CPA Exam Review Courses: Self-Paced vs. Instructor-Led

CPA Exam Review Courses: Self-Paced vs. Instructor-Led

Preparing for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam is a significant undertaking. It requires a thorough understanding of accounting principles, tax regulations, auditing standards, and business laws. To succeed, candidates often turn to CPA exam review courses to help them master the material and build the necessary skills. However, when choosing a review course, candidates face a critical decision: should they opt for a self-paced course or an instructor-led one? In this blog, we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of both options to help you make an informed choice.

Self-Paced CPA Exam Review Courses


  1. Flexibility: Perhaps the most significant advantage of self-paced courses is the flexibility they offer. Candidates can study at their own pace, making them an excellent choice for those who work full-time jobs, have family commitments, or have irregular schedules.
  1. Customization: Self-paced courses often provide a range of study materials, allowing candidates to select the resources that suit their learning style and needs best. This customization can be particularly helpful if you're already proficient in some topics and want to focus more on areas where you need improvement.
  1. Cost-Effective: Self-paced courses tend to be more affordable than instructor-led ones. If you're on a tight budget or prefer a DIY approach to learning, this option may be the right fit.
  1. No Geographic Limitations: With self-paced courses, you can study from anywhere, eliminating the need to travel to a physical classroom or training center. This is especially advantageous for candidates who live in remote areas or far from a CPA review course provider.


  1. Lack of Accountability: Self-paced courses require a high level of self-discipline and motivation. Without a structured schedule or instructor-led sessions, some candidates may struggle to stay on track.
  1. Limited Interaction: If you thrive on interaction with instructors and peers, self-paced courses may not provide the same level of engagement as instructor-led ones. You might miss out on the opportunity to ask questions in real-time and benefit from group discussions.
  1. Possibility of Procrastination: Without external deadlines or a fixed schedule, some candidates may procrastinate and struggle to complete the course in a timely manner.

Instructor-Led CPA Exam Review Courses


  1. Expert Guidance: Instructor-led courses are typically taught by experienced CPA instructors who are experts in the field. They can provide valuable insights, explanations, and context that self-study materials may lack.
  1. Structured Learning: Instructor-led courses follow a structured curriculum with predefined study schedules and milestones. This structure can help candidates stay organized and motivated throughout their preparation.
  1. Real-Time Interaction: With live or virtual classrooms, candidates can interact with instructors and fellow students in real-time. This allows for immediate clarification of doubts and the opportunity to discuss complex topics.
  1. Accountability: Having a set schedule and regular assessments can keep candidates accountable and ensure they cover all required material.


  1. Less Flexibility: Instructor-led courses typically have fixed schedules, which may not accommodate candidates with busy lifestyles or non-traditional work hours.
  1. Higher Cost: These courses tend to be more expensive than self-paced options. The cost can be a significant factor for candidates on a tight budget.
  1. Geographic Constraints: Some candidates may not have access to local instructor-led courses, requiring them to travel or participate in virtual classrooms, which may not be their preferred mode of learning.

Which CPA Exam Review Course Is Right for You?

The choice between self-paced and instructor-led CPA exam review courses ultimately depends on your individual preferences, learning style, and circumstances. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

  1. Learning Style: Are you a self-motivated learner who can stay on track with self-paced materials, or do you benefit from structured lessons and the guidance of an instructor?
  1. Schedule: Consider your work schedule, family commitments, and other responsibilities. If you have a busy or irregular schedule, self-paced courses might be more suitable.
  1. Budget: Determine how much you're willing to invest in your CPA exam preparation. Instructor-led courses are generally more expensive but may provide added value through expert instruction.
  1. Location: If you live in an area with access to reputable instructor-led courses, this option may be more convenient. However, if you're located remotely, self-paced courses could be a viable solution.
  1. Study Materials: Review the study materials provided by both self-paced and instructor-led courses. Ensure that they align with your preferred learning resources and methods.
  1. Interactivity: Consider how important real-time interaction with instructors and peers is to you. If you thrive on collaborative learning and immediate feedback, an instructor-led course may be worth the investment.
  1. Past Learning Experience: Reflect on your past educational experiences. Have you succeeded with self-paced learning in the past, or do you perform better in structured, instructor-led environments?

Combining Both Approaches

It's worth noting that some candidates opt for a hybrid approach, combining self-paced and instructor-led courses. For example, you might use self-paced materials for self-study but attend occasional instructor-led workshops or webinars for additional support. This hybrid strategy can offer the flexibility of self-paced learning with the benefits of expert guidance.

Choosing between self-paced and instructor-led CPA exam review courses is a significant decision that should align with your individual preferences and circumstances. Whichever path you choose, remember that consistent, dedicated study and practice are key to success on the CPA exam. Ultimately, the best review course is the one that helps you achieve your goal of becoming a Certified Public Accountant.

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