Tips for Passing the CPA Exam

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  • #156596 Reply

    After you pass your final section (and after you've celebrated for a week, of course) please stop by one last time to impart some wisdom to those that are still in the trenches and trying to rid the CPA Exam from their lives once and for all.

    Looking back, what would you do differently?

    How many hours a week did you study on average and where did you study?

    Anything you feel like sharing – feel free to do so.

    Thanks again, and congrats – YOU'RE DONE!

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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  • #204913 Reply

    I would also be interested in hearing the one person that supported you the most through the process and why. Jeff whenever you wave your magic wand and release those AUD scores, I'll hopefully come back and write on this page….

    #204914 Reply

    Same here, one more to go and then I will contribute

    #204915 Reply

    There is no doubt about it, studying for the CPA exam is awful!! I was fortunate enough to not need to retake any sections, and still the exam seemed to drag on forever!! I recieved my final score in August! Believe me if I can pass–so can you!

    I spent about 2-3 months studying for REG and FAR and about a month for BEC and AUD. I took one section at a time. I worked full-time and was in school getting my MBA. I managed to get about 10-15 hours of studying in, on average, each week. I used the BISK study materials. I found that, for all of the sections, listening to the audio tracks at least 2 times really helped me grasp the concepts. Also, I worked through the multiple choice questions in the BISK books twice, once while studying the chapter and then again the week of my exam. I also read the Simulations for AUD, I didn't look at them for FAR or REG. If I had to change anything, I'd probably at least read the simulations for each section. It helped having an expectation for what type of simulation could possibly show up.

    I think everyone has their own ways of learning and this way worked for me, but the best advice I can give anyone taking the exam now is to figure out how you learn best, make a plan for yourself, and then just do it. It's definitely a drag while you're doing it but it will pay off.

    Good Luck!!

    #204916 Reply

    I finally have more of a social life back and when my friends call and ask what I'm doing, I don't have to say "studying" anymore! The university I graduated from in May has a 5 year accounting program that allowed me to get 150 hours in before my last semester, so that I could start studying and taking the exam while only taking 6 hours of class. I graduated in May and do not start working at a middle market firm until October, so all of this free time was definitely advantageous to passing. I realize not everybody has this opportunity & most people are studying while working – kudos to you! I can't imagine doing that, which is why I was so motivated to pass each exam the first time around.

    Here's the breakdown of how long I studied and when I took each test:

    FAR: studied 1.5 months and tested at the end of February

    AUD: studied for 1 month and tested in the middle of April

    REG: studied 1.5 months and tested at the beginning of July…I took some time off after AUD to celebrate graduation =)

    BEC: studied for 1 month and tested at the end of August

    I used Becker materials and thought they were great for the most part (one of the lecturers was pretty boring though, but I guess it's hard to make lease accounting exciting). I purchased the flashcards and thought they were a great study tool. I also made my own notes for FAR and REG on the sections I was fuzzy on. I studied at home most of the time and my husband was very supportive. I would even lock myself away in one of our guest bedrooms 2 or 3 nights before the test and stay up real late studying and napping. My mom is a CPA and was also supportive during these agonizing 8 months of my life (although when she took the test, it was paper & pencil with no calculator!)

    If I could have done things differently, I probably would have broken down my studying into smaller sections and made sure I understood the material before moving on. The last week before the test I would feel like I was actually learning some of the concepts for the first time. I am the type of person who works well under pressure, but some people aren't this way and I wouldn't recommend taking on a gamble on such a hard (and expensive) test. Definitely take your hardest exam first (FAR!!!), I am pleased with the order I took the exams in. And don't underestimate BEC! If you are good at memorizing, Audit should be a piece of cake. REG can also be a beast if taxes are your weakness like they are for me.

    Just hang in there and remember in the grand scheme of things, the time you spend studying isn't that long compared to your entire life and the accomplishments you will be able to achieve with a CPA. Good luck everybody!!!

    #204917 Reply

    I just got my final score last night for BEC and passed, so luckily I'll only have to take these one time. I'd like to thank everybody here for providing the sort of neurotic camaraderie that only a group of candidates could provide.

    My few thoughts:

    I used Becker, and was overall relatively happy with it. I'm not sure that it's worth the expense, though. I think if I had it to do over again, I'd try to shop around for a lecturer I really liked, and try to spend about 1/2 – 2/3s as much on materials…multiple choice questions are multiple choice questions, and I feel rather strongly that the main objective in studying is to hit the MCQs, hard.

    I took the exams in the order FRAB, and I would absolutely recommend doing it. I thought that it was much easier to work through REG and AUD having taken FAR, and BEC had a couple things that I felt were easy after having taken REG (REG would have been reasonably difficult even if you take BEC before it). I scored 85, 91, 82, 86.

