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Should accounting students buy CPA PEP third-party courses and materials?

The pros and cons of buying from CPA program prep companies

Author: Andrew Knapman

VANCOUVER, June 22, 2018 – I hear a lot of Canadian accounting students talking about buying prep courses and materials for the Chartered Professional Accountant Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) from third-party education providers. Typically, they want to know whether materials from Densmore, PassYourCPA or Prep Formula are worth the money, which is understandable, when some third-party prep courses cost more than $1,000.

A CPA PEP student may wish to catch up on materials they’ve missed or forgotten, or maximize the likelihood of passing the Common Final Examination (CFE). That said, I’ve never needed third-party materials and I don’t think they’re necessary.

CPA PEP provides all of the learning materials you should need to pass each of the modules and the CFE. It provides a large amount of learning materials, questions, cases, practice exams, feedback, orientation seminars and one-on-one support from tutors.

Take a look at any of the offerings mentioned above and, lo and behold, it’s all the same stuff. Why pay more money for essentially the same thing? Sure, you can never have too much practice come exam day but I can’t help but question the necessity of it.

A lot of people make it through the entire CPA program, get to Capstone 2 and start thinking about other ways to prepare for the CFE. Why use them now if you’ve made it this far? I’ve passed every module with distinction; I wouldn’t waste money on these services unless something went awry. 

Five reasons to buy from CPA program prep providers

I want to be fair and balanced. My situation may not be yours. So here’s a list of reasons you may want to consider third-party materials: 

1.  You’re playing catch-up. Some students take a gap year(s) between university and CPA PEP and forget a lot of content. They’re at a significant disadvantage to other students who went straight into the program, so they need a crash course in accounting to catch up again. CPA PEP assumes you know the basics of accounting and does not provide a sufficient solution for this situation. Using a third-party provider prior to beginning the program may be beneficial here. 

2.  Your study materials suck. Some third-party services offer succinct notes on CPA competencies. I haven’t read them personally, so I can’t guarantee they’re worthwhile, but they can’t be any worse than the Oracle. If for some reason you have few notes going into CPA PEP (Tip: Keep all your PREP/University notes!) purchasing notes may be worthwhile and cheaper than full courses. 

3.  You’re weak at case writing. The courses offered by some third-parties are excellent for exam preparation and case writing technique. In my opinion, they’re not so good for technical knowledge. If you have strong technical knowledge but lack case-writing ability, it might be worth trying one of these courses. After all, technical knowledge is only half the battle. So, case-writing support will be more useful the closer you get to the CFE, since the core modules are predominantly technical. 

4. You’re struggling or failing. Hey, if you’re struggling to pass your exams and can’t figure out where you’re going wrong, there’s no harm in getting additional feedback and practice. 

5.  It’s free. A lot of firms offer to pay for third-party courses. They may have used it as a recruiting perk but it’s in their best interest to see you succeed. To that I say, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. If my employer had offered to pay, you can bet I would have taken them up on the offer.

But I would recommend a third-party study provider only in unusual circumstances. The fact is, 80 to 90 per cent of students pass a CPA PEP module and roughly 75 per cent pass the CFE in their first attempt. I don’t know the number that take third-party courses but I would hazard a guess that it’s a minority. 

You don’t have to be a genius to pass CPA PEP. If you are prepared, dedicated and work hard, the odds are in your favour.Tweet: You don’t have to be a genius to pass CPA PEP. If you are prepared, dedicated and work hard, the odds are in your favour. via @Cdn_Accountant If you find you do need that extra push, then consider additional support. Until then, CPA PEP materials alone should do you just fine. 

Andrew Knapman lives in Vancouver, B.C. and is a student in the CPA Professional Education Program through CPA BC. The views expressed in this guest blog are his own. Connect with Andrew through his LinkedIn profile and follow him on his journey to becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant through future blog postings on Canadian Accountant.

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