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Surgent vs Wiley CPA
Our detailed comparison of the Surgent and Wiley CPA review courses
CPA review courses aren’t cheap, and as you narrow down your short list of which prep provider to go with, you may be looking hard at both Surgent and Wiley. Both courses offer similar features and boast high pass rates. So how do you know which one is right for you? Fortunately, our team has purchased and tested each course extensively, used all of their features and resources, and provided our honest thoughts here, so you can make an informed decision.
Advantage: Surgent CPA. In terms of course options, both Surgent and Wiley each offer three extremely similar prep packages – a basic course, standard course and premium version. Looking at full retail MSRP, Wiley would appear to have the upper hand in terms of pricing, with their upper tier course options coming in a couple hundred dollars cheaper than Surgent’s options on average. However, the big secret here is that Surgent runs deals on their courses year-round and frequently offers discounts in the $500 to $1,000 range, making them the more cost effective option. In addition, we also factor value into this equation, and as discussed further below, we give Surgent the nod on quality of study materials.
Pricing and course options current as of date of publication.
Quality of Curriculum and Coursework
Advantage: Surgent CPA. In evaluating the quality of the lessons and coursework offered by each prep provider, while a very close call, our team ultimately dubbed Surgent the winner here. While Wiley’s mountain of practice work and drills certainly impressed (and they get the win in that category below), our team was more impressed with Surgent CPA’s curriculum structure, efficient and effective lessons, and overall material quality.
Their lessons are short and engaging, breaking out material into highly digestible chunks that allow for you to consume CPA review content in 10 to 20 minute increments when you have time around work and school.
Advantage: Tie. While we generally don’t like giving ties, both Wiley and Surgent offer extremely similar video lessons, and we had the same pros/cons with each. Both sets of video lessons are thorough and offer excellent instruction in terms of pure content and strategies, but are boring. The knock is the same on both CPA prep providers here – we generally like a little engagement and spice with our video lessons to make them more interesting and engaging, but neither company really moves the needle in this regard.
That said, these videos are incredibly informative and helpful, assuming you don’t mind mild-mannered instructors. If there is one note worth mention here, if you’re targeting the basic/essentials course option of either program, know that Wiley does NOT offer video instruction with its basic package.
Practice Questions & Tests
Advantage: Wiley CPA. In terms of pure practice work volume, no one can compete with Wiley in the CPA exam space. Boasting 12,000+ multiple-choice questions, 500+ task-based simulations, 5,000 true/false drill questions, and 40+ written communications, the quantity of material to be completed here boggles the mind. And it is worth noting that Wiley’s practice material is fairly strong in terms of quality. We found their problems to be realistic of real CPA exam questions in terms of length, content and difficulty.
But if there is one major differentiator here with Surgent, it’s that we actually preferred Surgent’s problem explanations (and by a lot). Reviewing practice problems that you miss through text explanations is one of the critical components of the learning process, and Surgent’s explanations are near best-in-class. They are thorough, comprehensive and even offer IRC and reg cross-references for additional help.
Advantage: Surgent CPA. Another close call, but another win for Surgent. Wiley and Surgent each offer their students both hardcopy and digital textbooks to assist in their studies, and both companies’ prep books are very similar in terms of length, layout and material covered. That said, after using each set of books, our team unanimously agreed that we like Surgent’s better. They are incredibly detailed, written in a clearly understandable manner, and we loved their callouts to actionable strategies. And a cool complimentary feature of the Surgent program is that they offer a “smart study plan” which directs you to read those sections where you are weak, giving you a clear roadmap for your reading.
Advantage: Wiley CPA. While Surgent CPA’s mobile app offers limited access to flashcards only, Wiley’s mobile app gives you full access to all of your course materials, including lessons, practice problems and more. This makes a huge difference in terms of content availability, and gives you the chance to study from anywhere, at anytime and on any mobile device. For students that plan on doing most of their studying from home on their computer, this may not matter, but if you’re the type of student that needs this flexibility in your studies, take note.
Advantage: Surgent CPA. Although both CPA review courses offer an absolute bevy of supplemental resources like 1-on-1 mentoring sessions with CPA experts, personalized exam planners, performance trackers, student forums and more, Surgent gets the nod here for one simple reason – their adaptive tech. Surgent incorporates some industry-leading smart AI and algorithms into their coursework that makes studying for the CPA ultra-efficient.
This is their claim to fame, and after putting it to the test, we can say it works. After taking an initial diagnostic, Surgent’s adaptive tech allocates questions in your assigned practice work based on weak spots. This gets you up to speed in all categories as quickly as possible, and then continually optimizes your practice work throughout the course to keep you on track.
Advantage: Tie. There is no way around this one. With both Surgent and Wiley each offering lifetime access (or “access until you pass”), there is no clear winner here (except maybe their students, as this is a killer benefit).
Money Back Guarantee
Advantage: Surgent CPA. Given that CPA review courses are pretty expensive, many students want to protect their investment. And sometimes this means getting their money back if they don’t pass. As for money back guarantees, as Surgent is the only course between the two that puts their money where their mouth is and guarantees a pass, Surgent wins this one by a mile. We love that they give students this level of protection.
Verdict: Surgent vs Wiley CPA
While seemingly very similar courses when looking at the basic features offered, Surgent and Wiley are actually starkly different options when you open up the hood. Whereas one of Wiley’s primary approaches is to pile on the practice work and get you prepared through hours and hours of drilling, Surgent takes a vastly different approach. Surgent focuses on efficiency and narrows the scope of your workload based on where you need it most – namely, your weak spots. This varying approach of bulk work vs efficient, personalized studying edges our team to declare Surgent CPA the winner. Their course just feels like it is built for the modern, busy CPA candidate, whereas Wiley has kind of fallen behind the times in this space.
Which CPA review course costs more – Surgent or Wiley?
In terms of full retail pricing, Wiley’s courses are generally a couple hundred dollars cheaper on average; however, Surgent’s near year-round promos ultimately make them the more affordable option.
What’s the main difference between Wiley and Surgent?
The primary difference between Surgent and Wiley is their approach to prep. Whereas Wiley piles on the practice work, drills and live classes for a ‘preparation by repetition’ type approach, Surgent takes a more streamlined strategy to studying with smart, adaptive tech that efficiently guides you to work on your weakest areas.
Which CPA prep is better, Wiley or Surgent?
While a very close call, and a hard one to make based on the two programs’ differences, our team ultimately believes Surgent offers the better and more effective CPA review course.