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Post-Nasal Drip Ruins One CPA Exam Candidate’s Experience

Perhaps Caleb can confirm for us whether or not the exotic Colorado climate is snot-inducing, inquiring minds are dying to know.

We love tales from the CPA exam (if you have one, please let us know), especially ones that make us wonder if Prometric staff are human beings or robots. Once again, we totally get the high security environment but have to question the logic that dictates a drippy nose should be left to annoy the rest of the room instead of providing a candidate with a damn tissue (or a barf bucket). Absent a pen (unless they’ve keistered one, obviously), what exactly could the candidate do with the tissue to compromise the security of the CPA exam? Copy MCQ by swirling around the snot?

Seriously.

I got kicked out of the CPA exam (but let back in) because of the sniffles. I had just moved to Colorado and was having a hard time adjusting to the climate so I had a constantly running nose. When I got to the exam I asked if I could take some Kleenex in with me and they told me no. It was my first part of the exam so I was still feeling out how it all works, etc. I was in my second testlet and occasionally had a sniffle here and there (not hocking a loogie or anything, just a small sniffle). I feel a tap on my shoulder which scares the pants off me since I’m in the zone. I turn around and pull off my headphones and the moderator tells me she’s going to have to ask me to leave the exam (which is all she says). I stare at her dumbfounded and my heart starts racing “but why?? what did I do wrong??!” trying to think if I had taken off my hoodie during the exam (which is a no-no) or something else to get me kicked out of my first exam. She says “I’m going to have to ask you to come blow your nose, we’ve had some complaints”. So I stare at her more. “But I’m in the middle of a testlet, should I wait and come out after the testlet is closed?”… she responds “No, please come with me.” So she escorts me out of the testing room, points at a box of kleenex and demands I blow my nose in front of her and throw it in the trash can. I had flooding memories back to kindergarten….. So I return to my testing room, relieved I was allowed back in, only to wonder to myself “Who the hell would have complained about my sniffles? Were they not wearing their headphones or something?”. So when I got to the typing portion of my test I made sure to bang my keys as loud as I possibly could.

Colorado CPA in Australia.

Fine, it’s a Pandora’s Box… first Prometric starts providing tissues and next thing you know candidates are demanding emergency tampons for unplanned monthly accidents, insulin, and porn to accommodate their masturbation disability. We get it, it’s a slippery slope of accommodation and Prometric shouldn’t be expected to have a solution for every possible scenario but let’s be reasonable here, it’s just a little snot.

Really, Prometric?

Note: Puke Is Not Among Prohibited Items at Prometric

As many of you know, we try to stay up on the haps in the land of MCQ and TBSs by playing Twitter detective, stalking the CPAnet forums and, of course, reading CPA exam candidate blogs. One of our favorites has always been Sleep on CPA due to her positive attitude and willingness to share her experience in its rawest form, disasters and all.

So we couldn’t pass up the chance to share her BEC experience with you all when we read it. Remember the candidate who got into it with Prometric over gum-chewing? That was nothing compared to this:

As it was not month end, I was the only one who was sitting for CPA Exam. I watched another exam guy who was debating rules with the staff over his exam code not working and there was no one who could help him with that. After answering all his questions a staff member came to me and collected my ID and NTS. I removed my items and locked them and went in. Then I was told to remove scarf. She checked my ID and asked me to sign in and then she asked me to go back and lock my NTS after I entered my launch code on the paper booklet. Then I told her about my nausea and asked her how should I proceed in case I want to throw up. She looked at me as if I was asking some thing illegal. She said, as you are not a candidate with special needs I cannot allow you to sit in a special needs room. I asked,” Can I leave the room If I have some emergency? She said “you can throw up beside you, we will clean later.

I really had no reaction on my face when she said that. I asked, Do we have any waste basket inside? She said, No we don’t keep waste baskets inside. There is nothing we can do about it. She discussed with another lady and said, We cannot provide you the room with special needs, you should sit in the same room and there is nothing we can do. You can only take breaks in between your test-lets. After appearing in this exam more times than I passed.. Excuse me I know Prometric rules..

I prayed God and with all the prayers of my friends and family members, I felt better and the whole exam went well. I was little tired but that’s OK.

It goes without saying that we’re glad Rose didn’t actually hoark all over the floor and actually, we’re kind of surprised this is the first we’re hearing a story like this. Maybe most of you do the responsible thing and puke in the parking lot or in your locker, lest you compromise the security of the CPA exam by eating your homework books ahead of time and barfing out time value of money charts during your exam.

We are all for reasonable security measures but really?! Shouldn’t there at least be a designated puke bucket that Prometric staff can sign in and out?

Do you have a bizarre CPA exam story to share? Need advice on which part to take? Feeling like you need to vent? Get in touch, I’m here to hold back your hair.

Poli Sci Major Needs Help Picking a CPA Exam Starting Point

We swear we don’t mind answering the same question over and over and over, so if you have a question for us, please don’t hesitate to pound it out and get it to us.

Here’s our latest CPA exam quandary from the mailbag:

Hi Adrienne

I am just beginning to study for the CPA exams. I am in an MBA program and I will graduate in December. I was not an accounting major (poli sci) so I have also been taking the necessary required accounting classes in order to sit for the CPA exams, hopefully in January. I am taking an MBA-level auditing class in the Fall. I just finished a corporate income tax class this Spring, so I am a little confused as to which exam I should focus on now and take first, in January: REG as a lot of tax info is still fresh in my head or Auditing, as it will be most fresh by January?

Let’s all keep in mind that the CPA exam is not a test of your ability to be a good accountant, nor is it at all representative of the depth of your knowledge but the breadth. In other words, it’s a huge inch-tall puddle as opposed to a small, 9-ft deep pool. Your job is to jump across the puddle without getting your ankles wet, ya with me?

If it’s going to help your confidence, you can start with the section that will be easiest for you – in your case, that may be whatever you studied last. Keep in mind, however, that what you study in college and what you see on the CPA exam may not necessarily align. The CPA exam changes twice a year and with CBT-e changes, the AICPA Board of Examiners is now testing material that you are expected to know as a new CPA but may not have covered in school. Professors tend to favor the same material year after year, so unless your school is incredibly progressive and you’ve been learning IFRS (unlikely), it may not matter what you studied most recently.

That being said, I always tell candidates to start with the part that will be hardest for them simply because your 18 month timeframe starts from the time you sit for and pass your first part.

Here’s the deal: any review course will give you what you need to fill in the blanks in your education, even if you go the self-study route and pick up a set of CPA review textbooks from Amazon. In my professional experience, those who don’t have as rigorous an accounting background actually do better on the CPA exam as they come into it fresh instead of relying on what they were just taught in their accounting program that is no longer relevant for CPA exam purposes.

You’ll be fine either way, just pick one, study, and pass. It really is that simple. Or so I hear.

CPA Candidate, Who Hasn’t Taken a Single Exam, Is Already Freaking Out

Side note: I’ve never seen anyone use double periods in a sentence like this..So it goes without saying that the following has been edited and please, don’t do that on BEC. Here’s a tip: if you are looking for more written communication practice, try it on lazy, F-bomb-obsessed bloggers or even in emails to your mom. That’s all the AICPA is looking for; you don’t even have to be correct, just on topic. They make up 15% of your BEC score so get in the habit of pretending like random communications are being graded by a machine. It’s an undervalued commodity in your professional lubmission from the mailbag was close to correct (a beginning, a middle and an end, somewhat on topic) but needed a little work to be aesthetically pleasing to the CPA exam robots. Working on our emails would be a good supplement to whatever CPA review materials you bought, and I don’t say that to be mean.

Adrienne,

I am just about to begin the grueling process of the CPA exam..

I have been debating whether to take BEC or FAR first before starting work in July. Because I have more time to study now than I will for future tests I want to take the hardest one first. For me I feel like this will be BEC because this seems like it has the most new material and I did pretty well in Intermediate accounting. However it sounds like no matter how much studying some people do, they just can’t get prepared for BEC because it has recently changed. Should I just play it safe and use all this time I have to get prepared for FAR or should I take a shot at BEC?

Also, my firm only supplies me with Gleim self study books. Have people done alright on BEC with just these? How should I supplement these?

Sincerely,

Already freaking out

First, stop freaking out. You haven’t even started yet. Start and then let me know if you are still freaking out. You might like it. Get words like “grueling” out of your head now but you’re more than welcome to pull it out later if your experience proves to be exactly that. Until then, try to stay neutral on how much of pain the next 6 months – 2+ years of your life will be.

Second, we’ve discussed CPA review plenty, you can check the CPAnet forums for comments from actual review students who are taking whatever you bought or are looking at buying and any combination thereof. My experience has been that BEC is pretty hit or miss and that no review course covers it in as thorough detail as FAR, AUD or REG. That doesn’t mean they don’t do that section well, it just means I tend to hear the most complaints across the board regarding various review courses’ inability to truly cover BEC.

Don’t blame that on the new exam; that complaint goes back several years. It isn’t fair to compare the last version of computerized testing (CBT 2004 – 2010) to this one (CBT-e) as they are different exams, it’s too early to judge whether review courses and candidates promptly catch up to the new material, along with the AICPA. They have been clear about this being an improving work in progress for 2011, therefore it would be equally unfair to make a call at this time. Don’t say everything is “because of the change” as if you’re a Boy Scout with a flashlight under your face trying to scare everyone around the campfire. Was it this bad when the exam went from paper and pencil to blips on a screen and digital fingerprints?

Third, don’t get high on study drugs while studying for BEC or you might really be freaking out.

I always tell candidates to start with the section that will be hardest for you as that’s when your 18 month timeframe begins so your plan sounds good. If you bomb a section a few times, the clock isn’t ticking. Of course, this also leads to procrastination if you continuously bomb, which is an entirely different problem. Not to make you freak out.

CPA Exam Quitter Sends Epic Hate Mail to AICPA, NASBA

Note: I am choosing not to spell or grammar check this letter A) because last time Braddock dared to do the same, you guys slaughtered him for being a dick and B) as much as I hate truly awful grammar (a few steps below the typo-filled crap Caleb we writes here), I think the point is sufficiently expressed if you can simply ignore some of the obvious errors. In fewer words: we get it.

The following rant is presented without comment. Please note that its publication here does not constitute an endorsement ssed therein. Caleb took the exam back in the day with stone tablet and cave drawings of journal entries and I, as we all know, have not and will not sit for the CPA exam so neither of us have the experience to draw from here to form an opinion. Over the years, I have heard of issues at Prometric but usually along the lines of minor software failures that did not really impact the candidates’ experiences. I would be curious to get feedback from you all, the dedicated capital market servants, who have had examination snafus seriously impact your momentum.

For this guy, it was enough to get him to quit.

I remind you all here that a lot has changed since 2007. The AICPA and NASBA are getting better at communicating and always looking for ways to improve that process.

May 19, 2011

Subject: Uniform CPA Exam (glitches & bugs in exam software)

To Whom This May Concern,

My name is Matthew Grosso, former C.P.A. exam candidate back in 2007 who had experienced tremendous difficulties with the software that powers the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam (or “C.P.A. exam”) as well as various communications with NASBA (National State Board of Accountancy). My hardship has been well documented in a section below, titled “Timeline”….however, first, I would like to explain the nature and intent of this letter. In short, this letter is a call to action — a voice if you will — of many frustrated C.P.A candidates who have studied long and hard to attain the prestigious C.P.A designation, but have tragically fallen short because of undocumented barriers to entry into the profession; specifically, “software glitches and bugs” in the C.P.A. testing software package as well communication hurdles with NASBA.

Although I withdrew my candidacy a couple years ago, I continue to read and hear about candidates’ exam hardships (and, I’m not referring to passing difficulties). The fact is, candidates adversely affected by C.P.A. software issues are focused more on passing the exam rather that drafting grievance letters. Moreover, many distressed candidates are uncertain to who exactly they should contact regarding the nature of a testing issue…..is it NASBA, the State Board, the AICPA, Becker Convisor, or the Prometric Testing Center? The C.P.A. is daunting enough on a stand-alone basis, but for a candidate to experience a computer failure and have to blindly navigate a maze of reporting lines, in hope of finding answers to complex questions, is something entirely different. Because candidates are more concerned with “candidacy” and long busy season hours (as they should) and less so with detective work and grievance letters, is in my opinion, the reason difficulties with the software powering the Uniform C.P.A. exam has been grossly understated. Still, even if a handful of grievance letters had indeed made its way upstream to NASBA, The State Board Committee (SBC), The AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE), I’m curious why the C.P.A exam governors failed to address the software glitch/communication issues in an expeditious manner……or have decided to pull the plug on computerized testing altogether? Even if these issues were still in the discovery phase, I would have expected NASBA/AICPA to have contacted current and former candidates regarding the pervasiveness of the issue; the quality control time needed to correct the issue; and more importantly — a remedy.

Given consideration of the facts mentioned above – as a former (unlicensed) candidate, I’m left wondering whether the BOE has specific controls in place to detect issues with the software powering the C.P.A?, If so, whether the controls are working as designed with issues being sufficiently and timely communicated up the reporting hierarchy? I’m certainly aware of the pervasiveness of the exam software issue (and have facts to support it!), but perhaps the BOE isn’t! Perhaps the BOE is aware of the software issue, and has considered the issue to be statistically, De minimus. Even if the later was true, why weren’t candidates (like myself) notified of the shortcomings of the computerized testing approach and the potential for its effect on licensure?

Given my understanding of the imperfections of the Uniform C.P.A. exam and the organizational structure of The AICPA, NASBA and its affiliates, I’m under the impression the COE and its working cabinet has grossly underestimated the frequency of the glitches and bugs in the C.P.A. software – specifically the essay portion. Having made a significant time and financial investment in the program, I firmly believe my experience would have been different had the operational deficiencies in exam software been attended to, and NASBA – Candidate communications (via “NASBA Candidate Care”) fostered stronger ties.

In closing, as a friendly recommendation I would appoint a “Director of Customer Support” to research candidate concerns and help implement corrective action. This appointment would certainly enhance communications inside and outside the organization, thereby protecting the interests of candidates and prevent undue hardships in the C.P.A. community.

Regards,

Matthew M. Grosso

So? Would anyone else care to share their “undue hardship” with the class?

CPA Exam Candidate Is Worried About IFRS in AUD

The gmailmen have delivered the following reader question:

Hey Adrienne,

I have already passed BEC back in November 2010, and am sitting for AUD next week. I know with IFRS now being included in the curriculum, I can expect to see a few questions related to IFRS topics. I only have 2009 study materials, so they do not include IFRS.

I know with FAR and REG I will most likely need to either A) Buy new materials or B) borrow another coworker’s, but as far as the AUD test, how much emphasis should I put on studying the IFRS material at this point a week before my exam. I figure a day or 2 to skim through the IFRS stuff should suffice?

Thanks in advance for the advice!

Let’s once again for the 10,000th time consult the CSOs (Content Specification Outlines) for the information we need. When in doubt, this is your go-to for what will be covered on the exam and in what concentrations. While the AICPA doesn’t give exact figures (such as “you’ll get 15 bonds questions per FAR exam”), it is a great tool for figuring out what you can blow off and what you’re going to see a lot of. Hint: no matter what the CSOs say, your particular exam will probably contain an unusually large number of questions on whichever topic you chose not to study.

That being said, the good news is that IFRS has very little relevance in Audit at all (in comparison to FAR, as you pointed out). However, international auditing standards will be tested in AUD, and that part you are going to need to know.

Can you study from outdated AUD materials and still pass? It’s certainly possible. New material only makes up 5 – 10% of the 2011 exam by my estimation (based on the CSOs, my gut feeling and feedback from candidates who have sat for the exam this year), so it’s not all that crazy to suggest that you could do really, really well on old material and still pass. Keep in mind, however, that most people do not do really, really well on any material, new or old.

I would suggest, at a minimum, picking up a used 2011 textbook from Amazon and flipping through the new material. Entire sections have been moved in and out of Audit, meaning you’re going to be missing a huge chunk of it if you’re studying from such outdated material.

Think about it: the exam changes twice a year. So if you have materials from 2009, the exam has changed 4 or 5 times since then, once significantly. Normally this might mean missing a handful of questions but in the case of CBT-e, I suspect the AICPA will be testing larger numbers of new questions going forward as they get more comfortable with the new format.

Good luck!

CPA Exam Candidate Attempts to Stop Attempting and Actually Take the Exam

From the mailbag:

Hi Adrienne – I have been “attempting” to pass the CPA exam for a few years now – and I must say I’ve never taken the exam or the goal to pass the exam seriously…up until now.

Hold it. Before we get to the second half of this question, we need to address the quotation marks. Obviously OP is trying to make it clear that studying has not been high on the priority list and we recognize this tactic as a CPA exam candidate trying to repent for non-studying sins. This isn’t the confessional but we’ll accept the confession nonetheless; it shows a desire on the candidate’s part to acknowledge what they have done wrong up until this point, which is halfway toward fixing it.

Continuing:

I took BEC on 4/4/2011 and REG on 5/14/2011 (today). I am registered to take FAR on 7/9/2011. My question is: Should I start studying for FAR now and try to take in July, or should I wait until I get my BEC/REG scores and if I score below a passing grade, try to take those in the July/Aug testing window? What should be the plan of attack – retake a recent exam, or jump to the next section? Considering I wont be getting my BEC/REG scores until the end of June, I feel like precious study time will get wasted if I just wait around for those scores…

In a follow-up with OP, we discussed how he felt when he was done. “I can’t say I felt on top of the world when I left prometric – I had more of a numb feeling than anything else. The sims were ‘interesting,’ and the MCQs were pretty challenging too…I put a solid six/seven weeks for this exam following Bisk’s recommended study plan.”

