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Gleim CPA Review
Our detailed review and analysis of the Gleim CPA Review course
When most people think of the biggest name in CPA review, they think of Becker. Yet Gleim CPA Review has been around for nearly 50 years and has helped over 1,000,000 candidates pass the CPA exam with some of the highest pass rates in the industry. So why is it that Becker gets all the fanfare, when Gleim seems to be just as successful? We take a close look at the Gleim CPA Review course in this in-depth review and see how this quiet, but storied prep company stacks up.
Gleim keeps its CPA review course options simple, offering just two prep packages – the Traditional Review System and the Premium Review System. The Traditional Review System is their basic package and is priced at just under $1,600. It has the same general structure as the Premium Review System but lacks many of the important study resources included in that package.
The Premium Review System costs right around $2,000 and is Gleim’s most popular option by far. For roughly $400 more, you get a ton more resources. The additional study tools included in the Premium Review System include instructional video lessons, digital flashcards, technical accounting expert support, and unlimited access, among other benefits.
In my opinion, if you’re already paying nearly $1,600 for a prep course, pay up and get the Premium version for a few hundred more dollars. As explained below, the additional study tools included in the Premium course are some of the more valuable resources in the overall Gleim package and provide some serious instructional horsepower.
With respect to cost as compared to other test prep providers, Gleim is very reasonably priced and has some of the most affordable price points around. Analogous courses from Surgent CPA Review, Roger CPA Review, Wiley and Becker all cost more. This is not to imply that Gleim is a cheap, bargain course – it’s not at all. In fact, we have Gleim’s coursework rating out very highly, as described in more detail below.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Quality of Gleim CPA Coursework
Despite its affordable price point, Gleim offers one of the more comprehensive and well-designed curriculums we have reviewed. The coursework is extremely robust, covering every topic in the AICPA blueprints. In addition, I was a big fan of how Gleim organizes its student study plan.
Within each section of the CPA exam (REG, FAR, AUD and BEC), Gleim breaks the relevant material down into 20 study units. Each unit covers a specific subtopic and is broken down even further into bite-sized subunits for ease of studying.
You kick off each study unit with a diagnostic assessment, or in other words, a quiz of about 25 questions. This quiz sets your baseline knowledge on the topic and provides Gleim’s “SmartAdapt” technology with the data it needs to customize your study plan for that unit. The SmartAdapt software analyzes your performance on the quiz and allocates work to optimize your study time. It also updates in real time as you work through the unit to continually maximize your learning gains. It is a very nifty feature, though it operates in the background and you never really see it.
After your assessment is complete and Gleim’s smart software has established your study path, your studies follow the same general approach within each unit. That is:
Learning > Testing > Performance > Extras
The “Learning” portion of the unit is true to its name and provides your instructional material. This generally consists of reading from the Gleim books, video lessons, audio lectures and flashcards. The audio lectures and flashcards are not mandated work, and are intended to supplement the primary learning through the book and video lessons.
The learning starts with reading a section from one of Gleim’s legendary prep books. These books have been around for as long as the Gleim course has existed (nearly 50 years) and are some of the best books in the CPA review space in my opinion. I discuss these books separately below and will leave the more detailed analysis to the book specific section of this review.
The text portion of the lesson is then followed up with video lessons covering the same material. These videos are available on demand and generally range anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes in length. They are designed to be shorter and more digestible, which is a great call on Gleim’s part. Nobody wants to watch a 2-hour lecture, so keeping these videos short and sweet definitely helps with long term retention.
The video lessons take the form of your Gleim expert instructor onscreen. As they walk you through their lesson verbally, digital notes and graphics appear around them as if they are standing beside a digital whiteboard. These notes and graphics are very well executed. They are in short bullet point form and don’t overwhelm or distract you with too much information. The balance between verbal lesson and digital effects is perfect.
The first half of each video is generally a mini-review of the material, and then transitions into practice problems. The instructor utilizes two or three example problems to demonstrate their points. It makes for a nice mixture of lecture and practice, which again helps with comprehension.
