When it comes to choosing a CPA Exam Review course, you want to make sure you’re getting the best course for the value and, more importantly, the best course for you. The best CPA Exam prep courses help you build a study plan individualized to your learning, reducing your study time, increasing your study efficiency, and helping you pass on the first try. In this post, we’ll compare Surgent with Gleim CPA Review and its SmartAdapt™ software to help you decide which review course is right for you.


Course expiration and cost

Whether you purchase an individual study course or the Ultimate Pass, Surgent’s CPA courses have no expiration date. All courses are also continuously updated to reflect new CPA Exam changes and updates by the AICPA. See Surgent’s pricing below:


Individual Section (BEC, REG, AUD, or FAR) $599

Essentials Pass (includes all four sections) $999

Premier Pass (includes all four sections) $1599

Ultimate Pass  (includes all four sections) $1999


Surgent has a money-back guarantee if you meet the requirements.

Gleim CPA Review’s Premium System has an Access Until You Pass® guarantee, which includes free updates to the online course, as well as updated books for the cost of shipping. The Traditional System offers the same free updates for 18 months of access (the length of time you must pass all four exam sections before they start expiring). See Gleim’s pricing below:

MEGA Test Bank $999

Gleim Traditional CPA Review System $1599

Gleim Premium CPA Review System $1999


Gleim offers a full refund of all unopened books and un-downloaded audio files returned within 30 days of purchase. Online materials can be canceled within 30 days of purchase only if no more than the first study has been accessed.


Overview of the technology and exam prep

Below, we’ll cover the essential parts considered in adaptive learning technology, and how well Surgent’s CPA Review course and the Gleim SmartAdapt Review course stack up in each category.

Assessing your knowledge

One of the key features of adaptive learning technology is its ability to judge how much you already know and compare it to what you need to know in order to pass. The whole idea behind adaptive learning technology is improving your weaknesses and fortifying your strengths, helping you study less overall. Pre-study assessments must be thorough; once you finish them, the results should directly impact what you study and for how long.

Surgent CPA Review – A.S.A.P.® Technology features an Assessment Phase consisting of 10 quizzes with a total of 350 questions. These quizzes contain questions pulled from actual areas of the exam. You answer these questions using the knowledge you currently have; Surgent then creates a detailed diagnostic report and shows you your ReadySCORE™ once you finish answering. This baseline ReadySCORE correlates to what you would get on the exam should you take it that day, giving you an idea of how you stack up against the exam before you even start studying. How you did in the Assessment Phase is directly reflected in your future study materials and the algorithm will create an individualized study path for you.

Gleim CPA Review – Gleim’s software offers a brief 20-question quiz before the start of each unit, with a total of 80 diagnostic assessment quizzes throughout the course. This helps to assess your strengths and weaknesses before each unit.


Study planner

True adaptive learning technologies within a CPA Review course should include an interactive study planner that takes into account when you can study, how long, and your exam date. The study planner should adapt to how well you’re progressing through the material so you study the correct material and correct amount on each day.

Surgent CPA Review – The Study Plan takes into consideration your study performance, when you can study, as well as your exam date. The planner is updated daily based on how you’re progressing through the materials.

Gleim CPA Review – The course offers a personalized study planner, although it isn’t adaptive. This means it does not correspond to the work you have actually completed or need to complete.


Adaptation throughout the course

Since the point of adaptive learning technology is to develop an individualized plan, students’ study materials should be continuously updated as they progress throughout the course; you shouldn’t just be slogging through the same material over and over if you’ve made progress. If you’ve excelled in one area and show weaker understanding in another, the materials should adjust to reflect that. This type of adaptation gives CPA candidates a truly individualized experience and has them study the amount of time that’s right for them.

Surgent CPA Review – The real-time algorithm is constantly adapting to your progress while also considering real CPA Exam content weighting. Unique study recommendations are presented via the Daily Surge, where you can choose to answer multiple-choice questions, watch bite-sized video lectures, study reading materials, or practice task-based simulations. Your ReadySCORE is also consistently updated to reflect any changes in progress. As the ReadySCORE improves throughout the review course, you can get an accurate reflection of what your actual exam score might be.

Gleim CPA Review – The software claims to be adaptive using artificial intelligence to guide you through the course materials. Video lectures, audio lectures, multiple-choice questions, and task-based simulation questions are presented throughout the course and are said to constantly recalibrate based on your performance in a specific unit. Our experience using their course found the course adapts and updates based on initial weaknesses, not on performance.


Final exam review

Before taking the exam, candidates need to make sure they’re prepared for the physical aspects of the exam, including how to manage their time and how to use exam resources. This is best accomplished through a final review and practice exams. Below, we’ll look at the final exam review portion of both Surgent and Gleim CPA Review Courses.

Surgent CPA Review – Unlimited CPA practice exams are meant to mimic the real exam, with both multiple choice practice questions and task-based simulations. The exams include the same timing and tools as the real CPA Exam so candidates can practice time management and get familiar with the tools presented on the actual exam. Students are also presented with their cumulative ReadySCORE at the review phase; a score of 80 or more means candidates are likely to sit and pass.