With scoring a little jacked up through the end of this year, you should probably move on to the next section as if you passed. If you did, you made the right decision. If you didn’t, you’ll just have to go back and study it over. You don’t necessarily have to start from scratch but let’s not think about that, let’s assume you passed.

You don’t mention Audit so I don’t know what your 18 month timeline is but if you have the flexibility, you should usually try to plan for the strategy that costs you the least amount of time so you actually have the time if you need it.

You’re right not to wait and just go on to the next section.

The Delicate Balance Between Looking for a Job and Studying for the CPA Exam

This particular question is a bit beyond my expertise in this uncertain economic environment, so let’s try to plot out the various ways this decision could go after the question from the mailbag:

Hello Adrienne,

I chose to study abroad for my last semester of university. As a result of this, an unfortunate set of hiring/interview timing differences (and I’ll admit, a temporary lack of motivation) I am essentially unemployed when I return to the US this weekend. I’ve had phone interviews with a couple of companies, but they never progressed because I was out of the country. My double majors (Accounting & Economics) have allowed me to accumulate more than enough credits to be eligible for the CPtting in July for BEC, August for AUD, October for REG, and November for FAR. Mainly because I currently don’t have job offer to look forward to and because I want to finish the exam as soon as possible. I already have the financing for my exam materials and the entire exam and plan on starting my studies next week.

My question to you is how much time should I dedicate to studying versus looking for a job that fits my intended career path? I know there is no magic number of hours for studying, but I don’t want to burnout/distract myself being too focused on one area. I’d like to start in public accounting in advisory or auditing in most major cities, but don’t care where. My main concern is getting preoccupied with a job that doesn’t fit my interests/skill set. Maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse with my plans, but I’d appreciate your advice.

An April 2008 CNN article (we know their track record for rock solid, completely realistic reporting on how kick ass the accounting profession is) cited the following good news for new finance and accounting grads:

Offer amounts are up 1.9 percent for finance and accounting graduates, to $48,795 and $47,413, respectively. Salary offers for business administration and management graduates rose by less than 1 percent to $43,823

If accounting didn’t offer you any desirable opportunities in 2008 (I expect you’ll get better, more specific feedback on that in the comments), you might expect a starting salary of $52,926 to show off your econ degree. Sounds decent right?

Fast-forward to 2011, which we assume is more relevant to you than ancient fluff pieces. In some markets, you will find no shortage of jobs given the correct useful skills (in some jurisdictions, useful skills are defined as SOX 404 experience or desire to screw LLP partners for bonuses), but you’re definitely missing the point here by worrying about whether or not you will get obsessed with whatever career path you take. I doubt you’re beating recruiters off with a stick, mostly because it sounds like someone missed recruiting season.

This is why people intern. You either fall in love with it (unlikely), hate it (somewhat likely) or don’t not like it enough not to do it for the next few years while you finish the CPA exam (note: finish is not the same as perpetually sit for) and get the hell out. Unless you are overachieving, drinking the Kool-aid or end up becoming one of those guys defending PwC on the Internet, chances are you’ll be lucky to find something you mildly enjoy early on.

The likeliest scenario is that you will end up like this guy, who is itching to make his break from public for something but hoping it won’t be mind-numbing. Does that sound like the career you’re looking for?

Have you fantasized about burning out in public accounting altogether? It isn’t pretty. You’ll have to ask yourself “if you’re a top-ranked staff member with your CPA and on track to be a lead senior in the fall” or a “middle-of-the-road-and-I’m-studying-for-BEC type” before you take that route. You probably don’t want to be the latter, so you’d be wise to get the CPA exam over with when you have the chance.

You admit to “lack of motivation,” code to me for “fuck, I didn’t think I’d actually have to plan any of this” so get on figuring out what’s going to make you want to get out of bed in the morning. The usual suggestion applies here: 3 hours of studying at a time for as many weeks or months as you feel you need to feel somewhat prepared (you’ll never feel completely prepared so don’t expect that). If you need 400 hours per section, you may want to consider using your econ degree instead.

If it is required in your jurisdiction, check with the state board of accountancy you’ll be sitting in to see if interning counts as experience toward your CPA license (or try your state society or association of CPAs, they usually have all this information specifically for graduates and exam candidates). It’s an option.

The short answer is: neither delude nor pigeonhole yourself into a situation you’ll struggle to get out of later. The best way to avoid this is to a) get your CPA out of the way as early as you can and b) keep your expectations very, very low.

In the best case scenario, you end up partner and have lots of free time to extort your ex-mistress with an alleged sex tape while the minions do the paperwork for you. Actually, I’m not sure that’s the best case scenario.

Does Interning Count as Experience Towards a CPA?

Today’s CPA exam question has little to do with the actual CPA exam and more to do with your career thereafter, or before if you’re already working in indentured servitude public before taking the exam.

From the mailbag:

Hi Adrienne,

I’ve been trying to look this up, but I keep ending up with vague responses. Can you get your “accounting hours” or whatever work related experience needed for a CPA license (1-2 yrs) before you pass the exam? Do summer internships count (say you interned on an audit)? Which states make you get audit work experience as opposed to states that just ask for accounting experience?

Thanks.
A bit confused.

For future reference, you guys can really help me out here by letting me know what state you are in (or applying for licensure in) as all states are different. Generally speaking “experience” is defined as work performed under the supervision of a licensed CPA in that jurisdiction. Even if you are unsure of which state you will be applying to, a general idea is helpful for my purposes.

You should be able to get your experience before, during or after taking the CPA exam. In some states, you have a limited amount of time to actually complete the requirements once you have passed, in others you will have to take some CPE to “refresh” passing scores after quite some time has passed (5 years).

States like Oregon, Virginia, Georgia and Kentucky will accept general experience in lieu of direct accounting work, meaning you can work in corporate finance and still get your experience requirements met.

States like Colorado and Oregon will accept work performed under the supervision of a Chartered Accountant as well. Colorado will also waive the work experience requirement completely if you meet certain additional educational experience requirements (150 units), check with the Board for exact details on this. Illinois and Massachusetts may also allow you a license without actual work experience. In Mass, you can receive a non-reporting license if you do not meet the 1 year of overall experience and 1000 hours of attest experience, meaning you can do everything but issue reports on financial statements.

States like Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Montana, and Nebraska will give you a CPA certificate instead of an actual CPA license if you have passed the exam, meaning you can put it on your résumé but will not actually be able to practice as a licensed CPA in that state until you meet the additional work experience requirements.

Currently, California does not require audit hours and you can always add them later if you decide you want to perform audits in the state.

Your best bet is to cough up $10 to access NASBA’s Accountancy Licensing Library to search through the different requirements based on which you might meet. You don’t have to know where to look, just plug in what you have (or expect you will have by the time you are ready to apply for licensure) and figure out which state would work best.

Hope that helps!

Can a CPA Exam Candidate Who Failed REG With a 71 Prepare for a Retake in Three Weeks?

Today’s CPA exam question from the mailbag has to do with a familiar topic to many of you: failure.

Hi Adrienne,

I slaved for an HOA audit firm and our busy season just officially ended. I found out last week that the very last day I can schedule to sit for REG is on 5/27 so that give me approximately 3 weeks to cram for the materials. I sat for that section in January and failed at 71. I am planning to spend 4 hours studying during the week and 8 hours to cram on Saturday and Sunday so I can study at most 36 hours per week. Should I go try for 5/27 or postpone the exam until July when I am more prepared?

Also, I am using both Becker & Gleim to review. In the past, I watched the Becker lectures, completed MCs and simluations on both Becker & Gleim and using Becker book to review. Due to not having enough time, should I just work on MCs and simluations and forgo re-watch the lectures?

Your advice is greatly appreciated.

Our candidate has also sent in her score report, included below:

We should point out here that our candidate admitted in a follow-up e-mail after very little badgering that she had, in fact, done poorly on the simulations as she suspected, telling us “I went into Regulation knowing that I was weak on simulations and as you can see on my score report, not making an effort reviewing and re-doing the simulations led to my failure.”  And yes, it’s pretty clear to us that’s exactly what happened here.

With only three weeks to study before the new test date, it wouldn’t make sense to spend much time reviewing lectures or even entire chapters as a 71 shows an excellent command of the information and her score report confirms that suspicion. Unfortunately, the days of “kind of blowing the simulation part of the exam” are over with the advent of CBT-e, meaning you’re obviously going to have to do better in that area if you want to pass.

The good news is you get it, overall, except maybe for that federal tax process area. Check the CSOs (page 25 of the PDF) for more detailed info on what is tested in that area (naturally it has a lot to do with federal taxation) and practice problems in those areas. If you feel particularly lost in any one area, go ahead and read the chapter or watch a lecture over again but since time is of the essence, try not to use the lectures at all. Don’t get too focused on your one weak area, though, since you presumably haven’t studied any of this stuff for months. You’ll need a good once over (that means all your MCQ at a minimum) before exam day, so try to set aside at least three hours a day, more if you can fit it in. If you have more than three hours a day to study, try not to study for more than three hours at a time, break it up to some in the morning and some in the evening if you can.

As for the simulations, practice working through simulation problems while timing yourself. Set your cell phone alarm or an old school kitchen timer to work out 10 – 15 minutes per problem and start blasting through them on whatever software you still have access to in hour-long intervals. Work towards finishing each simulation in no more than 10 minutes as that will allow you time on exam day to review your sims once you have finished.

Good luck!

International CPA Exam Applications Now Being Accepted By Participating State Boards

With just three months before international CPA exam testing is scheduled to debut, let’s hope the state boards can get to it and have everyone rolling in time.

Via NASBA:

In March 2011, in conjunction with the AICPA and Prometric, NASBA announced the opportunity for international administration of the Uniform CPA Examination to be offered in Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

The CPA Examination application process is basically the same for U.S. and international candidates. In order to qualify to take the CPA Ehe U.S., candidates will have to establish their eligibility through a State Board participating in the International CPA Examination Administration program. Click the following link for the list of participating State Boards.

Before applying to sit internationally, please read the Candidate Bulletin and the International Examination Informed Consent. Candidates should then visit the Jurisdiction Map in the CPA Exam section of the NASBA website for information about eligibility requirements and the examination application process for the jurisdiction in which they wish to apply. Prospective candidates must select the U.S. jurisdiction to which they will apply, contact the Board of Accountancy (or its designee) in that jurisdiction to obtain application materials, submit completed applications and required fees as instructed, and once deemed qualified, schedule the examination. After receiving the Notice to Schedule, you may then register to take the examination in an international location through the NASBA website.

Note: After the registration process is complete for each examination section, you will need to wait at least 24 hours before you schedule your appointment. Initially, the examination will be offered internationally during a one-month testing window per calendar year quarter.

Regardless of which Board of Accountancy has declared you eligible for the examination, in addition to paying any domestic testing fees, you must pay additional fees for each examination section you plan to take internationally. Those fees per examination section are:

AUD: $292.85
BEC: $314.90
FAR: $292.85
REG: $314.90

Certain jurisdictions have specific rules and requirements to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination, as well as qualifying for CPA licensure after passing the examination. Before applying in any jurisdiction to take the CPA Examination in an international location, be sure to read the jurisdiction’s Information for Applicants on the website. It may also help to visit the Board of Accountancy’s website of the jurisdiction where you wish to apply. Further details about international administration of the examination can also be found on the international testing FAQ sheet that is available on the AICPA Uniform CPA Examination website.

For candidate convenience, NASBA has recently extended call center hours and created an international number. The hours of operation and contact phone numbers are as follows:

• Call 1-800-CPA-EXAM Days and hours of operation: Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., Eastern Time, and Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern Time (UTC -5).
• Call 1-855-CPA-GUAM or 671-300-7441 (international candidates). Days and hours of operation: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Japan Standard Time (UTC + 9).

Well let’s see, let’s pretend we’re an international CPA exam applicant in Ohio testing for the first time. If we want to sit in Japan, we can look forward to spending $140 for the application and $500 for each section of the exam. Assuming we pass the first time through, that’s $2140. I guess it’s cheaper than flying to the U.S. to test with plane tickets and hotels and all that stress.

CPA Exam Candidate Rips NASBA’s Website a New Payment Coupon

I guess we’re all spoiled by the AICPA’s website facelift? Ouch, check out this series of burns left on NASBA’s Facebook page:

Keeping Promises, the AICPA and NASBA Remind Candidates About Late Scores

We’re sure no one wants to see a repeat of the first quarter’s scoring debacle but since we didn’t enjoy being called lots of names last time we dared to bring it up, we’re not going to discuss that.

Instead, let’s see the email NASBA sent out to candidates last week. It’s good to see them making the effort exactly as the AICPA told us they would, and we hope that this will cut down on any confusion/insults/whining in the two quarters left before the new, faster scoring system is in place.

Score Release Reminder, April/May 2011

Dear CPA Examination Candidate:

This message is to remind candidates of the score release timeline for 2011.

Because of the significant changes made to the content and structure of the Uniform CPA Examination in 2011, there have been comparable changes to the scoring process, all of which require more extensive psychometric analyses of both test questions and candidate performance for the first three windows of this year. Sufficient data needs to be aggregated for the required additional analyses and the data must come from actual, operational exam results. For each testing window, we have to acquire a sufficient sample size of exam results in order to perform the required analyses and score the exams properly. This process takes time. Therefore, for the first three testing windows of 2011, scores will only be released after the end of each window.

For candidates who have tested in the April/May 2011 testing window, barring unforeseen circumstances, the AICPA will release the scores to NASBA within a 7-10 day period beginning the third week of June 2011.

We anticipate that by the October/November 2011 testing window, we will have aggregated enough data so that the additional analyses won’t be necessary, and scores can be processed on a rolling basis, and hence more frequently. We encourage candidates to visit the Psychometrics and Scoring page on the Exams Web site for reliable information about score release and the scoring process. The AICPA does not endorse or support any other Web site or forum for disseminating information about the Uniform CPA Examination.

We won’t take that last bit personally since we are pretty sure it was not a dig at us; we try our best to keep you guys informed and always pointed towards the AICPA’s own material on any CPA exam subject we cover here. Well, except on the subject of drugs, there’s no candidate bulletin on getting hopped up on doctor dope to study for the CPA exam (rightfully so).

Studying for BEC Leads a CPA Exam Candidate to Drugs

We don’t have any CPA exam questions in the mailbag this week (you slackers) so we’re resorting yet again to trolling the CPAnet forums for good questions. Here’s an excellent one:

I’ve never had an issue studying, I guess it’s mainly because I always had a logical way of figuring stuff out and completing it extremely quick (which is why REG and AUD were so easy). However, BEC is making a fool of me. I can’t seem to figure out how to attack it, and am severely lacking motivation to study it.

I’ve used adderall a few times, and man d, I’ve had a recent serotonin problem .. and now if I take it, it actually triggers panic attacks which I try to avoid like the plague.

Do you guys have any other suggestions?

If you grew up in the 90s, chances are you knew at least a handful of kids diagnosed with ADD and prescribed Ritalin or other amphetamine-based prescription drugs to treat this “condition.” I graduated high school in 1998 and at that point, several enterprising young men and women in my class were funding their car payments by selling their prescriptions to classmates.

Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are central nervous system stimulants that artificially force dopamine (the natural “happy drug” in your brain usually released when you are doing something you enjoy like reading Going Concern, writing your resignation letter or sleeping with randoms in your office) to the synapses in your brain. This creates the thrill, so you, in turn, look at studying as something enjoyable. Under the influence of these drugs, you could, in theory, also equally enjoy a root canal, colonoscopy, or your 12th straight hour of busy season gruntwork. Perhaps not ironically, this chemical reaction is similar to the one created in your brain when you fall in love.

The problem with taking Adderall to study for the CPA exam (as opposed to taking it to study for finals in college) is that your brain retains exam information better in smaller pieces over a longer period of time. You simply cannot “cram” for the CPA exam. Not to mention the fact that it’s illegal if you’re buying someone else’s prescription and you are supposed to represent the profession in an ethical manner but we won’t get into that.

Instead, try some of these tips to grease your brain up for studying. Trust us, you’ll be happier and healthier in the long run, though maybe not as unusually happy in the short-term.

Try Omega-3s: While the research is a bit sketchy, it is believed that Omega-3 fatty acids improve general brain function and can positively impact memory. You can find Omega-3s in salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, flax oil, and walnuts or take a quality fish oil supplement daily.

Avoid simple carbs
: Simple carbohydrates like white bread are instantly converted to sugar in your body, filling you with empty calories. Too much sugar at once can actually starve your brain of the glucose it needs to function properly, negatively affecting memory and concentration. Instead, try to eat more complex carbohydrates like peanuts, dried apricots, dried beans and yogurt and stay away from quick fixes like candy.

Eat breakfast: If you are working and studying for the CPA exam, breakfast is probably something you haven’t seen in months or years but numerous studies prove that breakfast has a positive effect on how your brain performs. And if you’re a girl, you might want to try oatmeal instead of cereal, it could improve your short-term memory.

Caffeine is OK, in moderation: Caffeine works in a similar way to Adderall except much milder, in moderation. If you must get a fix, try to avoid sugary energy drinks and stick to plain coffee. Adding flavored cream or sugar to coffee adds empty calories that you might regret once you’re actually done with the exam and needing to shed the extra 10 or even 20 pounds you packed on during studying.

Is BEC Still the Junk Drawer of the CPA Exam?

Note from AG: If you have a CPA exam question for us, get in touch and we’ll do our best to answer without making you feel like we don’t like you or somehow disrespect your career decisions. No judgments, least of all from a girl who grew up to write for an accounting tabloid.

