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Want to pass on some advice as I say goodbye to the forum that has been my most frequently visited page since June. One thing I learned right away is that we all take this test in vastly different situations. I was fortunate (or unfortunate?) in that I quit my awful job in May and started studying full time for the CPA tests. Instead of getting another job as a staff/senior accountant and trying to study on the side I made up my mind that no employer is going to care about me getting my CPA until I actually do it. Without further ado, here are tips to help you pass if you’re in my situation, taking the test full time:
1. Try out every review course’s free trial! It took me a couple of days, but after trying everyone’s review software (Wiley, Roger, and Gleim) I settled on Wiley. Becker wasn’t an option because by the time I got everything I would’ve wanted in my cart it would’ve been close to $5k. Instead I got a student discount with Wiley and got the platinum package for just over $2k w tax.
2. Each one of us is different, but I picked Wiley because it laid out a lesson plan and time frame in order for me to schedule my exam. Since I couldn’t find this information any where, here’s a general time frame I would allow if taking the test full time. This time frame allows 10-14 days for review: FAR 55-60 days AUD 21-25 days BEC 25 days REG 45 days. I took the tests in this order: FAR-AUD-REG-BEC but I would probably switch BEC and REG. After I took each test I allowed myself the following day to relax and after that I tried to get back into the routine of studying.
3. When I built my lesson plan with Wiley I put down that I was only studying Monday-Friday. I did this because it would allow me to catch up on the weekends if needed, and for most of the tests I would end up reviewing and doing some extra lessons on the weekends. It’s very important when doing this full time that you don’t burn yourself out. I liked to study about 5 hours a day, I found that anything over that and I was wasting my time because I wasn’t retaining information. I know it may seem like if you’re doing this full time that you could put in 10 hour days and finish all four tests in one testing window. You could try that if it works for you, but I was in the fortunate situation of being able to take 6 months to do the test. So slow and steady was key to the race for me. Outside of that, I found that routines are key. I’d wake up early and get a couple of hours of studying in. Then I’d send my wife off to work after talking over breakfast. Then I’d go to the gym and grocery store. After coming home to shower and eat lunch I would study the entire afternoon until I couldn’t retain any more information. This is what worked for me, but it will be different for you. Bottom line: Get into a routine, treat this like a full time job, because that’s what it is. But also realize that you need to balance out your life with other activities.
4. Use this forum as a resource! There is lots of great information on here. I was active in the study group’s for each test and thought it was great to check in a few times a day and post questions or try and answer some that I knew. Keep in mind that while I found the overwhelming amount to be great advice, there is also bad advice given on here too. This exam will definitely suck sometimes, but coming here to complain about it won’t make it better. Ranting after a test won’t make it easier. The CPA is not out to get individuals! If you stick with your study plan and prepare hard, there’s nothing on test day that should surprise you (other than pre-test questions which won’t count, so don’t worry!).
5. Pound MCQ’s in your review in Study Mode! My goal was to go through every MCQ in Wiley before each test. The only questions I liked to repeat were one’s I had gotten wrong, or if it was a particularly good question that I felt like the exam would actually use then I’d flag it and review it again. For all tests MCQ’s count for 50% of your score. They are the one “known” quantity on this test. And perhaps the biggest key to passing is dominating that first MCQ testlet so that the rest of your exam is harder and thus scored with a bigger curve. The SIMs in Wiley are pretty bad (other than the authoritative literature questions), so pounding those isn’t going to really help you.
6. I always scheduled my tests for the afternoon window. Maybe for you it may be better to wake up early and take it. I liked to wake up, get a good breakfast, review all of the most important notes (that I would copy down in the back of each of my note books), and finally go for a walk before my test. After eating a light lunch I would make my way to the test 30-45 min early.
7. Keep calm on test day and grind as hard as you can for 4 hours. Don’t get frustrated! We all have our moments during our test, but you have to fight on. Because when you leave, and weeks leading up to the score release, you will kick yourself if you let a bad testlet bother you. The second testlet in BEC KILLED ME! But I didn’t let it bug me, and I grinded on to my best score (by some miracle). Most of my experiences at the testing center were good. One of my tests (REG) it was a hassle checking in and the noise in the testing center was loud from people banging on their keyboards. The only other incident I had was on my final test (BEC) the driver failed as I clicked submit on my 4th testlet. I was moved to another computer and it was fine.
8. If you find this advice helpful please scroll my history and look for each post I made after walking out of my exams with some tips.
It has been a 7 month journey for me, but I went 4 for 4 and finished these tests without too much stress. Wiley CPAExcel and this forum armed me with all the tools I needed to get this done. Thank you very much to all of the members on this forum and Jeff who helped me along the way. I will still be lurking on here from time to time, but I wish all of you the best of luck! Remember: YOU CAN DO THIS!
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