Gleim CPA Review – Unlimited practice exams that emulate the actual exam are available. There is also a final review meant to provide reinforcement of previously learned topics.

Average study hours per section

CPA Exam candidates often leave busy lives, whether they are just out of school or are working full-time. It is therefore essential that candidates choose a software that helps them pass in as few hours as possible. Below are the stated average number of study hours per part of the CPA Exam for Surgent and Gleim CPA Review.

Surgent – 58 hours per section (232 hours of total study time)

Gleim – 309 hours per section (1,234 average hours of total study time)


Support outside of the software

The software your CPA study materials have will be your number one tool to prepare for the CPA Exam, but sometimes candidates need a little extra boost from a real person to help them pass. Below, we’ll compare the resources offered outside of the CPA Review materials for Surgent and Gleim CPA.

Surgent CPA Review – Premier and Ultimate Pass both come with three 30-minute sessions with a CPA Exam success coach.

Gleim CPA Review – The Premium CPA Review System gives candidates access to a team of accounting experts, personal counselors, and technical support. The Traditional CPA Review System only includes guidance from personal counselors.


Remember, choosing a CPA Review course is highly individualized. How you study and how long you need to study may be vastly different from another student looking to pass the exam. When choosing test prep materials, make sure you choose the review course that is individualized to your needs, and you’ll be opening that passing score to your last exam in no time.


Surgent CPA Review Gleim CPA Review
Course Expiration None of our courses expire. We’re with you ’till you pass! Gleim Traditional CPA Review System discontinues free updates after 18 months; Gleim Premium CPA Review System has unlimited access.
1-on-1 Coaching Surgent offers virtual 1-on-1 coaching from a CPA Exam expert. 1-on-1 counseling is included with two top-tier products.
Customized Study Plan A.S.A.P. Technology™ works continuously throughout the course to help you identify your weak eares, focus your studies, reduce study time, and improve your pass rate. SmartAdapt™ Technology guides and directs users to specific categories based on assessment results. Study planner is not adaptive
Payment Plan Fees Surgent offers 3, 6, or 12 month payment plans through . Rates vary from 0-30% APR, which is the only fee associated with the loan. Affirm does not charge late fees, service fees, repayment fees, or any other hidden fees.
Learn more
Rates from 10-30% APR based on credit score.
Money-Back Guarantee Surgent offers a money-back guarantee. Offers money-back guarantee for unopened books and un-downloaded audios returned within 30 days of purchase. Online materials can be canceled within 30 days of purchase if no more than the first study unit has been accessed.
Number of Practice Exams Unlimited practice exams Exam rehearsal included
Free Course Updates Updates are FREE and made continuously, so you can be sure you’re always studying the most up-to-date material. Free updates are expire at 18 months for Gleim Traditional CPA Review System. Students who purchase Gleim Premium CPA Review System are subject to free online updates and new editions of books for the cost of shipping.
Course Price Full-course prices range from $1,599-$2,899 Course price ranges for $2,100-$2,800
Average Study Hours Per Part 58 hours per part 309 hours per part

Note: In Gleim’s study planner, students must enter at least 175 planned hours of study.

Assessment 10 Quizzes comprised of a total 350 questions pulled from all CPA Exam categories, including detailed diagnostic report. 20 baseline quizzes comprised of 20 questions per topic
Study Planner Study planner calculates necessary amount of study time per day based on student’s chosen availability, and adjusts that study time based on performance. Calendar is manually customizable but does not change based on performance.
Adaptability to Student Progress Real-time algorithms ensure study material is always adaptive to the student’s progress. Plus, a student’s ReadySCORE™, the industry’s first measure of CPA Exam-readiness, adapts in real time. Real-time algorithm adapts to student’s progress, but not student performance.
Category Content Weightings Assessment quizzes, daily study material, and practice exams all factor in exam content weightings Content category weighting is not shown in the course.


If you’ve previously used another CPA Review course, like Gleim, you are eligible to save up to $1,000 when you switch to Surgent!

I wish you all the best, and hope to help you become a CPA!

For a more in-depth look at how Surgent CPA Review’s course technology compares to that of other leading CPA Review course providers, check out our Technology Comparison Grid.

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Liz Kolar, CPA, CGMA, has been teaching CPA Review for more than 25 years in the United States, has personally taught more than 2,500 live sessions, and has helped thousands of candidates pass the CPA Exam. She founded Pinnacle CPA Review and co-founded Surgent Kolar CPA Review.

She is a recipient of the ASWA Business Woman of the Year Northeast Region, Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year, and PICPA Outstanding Educator of the Year. Liz began her career in Public Accounting with a Big Four accounting firm auditing financial service clients after graduating from Pace University with an MBA in Public Accounting. Liz’s teaching career spans almost 30 years. She has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Pace University and Seton Hall University, and is currently a professor at Delaware Valley University.