Today’s question is a good one because it addresses a CPA exam candidate concern that has been valid since the exam went computerized in 2004. I always call BEC the junk drawer of the CPA exam since up until 2011 it contained all the crap left over from other sections that wouldn’t fit anywhere else. I have consistently heard the same complaint: it is random and no matter how well you prepare, you’re going to see a bunch of off-the-wall material that you never covered. This is pretty standard regardless of which review course you are using, so for the purposes of answering the following question we’ll speak generally (not being familiar with Becker’s 2011 product):

I am taking BEC in May 2011. I have seen people writing in the forum that Becker’s materials are not representative of the exam. I have passed FAR, and I felt Becker/Wiley is very representative (as in “no surprises”). For REG, Becker/Wiley is quite representative (prepared me well enough), but still I have to make guesses. I actually felt like giving up half way on REG because there are many twists in the questions that I have never seen before.

So, for BEC, how do you think I should prepare so that there are not many surprises? I am using Becker/Wiley. I can’t take any surprises…

With sections like FAR and REG, it’s assumed that you took at least a couple general accounting courses in school, which would have taught you journal entries, revenue recognition, inventory and maybe even pension accounting if you overachieved and went for Advanced Accounting. But with BEC, you’re dealing with variance analysis, cost accounting and corporate governance; areas many of you probably avoided in college if you could. Meaning not only is it random, it feels more so because so much of it can be unfamiliar.

That being said, a little birdie told me that COSO, corporate governance, ERM and the other new areas in BEC for 2011 showed up last window in larger amounts than suspected, so be sure to review those areas thoroughly. Remember too that the review courses all get their information from the same source, the AICPA. You can get that info too by checking out the CSOs in detail.

With BEC, you can expect to be tested on six core areas in the following percentages (current as of January 1, 2011):

I. Corporate Governance (16% – 20%)
II. Economic Concepts and Analysis (16% – 20%)
III. Financial Management (19% – 23%)
IV. Information Systems and Communications (15% – 19%)
V. Strategic Planning (10% – 14%)
VI. Operations Management (12% – 16%)

Now go back to your materials, do you see a similar breakdown in what you’re covering? One complaint I heard from someone who prepared for BEC in the first quarter was that her Wiley materials did not cover nearly enough corp governance compared to what she saw on her exam.

Until we have better information, be prepared for the unpredictability of BEC to continue. Looking at 2011 material compared to past years, it does appear that the AICPA has addressed some of that unpredictability to create a more succinct section but don’t expect it to be as streamlined as, say, FAR any time soon. Just a guess!

Just How Important Is Research on the CPA Exam?

Today’s fantastic question comes from loyal reader Chloe who wants to know about research. We addressed this way back in September of 2010 but now that the new CPA exam is in the wild and you guys are actually out there taking it, it’s appropriate to revisit.


Question as follows:

My question is about research tabs. In one of your previous articles, you said that Research tabs are worth a lot more now (something like 8 points if I remember correctly).

In the first quarter 2011, I took REG and passed with 88. I got 2 research tabs, which I think I got both wrong (one may be pre-test). I dont really believe that the research tabs has so much weights now. I mean, how can the weighting go from so unimportant to being so important now? Also, my score suggest to me, the research tab may not be worth so much like the 8 points that you mentioned. I tried to ask this same question to my Becker instructor, but she has no idea.

I am going to take AUD in May 2011. I wanted to know what really is the weightage given to research tabs. If I can’t find the correct research, it can mean a lot of collateral damage. U know I mean?

According to the AICPA, task-based simulation problems (TBS) make up 40% of your score in FAR, AUD and REG. Of your seven simulation problems in AUD and FAR and six in REG, one of these for each section is pretest, meaning it does not count towards your score.

The AICPA does not differentiate research from other simulation problems in the 2011 exam, so it should be assumed that each simlet is worth the same amount of points. Because we are unable to determine just how many points are allocated to each TBS, the best we can say is that with the new exam format, you must do moderately well in the simulation part of your exam to pass. The exam is on a plus-point basis and a passing score is not a percent correct, so it would be difficult to determine the actual number of points each TBS is worth.

But we can guess that if TBS problems make up 40% of your score and, in AUD, there are seven of these problems, each one is worth about 6 1/2% of your score (since one is not counted). Do with that information what you will.

In previous incarnations of the exam, candidates could blow an entire simulation (of two) and still pass fairly easily, as long as they did fairly well on the MCQ portion. For the new exam, however, this is fairly impossible since TBS problems are now smaller but more heavily-weighted.

Long story short, treat research problems like they are operational and worth just as much as your other simulations since they are. Don’t forget to take advantage of six months free access to the professional literature so you can practice research ahead of your next exam.

In your case, you probably did pretty well on the MCQ and your other simulation problems or fairly well across the board and actually got the research questions you thought you got wrong. Don’t question it, celebrate it and know you’re that much closer to your CPA. Congrats!

Everything You Thought You Knew About How the CPA Exam is Scored is Wrong

I’m 97% sure most CPA exam candidates are confused by the CPA exam’s psychometric scoring, either because it is supposed to be that way or they haven’t done their research. Either way, I once again got the chance to speak with John Mattar, Ed.D., Director of Psychometrics and Research and Mike Decker, Director of Operations and Development, both of the AICPA’s examinations unit. This time we focused on how the CPA exam is scored. Remember that most of this information is already available on the AICPA’s website, check out How the CPA Exam is Scored and the Psychometrics and Scoring section for more detailed, less sarcastic information than what you might find here. That being said, we appreciate John and Mike taking time to humor us anyway.


Of course, no discussion about how the exam is scored would be complete without rehashing last quarter’s somewhat tardy score release issue. John and Mike compared it to buying a new car but driving home in your old car, meaning scoring is going to be a broke down Toyota Tercel for just two more quarters but if you all can be patient, you’ll be spinning around town in that shiny new Lexus by December. “We’re doing everything we can to administer a quality exam, including communicating with candidates,” Mike told us. They also let us know that they will be using NASBA to push out timely information to candidates in the quarters ahead. See? Told you they were listening to candidates’ scoring concerns.

When talking about how the CPA exam is scored, it’s important to remember that candidates take different but equivalent exams. “It’s not possible to say what each testlet is worth because everyone is taking different exams,” said John. That being said, we did manage to get them to tell us that, contrary to popular belief, candidates are not compared to each other when they are scored. How do we know? While we still don’t know how many points each question is worth, John told us “we can say with 100% assurance if two different candidates get the same question, they will both get the same amount of points or credit for getting that question right.” This whole exam scoring thing is feeling less and less insidious by the minute, isn’t it?

For the final time: the CPA exam is not graded on a curve, nor are you compared to everyone who did better than you, nor are you compared to everyone who showed up to Prometric that day or week or month. “The way the exam is scored, candidates are compared to a fixed ability level. They are not compared to each other. If in the next window candidates maybe aren’t as well-prepared, fewer people will pass. They are being compared to a fixed level of ability,” John told us. Twice. Just to make sure we all got it. Got it? Let’s go over it one more time (from the Scoring FAQs):

The CPA Examination is NOT curved. Every candidate’s score is entirely independent of other candidates’ Examination results.

The CPA Examination is a criterion-referenced examination which means that it rests upon pre-determined standards. Every candidate’s performance is measured against established standards to determine whether the candidate has demonstrated the level of knowledge and skills that is represented by the passing score. Every candidate is judged against the same standards, and every score is an independent result.

Are we clear on that? Awesome, moving on…

Pretest questions make up fifteen MCQ in AUD/FAR and twelve in REG/BEC, one task-based simulation in FAR, AUD and REG and one written communication in BEC. The problem with gaming this system is that you can’t, since you have no way of knowing which questions are pretest and which are operational. So just guess equally on all of them as if every single one counts, mmmkay? Pretest questions will resemble operational questions since they are testing whatever is in the Content Specification Outline, meaning IFRS wasn’t tested on a pretest basis last year. What this means for candidates is that nothing outside of the CSOs will EVER be pretested. Maybe not a life-changing piece of information but really useful to know if you are prone to asking “what should I be studying?” and are familiar with the CSOs.

So what’s with the score report you get when you fail that compares you to those who scored between 75 and 80 in that window? Why not compare you to the CPA exam superstars who pulled down 99s without breaking a sweat?

“If you compared [failing candidates] to people that got all the way up to 99, it’s not as useful,” John said. “We want the basis of comparison that is going to be the most meaningful to the people who failed and that group is those that got closest to passing. If I got a 62 and the comparison group includes all the people who got above 90, that isn’t going to help me as much. Most of the people who pass are between 75 – 80.”

While we appreciate the AICPA taking the time to speak with us, we feel it’s important to point out that, at the end of the day, they are the best source of information for candidates. Answers to most of your questions can be found on their website. If you’re having trouble finding something or have a specific question related to the CPA exam, get in touch and we’ll do our best to do the Googling on your behalf.

Desperately Seeking a CPA Exam Study Buddy?

Contributor note: with busy season winding down and such awful CPA exam performance the first quarter of this year, we suspect many of you are thrilled to cuddle up with Peter Olinto and dust the cobwebs off your CPA review books. That being the case, though you might still be mad at us from last quarter, we invite you to send in your CPA exam questions so we can do our best to answer in a way that offends the fewest candidates possible.

Being an accountant already isolates you from a large number of non-accountant people, most of whom automatically assume you do taxes for a living and will never understand why it’s funny to claim Ex-lax as “moving expenses.” Taking on the CPA exam naturally isolates you further; from your significant other, who doesn’t get why you never seem to have time for them anymore, from your friends who are still trying to get you to do their taxes and from your higher-ups who seem determined to tell you for the 40th time how much harder the CPA exam was back in their day.


Seeking a CPA exam study buddy doesn’t need to feel like having to find a partner in middle school gym class and it doesn’t matter where you are, you can find one. Here are a few tips:

Try CPAnet – You can find an entire section of the forum dedicated to study groups, ranging from Phoenix to Seattle to Dubai. Don’t see your city listed? Register for the forum and post your own.

Get on Twitter – Try the #twudygroup hashtag on Twitter to chat with other CPA exam candidates, bitch about how your review courses have let you down and talk about how messed up it is when asshole bloggers call you out on their websites. Speaking of, we’d like to send a very personal congratulations to former #twudygroup member @CStrunk for passing the CPA exam, proof that alcohol and computer cleaning in lieu of studying can help, if you’re willing to put in the work when you’re sober. Congratulations, Chris, we knew you had it in you otherwise we’d have never called you out in the first place.

Ask around your office – Unless you are in a two-man office in which one of you is the accountant and the other one the boss, someone in your office is also studying for the CPA exam. You can do a quick cube check to determine who might be studying but if you’re too shy to ask, just look for the sleep-deprived look in their eye, MCQ on their computer screen during lunch or the “kill me now” sign taped on their wall the day scores come out. Just make sure to pick someone you actually like, sharing the next year and a half with someone you can’t stand can only lead to conflict and/or increased diversity training later down the road.

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Save Money on CPA Exam Review Materials

As anybody who has done even remedial research on CPA review materials knows, exam prep doesn’t come cheap. The major review programs run from $1,500 to $3,000, and usually come with access limits anywhere from 9 months to a year. The larger review courses don’t guarantee a pass and often include hidden fees for administrative costs (what is that, anyway?), so-called free repeats and updates to books. There’s no doubt that CPA review is a big business, and you can trust me on that because I used to be in it.

That being said, CPA review doesn’t have to cost you a metric shitton of cash you don’t have. Here are a few ways to save some money if you’re not one of the lucky few getting your course paid for by either your employent parents.


Look for discount codes – CPAnet often has discount codes posted on CPA Exam Club, whether you are looking for cram courses, a full review or just Wiley materials. Check out their discount page for more details.

Avoid supplemental products like flash cards – Flash cards are an easy way for review courses to make a few extra bucks. Save the $100 or more dollars, buy a $2 pack of index cards and make your own. You’ll learn more that way and have more money your pocket when all’s said and done, which you might need if you end up having to retake any exam parts.

Call or email the review course to ask about discounts – They’ll probably tell you no and try to sell you into their bundle CPA review/masters program for $125,000 but hey, can’t hurt, right? Like any other business, CPA review programs sometimes run special deals so pick up the phone and ask.

Order through someone other than the review courseCPA Review Materials sells verified products at a discount and includes free shipping on orders over $400 – something you can’t get if you buy from the review course directly. As a trusted vendor, you know you’re getting what you’re paying for since the site deals directly with the review courses to provide products to candidates. But this brings us to our next point which is…

Do NOT buy from unsavory sellers – When you buy second-hand CPA review materials through eBay or Craigslist-type sites, remember you are taking a risk that the “book” you think you are buying is really just a photocopied binder full of outdated, pirated material. Products you purchase from individual sellers are not covered under review courses’ policies, and in many cases it is a direct violation of these courses’ copyrights to buy or sell materials. But CPAs would never dream of breaking the rules, right? If you are absolutely broke and in need of second-hand materials, you can usually find the Wiley CPA Exam Review books on Amazon for cheaper than retail and won’t be violating any rules by buying them that way.

Do NOT buy materials from your friend who passed four years ago We won’t suggest that you buy materials from your friend who passed just last quarter since that would also be against most review courses’ rules and we would highly recommend you stay away from materials any older than one year. The CPA exam changes twice a year and especially with the implementation of CBT-e, you will want to make sure you have the most up-to-date information available, even if you need to spend a little more to get it.

Lastly, a money-saving suggestion is to do a cost-benefit analysis of cheaping out on a review course over having to pay additional retake fees if you do not pass the first, second or third time out. There’s no reason why you have to spend a lot of money to get through the exam (plenty have passed using just the Wiley books, which are usually around $50 a piece), just make sure to analyze your own needs and plan accordingly. And remember: you can’t buy your way to a 75, all the money in the world does you no good if you don’t actually use the materials and study!

Q1 CPA Exam Pass Rates Worst in Three Years

Jeff shared some pretty depressing news on Another71 yesterday, it looks like pass rates are down. Way down:

Auditing and Attestation:
2009 Q1: 47.61%
2010 Q1: 46.86%
2011 Q1: 43.88%

AUD passing rates are down 7.8% over 2009 and 6.4% over 2010.

Business Environment and Concepts:
2009 Q1 46.23%
2010 Q1: 46.59%
2011 Q1: 42.32%

BEC passing rates are down 8.5% over 2009 and 9.2% over 2010.

Financial Accounting and Reporting:
2009 Q1 45.54%
2010 Q1: 44.95%
2011 Q1: 42.43%

FAR passing rates are down 6.8% over 2009 and 5.6% over 2010.

Regulation:
2009 Q1: 47.96%
2010 Q1: 49.00%
2011 Q1: 41.28%

REG passing rates are down 13.9% over 2009 and 15.8% over 2010.

What’s strange about this is that REG was the section least changed in CBT-e, leading us to wonder if some CPA exam candidates were, in fact, better at written communication than they thought. Taking these easy 10 points out of FAR, AUD and REG could have something to do with the first quarter’s awful scores, or it could be that candidates were not familiarized enough with the new format to do smashingly this time out.

One commenter on Another71 said “I took REG and felt like I studied for the wrong exam when I saw the questions,” which I’ve heard a lot about BEC but never about REG. In fact, for the last four years I have consistently told candidates that REG is the easiest for some candidates simply due to the cut-and-dry nature of tax and business law. It is not as large and all-encompassing as FAR, nor does it require all the extensive calculations. But this information could be game-changing.

The other strange fact here – and I have no specific numbers on this, going on my perception based on comments I have received from candidates who tested last quarter – is that for those who did pass, it seemed like many of them scored in the high 80s and 90s, as opposed to the usual large number of 75 – 79s like I usually see from passing candidates. Since I didn’t actually aggregate any real data, it’s hard to say whether or not this is an important point to mention. Perhaps I’ll try harder next quarter to get some actual numbers.

It’s also important to recall my conversation with the AICPA earlier this year when we discussed the possibility of changing the passing score in 2011. The exact statement was “In terms of the score reported to candidates, right now the passing score on that reported scale is a 75 and it’s going to remain there because we want to have consistency over time” from John Mattar, Director of Psychometrics and Research. What I took that to mean was that a 75 last year may or may not be the same as a 75 last year, which could explain why more candidates missed the mark this time around.

What do you think?

NASBA Reaches Out to Japanese CPA Exam Candidates Impacted by March Disaster

By disasters, we don’t mean that thing that happened with scoring.

When Katrina hit in 2004, NASBA granted affected CPA exam candidates an automatic extension. This time around, they are asking Japanese CPA exam candidates directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami disasters to contact them for assistance.

Here’s the official word from NASBA:

Our hearts go out to those in the Japan area who are dealing with rebuilding their lives and communities after the recent earthquake and tsunami disasters in that region. Japanese candidates who are scheduled to test in the near future, (United States or at our Guam Testing Center) and who may not be able to do so now due to the logistical issues that the disaster caused, should know that we are here to assist during this time of uncertainty.

Japanese candidates who may need to request an NTS extension and/or rescheduling, should contact NASBA’s Candidate Care department by emailing candidatecare@nasba.org and we will handle each concern on a case by case basis as we receive requests.

We recommend that all concerns of this type be directed to NASBA’s Candidate Care department. For this particular issue, only those affected by the earthquake/tsunami disaster should email us at candidatecare@nasba.org.

We assume that last line means “please don’t use the Candidate Care department to yell at us about scores” but did not ask to be sure. Let’s just pretend it did just to be safe.

Comparing CPA Review Courses

We’ve gone over how to choose a CPA review course in the past but it seems we’ve been getting more emails than usual asking about specific review programs. Due to a potential perceived bias (this author was employed in CPA Review for four years), we have avoided covering this subject in detail until now.


The following list of review courses is by no means comprehensive and we do not endorse any of these courses (unless, of course, they would like to get in touch with our advertising folks and set up a sweet deal to be pimped out). CPA exam candidates are highly encouraged to do their own research by checking blogs and forums. Coworkers can also be a good source of info but keep in mind colleagues are less likely than strangers on the Internet to be honest about their own performance so take any information you glean from them with a grain of salt.

