.cpaexamguide.com/cpa-exam-passrate). It focuses is on encouraging students to pursue becoming CPAs and includes numerous class discussions and activities, with downloadable worksheets.

Crush the CPA Exam

Bryce Welker's website (http://www.crushthecpaexam.com) offers “The Ultimate Guide to the CPA Exam” as a commercial product, but with a money-back guarantee if purchasers do not pass the CPA exam the first time. The 100-page downloadable guide includes a study plan and exam tips on what to study, how to work the simulations, and how to use time efficiently. A sample chapter and the table of contents can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/29OAs1X. Free bonus materials are available, such as a cheat sheet of 40 formulas needed for the BEC section, a CPA exam application guide, and a post-exam career guide (http://bit.ly/29OHEkx).


AICPA: Becoming a CPA http://www.aicpa.org/BecomeACPA/Pages/BecomeaCPA.aspx

NASBA: CPA Exam https://www.nasba.org/exams/cpaexam/

Prometric: CPA Exam Scheduling https://www.prometric.com/enus/clients/cpa/Pages/landing.aspx

Links to State Accountancy Boards https://nasba.org/stateboards/

Links to State CPA Societies http://www.aicpa.org/Research/ExternalLinks/Pages/AssociationsStateCPALinks.aspx

Crush compares five CPA review courses: Becker, Fast Forward Academy, Gleim, Roger, and Wiley. A comparison table covering multiple features and options is available at http://bit.ly/2aansJ6. Free trials are available from each vendor's website, and Crush discounts are available. Users can link to detailed reviews on each of these courses, which include an overview, course format, pros and cons, and Welker's suggestions for which particular course might be the best fit. Crush also describes several other courses, including CPA Review for Free, Exam Matrix, Lambers, MDS, Ninja, and Surgent (http://bit.ly/29OBevQ).

The Crush website includes some overview information on the CPA Exam application process, with links to individual state requirements, NASBA's CPA Central, and Prometric's scheduling information (http://bit.ly/29OKthD).

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Board.

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