Overall, I really like these video lessons from Gleim. They are a very short and consumable mixture of lesson and practice, and the onscreen notes aid greatly in learning. Plus, the production quality of these videos is really good. The picture is sharp and the digital effects are well done. Gleim gets two thumbs up from me on their video-based instruction.
Beyond the reading and videos, you are given audio lectures and flashcards as optional, but encouraged, learning supplements. In my opinion, the audio lectures are not really worth the time. They are informative and concise, but dry. And they obviously lack any visual element, which makes comprehension tough for visual learners like myself.
On the other hand, I thought the flashcards were a true benefit, offering a nice chance to recap and solidify the new material. Perhaps I’m biased because I am a visual learner and that is just my personal preference, but the flashcards just seem more useful to me. If I’m sitting on the train and can either listen to an MP3 lecture or hit some flashcards, I’m taking the flashcards all day. But if you have time, do both and cover yourself. In any event, there’s no arguing that it’s nice to have options.
In the “Testing” segment of the unit, you are prompted to take a multiple-choice quiz. This can vary in length from 15 to 30 questions depending on the topic, and it is timed. The questions are pulled from Gleim’s bank of 10,000+ multiple-choice questions, which is one of the better offerings in the CPA review industry.
I personally found the quiz questions and interface to be very realistic of the actual CPA exam. It is evident that Gleim has invested significant resources in designing an interface that mirrors the real CPA exam, which is a huge advantage to students. You don’t want to be thrown on exam day by an unfamiliar testing interface, so having the real deal is key. The question quality is also fantastic – you really can’t tell the difference between Gleim-written questions and those written by the AICPA. The Gleim test question bank contains both in-house and AICPA-released questions and I couldn’t distinguish between the two.
Following the quiz, you review your missed problems (or all questions if you like). The Gleim explanations, like the questions themselves, are very high quality. They are thorough, well-written and cover each answer choice, both correct and incorrect. This is actually an area that I think Gleim really shines over Becker. Whereas Becker’s explanations are a little thin, Gleim’s do not shy away from the detail.
After you are done reviewing your quiz, you are directed to move on to simulations. As simulations now comprise 50% of your CPA exam score, Gleim makes them a focus. Offering 1,300+ simulations (350+ of those with exhibits), you are in for a healthy dose of simulation practice. Most students hate working simulations because they are tougher than multiple-choice questions, but Gleim’s strategy of hitting simulations hard will pay off.
The simulation quality is likewise very good. As with the multiple-choice questions, they closely resemble the real thing and provide a great exam-like experience. There are usually a handful of simulations to work per “Testing” segment and this will take some time. Then when you are done, you will be prompted to review them.
Gleim’s simulation solutions and explanations are fairly well done, including detailed written analysis, but I would actually like to see them follow Becker’s lead here. Becker offers some excellent video recaps of the simulations that provide helpful verbal analysis and visual aids. Gleim does have some simulations related videos, but not one for every simulation like Becker.
After your simulations are complete, you can optionally work more multiple-choice questions and simulations through Gleim’s question bank. This again is not required, but is encouraged. You can set yourself up with a customized practice session and hit a few extra problems if you desire. I typically did this every second or third unit, depending on how comfortable I felt with the material. It is definitely a nice option to have.
The “Performance” section of the study unit is simply a page full of different metrics based on your performance in the unit. It takes into account both your initial assessment and practice from the “Testing” segment. I found these metrics to be pretty useful. They are all presented in visual form with charts, graphs and bold colors. This makes digesting them pretty easy. I would recommend spending a few minutes reviewing these metrics to see where you are weak and focus on those areas with a few extra practice problems from the bank.
Finally, the “Extras” section of the study unit is just a resource page for additional study tools. This includes your study planner, simulation help video links, and a few PDFs. There really isn’t too much to write home about in this section and I used it fairly infrequently.