Many have asked if additional supplemental products are necessary when dropping a big chunk of cash on CPA review. I generally tell candidates to save their pennies, get a $2 pack of index cards and make their own flash cards. Not only do you save money, by writing them out yourself you’ll actually see that you’re understanding the concepts better simply due to the mechanical motion of putting pen to paper.

We’ve included links to CPAnet where appropriate so you can check out actual candidate feedback (the positive and negative) which former students of each of these courses have posted on the forums there.

Becker: Retail Price: $3,065 (all four parts)
Per part if ordered individually: $990 (CPAnet)

CPAexcel: Retail price (Gold Medal option): $1690 (four parts) Per part if ordered individually: $580 (CPAnet)

• Kaplan, Gleim and Bisk: Considered self-study or supplemental, check CPAnet for feedback on these courses.

Roger: Retail Price: $2095 – $1695 (all four parts) Per part if ordered individually: $595 – $695 (CPAnet)

Wiley: Price varies based on options. (CPAnet)

Yaeger: Retail price: $1787 (four parts) Per part if ordered individually: $545 (CPAnet)

This is where our lovely GC readers come in. We know you all are really proud of how you’ve kicked the CPA exam’s ass, so please let us know in the comments what worked for you. If you all can get extra excited about this, we can put together a GC reader CPA review deathmatch based on your input.

Note: prices current as of 3/29/11 based on available information. If you have a correction, please get in touch.

AICPA Has Released AUD Scores to NASBA for the Jan/Feb Testing Window

For those of you who have been anxious, nervous or possibly livid about this whole waiting for your CPA exam scores thing, AUD has arrived. That leaves us with just BEC remaining for Jan/Feb.

Commence to partying (or reapplying with your state board/CPAES)!

11,828 REG scores and 9,491 FAR scores have been released so far.

Let’s Have an Adult Discussion About CPA Exam Scores

Since the last time I dared to bring this issue up I was insulted personally and professionally, I’m going to approach this very carefully. Starting with a few statements of my position:


First, I have the utmost respect for those who first suffer through a college accounting education and then decide to pursue a CPA. It’s not an easy thing to do and the experience only gets worse when you add kids, work and a life to the mix. I get that. I’ve suffered through it at the side of thousands of CPAs in the last four years and, empathetic jerk that I am, I absolutely feel their pain. I’ve been the crying shoulder and the therapist as well as tharing that with CPA exam candidates has been a real joy in my life. Mostly because I’m not the one who actually has to go through it.

Second, I believe 18 months is plenty of time to get through the exam. For those who have struggled 2, 3, even 5 years with this thing, it is not at all unreasonable for me to suggest that perhaps you should find another line of work. That doesn’t mean struggling candidates shouldn’t be offered support but at some point, you have to ask yourself if the Universe is trying to send you a very strong hint. That’s fine, the AICPA is doing their job if not everyone can pass. This isn’t a kindergarten playground exercise in how everyone deserves a trophy no matter how bad their performance, this is a professional license and it is a privilege, not a right.

That being said, I was not expecting the floodgates of CPA exam candidate hell to come bursting forth on Monday when I addressed a note the AICPA wrote to candidates. In trolling NASBA’s Facebook page and getting additional feedback from candidates (beyond the “screw you, AG, you’re not a CPA” comments), it’s clear candidates are livid about this whole scoring thing. There’s no other explanation for otherwise reasonable future CPAs lashing out like they did, since we all know professionals aren’t prone to that kind of behavior out of habit.

So the first thing candidates should be doing instead of snapping at NASBA, the AICPA and me is to write down their thoughts and send them to the AICPA and NASBA. The first three quarters of 2011 are basically practice for a new, improved scoring process the AICPA hopes to debut at the end of the year and if candidates stick to yelling at accounting bloggers, the important people who can really make a change aren’t hearing them. Be clear, be concise and be honest. What would you like to see changed? What do you feel is unfair? How do you feel about this entire process? Try to keep emotion out of it (save that for your therapist, your spouse or your best friend) but be explicit about the stress this has put on you if you feel it is necessary. Remember that complaints are easy but offering solutions or feedback that can help them improve stands the best chance to change things. I assure you all that the AICPA and NASBA are listening, they just might need to block it out if it’s mostly profane vitriol and hardly any common sense. I highly doubt that either agency planned for this to get so ugly, and if they are at all like me, probably didn’t expect it would be the meltdown it was. So keep that in mind when you are yelling at them like the intelligent professional I’m sure you are.

Speaking of which, we caught up with a real live intelligent professional who asked to keep her firm name out of this but wanted to weigh in regardless. A seasoned professional when it comes to the CPA exam from her work as an HR manager for a mid-sized Bay Area accounting firm, she is also a CPA exam candidate and has been vocal in expressing her dissatisfaction with this scoring debacle.

To her, the issue is customer service and communication, or rather lack thereof. She told us:

I advise candidates on everything about licensure (e.g. application process, review courses, changes to the exam, score releases, and serve as the unofficial firm “nag” reminding people they need to get or stay on the licensure path). In both roles, it is my duty to stay informed and I really try my very best to do so. To that end, this is why I felt so frustrated with NASBA’s recent post on Facebook. I didn’t receive the AICPA memo about the delay of scores for Q1-Q3 back in October of 2010. I went through my emails and see I have only received 3 email messages from NASBA and nothing from the AICPA. One was a 11/18/10 email from Prometric and NASBA about adding additional time slots in Q4 of 2010 to accommodate the high volume of candidates scrambling to avoid IFRS, and one on 1/4/11 announcing CBT-e was launched on 1/1/11. The last message contained 6 links, including sample tests, a tutorial, and a link to their October 21, 2010 message [a letter to the state boards that explained the new scoring process]. Obviously, I didn’t click on all the links until today. I was more focused on the tutorials.

Nowhere in the body of the message does it read the scores would be delayed. My bad for not reading the ‘footnotes’ but, in my humble opinion, later scores is a material item that should be separately stated in the ‘financial statements’/email message.

The communications from NASBA need more empathy. These candidates are overachievers who are probably failing at something for the first time in their life; emotions are automatically running high. Candidates are spending a lot of time, money and now even more money because they had to go out and buy brand new materials to be ready for the 2011 exam. We were sold on the idea that these changes would result in faster score reporting – God knows we were already at our wits end that it took so long for a machine to grade the old CBT- and here we are slapped with another round of delays. And they have the audacity to say they told us this back in October. Really?

As of the writing of this post, 9,491 FAR scores and 11,828 REG scores have been released by the AICPA.

The issue continues and we will happily continue covering it here so long as you all care. Any and all input (including gripes and general bellyaching but not insults towards the author or this website) is welcome in the comments.

AICPA Has Released REG Scores to NASBA for the Jan/Feb Testing Window

It’s been two days since they released FAR so at this rate, all scores should be out by Tuesday. Who wants to bet unforeseen circumstances delay BEC a tad longer? Just a guess.

Anyhoo, you’ve waited weeks (or months) for ’em, here they are.

All 32 CPAES states should have scores posted online within 24 hours (though preliminary candidate feedback is that this process is faster than it used to be). The only CPAES states which may take 24-48 hours to release online are Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska & Puerto Rico. Check with your state board of accountancy if you are in a non-CPAES state.

AICPA Has Released FAR Scores to NASBA for the Jan/Feb Testing Window

Rejoice! Despair! Whatever.

According to the NASBA Twitter feed, they’ll have scores for 32 states up with a few others taking 24-48 hours to appear.

Earlier:
The AICPA’s Note to Pissed Off CPA Exam Candidates on Scoring

Conquering the CPA Exam, One Step at a Time

One of our favorite sources of CPA exam info, This Way to CPA, has put together a very helpful list of suggestions for candidates trying to conquer the CPA exam. Just a few of the tips (many of which we have shared with you here previously):

Know your strengths. Confidence is good, but so is honesty. Know where you’re good – and where you need to improve. From there, you can design a study plan that works harder for you.

Write out a plan. What are you going to study, how are you going to study, and when? Maybe it’s all in your head, but it can’t hurt to write it all out to make sure you stick to the plan.

Use the free stuff. You can spend a lot of money getting ready for the exam. Which is perfectly fine. But don’t overlook the totally free tutorials, sample exams and other tools provided by the AICPA. After all, we make the test.

Our favorite was “get a lucky charm or something,” which shows us that the AICPA is not above superstition. That probably should be taken as an admission that the exam is part crapshoot, part dedication but we’ll save postulating on that for another day.

For where to find the “free stuff,” check out our previous comments on the topic and get to clicking.

Head to This Way to CPA for the rest of the tips but remember that all candidates are not created equal. Some can do better with a study buddy or the support of like-minded individuals while others prefer to isolate and be miserable (or make others miserable with their miserableness).

Some of these tips may or may not apply to your personal needs, which can only be determined by you and not any CPA Review Swamis out there or random folk on the Internet who have never stared into your bitter little 10-key-pounding heart. So my first suggestion would be to look long and hard at your own personal needs before you go looking for ways to improve your experience and succeed.

The AICPA’s Note to Pissed Off CPA Exam Candidates on Scoring

The AICPA shared a note on Facebook the other day that was also shared by NASBA and brought up an interesting conversation full of frustration, anger and misunderstanding. The comments by candidates show how important it is to take information at face value and be sure you are not reading too much into what is shared by those who don’t have all the answers.

Before we get to that, let’s get to the note:

Thanks again to everyone who has been asking about the score release timelines. It’s an important topic and we appreciate the feedback. As a reminder, for anyone who hasn’t had the chance to visit our website, over the past year we ��������������������to state boards, scoring timeline FAQs, and provided an in-depth white paper describing how the Exam is scored, all available at the CPA Exam website. And if you’re interested in a refresher about the eligibility requirements, including the 18 month timeline and instructions for scheduling your Exam, the updated Candidate Bulletin from NASBA contains the information you need.

It also appears that there is some confusion about what it means to administer a “high stakes” test. For those of you who don’t know, the Uniform CPA Examination is a high stakes test. That means that there is a direct consequence of passing (or failing) the Exam – in our case, that consequence is meeting one of the requirements to obtain your CPA license. Becoming a licensed CPA carries with it legal authority, and an obligation to protect the public interest. That’s why the Exam must make valid, accurate assessments of examinees. The outcomes are too important.

Making those valid, accurate assessments is what this scoring process is really about. In high-stakes testing, any time an exam undergoes a major revision (as with the introduction of CBT-e), best practices dictate that scoring must be revised as well. That means that sufficient data needs to be aggregated for the required additional analyses (of both test questions and candidate performance) that must take place. This data must be taken from actual, operational exam results.

To our candidates, like you, this means that we have to acquire a sufficient sample size of actual exam results in order to perform the required analyses and score the exams properly. This process takes time and that’s why we are only able to release scores at the end of each window, for the time being. After three windows, we will have aggregated enough data so that additional analyses won’t be necessary, and scores can be processed on a rolling basis, and hence more frequently.

We hope this information provides the clarity that many of you are looking for. Thanks again for engaging in this conversation.

The AICPA was very clear long before the beginning of 2011 that scoring would be changing this year and has let us all in on its plan to accelerate the scoring process for the last window of the year. This information is freely available on the AICPA’s website and is digested here on Going Concern for those of you “too busy” to check for yourselves. But for many, this simply isn’t enough. Candidates who cut the 18 month window too close feel cheated and some are even expecting some sort of accommodation by the AICPA. What they seem to be missing is that even if they get their scores at the end of this month, they are not getting them any earlier or later than they could have under the Wave 1/Wave 2 scoring rules.

While many of us are in the business of helping candidates make sense of the wealth of CPA exam information out there, it is imperative to remember that some of what we do involves making educated guesses. Case in point, earlier this month Jeff Elliott at Another71 predicted scores would be out March 17th. Up until now, he’s been pretty dead on about score release dates so while there is no reason to believe he’d be wrong this time, it’s important to keep in mind that his score predictions are just that, predictions. He isn’t privy to information the rest of us aren’t, he has simply been doing this long enough to have a good sense of what to expect.

When March 17th came and went, candidates were outraged that they still didn’t have their scores. Some even took to NASBA’s Facebook page to complain. Said one candidate “A piece of advice for next time, don’t come out with this statement and expect us CPA candidates not to be frustrated and angry when you yourselves stated ALL SCORES would be released March 17th when you obviously knew that was never going to happen!”

But the AICPA never said that.

As of this morning, scores still haven’t been released and candidates are likely still pissed off that they were told March 17th but that isn’t the AICPA’s fault and it isn’t Jeff’s fault either. Such is the nature of the beast and surely candidates know going into this that anything can and will happen.

Free CPA Exam Resources for Candidates from the AICPA

Note from AG: We know it’s busy season and the last thing you’re thinking about is the exam but just in case you’re one of the lucky ones who has nothing else to do but sit for BEC for the fourth time and have a question for us, get in touch. I’ll cover anything from how to prepare to what to do on test day but sorry, I am not available to take the exam for you.

If you are a CPA exam candidate and haven’t, at a minimum, tried a quick Google search to gather everything you need to know to conquer the exam, you probably deserve the 50 you’re going to get when you bomb research, do simulations wrong or blow off multiple choice because you don’t realize that the exam is on a plus point basis. But for those of you who have done your due diligence and are still feeling a bit lost, This Way to CPA has put together a decent list of items you must check out.


First, the CPA Candidate Bulletin. This handbook covers everything from scheduling to application and includes contact information for the state boards of accountancy so you know who to pester when your application takes 10 weeks. This is a good place to start and a must-read for anyone even considering taking the exam. Reading through this will help you put together a framework of what to expect when you start testing, and will help you ask better questions when you start looking for a review course or additional guidance.

Second, while the actual content of the CPA exam is proprietary and guarded closer than the gold bars that may or may not be in Fort Knox, the AICPA publishes a comprehensive list of topics covered, and also gives you an estimate of how many of those types of questions will appear on your exam. Check out the Content and Skill Specification Outlines, which have always been readily available on the AICPA’s website, for this information as well as a breakdown of skills tested in the CPA exam.

Third, while most review course software is good practice, since the exam is property of the AICPA, no review course is allowed to copy the exam environment exactly. That’s where the tutorial comes in. You can do 5 practice questions (including sims) for each section and familiarize yourself with the exact exam environment as it will look when you take it. This way you aren’t thrown by that weird pencil icon and can practice flagging the many multiple choice you will probably have to go back and guess on. The AICPA recommends all candidates use the tutorial before exam day, no exceptions.

Enjoy!

AICPA Updates Their 2011 Score Release Timeline

A few months back, we got a few moments with the AICPA examinations unit for insight on CBT-e and, most notably, the updated score release plan for this year.

Now it looks like the AICPA has updated their 2011 score release timeline with more details on changes to scoring later in the year, specifically an improvement that will allow them to release scores earlier for the October/November testing window which we first told you about in January. At that time, we were forbidden from telling you how frequently the AICPA wanted this to be but now that they’ve updated the FAQ, this information is all yours to enjoy:

Q. When can I expect to receive my scores after October 2011?

A. During the 2006-2010 testing windows , candidate scores were released in two rounds: The first round approximately one week before the end of the testing window, and the second approximately two weeks after the end of the testing window. In addition, not all candidates who tested early in a window were eligible for the first round of score release. Candidates who took test forms with new test content that required additional analysis and review before scoring were not eligible for the first round of score release.

With CBT-e, improvements have been introduced into the process. Beginning with the October/November 2011 testing window, scores will be released faster and more frequently.

The first round of score release will be approximately one month after the beginning of the testing window. Subsequent score releases will be made every two weeks after the initial release.

In addition, with very few exceptions (see below), candidates who test early in a window will be eligible for the first round of score release.

What are those exceptions? Amazingly, those taking BEC should not expect to get their scores early. The AICPA states that candidates taking BEC will have to wait a little longer for their scores just in case their written communication problems need to be analyzed by the AICPA’s skilled team of robots and/or human beings. They have always been (purposely?) vague about how written communication is graded and we will have to wait for a later talk with their examinations unit to see if we can get more insight on this process, specifically whether or not it will be changing with CBT-e.

Q. Are there any differences in score release by Exam section (AUD, FAR, REG, BEC)?

A. Yes. Candidates who take the BEC section may get their scores in a subsequent release due to additional analyses that may be required for the written communication tasks. Also note that written communication tasks now appear in the BEC section only.

Don’t get disappointed; overall, changes to scoring will improve over previous years and this is a work in progress, meaning the AICPA is working to tweak the candidate experience for the better based on their analysis throughout the year and beyond.

CPA Exam Debuts Internationally in August

For those of you interested in taking the CPA exam in wild locales such as Bahrain or Kuwait, wait no longer, the CPA exam is officially international beginning August of 2011.

Initially announced along with CBT-e, international testing appeared to be slated to begin in January but security issues and further testing necessitated the delay.

So far Bahrain, Kuwait, Japan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the only countries in which the exam will be administered. After a long two year analysis, NASBA, AICPA and Prometric determined those areas to meet their stringent safety and security guidelines.


We know what you’re thinking. Bahrain?! According to the three agencies, candidate volume demand as demonstrated by candidates from those countries taking the exam in the United States was a huge factor in deciding where to administrate the exam. Sure, Japan seems like a no-brainer but up until now, international candidates have been forced to obtain a visa to physically appear in the United States for their exams, often for marathon sessions of more than one test in a two or three day period.

Other factors in deciding which countries included:

• The ability to deliver the Exam without legal obstacles.
• Security threat to the Exam (both physical security at test center and intellectual property security of Exam content) assessed at levels equivalent to those presented domestically.
• Existence of established Prometric test centers.

Other countries were analyzed ahead of this announcement but I know of at least a handful that were determined unfit for test administration based solely on security issues in those countries. Being proprietary and more heavily guarded than Colonel Sanders’ 11 herbs and spices, protecting CPA exam content was likely one of the largest concerns involved in taking the exam international.

