The Pros and Cons of Self-Studying for the CPA Exam vs. Taking a Review Course

The Pros and Cons of Self-Studying for the CPA Exam vs. Taking a Review Course | Vishal CPA PREP

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam is a rigorous test that individuals must pass in order to become licensed CPAs. It is a comprehensive examination that covers various areas of accounting and finance. Passing the CPA exam is a significant milestone in an accountant's career, as it demonstrates their expertise and commitment to the profession. When preparing for the CPA exam, individuals have two primary options: self-studying or taking a review course. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of both approaches to help you make an informed decision.

Section 1: Self-Studying for the CPA Exam

1.1 Pros of Self-Studying

Flexibility and Convenience

One of the key advantages of self-studying for the CPA exam is the flexibility it offers. You can create your own study schedule and adapt it to your personal and professional commitments. This level of control allows you to study at your own pace and focus on areas where you need more practice. Self-studying also provides the convenience of learning from the comfort of your own home or any location of your choice.


Self-studying for the CPA exam can be more cost-effective compared to enrolling in a review course. Review courses often come with a hefty price tag, including tuition fees and study materials. By opting for self-study, you can save money on these expenses. There are numerous free and affordable resources available, such as textbooks, online forums, and practice exams, that can aid in your exam preparation.

Personalized Learning Experience

Self-studying allows you to customize your learning experience according to your unique learning style and preferences. You can choose the study materials that resonate with you and adapt your study methods to maximize your understanding of the subject matter. This personalized approach empowers you to take ownership of your learning journey and tailor it to suit your strengths and weaknesses.

1.2 Cons of Self-Studying

Lack of Structure and Guidance

One of the challenges of self-studying for the CPA exam is the absence of a structured curriculum and professional guidance. Without a structured course, it can be daunting to navigate the vast amount of study material available. Additionally, self-studying requires a high level of self-discipline and motivation to stay on track with your study plan.

Limited Access to Practice Questions and Mock Exams

CPA exam success often relies on extensive practice and exposure to a wide range of exam-style questions. While self-study resources do provide practice questions, the variety and quality might be limited compared to review courses. Access to comprehensive mock exams, which mimic the real exam conditions, is also limited when self-studying.

Section 2: Taking a Review Course for the CPA Exam

2.1 Pros of Taking a Review Course

Structured Curriculum and Study Plan

Enrolling in a CPA review course offers a structured curriculum and study plan designed to cover all the necessary exam topics. These courses provide a systematic approach to learning, ensuring that you cover all the essential concepts and skills required to pass the CPA exam. The study plan helps you stay organized and focused on your exam preparation.

Expert Instruction and Support

Review courses are led by experienced instructors who have in-depth knowledge of the CPA exam content and format. They can provide valuable insights, explanations, and guidance to help you better understand complex topics. Instructors are available to answer questions and clarify doubts, offering a level of support that self-study may lack.

Comprehensive Study Materials and Resources

Review courses provide comprehensive study materials, including textbooks, online lectures, practice questions, and simulated exams. These resources are specifically designed to cover all aspects of the CPA exam and offer a comprehensive learning experience. The study materials are regularly updated to align with the latest exam changes and ensure that you are well-prepared.

2.2 Cons of Taking a Review Course

Higher Costs

One of the main drawbacks of taking a review course is the cost associated with it. These courses can be expensive, especially when you consider the tuition fees, study materials, and any additional fees for access to online platforms or resources. The financial investment required for a review course may not be feasible for everyone.

Fixed Schedule and Time Commitment

Review courses often have fixed schedules and timelines that you need to follow. This may not be suitable for individuals with busy work schedules or other personal commitments. Additionally, the structured nature of review courses may not allow for as much flexibility as self-studying.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I pass the CPA exam by self-studying?

    • Yes, it is possible to pass the CPA exam through self-study. However, it requires discipline, dedication, and a well-structured study plan.
  2. Are review courses worth the investment?

    • Review courses can be valuable for individuals who prefer a structured learning environment and benefit from expert guidance. Consider your learning style and budget before deciding.
  3. How long does it take to prepare for the CPA exam through self-study?

    • The duration of self-study preparation varies depending on factors such as prior knowledge, study hours per day, and individual learning pace. On average, it can take several months to a year.
  4. Do review courses guarantee success in the CPA exam?

    • While review courses can significantly enhance your chances of success, they do not guarantee a passing score. Your commitment and effort are crucial for achieving good results.
  5. Can I combine self-study with a review course for the CPA exam?

    • Yes, it is possible to combine self-study with a review course. This hybrid approach allows you to benefit from the flexibility of self-study while supplementing it with the structure and resources of a review course.


When deciding between self-studying for the CPA exam or taking a review course, it is essential to consider your individual preferences, learning style, and available resources. Self-studying offers flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and a personalized learning experience. On the other hand, review courses provide a structured curriculum, expert guidance, and comprehensive study materials. Ultimately, the choice depends on your self-discipline, motivation, and willingness to invest in your exam preparation.

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