    The thing I felt I did particularly wrong was I took too much time between the exams, and too much time to start. I waited about ten months after I had begun my first job to start ordering materials and applying to sit…I hit maybe two chapters of FAR before my NTS eventually arrived in March of this year. I then scheduled the exams for middle April, middle May, middle July, and late August. I kept noticing that I would spend at least two or three weeks of the six I had provided myself procrastinating, so there was really no point in doing that to myself, and just leaving this hanging over my head. I eventually moved up my BEC from August 25 to August 11, just because I realized I wasn't going to really use that extra two weeks, and I wanted the whole thing over with.

    In retrospect, I would have scheduled them on 4/1, 4/20, 5/10, and 5/31 (roughly), and been home and cooled out two months ago. Easy to say now, of course, but I feel like even while working, it's just not that difficult to study 2-3 hours a day, which is all it really takes I think.

    As far as studying time goes, I think that was one of the things I did the best. I kept track using a paper notebook of exactly how much time I spent in the software, and was particularly accountable to myself for breaks I would take for snacks or what have you. I took 91/51/33/31 (hours) for FRAB, so 206 hours total. I decided pretty early on that I did not care enough to go for the Watt-Sells award (I knew I'd need to study about 2-3x as much as I was going to for that, and just didn't feel like I was up to it), so I think I ended up studying exactly the right amount for me…I passed by comfortable margins. I would say, though, that I test really well, especially on standardized tests, and I've never had to study a particularly large amount. In fact, that was part of what made this difficult for me…I had never really studied long-term before this, I was usually a study all the week before exams in school kinda guy.

    The one thing in regards to taking the exam itself that I don't see mentioned frequently is that if you manage your time well, on all of the exams with writing prompts, you should have plenty of time left over on simulations — time you can use to research the memo. MCQs should be so ingrained in you from the hours of practice that they should take a bit less than one minute per question, on average. The only exam I used the time limit for was REG, but the reason I used the time limit was to perfect my writing response, which is what I did with the excess time I had on each exam. If you do the MCQs for FAR in 2.5 hours, like I did, you'll end up with an hour for each simulation…you should have enough time to work all of the tabs, and then spend about twenty minutes on each researching the writing question. In all six of my writing responses, I think I had done at least one search in the search tab relating to the writing response, and in at least one of them, probably had spent a good half hour reviewing the authoritative literature.

    Anyways, I know this was long. I hope it helps provide inspiration for anyone that cares to read it. I know I have it a bit easy — I called all of my relatives and friends to tell them I'd passed, and nobody had been in the least bit worried for me. At the same time, though, this is one of the things that you just have to buckle down and do, so I'm glad it's over with.

    So, I guess the last thing is, I saw a lot of responses and questions here that demonstrated that the user hadn't really taken advantage of the resources available, both here and in links to all sorts of AICPA/NASBA materials. I feel like this is the biggest thing I've learned in my job: do your due diligence. The information to succeed on this exam is all readily available, assuming you purchase any comparable set of materials to study with. I suppose I saw this more when this wasn't the pretty new forum and instead was the comments, but I feel like anyone in the position to be taking this exam really has the ability to synthesize everything they need to complete the exam. Just win, baby.

    #204918 Reply

    What can I say. I spend tremendeous number of hours for prep for each section. I found that Reg was for me easiest part and BEC the hardest. Try to take first those part uou feel comfortable the most. In the worth scenario if happened to loose any part you will be able to retest it and do not stock. Good luck everyone. I am open for any advise if you find it valuable. If I can do it, you can do too.Do not give up, move forward.

    #204919 Reply

    I just graduated from a 5-year program, so I had the summer (July and August window) to try and squeeze all 4 tests in, and I have to say that Becker met all of my needs and helped me get a 90 average. Their program covers a wide variety of information, is taught well, and offers enough practice problems to make sure you know what you are doing for almost every accounting issue the test covers.

    I spent the entire month of June studying for FAR, most of July studying for AUD, about three weeks studying REG, and a week and a half for BEC. For the first three tests, each video lecture got its own day (spent the rest of the day letting my brain decompress from all the information) and the day after each video lecture was used for review and multiple choice. I didn't leave much room for BEC, so the reviews and practice problems had to be done the same day as the lectures. I regret spending so much time on AUD, since it ended up being the easiest of the tests. I did pass them all, but if I did it again I would have allocated a lot more of that time to REG. FAR definitely deserves the most studying time because it covers SO MUCH and requires a LOT of review, but my REG exam probably gave me the most trouble.