While candidate volume and interest in the exam is also high in countries like India and Korea, security concerns are equally as high (if not higher), therefore excluding these areas for the time being. My understanding is that the AICPA is open to expanding international testing in the future and just with CBT-e, will be monitoring the situation closely after launch, ready to adjust based on results. International candidates will still have to apply with the state board of their choice and are invited to use NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library to search for a jurisdiction in which to apply.

Why Did Prometric Get Fined $300,000 by NASBA in 2010?

David A. Costello, CPA, President & CEO and Michael R. Bryant, CPA, CFO of NASBA jointly and severally stated that NASBA’s 2010 financial statements did not contain any untrue material statements and their auditors, Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC seconded that so obviously the following is all accurate. We looked ourselves. Not being professional financial statement ninjas, however, we invite you to take a peek for yourself here.

The good news for NASBA is that total consolidated revenue in Fiscal 2010 was $33.7 million compared to $31.4 million in Fiscal 2009, an increase of 7.3%. There were more CPA exam candidates as well as a new state added to NASBA’s CPAES program, which does the work of state boards of accountancy by processing CPA exam applications.


Interestingly, though my grandparents have been eating Alpo for the last two years thanks to Ben Bernanke and I’m earning a little under half a percent on my savings, NASBA must have a good investment banker because they did pretty well for themselves in FY 10. The annual report states that revenue from escrow management fees related to the CPA exam increased over the prior year and that higher interest rates, on average, during FY 10 were earned on these funds which are held in fully-insured securities or interest-bearing accounts. Can someone please let me know where these accounts are?! I want in.

But the most interesting part of NASBA’s mostly dull financial statements is the $300,000 “fine” Prometric paid them for violating its CPA exam agreement. Yes, the same agreement that was just renewed through 2024 with much fanfare last year.

The item is reported as “Income from Contract Issue” on NASBA’s consolidated financial statements and buried in note 12 thusly:

Note 12. Income from Contract Issue
As a part of the initial CBT Services Agreement effective May 31, 2002, Prometric was required to obtain and maintain insurance policies for certain specific perils, coverage amounts, terms and conditions naming the Association and its member boards as additional insureds. During fiscal 2010, the Association asserted that Prometric failed to comply with certain applicable insurance requirements. Prometric denied the assertions but, in resolution of the matter, provided evidence that it had come into compliance, agreed to indemnify, hold harmless and defend for any coverage lapses, and paid $300,000 to the Association. In addition, Prometric reimbursed the Association for certain legal and administrative expenses related to the resolution.

It doesn’t appear that NASBA declared the legal and admin expenses it also received so we’re assuming they were either immaterial or just embarrassing. Any financial statement detectives are welcome to come to their own conclusions.

Are 19 Year-Old Girls Writing CPA Exam Questions?

Pardon the headline but that’s an actual (and not at all unreasonable) question posed to us from a Floridian CPA exam candidate who shall remain nameless, lest I be accused of trolling again.


While we love the idea of barely legal chicks holed up in an AICPA bunker sweating out CPA exam questions, unfortunately we’ve got to piss in this particular candidate’s Cheerios and point out that questions are created using a complicated process that relies on volunteer contributions from the industry:

The content of the Uniform CPA Examination is developed in an extensive and integrated process. At each step in the process expertise in various disciplines is applied to ensure that the test materials are accurate and appropriate for use on the CPA Exam.

The process incorporates expertise in a number of key areas.

The first key area of expertise is in accounting. Individuals who draft, review, and finalize test materials are experienced CPAs.

A second area of expertise is in the science of testing, called psychometrics. At each stage in the test development process, psychometricians are involved in the design, development, and implementation of test materials. These include test specifications, test questions, and data analysis.

A third area of expertise is in test development. Experts in the design and development of test questions are involved in the process.

Well, we’ve met some inexperienced 19-year-old CPA candidates but can’t say we know any that are experienced enough to draft complicated CPA exam questions per the AICPA’s outline above so, sorry, but this question is debunked.

We also feel compelled to point out, by way of the New York Times, that the word sketch actually appeared as an adjective in 1975, which would be right around the time most of the OG’s of the industry were passing the CPA exam, earning their PhDs in accounting and getting their second or third promotion.

A list of slang compiled from students at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, published in the journal American Speech in 1975, included sketch as an adjective meaning “dangerous, risky” (“I think we’re in a sketch situation”). By 1996, one of [Professor Connie] Eble’s U.N.C. students offered sketch as a noun meaning “someone who is hard to figure out.” The variations sketchball, sketcher and sketchmaster followed thereafter, all sharing an air of suspicion and possible danger or at least discomfort.

We’re dying to know the context of this CPA exam question. Obviously discussing it is not allowed but based on the word itself, we’re guessing this was in AUD, no? As in “The client is totally sketchy, how do you verify his equally sketchy bank recs?”

CPA Exam Candidate Bloggers, They’re Everywhere

Back in the day, there was really only one CPA exam blogger and it was Jeff at Another71 who chronicled his adventures (read: failures) while amassing a large audience of loyal followers who shared in his triumphs and defeats. Over time, Jeff transformed his humble little website from just a soap box for him to complain to an actual career, blowing off the idea of a day job for the somewhat lucrative but always entertaining world of blogging. By all appearances this has worked out for him and it may be no small coincidence that a storm of CPA exam bloggers have followed in his footsteps, including his own team of CPA exam bloggers writing for him at Another71.

The only other longstanding CPA exam blog we can think of is the New Jersey Society of CPAs’ Exam Cram, which has featured a revolving cast of characters over the years, all of whom share their individual CPA exam stories with NJSCPA members and the Internet at large. Who says blogs are dead?


One CPA exam blogger we haven’t seen in quite some time:
The Cooking Accountant
has been at this for awhile now and appears to have allowed a BEC failure to keep her from her blog since June of 2010. Once active in documenting her journey, her last entry reads “It hurts twice as much to learn you have to re-take two parts because you failed one. This is reminiscent of when a little girl riding her bicycle hits a raised chunk of sidewalk and goes flying off her bike, landing on the hard cement. But this time, not only does she scrape and bruise her knee and elbow so bad she can barely get up, but the doll she had in the bike basket is now sitting in the gutter.”

But many other CPA exam bloggers are alive and well and blogging every dirty detail of their lives as CPA exam candidates, at least when it comes to disappointments and annoying coughing girls at Prometric.

My CPA Exam Journey
3 Letters, 1 Day at a Time
Sleep on CPA
No More 74
Mission: Pass CPA Exam
CPA Adventures

The list goes on and on and if I missed any good ones, do let me know.

Here’s my concern: while it’s certainly healthy to form a community of miserable bastards who can share in the joy and misery of the CPA exam experience together, at what point does blogging become a distraction? If you notice, each one of these blogging candidates commit well thought-out, carefully written, decent length posts, something a lot of “other” bloggers don’t always do. So is there an element of procrastination that blogging about the exam allows?

If that’s the case, it’s probably a healthy sort of procrastination. Candidates might be taking a break from the MCQ but they are still focused on their goal of licensure by writing about, thinking about and reading about the CPA exam.

As long as they don’t start using that #twudygroup to talk about movies and their relationship problems, I don’t see the harm.

How Not to Study for the CPA Exam (on Twitter)

I’m sorry but I have to remind people for the 1,000th time that things you do on the Internet are public and any old troll (like AG) can just do a quick search and find you doing it.

Case in point, this guy: @CStrunk follows Going Concern on Twitter so we don’t necessarily want to call him out, we simply want to evaluate his study habits, comments and way of life and then feel some sick superiority because we can judge him. Trust us, we do it out of love.

Check out this February 12th tweet:

So I’m at a bar. Being a horrible CPA exam candidate. 🙁


Listen, you guys don’t need to read my column to know that sitting at the bar is not going to help you figure out variance analysis nor GAAP codification. Duh. Maybe you can tape ASCs to the bottom of your shot glass but we are not going to say that you should be studying empty drinks with accounting regs and if you do, well, good luck with the exam.

A day before he was at the bar, he was cleaning out his computer. If you’re studying for the exam, you know exactly what this is like. Scrubbing baseboards, working as many hours as you can, even squeezing out kids just so you can put off opening up that big-ass FAR book (OK maybe that’s pushing it a bit).

He also admits to staying up until midnight or one in the morning studying (or “studying,” which many of you know means 4 minutes of studying and 96 minutes of status updates, “research,” emailing and texting) but since he was up until 1:23 in the morning tweeting, we know that’s not necessarily what he spends his time doing.

We suspect that we don’t have to alert Chris that he has been sternly warned to improve his study habits or give up on this exam and we hope that we won’t have to say it again.

Attention, Attention! This Dude Passed the CPA Exam on the First Try

Forgive us for the fluff but it’s Friday. With busy season in full swing, it’s dead and you guys aren’t reaching out for sage or even somewhat useful advice so we’re sad to say this is the best we got.

Since when does passing the CPA exam warrant a whole article? We’re not against the idea, just wondering when that became the thing to do.

Don’t you wish your firm did something like this for you? Or that maybe your wife would have thought to take out a half page ad in the local paper when you finally got an 81 on BEC after four tries?

No, people, you’re setting the bar way too low. You need to be this guy.


Via the Central Michigan Morning Sun (by all accounts this is a totally legitimate newspaper):

M.C. Kostrzewa & Co. P.C. CPAs of Mt. Pleasant has announced that Gregory Erickson has passed all four parts of the CPA exam in his first sitting for the exams.

Nationwide only 4 percent of applicants pass the exams in their first attempt.

Erickson, a graduate of Grand Valley State University, resides in Mt. Pleasant with his wife, Bethany.

Since most of you probably didn’t get your own article when you passed (sorry, intentionally underachieving generally doesn’t warrant its own fanfare), you might think this is a freakish concept but actually we found another, this one for Oconomowoc CPA Jennifer Konieczka. Is this a midwestern thing? Is it akin to your parents publishing an engagement announcement if you actually land yourself a winner?

We’re baffled.

In a related note, however, because we would never want underachievers to be left out of feeling special, we have taken it upon ourselves to offer up space here on our site for special CPA exam announcements or congratulations along these same lines. Write us if you have an appropriate nomination and bonus points for endorsements such as “most Irish Car Bombs the weekend before REG without getting a 67” or “this person guessed 50% of their multiple choice problems and still got a 75.” Please leave your bragging about passing all four parts in 2 months to more reputable publications like the Morning Sun.

Maybe You’re Too Busy To Pass the CPA Exam Then

Warning: the following is a rant and it’s nearly four years in the making. If you offend easily or think you might recognize yourself in what I’m about to rant on, maybe you should skip this post and come back Friday when I’m back to offering cuddly advice on how to pass the CPA exam. For now, I have a serious bone to pick and can hold my tongue no longer.


As many of you know, I spent my early years on the fringes of the industry in CPA review. I loved my job, mostly because I gobbled up everything I could about the exam and was able to offer that knowledge to others at a critical time in their lives. I loved being able to share in their successes (and failures) and it was a joy to work with some of our students who went out ofize what I’d brought to their experience. We all know it’s hell, and I can’t say my job was any less stressful than the exam experience itself but it was worth it to come to work every day just to hear a heart-felt “thank you” from a candidate who truly appreciated what I’d done to help them get those three all-important letters after their name.

But for every sweet student, I would have to deal with a handful of lazy, unmotivated, over-privileged pricks who expected the exam to pass itself and seemed to blame everyone except themselves when things went wrong. Somehow it was my fault that they spent the last year getting wasted and posting photographic evidence on Facebook, or my fault that they blew off studying to play WoW or [insert lame, overplayed excuse here]. And that’s exactly what they were and will continue to be: excuses. I can tell you that nothing will stand between a CPA exam candidate and their goal of licensure more than excuses. Well, maybe lack of knowledge but that’s a rant for another day.

The worst excuse of all has always been and will always be “I’m too busy.” If you’re too busy to read through the terms and conditions before you shell out a few grand for a review course (or at a minimum, call up with reasonable questions about how things work), you’re probably too busy to take the exam. If you’re too busy to dedicate two hours a day to studying, you’re again likely too busy to take the exam. If you’re too busy to sacrifice 14 hours to exam-taking and 400 hours to studying in 18 months time, you’re definitely too busy to take the exam.

It’s a pathetic excuse when you think about it because who decided to take this thing in the first place? You did and at some point I can only hope it registered in your mind before making said decision that you still have things to do and a limited amount of time to do them. But you chose to do this anyway, right?

My favorite are the parents who also work full-time and complain that they are just too busy. Listen, no one is debating the fact that they have a metric shit ton on their plate but what they seem to forget is that life is all about choices and they chose to start working, get married and have children before passing the exam. So, sorry but it’s not like life is just a random shuffled deck, each candidate getting whichever cards the dealer hands out; we’re all adults here and as such, it’s important that we recognize the impact of the choices we make. The AICPA Board of Examiners didn’t decide to start a family for you, you did.

This exam sucks for everyone and for different reasons. Stop making it suck even for people who aren’t taking it by thinking somehow you are more important than everyone else and therefore entitled to some kind of special treatment because you work 60 hours a week (who chose this line of work again? Please remind me). Somehow hundreds of thousands of equally-busy future CPAs have managed to pass this thing before you and I didn’t hear most of them complaining about how busy they are. Get over yourself or get out of public.

(UPDATE/CORRECTION) A CPA Exam Study Timeline for Masters Students

When this future CPA from South Carolina wrote in asking for our sage advice, he noted that we’d probably answered this exact question before but he thought email might be the best way to get a more specific answer. While we may berate you for not using the fancy search bar in the upper right-hand corner of this website (I’m speaking directly to you, guy who emailed me asking a question I just answered a week ago), that doesn’t mean we don’t want to answer your questions. Really it just means that we’re bitter and the vodka supply is running low at GC HQ. So if you have a CPA exam question, by all means get in touch. If I have written about it already, Caleb’s next trip to Costco for 1.ld fix that right up.

Anyway, enough about our vices, let’s get to the question:

I am currently in the second semester of my masters to fulfill the 150 hour requirement and am starting with my firm in October of this year. My firm also offers to pay for a B—– course for us to help with the studying. What is a simple timetable for when I should start studying, when I should start the tests and such[?] I am looking to earn my companies bonus for completing the exam in a year, but I also know that with school and everything I am most likely behind the 8 ball for that.

First, we have to thank you for bringing the phrase “behind the 8 ball” to our attention. I’ve never used it myself (though I’ve certainly been in that position) and I have to say looking at your situation you’re not exactly there either. By all appearances, you have a good education behind you and a career in front of you. In other economic times that probably wouldn’t be enough but for now, you’re head and shoulders above many of the sad saps who we talk to on a near daily basis that have degrees growing mold and not a single job prospect ahead of them. Be grateful you only have to decide which CPA exam part to take and not which flavor of ramen noodle to spend your rent money on.

My biggest piece of advice to you is to use your review course. My professional experience has been that those who get courses “free” from work almost always blow it off, buy it at the wrong time (hello, don’t sign up in January) or otherwise waste a good opportunity. If you had to shell out $2,000 of your own hard-earned money, you’d be much more likely to get the most out of it, right?

Then there’s your bonus. The fact that you’re acknowledging a bonus of $5,000 if you get this done shows that you might already be using that as a motivator – which is fine! We aren’t suggesting you run out and blow $5,000 on a home entertainment system as if you already have it but you are an accountant and money is your thing so use that to your advantage when you’re feeling unmotivated, lazy or overwhelmed. Which brings us to our next point.

It is now February and you start in October, the problem being you won’t actually be able to sit for the CPA exam until after you meet South Carolina’s 150 requirement. You are exactly the sort of future CPA we think should be allowed to sit for the exam at 120 units but we doubt the South Carolina Board of Accountancy reads Going Concern and even if they do, you might be a partner by the time the rule actually changes. Guess this is where your position behind the 8 ball comes in, eh?

UDPATE: Apply to sit now while you are eligible and try to nail as many exam parts as you can while you have some time. With a Masters program going on, that could be just one (or zero) but hey, at least you’ve got a head start before you are working and will leave less work later.

Talk to your firm and see what sort of support they offer for studying. We’re pretty sure they’ll laugh directly in your face but it’s worth a shot.

Assuming they are like just about every other firm out there, you’re going to want to apply for the exam as soon as you are eligible so you can get the paperwork part out of the way and begin to study shortly thereafter so the information is freshest in your mind. Don’t make the mistake of studying now months in advance (even though this appears to be an optimal time to do it) as you’re just going to have to do it all over again later. You’re going to need to be diligent – if not anal – about a study schedule once you start working, which we recommend you use to your advantage. Get up at 5am to study for two hours before work, that way if you’re exhausted at 4 or 5 or 9 pm when you’re still slaving away for the man, it won’t matter because at least you’re still getting paid to do it. You can study for the entire exam in 400 hours. There are about 730 hours in a month. Got it?

It will be excruciating but it can be done. I’m sure any number of the poor slobs who did exactly that before you will be chiming in in the comments any minute now.

CORRECTION: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated South Carolina was a 150 state. It’s actually a 120 state. We realize the error of our ways and will repent all weekend on the NASBA website.

Finding a CPA Review Course for a 50 Year-Old MBA

We’ve been through this particular problem before but since this question is sort of unique, we’ll bite. How does an O.G. coming back to accounting after 30 years prepare for the CPA exam?

Doug in Milwaukee asks:

I’m a 50-something MBA and have just completed the extra six (advanced) accounting courses needed to qualify to sit for the Wisconsin CPA exam. Since it’s been 30 years since I’ve taken the basic accounting courses, I’m feeling weak in the areas that may be most heavily stressed on the exam. I’m interested in one of the “higher-quality” reviews that you mentioned, that will give me all the information I need.