That just about summarizes the Gleim course structure and underlying prep work. All in all, I was very impressed with the Gleim curriculum, particularly given its price point. The coursework is very well-designed and the quality of the underlying materials is superb. I wasn’t crazy about the audio lectures and would maybe like to see Gleim add some simulation explanation videos, but that’s it. This is an otherwise rock-solid review course curriculum.
One of the cool features of the Gleim course is the “Exam Rehearsal” function you can activate near the end of your studies for a section. When you’re ready to practice with a simulated exam under real test-like conditions, you can jump into “Exam Rehearsal” mode and the program will spit out a practice test.
This simulated exam mirrors the real thing in both terms of both test length and interface. It is designed to give you a feel for the real thing so you can steel your nerves and condition your mind and body. The questions you will see are not entirely new (and are pulled from Gleim’s question bank), but they are nonetheless high quality. This is a fantastic resource that I feel was absolutely worth noting.
No Final Cram Course?
One feature that has become very popular among CPA review courses is a final cram course right before test day. Many prep providers now offer a condensed, highly intensive cram session designed to target the most heavily weighted subjects in the final hours. The thought is that you hit as many high value targets as possible and hopefully get a little point boost.
For whatever reason though, Gleim does not provide such a separate mini-review course. In fact, they advertise that they don’t do so, like it’s a good thing (saying their course is “all in one”). This puzzles me a little bit. Gleim does offer a “final review mode”, which gives you a final recap in the last days before the exam and acts as a final studying push, but its not the same. Maybe its just my preference, but I would like to see Gleim offer a distinct cram course.
Gleim CPA Review Books
As referenced above, the Gleim CPA prep books are some of the best in the game. Given that these books have been around for close to 50 years and have been continually vetted and updated by Gleim’s team of experts, it should not be shocking that they are so highly rated.
My favorite aspect of these prep books is that they are written like an outline. Rather than some lengthy treatise with dense passages, the Gleim books contain very short, easy to read sections. They are broken down like an outline, containing sufficient detail but hitting the high points and keeping it concise. In other words, they are both comprehensive and succinct. It is a delicate balance to master, and Gleim has done it well.
These textbooks, which come in both digital and print form, are also well written. They clearly explain the substantive material and provide numerous examples to help demonstrate points. I have no hesitation in saying that these outline-style books definitely improve comprehension and retention through their organization and writing style.
Interface and User Experience
Gleim’s digital platform has a fairly decent interface and user experience. It is not the best we have seen, but it gets the job done. Everything is driven by the individual study units, and they follow a linear path. So you can’t just jump into a practice quiz if you want. You have to drill down into the study unit, then through the learning portion and into the testing segment. This is a little annoying. I know why Gleim does it this way – it is to keep students on a clear study path, but it also limits functionality. So the overall usability is a little constrained.
The look and feel are otherwise just fine. It is clean, professional and has a pretty quick response time. Page loads times aren’t really an issue and things generally feel pretty snappy. It’s not the most modern or slick website we have seen, but it is effective to drive your studies.
Other Included Resources
In addition to your core coursework, Gleim CPA provides a handful of supplemental resources to complement your studies. Among these, you will find:
Personal coaching and support from exam counselors
Technical accounting support from CPAs
Interactive study planner
To clarify, the personal coaching from Gleim’s exam counselors is not technical in nature (unlike Yaeger CPA Review’s coaching sessions). You can’t really ask them questions about an audit simulation or a REG multiple-choice question that has you hung up. Those types of questions are reserved for the technical support available to Premium students only. The exam counselors instead provide more general support and guidance. You can ask them about final test day tips and suggestions, but nothing too in the weeds.
I like this coaching feature, but didn’t really need or use it. For those students that are self-motivated, you are likely going to be keeping yourself committed and staying on track. But for those students that need someone to push them and keep them in line, this personal counseling tool might be something you use often.
Private Tutoring From Gleim
While Gleim does not offer any private 1-on-1 tutoring per se, Premium students do get access to their accounting support function. This access allows students to ask technical accounting questions and get feedback, generally within a day or two. It is not quite as good as private tutoring, but for many students, it may be all they need to get answers.