    So basically, I just put my life in Becker's hands, studied 3-4 hours a day (and closer to 6 hours a day the 2-3 days before the exam), and split up my tests into appropriate chunks of the small window of time I had. I also made sure to leave the day before each exam open for plenty of mental relaxation so my mind wasn't worn out for the test, and had VERY light and general reviews the day of each test for the same reason. For a 4 hour test, I think having a sharp and rested mind is more important than having a great final-day review.

    Also, just KNOCK IT OUT. Every time I felt lazy about studying, I would remember that studying less now results in failing, which results in studying a LOT MORE later. It's definitely worth your time to study your @$$ off now and not have to spend several more months studying the same stuff again because you didn't work hard enough the first time.

    Good luck to everyone!!!

    #204920 Reply

    The key to my success; the last few days before the exam I studied all the highlights(green and yellow) of the Becker course a few times so when I got to the exam everything was fresh in my mind. The key to answer most questions is to get the call of the question and when it’s fresh in your mind you will get the call of the question. It’s a good idea to take off at your job for the last few days if possible.

    #204921 Reply

    I second what scoresss said. I managed to pass the entire exam between graduation and employment. If you have the time now, study hard and get it done. I passed all sections in a single testing window after taking the Becker FastPass (1 lecture per day for about 6 weeks). Following the class, I went back and reviewed each section for 2 weeks prior to sitting for the exam. I averaged an 88 so put in the time and you'll succeed with Becker.

    #204922 Reply

    Now that this whole thing is finished, I wanted to stop by and hopefully leave a few tidbits of advice for those still fighting the CPA Exam monster. The CPA Exam, like the Smoke Monster from LOST is a mysterious, horrible, amazing creature and once you’ve beaten it, you’re going to feel great. I just got my last score last night, and after crying for half an hour and throwing up, I feel amazing. I’m still on cloud nine. All of the hard work is worth it, I promise. Afterwards, you’re going to feel such a sense of accomplishment and be so incredibly proud of yourself. I know I am.

    I’m even more happy that I passed this last part, because I was just about to lose my first credit. I was about to lose it not because I had to retake several parts, but because I procrastinated. I started 17 months ago, and passed BEC with not much trouble at all. Then, I waited 9 months before taking my next exam. Why did I wait so long? I don’t know. I had a lot of things going on in my life, and just put it on the back burner. Plus, I guess I actually work better under pressure, so the 18 month window is not-so-great for me. So, the last three parts I’ve taken and passed in the last 9 months. That seems like a lot of time, but I work a full-time job and do all the accounting and taxes for my mom’s restaurant, and I have a six year old daughter. So, finding time and motivation to study after working so much was often difficult.

    However, when I did study, I had a very good system. I used Gleim. I haven’t read about a lot of people on here using it, but here is my take on the study material issue…I know someone who used Becker and spent more than twice what I did, and she failed BEC and REG a combined 5 times, and gave up. I passed all four parts on the first try. I don’t think it’s the materials, but how well you use your resources. Every person learns differently. I’m lucky enough to know how I learn best, so I used the method that worked for me. Hopefully, you can find out what works for you (there are lot of tests online to see if you’re a visual or an oral learner, etc.). I am a visual learner, not an oral learner. Watching the lectures put me to sleep. Listening to the audio disks put me to sleep. I basically used just the book and the multiple choice questions. I read the chapter and took notes. The good thing about Gleim is that the material is in bite sized pieces. Each book is 20 units. Each unit is 8-10 lessons long. So, I’d read and take notes over a lesson, then do all multiple choice questions. I’d keep doing the multiple choice questions until I got them correct. Once I had finished a lesson and moved on, I did random “study sessions” of multiple choice questions even after I moved on. So, by the time I got ready to test, everything was still fresh on my mind because I constantly answered questions about what I’d previously studied (this helped with not forgetting the first few lessons). Also, I didn’t have to spend a ton of time reviewing. By the time I finished all the lessons, I was averaging 85-90% of multiple choice and I was tired of looking at it. I knew I knew the questions, and I was ready to test.

    The one thing I would strongly recommend is to go into the testing center as calmly as possible. I know this isn’t possible for a lot of people, but three hours before the test I stopped looking at the material. I took a 30 minute nap, I ate breakfast or lunch (depending on the testing time), and I meditated. I just spent thirty minutes in quiet (usually in my car in front of the testing center). This helped me clear my head and prepare for the actual test so I could remain as calm and collected as possible. I think what hurts a person most is being nervous. Stay calm and be confident that your studying has paid off!

    (Sorry for being so long-winded!)

    #204923 Reply

    Thanks for the writeups everyone!

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