Can you recommend a CPA review course for me?


First of all, I have to disclaim for those who don’t know that I came to accounting through the CPA review industry so while I am wholly independent, it doesn’t matter as I may appear biased were I to actually recommend a review course. Perceived bias aside, it is always best for candidate to do their own research and instead of only listening to bitter writers who don’t actually have to take the exam themselves. But we’re sure Doug already knows that and would simply like a professional opinion to supplement his extensive research on the matter.

Besides, everyone is different. Some candidates do well with a self study program while others need the structure of a classroom-style review. So the first thing you should figure out is what you need and how much you are willing (or can afford) to pay for it.

Once you have that part figured out, hit the CPAnet forums and check out their entire section on study materials and review programs. Actual candidates who have used the various review programs are generally more than happy to leave extensive information regarding each program but remember – people are more likely to rant about a negative experience than they are to glow about a positive one. The CPA exam is a difficult process and, unfortunately, my professional experience has been that many candidates are happy to blame everyone (college professor, boss, CPA review course, Father Time, some jerk on Facebook, etc etc) but reluctant to accept their own shortcomings in the event of failure. So keep that in mind.

CPA review is a pretty small industry and there are really only three or four courses that are considered “top of the line” – the others are either supplements or CPA review products offered by companies that also do a variety of other programs.

If you are able to, get as many free resources as you can from your prospective CPA review provider before you actually hand over your credit card. Visit their classroom location or watch samples of their lectures online (if they are reputable, they’ll have these readily available on their website) and call them to ask what is covered in their courses.

Remember too that CPA review is a business and, since I used to be a part of it, I can tell you it’s more cut-throat than this sweet online media gig. At the end of the day, the company exists not to help you pass the exam but to make money (like all companies, duh). So keep your eyes peeled for too good to be true marketing tactics, suspicious blog posts that read like ad copy and always read the fine print.

Follow these few rules and I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out the review that’s right for you in no time. Good luck!

What Should You Do the Night Before You Take the CPA Exam?

Looks like we’re back in the swing of CPA exam testing as you guys have been loading me up with great questions (thanks, it means Caleb doesn’t have to fire me this week) so let’s get right to it. Today’s question comes via Twitter and if you have one, email me or toss an @ my way and I’ll get to it.

@adrigonzo What is your rec for the night before an exam section. Study till you drop that last night or get some rest? #cpaexam


This is an excellent question because for many of you who are taking the CPA exam fresh out of school, you might be used to slacking off for weeks or months on end and making one last final push at the end of the semester to get through finals. While that may have worked in college (and can also work in life if you play your cards right), it’s important to keep in mind that the CPA exam doesn’t work the same way.

Your brain learns in layers and with the exam, it’s best to digest smaller pieces of information over a longer period of time than it is to try and cram it all in there in a few days. That’s why accelerated or otherwise last-minute CPA review programs aren’t a good idea; your brain needs the layers to dig into come exam day.

Think of it like making oatmeal cookies: you start with the basics; butter, sugar, eggs, flour and oatmeal. In an exam context (we’re using FAR because it’s easiest in this example), this would be the framework of financial accounting and any heavily tested areas like bonds, pensions and inventory. Once that’s mixed up, you add in your flair: raisins, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, whatever you like. Side note: I made white chocolate chip, craisin and pecan oatmeal cookies the other night and they were absolutely fantastic. Anyway, your flair would be the lighter-tested or unfamiliar areas like some of what’s covered in advanced accounting, inflation accounting, dollar-value LIFO, etc. You use a cup and a half of flour but only half a cup of chocolate chips and regardless of how much the recipe calls for, if you sit down and eat the entire bowl of dough in one night you’re going to get sick. Got it?

I always recommend bringing your note cards or textbook to Prometric with you so you can do a last-minute review in the car and it’s absolutely appropriate to do some studying the night before but don’t overdo it. Get to bed at a reasonable hour but try not to upset your routine too much – if you’re an night owl, there’s no reason to go to bed at 8pm unless you have scheduled your exam for first thing in the morning (what were you thinking?!). As we all know, accountants don’t deal well with change so the more you can make taking the exam feel like “normal”, the better you’ll feel on exam day.

Be sure to nourish your hard-working brain with the right foods, avoid alcohol (trust us, you can get absolutely obliterated when you actually pass, first one’s on us) and, if you smoke, try to stop (nicotine withdrawal can impair cognitive performance and you aren’t going to be able to take a break at the exam to go grab a smoke) or at least create an exam-day plan to get your fix (you might want to avoid gum at Prometric).

And remember: you may never actually feel “ready” to take the exam. Focus on preparing and remind yourself that you’ve done everything you can (hopefully…) to get to ready, even if you never actually feel that way.

Why the 120/150 Rule Matters and Why It Should Be Changed

Unless you are in one of the handful of states that allow you to sit for the CPA exam with 120 units, either you went the overachiever route and got a Masters in Accounting or you did what any good slacker would do and took an extra 30 units in crap like basket weaving and German to fulfill your state’s 150 unit requirement. If you are in the second group, you probably forgot most of what you learned in advanced accounting by the time you got those extra 30 units in electives. That sort of story is exactly why the 120/150 rule matters and why the industry needs to look at its effectiveness. Can you really protect the public interest any better if it takes you three tries to get through the CPA exam because you have been taking night school French to meet your state’s 150 rule while working in public to pay off your student loans?


The Maryland Association of CPAs supports the 120 rule for future CPAs in Maryland as it allows for accountants to sit for the exam when their college experience is still fresh in their minds. No one is suggesting we do away with the 150 rule (though don’t tell California that) but instituting the 120 rule around the country means releasing our accountants from a burdensome and, frankly, silly rule that dictates they must have a Masters level education before sitting for an entry level exam. Does that make sense to anyone?

A few years back, the Virginia Board of Accountancy realized that the 150 rule was actually making them lose CPA exam candidates, who were taking the exam in other states with less stringent requirements. Remember, because the exam is a uniform examination, you can take any other state’s exam in your state if you meet that state’s requirements (residency in the state being a big one but many states allow out-of-staters to sit for their exam). Said the Virginia Society of CPAs before the rule was approved by the governor, “the Commonwealth doesn’t want to lose its valuable CPA candidates and wants to retain those Exam takers. In addition, reducing the requirement would have a positive impact on Virginia’s budget.” In May of 2009, Governor Tim Kaine signed emergency legislation allowing Virginia CPA exam candidates to sit for the exam with just 120 hours.

NASBA issued a draft in 2008 that stated “we have found no evidence of detriment to the public interest in those states allowing candidates to sit for the CPA examination at less than 150 hours of education and later fulfilling the 150 hours.”

We agree. We also feel the 150 rule is a bit arbitrary and silly (see reference to basket weaving classes above, please let us know what bullshit courses you took to meet your jurisdiction’s 150 rule in the comments) but will save that discussion for another day.

We sincerely hope the boards of accountancy are listening.

Tax Lawyer Pursuing CPA Needs to Know: Take More Classes or Cram with a Review Course?

Whenever the news is slow and you kids are quiet (I won’t expect to hear from many of you until after April but just in case, here’s my email), there’s always CPAnet to troll and here’s a good one: tax and estate lawyer pursuing the CPA wants to know if he should take a bunch of classes to prepare for the CPA exam before jumping in.

I promise to let him down gently.


Here’s the question:

I am a tax and estate planning lawyer and have been taking accounting and tax classes at UCLA extension in preparation for the CPA exam.

Since tax season is hell, I would only have the second half of the year to take a revthe exam. That means June – November (& January) 2011, 2012, or beyond. I am unsure whether I should continue taking classes such as (auditing, internal auditing, nonprofit accounting, etc.) for the next year and a half until June 2012… or whether I should just sign up for a review session this June after I take Intermediate Accting 3 & (maybe) Managerial accounting this spring quarter AND study my butt off in the review course.

Without sounding too much like an ass, I’m a fairly smart guy (top 20% in top 20 law school, passed bar exam) and a very hard worker. I have a lot of information under my belt but it may not all be relevant.

So, do I absolutely need to take the 2 auditing classes offered at UCLAX or the nonprofit accounting class or can I cram the review course material? I have heard that advanced accounting is unnecessary and I learned consolidations in Business Enterprise Taxation. I don’t know econ, but I looked at some practice questions and I got most of them. Supply and demand doesn’t seem too complex.

Am I crazy to skip these classes and rely on the review course? My experience with the bar exam was that the courses in law school were more likely to confuse than to help.

First off, my professional experience has been that whenever someone says “I’m a fairly smart guy” or “I’m no idiot” or “at least I am not like the senior who probably ate paint chips as a kid,” that candidate almost always has difficulty getting through the CPA exam. Why? Because brains have nothing to do with it, stupid.

I often explain it to candidates like this: the CPA exam simply tests your left brain’s ability to process and spit out information exactly as it was put in. We don’t need creative right-brained accountants (especially now that Lehman is kaput) so the more right brain spin your brain tries to put on CPA exam information, the worse you’ll do on the exam. “Smarts” don’t factor in, it is merely a test of entry-level knowledge and we all know you don’t have to be smart to be an entry level accountant. Hell, you don’t have to be smart to be a partner either but we’ll let that one go.

That being said, it’s important to recognize that there are two distinct universes: the CPA exam universe and the real universe. In CPA exam world, all cash flows use the direct method, accountants are always ethical bordering on neurotic and there is always a very clear answer for any query. In the real world, we use indirect to save time, have trouble passing the open-book ethics exam after four tries and sometimes have to choose the “best answer” without knowing for sure that it’s right.

While more education is almost always a good idea (unless you’re already over-burdened with student loan debt to begin with), it may be easier for our future candidate above to simply jump into a good CPA exam review and call it a day. Some of the cheaper review programs will only build on the candidate’s knowledge base or help familiarize with the exam’s format and content but the pricier, higher-quality reviews also provide the information the candidate needs to pass, regardless of their experience level.

Remember: because the CPA exam tests entry-level knowledge, you aren’t expected to be a expert in anything. Not everyone takes advanced accounting and while some of those topics are tested, any decent review course can give you just enough to scrape by if you aren’t familiar with those areas. Don’t waste your time taking extra classes unless that is a personal goal of yours and, if so, either do it before or after but not during your CPA exam attempt.

The AICPA Talks to Going Concern About the New CPA Exam

Because I genuinely care about the well-being of you little CPA exam candidates out there, I recently put aside the inflammatory nonsense for a moment and took some time out of my busy schedule to chat with the AICPA about the new CPA exam that they were proud to say launched early this month without a hitch. We’re pretty excited about that too, mostly because it means we can finally stop talking about 2011 changes and get back to talking CPA exam strategy, which is largely unchanged as a result of CBT-e.

We here at Going Concern value reader input (even if we do value chastising said reader just as equally) and therefore reached out t//goingconcern.com/2011/01/what-would-you-ask-the-aicpa-about-the-new-cpa-exam/”>your input on the sorts of questions we should ask. You spoke and we listened so let’s cut right to the chase and give you some answers.


John Mattar, Ed.D., Director of Psychometrics and Research and Mike Decker, Director of Operations and Development, both of the AICPA Examinations Team, were kind and brave enough to speak with me and give me plenty of insight on the brain behind the new CPA exam.

First of all, we need to talk scoring as that’s the one thing you guys have complained about consistently since the exam went computerized in 2004 (except for written communication but that is an entirely different issue). We’re proud to tell you that we can finally say with certainty that the AICPA will not be changing the passing score from 75 moving forward. That’s right, put down your flaming pitchforks, all you 74s who were ready to flip should the score have been lowered to 70. “In terms of the score reported to candidates, right now the passing score on that reported scale is a 75 and it’s going to remain there because we want to have consistency over time,” John told us.

That means a 75 last year might not necessarily be the same as a 75 this year but a 75 is still passing and that’s what matters. As we all know, the AICPA uses a complicated and mysterious psychometric formula to determine weights for each question and bases a candidate’s score on this formula. It isn’t for you, little candidate, to worry about how they come up with their numbers nor should you feel as though the AICPA gets some sick thrill out of seeing you get a 74. Believe it or not, they’re neutral. They don’t care if you pass or fail, they only care about overseeing a professional examination that successfully tests the knowledge base of entry-level CPAs in the United States. That’s it.

Second, while the AICPA will be using a single score release formula for at least the first three testing windows of the year, candidates can anticipate a new and improved score release system that will hopefully be introduced by the end of the year. This means all candidates who test early in their window will be eligible to receive their scores in the first release and all other candidates can expect to receive their scores in more frequent batches through the end of that window’s blackout month. So forget the Wave 1/Wave 2 nonsense. “Due to a lot of the work we’re doing on the backend, we’re going to be able to release scores faster. We’re not actually going to be able to release the scores earlier until the 4th quarter because we need to do a greater analysis in the first three quarters,” Mike said. So while you guys see the new simulations and international content on the frontend, it’s important to remember that a lot of time and effort went into improving the backend of the CPA exam and faster scoring is one such improvement that we can expect to see by the end of the year. But these changes come at a price so be patient while the AICPA works through the first three windows of this year to finalize their new scoring process.

If you haven’t already, I recommend you check out How the CPA Exam is Scored for more details on this process. Expect an update to that document when new scoring takes effect later in the year.

As for CBT-e content, I initially congratulated the AICPA for finally streamlining some questionable areas of the exam (especially BEC) in the updated CSOs/SSOs but forgot that they don’t actually come up with content on their own. You can thank an extensive practice analysis and subsequent input from practicing CPAs for the CPA exam you know and love today, a process that takes into account input from the profession on what entry-level CPAs should know. That means the introduction of international financial reporting and auditing standards is entirely independent of the SEC’s do-we-or-do-we-not IFRS roadmap. This should be a comfort to some of you who are wondering just how much IFRS will appear on the exam in coming windows as it means the exam will most likely continue to test remedial international content and will mostly focus on major differences between IFRS and GAAP. Entry-level CPAs in the U.S. are not expected to be experts in IFRS, just as they are not expected to be experts in cost accounting, government accounting, non-profit accounting or any number of areas that have been consistently tested on the CPA exam for years now.

The best news is that though the e in CBT-e stands for evolution, those expecting to take the exam in 2012 or beyond shouldn’t expect such a large overhaul as we just saw any time soon. “We don’t plan to change the exam,” John said. “What we plan to do is keep the exam current with the profession to protect the public interest. If we do have significant changes in test content we would have to let candidates know in advance.”

That being said, the largest takeaway I got from my conversation with the AICPA was that they are simply interested in providing a consistent examination that continues to evolve to meet the needs of the profession. I swear to you that they really don’t get a sick thrill out of torturing you guys with changes, scoring delays and new content though it may appear that way sometimes, especially if you’re in the 74 x 3 club. It’s their job to make sure that the CPA exam represents the best interests of the profession, which means revising their strategy to keep up with the evolution of the industry.

We applaud the AICPA on a job well done and congratulate them for a successful CBT-e launch. So far, candidate feedback I have gotten on the new exam format has been mostly positive, which means that their hard work was totally worth it.

The AICPA, NASBA and Prometric Announce Successful Launch of the New CPA Exam

Even though only two testing days passed from the time CBT-e launched and the time the press release came out, the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric are very excited to announce the successful launch of the new CPA exam.


Via the AICPA:

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and Prometric today launched the new Uniform CPA Examination, called CBT-e, which includes for the first time questions on International Financial Reporting Standards among other sweeping and significant changes.

Changes were approved by the AICPA Board of Examiners based on input from state boards of accountancy in response to an Invitation to Comment, and a Practice Analysis designed to ensure the exam tests the modern knowledge and skills that are relevant for today’s entry-level CPAs. The new IFRS questions and other changes to the exam are the first major revisions since the CPA exam was computerized in 2004.

Overall, more emphasis is being placed on skills assessment using case study-based questions known as Task-Based Simulations. Authoritative literature in the CPA exam incorporates use of new Financial Accounting Standards Board codifications of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Professional responsibilities including ethics and independence have been added to the Auditing and Attestation section.

“The testing of IFRS knowledge and other international standards is a response to change in the business world in which new CPAs operate,” said Craig Mills, vice president of examinations for the AICPA. “We are proud and excited to be introducing innovations in this evolution of the computer-based test that both validate and update the content of the exam and improve the experience for candidates. The exam is one of three key requirements, along with education and experience, that help state boards and the profession maintain the highest standards and protect the public interest.”

In related news, I will be speaking with the AICPA this afternoon about the new exam and thanks to your input, will be interrogating them on score releases, potential changes to passing scores, the integrity of the exam (since the old timer paper and pencil folks continue to rag on the new exam as too easy) and the continued evolution of exam content beyond 2011. I’d like to ask them when the hell BEC is going to be more than a junk drawer but having seen some of the new 2011 content on that section, I have to say it looks like they are working on consolidating the most random CPA exam section into a more streamlined piece of psychometric awesomeness. It isn’t too late to get me your questions for the AICPA’s exam unit so if you have one that you haven’t gotten to me yet, get on that or drop it in the comments and I’ll try to sneak it in.

I’ve also spoken to at least a handful of candidates who tested last week and so far feedback is positive on the new format as I suspected it would be. For the love of Excel, please don’t get stressed out over international standards as you shouldn’t expect to receive an exam made up of 70% new content. Try 5 – 10% max.

Update to come on Friday.

Attention Overachievers: AICPA Announces 2009 Elijah Watt Sells Award Winners

For those of you who pride yourselves on being better than everyone else, the Elijah Watt Sells Award is just about as prestigious an acknowledgment as they come for future CPAs. The award, founded in 1923 and named after one of New York’s first CPAs, recognizes the top CPA exam scores in the country and means honor, recognition and sometimes a massive bonus for those talented enough at variances and constructing statements of cash flows under a time crunch to score in the way high 90s on all four parts of the exam.

