There are a variety of study services available online, designed to help you pass standardized tests and career-based certification exams. For example, for an accountant to become a certified public accountant (CPA), they must first pass the CPA exam – a relatively difficult exam even for the most trained, best-educated accountants in the field. A CPA exam study service can help accountants prepare for this ultimate test.
But how exactly do these services work? And are they worth it?
First, study services and exam prep courses come in a variety of forms. These days, it’s most common to see these services available online. You can take classes, take practice exams, and even talk to coaches and educators in an online format. However, there are also still physical establishments that offer exam prep services; you can attend these in person the same you would any class.
Most of the time, you’ll be required to pay for these services. While you can often find some study materials and educational resources online for free, you won’t get the total package unless you pay a small accessibility fee (or an ongoing subscription).
That begs the question – what do these study services include that make them worth paying for?
Most study services will begin by introducing the format of the exam. When will the exam take place? Who is eligible for it? How do you sign up and can you schedule your own date? Where will you take the exam and what are the requirements the day of? How many sections are in the exam and what types of questions are contained within those sections?
There are dozens of questions you’ll need to answer if you’re going to be sufficiently prepared. Your study service will help you do it.
Courses and Ongoing Education
Next, most study services offer some kind of class-based curriculum. These vary in nature; in some cases, you may be walked through an online lesson, which you can explore on your own. In others, you may be able to watch a professor give a lecture on the subject. In any case, you’ll have an opportunity to learn new information and review old information that you’ll need to pass the exam successfully.
After that, you’ll be given access to study materials designed to help you absorb and retain information. Even after going through the classes, you’ll need to do some heavy lifting to remember all those new facts and skills. These generally include things like flashcards, study sheets, and recap videos.
Additionally, most study services have you take practice exams in the weeks leading up to your actual exam. These have a similar, if not identical format to the exam you’ll be taking, making them a perfect opportunity for both information review and confidence building. If you pass a few of these in a row, you can usually feel good about your chances of passing the real deal.
Evaluations and Review
So what happens if you fail one of these practice exams? Most study services have review services, designed to help you identify your mistakes and areas of weakness so you can acknowledge them, understand them, and overcome them.
Coaching and Community
Some study services offer interactive coaching sessions; you’ll be paired with someone experienced in the field, who can help address your specific questions and guide you in overcoming your individual weaknesses. You may also have access to a helpful community of peers; for example, you may be allowed to read and contribute to peer forums, where people ask questions and study with others.
A Caveat: Every Service Is Different
Before we go any further, it’s important to acknowledge one important caveat: every study service is going to be slightly different. A CPA exam prep service may not offer all the same things that an SAT prep course offers, and vice versa. Even within a specific realm, exam preparation services may vary significantly. Make sure you do your research and understand what you’re paying for before you start paying for it.
Are Study Services Worth It?
That said, are study services worth it?
The short answer is “sometimes.” If you’re very familiar with the exam material, you’re a good studier who almost always passes exams with flying colors, and you have a system in place for preparing for your upcoming exam, a study service may not be worth the extra money.
But if you’re someone who typically struggles with exams, if you feel like you’re in over your head, or if you feel like you just don’t have time to study fully on your own with no help, study services can be a lifesaver. Review your options carefully and make the decision that feels right for you.
Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.