Best Enrolled Agent Exam Study Guide and Software
Enrolled agents earn 50% more than non-enrolled agents in the tax profession. Using the best study materials for the enrolled agent exam is a must. There is a winning formula to passing the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE). I passed the SEE in the early 1990’s and have continued to educate myself in the tax industry ever since. Armed with my enrolled agent card, I can represent clients before the IRS. An enrolled agent has steady work year round and gets paid on average over 50% more per hour than tax professionals without the enrolled agent designation.
In this article I will discuss the different study formats available: live seminars, webinars, software, and printed study material. Each has its pros and cons. Following a winning plan increases your odds of passing all three parts of the SEE.
First, you must choose a format of study. I will list the best study software at the end of this article, but also consider the other formats of study as well. Everyone is different. Invest in the study format that works best for you. The goal is to pass the SEE the first time. The formats of study we will consider are:
- Live seminars,
- Printed course materials, and
Classroom study is familiar to all of us. Live seminars provide some interaction with the instructor and other students. Most live seminars run three days.
- Set study schedule
- In class review
- Opportunity to talk with current EAs
- Limited study time
- Schedule: you must fit your schedule to the seminar timetable
- Must study outside of seminar for a full understanding
- Cost, usually the most expensive form of study
- Time: You can't skip the parts you already have a solid understanding of
Unless you have years of tax experience, you will need to study outside the live seminar. Remember your goal: to pass the SEE the first time. Two or three days of classroom study are a great start, but to set your goal in stone, continue to study.
Webinars are a good choice for people that learn better in a presentation type environment and live further away from seminar locations. Most webinars stream at your schedule, as well.
- You can review the program any time
- Usually less expensive than live seminars
- No interaction with students or instructors
- Cost: Some webinars cost as much as live seminars
- Limited ability to ask questions
Webinars are growing popularity. Travel costs are eliminated and the entire office can view the webinar. Mixed with printed study materials, webinars are a powerful learning tool for many.
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Printed Course Material
A vast number of companies offer printed study guides for the SEE. Discipline is the toughest part of self-study guides.
- Cost: usually the lowest cost study method.
- Review questions after each point to reinforce the lesson
- Can study anywhere, anytime
- Can study key points or problem areas easier
- You must be a self-starter
- No interaction with instructors or students
- Asking questions is difficult or impossible
The author passed the SEE the first time using this method. The SEE was four parts back then and if you failed even one part you started all over. Back then the IRS sat the SEE once per year. I was very motivated.
There are fewer choices when studying with software, whether online or DVD. Software study courses should follow the format of printed material. The course material should be structured with a few questions after each lesson and a longer exam at the end of each part.
- Cost: Less than live seminars for sure
- Interactive: you can jump to key areas for added study
- No heavy study guide to lug around
- Provides the same feel as taking the real exam
- You need to be motivated, setting a schedule and sticking to it
- No interaction with instructors or students
- Limited or non-existent opportunity for questions
The Best in Each Category
I cannot tell you the best form of study for you. What I can do, is show you the best study materials in each category.
Live Seminars: The National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) and the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) tie for first place. Both programs are solid with a history of success among their students.
Webinars: NAEA takes top spot in the webinar category.
Printed Material Study Guides: Thomas Tax Seminars helped me pass the first time around twenty years ago. I have ordered their products every few years to train office staff. The layout of their materials makes it easy to study and learn.
You now have the tools to succeed. Set a regular study schedule and pass the SEE the first time. You ARE a tax professional.
Bookmark this page for future review. Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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