The 2009 award is unique as multiple candidates managed the same exact exceptionally high scores so this timinners. Out of 93,000 CPA exam candidates in 2009, these 15 can say they are truly special.

We doubt any of the following winners spend their time trolling Going Concern but if they do, please accept our congratulations for a job well-done!

Kimberly Anne Brant (Minnesota), a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a Bachelor of Business Administration and Masters of Accounting, is currently employed with Deloitte & Touche LLP, in Minneapolis.

Michelle Elizabeth Burket (Virginia), a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BS in Business Administration and a Masters of Accounting is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers in McLean, Va.

Maria M. Goto (Hawaii), a graduate of the University of Washington with a BA in Accounting, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Kay J. Hashimoto (New York), a graduate of Harvard University with a BA in Economics and a MBA in Accounting from Canisius College, is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City.

Jeremy J. Hurwitch (Florida), a graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a BA in Accounting and Masters of Accounting, is currently employed with Deloitte & Touche LLP in Boca Raton, Fla.

Matthew Saje Kult (Wisconsin), a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a Bachelors in Accounting and Masters of Science in Public Accounting, is currently employed at Ernst & Young LLP in Milwaukee.

Isaiah L. Massey (Texas), a graduate of Wichita State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accountancy, and a Master in Professional Accounting from the University of Texas, is currently employed by Deloitte & Touche LLP in Houston.

Luke T. Olson (Georgia), a graduate of Brigham Young University with a BS in Accounting and Master of Accountancy, is currently employed with Ernst & Young in Atlanta.

Ryan Christopher Ossowski (Florida), a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a BS in Business Administration – Accounting, and BS in Computer Science, is currently employed with James Moore & Co., P.L. in Daytona Beach.

Andrew N. Rebstock (Wisconsin), a graduate of Marquette University with a BS in Business Administration and Master of Science in Accounting, is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Milwaukee.

Abigail Lindsay Richards (North Carolina), a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance, and Masters of Accountancy from the University of North Carolina, is currently employed with Duke Energy in Charlotte, N.C.

Peter William Rogers (New York), a graduate of Babson College with a BS and Master of Science in Accounting, is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in New York City.

Ryan Malcolm Scadding (Massachusetts), a graduate of Bryant University with a BS in Business Administration and Masters of Professional Accountancy, is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Boston.

Jessie D. Wagner (Oklahoma), a graduate of Oklahoma State University – Stillwater with a BS in Business Administration and Master of Science in Accounting, is currently employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Tulsa, Okla.

Ryan F. Williamson (Illinois), a graduate of Governors State University with a BS in Accounting, a BA in Mathematics and Music from Illinois Wesleyan University, and an MS in Mathematics from Illinois State University, is currently employed with Groskreutz, Schmidt, Abraham, Eshleman & Gerretse in Kankakee, Ill.

For those of you who didn’t even come close, don’t worry, no one cares anyway.

What Would You Ask the AICPA About the New CPA Exam?

Lucky me, I’ll be speaking with the AICPA about the successful launch of CBT-e as well as grilling them about the new format, their motivation behind the change, and all this nonsense about changing the passing score from 75.

Because you guys are the ones taking the exam and I’m just the one writing about it, I figured it would be appropriate to give you all the opportunity to weigh in on what I should ask. I swear I’m not being lazy as I have plenty of my own questions to ask but thought it might be nice for all of you with questions to have the chance to get them answered directly from the source.

You’re welcome to put your suggestions in the comments or, if you’re embarrassed because your question also makes you look like a big fat failure, please feel free to email me and I promise I’ll guard your identity like Caleb guards his yoga mat.

If You Get a 76 on the CPA Exam, Would You Ask for a Retake?

We’re really not sure why someone would ask this question but they did so bear with us, we’re sure you’ll be just as baffled as we were when we first read it.


Via the CPAnet forums
:

Let’s say you passed a section of the CPA exam with a low score (say, 76). Is it possible to take that section again?

If you feel that you could do a lot better, and the score is important to you for any reason (job searching credentials, bragging rights, whatever), can you just take that section again?

Bragging rights? When was the last time you pulled out your 98 on FAR and slapped a lower colleague across the face with it? I’m not sure who this person is planning on bragging to but here’s a hint: NO. ONE. CARES. And when I say “no one” I actually mean absolutely no one; not the recruiter, not your boss, not your boy/girlfriend and certainly not your coworkers who probably lie about their own scores and have taken BEC four times to no avail anyway.

Nowhere in the candidate bulletin does it say anything about retaking a passed exam because, well, there’s only one person on the planet who would consider this and it’s the guy who posted the question on CPAnet. No one in their right mind would even consider retaking an exam part that they have passed, regardless of whether they got a 75 or an 80, a pass is a pass and I think we are all in agreement on that.

It’s possible, of course, if said candidate wants to wait 18 months, allow his passing score to drop off and give it another shot. But why oh why would anyone even think to do such a thing?

ARE YOU INSANE?!

Don’t Wait at the Mailbox for Your CPA Exam Score This Year

On top of content and cosmetic changes for the CPA exam in 2011, the AICPA has pledged to deliver scores more quickly and efficiently by replacing the current random two wave system with a simple, single release during the blackout month.

Here’s how it has worked up until now: depending on when you sit for the exam, you can get your scores in either Wave 1 or Wave 2. Wave 1 includes most people who tested early in the window and Wave 2 is (supposed to be) released before or during the blackout month (that’s March, June, September and December) so you can get a new NTS and reschedule a failed part in the next window. Anyone who has waited for a score in the last few windows can tell you this system is flawed and obviously under quite a bit of pressure with increased applicant volume in recent months.


But for the first three windows on 2011, the AICPA is going to try out a new score release system that would mean those who test in January/February will receive their scores in one release in March. Apr/May will be released in June and July/Aug will be released in September. That means California applicants better hope scores come out early in the blackout so they have time to submit a reapplication and wait for a new NTS as the Board of Accountancy there has been overwhelmed with new applicants and current CPA exam candidates, with three fewer days a month to process everyone thanks to Furlough Friday. Unfortunately for them, it looks like scores will be released at the end of each blackout month.

For now, a passing score is still 75 but the AICPA plans to take data from the first window of the year as it considers changing that going forward. Better get in those exam parts while you can!

The AICPA claims that those testing in the fourth quarter can expect an accelerated release but with all these changes and fancy new tricks up the AICPA’s sleeve, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Making CPA Exam Resolutions for 2011

I can’t believe the year is over and have already gotten my 2010 CPA exam rant out of the way so the following is specifically for those of you excited to get started on the brand-spanking new (not so new) CBT-e CPA exam that launches anew on January 1 or, more specifically, January 3rd, 2011. Or maybe January 4th. Anyway…


Last year, you probably swore up and down you’d be done with all four parts AND the ethics exam (for those of you who actually have to take one) by now but life happens and your plans fell through so instead of making unrealistic resolutions only to be disappointed, let’s tackle this the conservative way.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew One part per window is reasonable unless you are going to end up fired or divorced if you don’t get your CPA in the next two months. If you want to be ambitious and take two in a window that’s fine but the easiest way to get through it is by taking it slowly and carefully. Give each section the time it needs to get embedded in your brain just long enough for you to spit it all out, pass, and move on to the next section. There are always exceptions to the rule (and I’m sure they are going to take this opportunity to remind us how exceptional they are in the comments) but odds are you aren’t the exception so don’t try to overachieve, you don’t get bonus points for most failed attempts or most parts attempted in one testing window.

Plan! I can’t say it enough: if you don’t have a plan, you’re going to bomb miserably unless you’re one of those fantastic freaks who somehow pulls it off despite all your best procrastinating. If you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, think of your CPA exam plan in the same way you might approach weight loss. If you don’t plan out a specific diet and exercise plan, you’ll be shoveling cookies down your pie hole within a week.

Schedule. As in right now. If you wait until the last minute to schedule your exams (you know who you are, I talk to you all the time and you’re always sort of generally scheduled to take the exam “at the end of the window”), you’re missing an important motivator that can actually encourage you to study. If you schedule early, you’ve got actual dollars invested in an exam part and a big fat carrot to dangle in front of your face when you’re in the mood to blow off studying. Not just that but you have an actual day to circle on the calendar, which will help you when you’re planning how much time to spend studying in the days before.

Hope that helps and Happy New Year to all of you, see you next year!

P.S. – Please get in touch with us after the 4th with any and all (legal) feedback on the new CPA exam format, we’re excited to hear your thoughts on the AICPA’s exam makeover!

Top Six Time Wasters When You’re Studying For the CPA Exam

Allow me to blast right by the fluff and get straight to the meat: you know who you are and you know exactly what you’re doing so put down the apps and get back to the books, this is the CPA exam you’re studying for!

I humbly present, in no particular order of distractionness, the six biggest time wasters for CPA exam candidates.


Twitter This one is huge and I was reminded of this yesterday when I got an email from someone I know exclusively through Twitter who has been studying (on and off, I presume) for the CPA exam for almost as long as I’ve known him. He made the decision to cut his account with a promise of “I’ll be back”, something you may want to consider if you’re blowing up Twitter with status updates when you shoulong>Facebook True story: I once got a call from a CPA exam student who gave me a huge sob story about not having enough time to study begging me to give him more time on his course as he promised up and down that he would not let unforeseen events (death in the family, car accident, job loss; you name the excuse) interfere in his studying going forward. That might have worked (oh, who are we kidding, it wouldn’t have worked on me) except for one small problem: he’d forgotten we were also Facebook friends. So while he was updating with pictures of his drunken nights out and “Which Serial Killer Are You?” quizzes, I was watching an entire year of studying (and a few thousand bucks) swirl down the drain. Stay away from Facebook and please, for the love of all that is sacred and holy, enough with the FarmVille when you should be studying.

Email Emails are great. They make us feel loved and needed and important and sometimes contain all kinds of useful information that we can even apply to studying (like a subscription to our newsletter *ahem*) but they can also be a massive time-waster. You aren’t that important and neither is your email, so shut down Outlook when you’re studying if you’re in front of your computer and even go so far as to set an out of office on weekends if you’re in the last couple weeks before exam day.

Instant messenger Oh IM, how we love thee. Gchat is great for catching up and sharing news but it can be a huge time suck if you get stuck chatting with a friend (especially when you’re dying for a distraction). Don’t cheat and change your status to “Studying for the CPA exam REALLY BUSY”, just log off and hide out for awhile. Trust me, you aren’t going to miss anything that you can’t catch up on next time you log in.

Your phone From texts to apps to mobile Twitter, your phone can be the biggest distraction in your house if you don’t count your TV on Sunday. With so many different ways to keep yourself from studying, sometimes it’s best to simply unplug or, rather, plug your device in to charge somewhere out of your reach while you are studying. Turn your phone to silent and hide it under your pillow if you have to. Checking your phone might only take a second but several checks add up to minutes and next thing you know, you’re pounding out an email response with your thumbs and totally off track.

Your girlfriend (or boyfriend) Seriously. You swear (s)he didn’t need this much attention when you first started dating but now you’re a year in and since you started studying for the exam it seems like you can’t shake her (him) off your nuts long enough to do two homework modules. If a nice talking to won’t work, why don’t you try explaining to your sweetheart that this is a professional exam and, if (s)he’ll get off your jock long enough for you to study and pass, you’ll make a whole metric shit ton more money as a result. That should work. If it doesn’t, dump her (him).

Lastly, remember that our site can be a distraction too. Shock and awe, I know! It’s one thing to swing by for CPA exam tips or to get my email address so you can ask me a question (seriously, I’m nice and sort of know what I’m talking about, wtf) but if you end up here trolling comments and whining about the bonus you didn’t get, you can easily waste plenty of good study time that could have been better applied to, oh, actually studying. Subscribe by RSS so you don’t miss your favorite articles when you have some free time and ignore us until you pass.

Five Ways To Stick To Your CPA Exam Plan During the Holidays

If you’re like most of us, you’ve been half checked out since Thanksgiving [Ed. note: like you don’t even know] and are most likely spending your December gorging yourself on cookies and getting tipsy at holiday parties. But if you’re also studying for the CPA exam, it’s critical to stick to your schedule or else you’ll end up in February wondering why you haven’t studying at all for the exam you scheduled months ago. Here are five quick and dirty ways to stick to your plan.


Turn people down Yes, we know it sucks to have to say “no” but the big key to getting through the exam is being disciplined, which sometimes means saying you’ve got to stay home and study when friends and family are begging you to come out and play. Keep your commitments to a minimum and only do the holiday activities you’ve absolutely have to without being disowned by your family. If you must attend a wild company party, make sure you don’t turn a day of partying into a week of recovering.

Take your CPA review materials with you If you’re traveling out of state to see family, it’s important to bring your review materials with you so you can keep studying while you’re sitting around hearing about your Uncle John’s aches and pains and/or third wife. Bonus: studying is a great excuse to get out of awkward family interactions and shoveling snow so break out the books and show them just how disciplined and determined you are. We guarantee it will inspire oohs and ahhs at the table and hopefully keep you on track to pass next window.

Stick to your schedule If you’ve taken our advice so far (we swear we’re qualified to dispense said advice), you already have a rock-solid study schedule that accounts for every hour of every day and has studying penciled in between work and sleep whenever you can sneak it. Don’t allow the holidays to invalidate that schedule, simply reschedule some areas accordingly. If you blow off entire chunks of your schedule to sip cider and make gingerbread houses with the nieces and nephews, you’re that much more likely to keep blowing it off come January. Adjust your schedule if you have to but be sure to stick to it!

Turn your social aversion into a study tool If you’re like most people – especially accountants – you can’t stand awkward social interactions. Since you’re studying for a professional examination with a reputation for being all-consuming, you’ve got an out when it comes to lame social activities like tree-trimming, caroling, and/or volunteering down at the homeless shelter. Screw all that, leverage your CPA exam misery to your benefit and use it as an out. It’s either that or recruit the homeless guys to help you blast through flashcard drills while you’re handing out Christmas Day turkey at the shelter.

Use days off to study… MORE! Yes I said it. You might have half days or PTO to cash in or the post holiday-party day after to lay around at home and recover but instead of taking a holiday, try squeezing in a little more study time so you’re that much more ready come next year.

And lastly, though this isn’t exactly a tip, ENJOY YOURSELF. You’ve earned a nice little break so take advantage of it, just don’t blow your entire plan in the process!

How Soon Do CPA Exam Candidates Need To Learn New Tax Rules?

From the CPA exam grab bag, this question came in just before 2010 testing ended but since there were other things to write about, it sat collecting dust in my inbox. Fret not, our asker got her answer in time to sit for the exam on the second-to-last day of testing and now you get the answer too. Let’s go!

I’m studying for REG and I am fairly concerned about tax law changes. I’m using the 2009 Becker materials, and I try to use their website to see updates to tax law change, but when I’m taught through the lectures and the homework a certain law, it’s hard to then switch it up based on a little post from Becker’s online database.

An example is the estate tax disappearing. Or unemployment exclusion (2,400 in 2009, but now what? 0[%|] I think, right?). Anyways, I’m not too worried about understanding concepts and rules as much as worrying about not realizing that certain rules have changed.

Here’s the deal: REG can be a little tricky because it’s the one section where the AICPA allows newer pronouncements before the usual 6 month effective date. Usually what happens is the PCAOB comes out with some new audit standards and – assuming the SEC has approved them – they cannot appear on the CPA exam earlier than 6 months after adoption. The AICPA Board of Examiners does have its exceptions – like FASB 141(r) – where they are too excited to wait for it to be on the exam and will make a special announcement but for the most part, you can pretty much assume that there is a 6 month lag between the time rules/numbers/pronouncements come out and the time they appear on the exam.

For the estate tax and other such tricky issues that are still unresolved as yet, be glad they’re unresolved as it means you don’t have to worry about any new rules until decisions are made. And with the AICPA scrambling to load your 2011 exams with international financial reporting and other such awesomeness, it’s unlikely that their priority will be integrating new tax rules into testing once they are finalized.

Remember also that you are not expected to be an expert in any area, let alone the complicated abyss of tax rules. So the numbers are not as important as the fundamentals (read: concepts) in Regulation.

Hope that helps and if you have a question for us – new 2011 excitement, studying, how to convince Prometric that your fake mustache is actually medically necessary, etc – feel free to email us.

Should You Request a Rescore if a Simulation Snafu Cost You a Passing Grade on the CPA Exam?

For this, my first CPA exam advice column since 2010 testing finally closed, we have a pretty interesting question from a candidate in Georgia who wants to know if it her 74 is worth a rescore. Normally my advice is to forget about disputing your score as the AICPA has not actually changed a single failing score to passing in the last three years (remember, their formula is bulletproof and they are not about to admit their precious psychometric testing sucks) but this is a special case.

Hello, I have a question related to my score on Auditing and would appreciate any advice you could provide. I took the exam on 10/28/2010 and received my score of 74. I am wondering what my options are for appeal or review. The reason for this is because on the last simulation one of the tabs was not the same when I tried to review as when I first saw it. I am 100% sure that I had the choice of 6 options when taken the exam. But once I went back to review the test, there were only 4 choices available. I did report this to the coordinator that was present and she told me that she would write a report. I also reported in the section where they ask if there were any problems during testing.

Firstly, remember that Prometric test center staff are not hired by the AICPA to administer your test. They administer hundreds of different professional examinations, not just the CPA, so they don’t really get how important a single screwed up simulation can be to your overall score. Don’t be surprised if they merely wrote down your complaint and tossed it into the examination abyss.

That being said, the AICPA’s appeal process isn’t really going to help you. As I said above, the chances of a rescore turning out favorably for you are slim to none.

But you may have another option, available through your state board, that would allow you to meet with one of their representatives and see the questions you did not answer correctly. Whether or not this actually ends up in your 74 turning into a 75 is up for debate and in my three years of working in CPA review, I never met anyone who did this, let alone did it successfully.