Simply shoot Gleim an email with your detailed question and one of their accounting experts will pick it up. I tried this a couple times and found the responses to be very helpful. Both email replies I got were detailed and offered additional insights I didn’t even ask for. I don’t think students will use this function too often (as a full business day wait time may be too long to wait), but it is there if you need it.
Gleim CPA’s content access turns on which package you purchase. If you purchase their Traditional Review System (the entry level package), you will be entitled to 18 months of online access. On the other hand, if you purchase the Premium Review System (as most students do), you will get unlimited access until you pass.
Gleim touts this as their “Access Until You Pass” promise and markets this point heavily. Just the same, this concept is not new or exclusive to Gleim. At this point, just about every CPA review provider offers some form of unlimited access, but it is still nice to see Gleim match their peers. With respect to the 18-month access of the Traditional course, whether that is enough time will depend on the individual. For working professionals, this may not be enough time to study for and complete all four sections of the exam. So please bear this in mind when deciding on which course format to take.
Is there a Mobile App?
One other downside of the Gleim CPA Review course is that they do not have a mobile app. While just about every other course offers a mobile app for their course in one form or another, Gleim does not. This is a bit of a head scratcher, as even a simple app with flashcards or a few practice problems can win you kudos.
This seems to again fall under Gleim’s marketing claim of everything being in one place. While I understand the appeal of having all of your study materials housed in one platform, I also think a simple mobile app would be a nice add on.
Is there an Exam Pass or Money Back Guarantee?
Interestingly, Gleim provides a money back guarantee for their Premium students, but not their Traditional students. Ostensibly, this is because the Traditional course doesn’t provide nearly the level of prep that the Premium course does, and this policy is used to push students on the fence into the Premium course, which I can understand. In any event, most students select the Premium course option anyway, so this shouldn’t be a concern. If you take and fail all four sections of the exam, you can get a full tuition refund from Gleim. There are a few requirements that must be met, but assuming you can check all the boxes, this is a nice fallback.
What is the Refund Policy?
For those students that have a change in circumstances shortly after purchasing their Gleim course, or perhaps just have a change of heart, you can get a full refund of your course cost within 30 days of purchase. However, it is important to note that you cannot have accessed more than one study unit during this 30-day period. If you have, then the refund policy is forfeit. But if you haven’t cracked into that second unit yet, there’s no questions asked around your refund request. Just call and request your money back.
Verdict: Gleim CPA Review Course
Without much fanfare, Gleim CPA is quietly one of the best CPA review courses on the market. Offering a comprehensive curriculum with a varied presentation of material, including video lessons, audio lectures, text outlines and flashcards, Gleim’s coursework really impressed us. The bite-sized video lessons are extremely well-produced, and offer an engaging and informative experience. In combination with the concise outline-style texts, these two components make for a powerful learning tool that materially increases retention. While I wasn’t crazy about Gleim’s audio lectures, the rest of the instructional materials more than make up for it.
Additionally, with respect to practice material, Gleim offers some of the best quality and quantities around. The 10,000+ multiple-choice practice questions closely resemble real CPA exam questions in both substance and testing interface. I also really appreciate that Gleim places a focus on simulations, offering more than 2x as many as any other provider (with 1,300+). In sum, the Gleim CPA Review course is a well-rounded and effective prep package that should work for most every type of learner, and is very appealing at a price point that is roughly 2/3 that of Becker’s cost.
How much does the Gleim CPA Review course cost?
Gleim CPA Review offers two course packages, with the base course costing roughly $1,600 and their more expensive offering carrying a price tag of around $2,000.
Does Gleim have video lessons?
Gleim students who purchase the Premium Review System get access to 450+ instructional video lessons from Gleim CPA experts. These videos are not available to the Traditional Review System students.
Is Gleim CPA Review worth it?
Though Gleim CPA Review does not seem to get as much attention as other courses, their package is absolutely worth it, especially at their approachable price point. Gleim has helped over 1,000,000 students pass the CPA.