The accounting industry is vastly different from what it looked like a decade ago. Major shifts like the digital transformation in business, growing investment in blockchain, and increased interest in risk management mean that recruiters at top firms are seeking out candidates with more diverse skillsets than ever before.

Today’s average associate has changed. Has their firm changed with them?

Surgent recently surveyed several hundred college students who plan on sitting for the CPA Exam to learn more about what they’d like to see from future employers, and what matters most when it comes to CPA Exam prep. Here’s what we found:

Candidates want more CPA Review course choice options at their firm.

When asked to rank which would most likely influence their choice of employer, 73% indicated that they’d be most likely to accept an offer from an employer who provides them free access to any CPA Review course, or an employer who provides a bonus in excess of a typical CPA Review course cost upon passing.

Though many firms provide free access to just one course (Becker CPA Review), only 27% of students indicated that they’d be inclined to accept an offer from an employer who only provides free access to Becker.

In a time when many college students are being courted by multiple firms, this poses a question for Learning & Development teams: Should you reconsider your firm’s CPA Review course offering? The answer certainly appears to be a resounding “yes.”

So, what kind of courses do candidates want?

72% of survey respondents indicated that assuming costs were the same, they’d prefer to study with a CPA Review course that “suggests personalized study content based on [their] specific progress, strengths, and weaknesses.” Only 28% of respondents indicated that they’d prefer to study with a course that follows a linear model of learning.

In recent years, the shift in popularity from linear to adaptive-style exam prep courses has been remarkable.

“This confirms what we’ve been seeing in our Switch to Surgent program,” says Paul Weise, VP of Market Development. “There’s a sizeable population of Surgent students who are passing the exam after switching to our adaptive course from the traditional course they got for free at their firm.”

What, exactly, is the difference between the two?

Traditional CPA Review courses follow a linear learning model, which guides students through their course topic-by-topic, encouraging them to watch every video, read all material, and answer every practice question.

Adaptive CPA review courses take a wholly different approach: software identifies each student’s level of comprehension of each exam content area and customizes the review course to fill in their knowledge gaps, reassessing comprehension and adjusting study material in real-time to ensure the student continues to make efficient progress, without studying content that the student has already mastered. As a result, students find themselves better prepared to pass their exams, and in considerably less time, than with a traditional course.


Opening up CPA review course options is a win-win for both firms and staff. Firms are able to cater to the learning styles of the majority of today’s CPA Exam candidates and give those candidates much higher odds passing the exam in 18 months. By offering adaptive learning courses, firms are also able to more easily attract top talent more easily and are rewarded with higher rates of credentialing among their staff. Get more information about this survey and more exclusive results here.


Surgent has partnered with hundreds of firms across the country to help their associates pass their credentialing exams. 

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