Contact your state board and ask about the score appeal option. If available, you will likely have to pay a fee and there are no guarantees that anything positive will come of it but if you sincerely believe that the simulation changed, that’s a glitch and throwing out that simulation could just bring you beyond a 75.

Good luck!

I Am Mad Not Disappointed: A Parting Shot on Changes to the 2011 CPA Exam

On this, the final CPA exam testing day of 2010, I feel compelled to skip the advice column and launch straight into the rant. It’s finally over and here’s hoping you people will stop asking the same five questions about the 2011 exam over and over.


I don’t mean to offend anyone in particular so if you catch a feeling on this, it’s probably because I’m talking directly to you. You know who you are and I respectfully request you knock it the fuck off.

First, the misinformation surrounding the 2011 exam changes absolutely blows my mind. The AICPA announced these changes well in advance of the planned launch of CBT-e and I can’t speak for everyone but know that we here at Going Concern have covered just about every tiny detail of what’s ahead. Regardless, I still get my inbox blown up with the same simple questions, the answers to which may be found with a simple Google search or by checking out our previous posts on the subject. Information is everywhere, you’ve just got to get off your lazy ass and look for it.

I think you guys are forgetting that this is a professional examination and that you are allegedly professionals. Is it reasonable for professionals to work with financial statements being misinformed and confused by simple instructions? No. Is it reasonable for CPA exam candidates to have absolutely no idea what is happening in 2011? HELL NO.

The “OG” CPAs of the paper and pencil days laugh at candidates who have to take the computerized exam and for good reason, you guys can’t even figure out a simple change like CBT-e. People still seem to believe BEC will contain simulations in 2011 and for Christ’s sake, let’s all keep in mind that about 90 – 95% of what is being tested in 2010 will still be tested in 2011. Do you really think the AICPA Board of Examiners is going to trash all those wonderful questions they worked so hard to get? Please.

So while you guys are freaking out over changes that aren’t even going to happen, you could be studying current material and educating yourself on what’s new for next year. I’m shocked that so few of you know that the exam actually changes twice a year, every year anyway and that 2011 is really no different except for the fact that it is a bit larger a change than usual. It sickens me, actually, because I had so much more faith in you guys to go into the exam prepared and informed. Instead I continue to get the same 4 or 5 questions over and over and over and always walk away with the sense that you guys aren’t listening and unless it is handed to you, won’t go looking for the answers you need.

Seriously, knock it off. Now that 2011 is very nearly upon us, I expect ALL OF YOU to get off your asses, get to the Google and do some reading. It’s really not hard, the info is plastered all over the AICPA’s website as well as places like the CPAnet forums and various blogs strewn throughout the blogosphere.

You’re making the profession look bad, you know. How can accountants protect the public interest if they can’t even figure out a simple change to the CPA exam?

Side note: While I’m ranting about the 2011 exam, I should also throw in a few expletives meant specifically for the AICPA Board of Examiners for choosing to do this in the first place. WTF were you thinking?! We don’t even use IFRS and don’t know when we will, why the hell should we be so eager to test it now?!

/end rant

Top Five Resources For CPA Exam Candidates

Since I’m sick of writing about 2011 CPA exam changes and none of you asked any CPA exam questions this week, I’ve decided to be nice and offer you five excellent resources for CPA exam candidates, ranked in no particular order of importance.


CPAnet: The CPAnet forums offer a sense of community, suggestions and that all-too-important sense that you are not alone on your journey. Get tips on passing tricky parts, share your misery or get a kick out of helping other candidates by sharing your knowledge. The forums are a must for any candidate wishing to connect with others on the CPA exam adventure.

Twitter: Connecting with other CPA exam candidates and sources of CPA exam information (like @NASBA) can be incredibly useful. Follow the #CPAexam hashtag for news and views on all things CPA exam.

The AICPA: The AICPA has revamped its website and put together a comprehensive collection of CPA exam information, extensive tutorials and plenty of FAQs for your reading pleasure so you better be using them. Their “Become a CPA” section is jam-packed with useful info for international candidates, students interested in the CPA career path along with salary and career info.

NASBAtools: Access NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library or use CredentialNet to do all the applying for you so you can focus on taking the exam and not worry about being buried in four pounds of paperwork. You can also find more information on licensure from NASBA’s website here.

Me: Wow, what a narcissist right?! In all seriousness, if you aren’t sending in your CPA exam questions or reading previous columns we’ve done on the exam covering everything from simulations to time management, you aren’t using the resources correctly. I don’t write for my own good, I do it so you guys can be informed and prepared for what’s ahead so do me the favor of not making me feel like I’m writing to a wall.

Final Reminder of Five Ways the CPA Exam Could Change in 2011

We’ve been talking plenty about 2011 CPA exam changes but since this is my last Friday CPA exam column until the new exam hits in January of next year (December being a blackout month), I figured now would be a good time to go over what will or might be changing next year, much of which is entirely dependent on how things turn out early in the year when CBT-e launches.


First, international standards WILL be eligible to be tested beginning January 1, 2011 but that doesn’t mean the 2010 exam and 2011 will be completely different. I suspect that the AICPA Board of Examiners will be extremely conservative with new standards for at least the first two testing windows of 2011 if not longer. That means you will see new standards and questions but likely will not see too much new material if you’re testing in January/February or April/May.

Second, simulations and research problems WILL look different, unless you’ve taken the exam this year already, in which case you’ve probably already seen a preliminary version of 2011’s simlet problems. The format is changing slightly but pretty close to the current tabs in simulations so it may not look all that different to you come 2011. Research will be worth more than the single point it is now so check out the tutorial on the AICPA’s website and don’t forget to use your current NTS for a free 6 month subscription to the professional literature.

Third, the candidate performance report (score report) is changing. Check out the AICPA’s website for a somewhat complicated scoring FAQ that explains how they currently determine your performance and what all those “comparable” or “weaker” notations mean on your score report.

Fourth, possibly based on the third point, the AICPA has pledged to look into changing what qualifies as a passing score in 2011. They have been pretty quiet with details and have not really said whether new passing scores – if implemented – would be higher or lower than the current 75. The best bet until we hear otherwise is to relax and worry about it later if they decide an 80 works better. They have pledged to give scoring a look after the first window of 2011 so stay tuned and we’ll let you know if we hear anything at that point.

Lastly, remember that the AICPA is nothing if not conservative. That means even though things are changing next year, it is highly unlikely that the AICPA will feel comfortable completely changing things on candidates. So for those of you rushing to get in one last part in the next two weeks (remember: you’ve only got 8 testing days left in 2010!), I’m pretty sure you’ll find next year’s exam to be far more familiar to you than you might think.

Prioritizing the CPA Exam, Getting a Masters and a Big 4 Job Part MMXXXII

In today’s edition of “let me figure out your life for you and push the CPA exam down your throat”, our little would-be Big4er writes in wondering:

I’m trying to figure out some options to get to a Big 4 firm. I interned at a regional firm in Los Angeles this past summer and realized that I want to be at a Big4 firm instead. I have been through the on-campus recruiting process this quarter and unfortunately I did not receive any offers after going through PwC’s second round interviews. I did receive an offer from a regional firm in the San Francisco area. Though, my ultimate goal is to end up at a Big 4 firm.

I will be graduating in March 2011 and was planning on begin studying for my CPA exam. I hopby October or at least a majority of the exam. Do you guys recommend I study for my CPA and go through the recruiting process again next year or continue my education and get a Masters in Accounting and go through the recruiting process after that?

I love when you kids have a plan, or rather when you have a goal in mind and come banging on our door asking how to get there.

Anyway, as always, I am inclined to recommend getting the CPA exam out of the way before anything simply because it’s easier to do now before you’re bogged down with commitment (OK, mostly a really time-consuming Big 4 gig). However I’m a little sketchy on your actual timeline since you say you are graduating in March and plan to be done by October; does that mean you’re planning on taking two parts per testing window after you apply and are approved to sit for the exam?

Assuming you are applying in California (you mentioned LA), might I recommend you take the exam shortcut now while you still can? Here’s the deal: submit your application to the state board now while you don’t qualify, pay your $100, wait 8 – 10 weeks for a rejection letter and then apply again in March right after your degree posts to your transcripts so you can be approved to sit in just 1 – 2 short weeks. That way you cut down on the waiting time while you’d still be waiting anyway, can jump right into taking your exams and can get in April/May, July/August and October/November instead of trying to cram in four parts in two testing windows.

Keep in mind that tackling the CPA exam before going to the Big 4 – or any firm for that matter – can sometimes work against you. If you really stand out as a public accounting rockstar and have already passed the entire exam they might assume (usually correctly) that you’re simply trying to get your foot in the door for your two years of experience. So be careful with the overachieving there, it might be wise to get through two parts or perhaps just get started on the exam without actually blowing through all of it before you go knocking on PwC’s door again.

Unless you absolutely want a Masters in Accounting, keep in mind it isn’t necessary to have one in California and you can just as easily pick up 30 extra units in just about anything to meet the 150 requirement. I usually discourage California CPAs from taking that route unless they absolutely have to so if it isn’t something that you really want, don’t do it just to do it. You can always get a Masters later when you’re more settled in the profession, know what you want to be when you grow up, have finished the CPA exam and have made a dent in your undergrad student loans (always a good idea before you take on any more debt).

The only issue with blowing off a Masters now is that you will obviously have a harder time getting the Big 4’s attention after you graduate so I would say plan to get started on the CPA exam as quickly as possible and put on your best game face next time the Big 4 come sniffing around at your school while you can. Hopefully that lands you something for the fall, giving you a chance to complete the exam before your start date, at which time you can try out Big 4 life and then maybe get back to us on how that’s working out.

Hope that helps and good luck!

Can You Tattoo a CPA Exam Cheat Sheet On Your Arm?

Listen, this may seem like a ridiculous question and knowing our tax-obsessed friend Joe Kristan, chances are he was kidding when he asked it but I couldn’t help but indulge him since this is actually one I have thought about more than once.

Being pretty well-covered from head to toe in ink myself, if it were allowed (and were I completely bankrupt of ethical fortitude), tattoos #34 – 47 co be mnemonic cheat sheets. But is it allowed?

Joe asks not so subtly via Twitter:

@adrigonzo Can you tatoo [sic] cheat sheets on your arms? If so, what parts do you recommend?

Valid question (if ridiculous), no? Let’s look at the rules.


You cannot bring paper, pencil, notes, your cell phone, a calculator watch (who even USES one of those?!), or even a hat into Prometric and if you choose to bring a jacket (I hear those rooms get chilly), you’ve got to wear it all 3 – 4 hours of the exam or else risk running out of time to take a break and put it in your locker. But as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no requirement that would otherwise bar someone from writing down the “answers” in fancy script on the absorbent epidermis of their inner forearms. After all, it’s not like you can remove your skin, right?

Here’s the problem (or four):

The first is that the AICPA Board of Examiners guard their proprietary CPA exam questions with their lives. If it came down to someone being able to bypass the rules by slipping past Prometric with answers tattooed on them, chances are they’d not only skin the offender but sue the shit out of them to find out where they got those answers. Review courses may have practice questions that are similar to actual exam content and the AICPA may retire 50 questions from each section a year but NO ONE except for the AICPA Board of Examiners has an actual answer key.

That being said, if by some fluke someone were able to get their hands on real exam content (unlikely since you aren’t allowed to take scratch paper out of the room and trust me, every sheet is accounted for), the CPA exam that you get is actually pulled from a test bank of thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of questions. So even if you illegally smuggle out exam content and hand it to a tattoo artist, the odds that you would get the same questions on an exam are slim to none. Sure there are likely repeats (as anyone who has taken an exam section two or – God forbid – three or more times can tell you) but not so many that getting an entire random exam tattooed on you would do you any good.

So, let’s just say somehow someone gets their hands on an exact exam and somehow someone else just so happens to get that same exact exam (after tattooing the answers on their forearm). Exam content, as many of you should already know, changes twice a year. So even if the first two somehow work out, the tattoo will be obsolete in 6 months. Then what? Scrawl FAS 141(r) underneath the other rules like a cover-up? Tacky!

Lastly, let’s all keep in mind here that this is the CPA exam, a professional licensure examination that tests not only your knowledge but your personal ethics and ability to protect the public interest. Times may be changing and the public may be OK with being served by a CPA with a visible butterfly tattooed on their ankle (or, we can only hope one day, a full sleeve tattoo) but there is no way you are protecting the public if you’re starting off your career looking for ways to cheat the system.

So is it allowed? Technically yes from what I can gather. Morally that’s a big fat hell no and I shouldn’t have to explain why. We look forward to an announcement from the AICPA that all candidate tattoos must be biometrically logged before admission to the exam is granted.

How Do I Prioritize Taking the CPA Exam, Finishing a Masters in Accounting and Getting a Job?

If you have a career related question that also involves the CPA exam (like “should I take it before I try to get this awesome job at x firm?” or “Will I still get hired if I have a CPA and therefore scare the crap out of recruiters who want me to be as moldable to their whims as possible?”), please email me directly. Emailing advice@goingconcern.com will just mean you getting trapped in Caleb’s inbox for weeks.

Now then, today’s reader question comes from a finance world immigrant looking to elbow his way into public accounting:

I graduated in 2005 with a Finance degree, I spent one year as a Staff Accountant then moved onto to become a Corporate Financial Analyst for the past 4 years. I am interested in making the change to public accounting and began the MSA program last year to get the requisite hours, I’ll be eligible for the CPA at the end of the Spring Semester but won’t quite be finished with the MSA program. There is the background…

…now my question is would I be better off staying in my current position and finishing the master’s program before I take the CPA and find a new job? Or would it be more beneficial for me to attempt to find a lower level job at a firm during the spring semester to start getting some experience, then attempting to take the CPA next fall? I’m eager for a change, but I would like to know what the best course of action might be and if it’s realistic to think I could find a CPA firm job before I have finished the master’s program or taken the CPA exam. Thanks for your help.

Here’s the obvious disclaimer: I am heavily biased towards the CPA designation for many reasons.

Firstly, having one obviously makes you more employable because it shows a level of dedication that employers salivate over. Forget all that junk about a CPA showing that you know your stuff, getting one shows that you have the ability to grind through months or even years of studying your ass off, which employers are into because it means that you might just show the same sort of dedication to ticking and tying.

Secondly, having a CPA allows access to a professional network that cannot quite be accessed from the fringes (read: unlicensed fringes) and puts you in a different caliber. For someone trying to break into public accounting, having a CPA (or being darn close minus the work experience) right off the bat can put you on the fast track to career advancement that might otherwise be out of reach were you to both come from another industry and lack a CPA. Just my 2¢.

All that being said (possibly in more words than were necessary), yes you can find a job with a CPA firm before you have passed the exam but the best avenue to take is always to tackle the exam as early as you can before you get involved in life, work, family… you know, all that stuff that will turn into excuses for not having time to study later. Even your best-laid plans don’t always turn out as well as they appeared on paper, so that low level gig at a firm (if you can get one) might turn into a longer-term position that you can’t or won’t walk away from. Ask anyone who has studied for the CPA exam while grinding out their first year in public accounting if you need more clarification on just how large a pain in the ass that plan can be. You know, if you’re planning on having a life.

My suggestion: take the CPA exam as soon as possible and put your feelers out in the job market. Don’t bank on a CPA firm position landing in your lap but if you find one, it will be best to have as much of the exam done as you can get before you actually start. Good luck!

Will You Need New CPA Exam Materials In 2011?

As many of you know, some parts of the CPA exam are changing significantly in 2011 though don’t listen to the rumors that say everything is changing profoundly. If you sit for the exam before 2010 and sit again in early 2011, chances are you will recognize much of the content and format of the exam beyond the few changes. We’ve covered those here before, feel free to check out our previous CPA exam posts for more detail.

Anyway, a lot of you are wondering if you should purchase CPA exam review materials now and if you do how you will handle the new material in 2011.


If you’ve done your homework, you’ve found a CPA review course that offers updated material at no additional charge. This could be in the form of split shipments, updates to books or new books altogether depending on whose program you have sunk your hard-earned money into. If you are unsure whether your course offers these or if you are still shopping around for a review, be sure to ask before committing as some providers could end up charging you for new materials.

Keep in mind, however, that much of what is being tested currently will still be tested in 2011, even in areas like FAR and AUD that are getting a significant amount of new international material added to them. If you read too many misinformed forum posts, you might be under the impression that 2010 material is completely and totally irrelevant in 2011 and that studying from these materials will mean guaranteed failure on the exam. That is simply not true. Of course it is a good idea to also study from whatever updates you might receive to 2010 materials if you are sitting in 2011 but it is not worth panicking over nor delaying your studying because you are holding out for brand new 2011 information.

The AICPA Board of Examiners is not about to throw away their precious bank of tried and true CPA exam questions, even though they are anxious to add new international content to that mix. Much of what CPAs have been tested on for the last 6 years will still be relevant next year and there is no need to hold a giant 2010 CPA review book bonfire to eliminate old, outdated content.

You will definitely want to get access to any material updates if you are allowed them by your review course but please, don’t burn books or run out and get all new materials just because you are afraid of being left behind in 2011. Debits still go on the left, even under IFRS.

CPA Exam Dilemma: Do I Take Audit or FAR Before 2011?

Bypassing the pleasantries and getting straight into the reader question:

I passed BEC & REG on my first try, but I failed FAR & AUD. I need to take FAR or AUD before 2011. Which one do you suggest? FYI: I had 66 on FAR, 56 on AUD.


We’ve discussed what to do when you fail an exam section in the past and if you are familiar with the formula, you know that anything less than a 70 means you can pretty much go back to the drawing board. So the short answer here is that either FAR or AUD is fine but with a little over a month left before the end of 2010 testing, I am a little concerned that you may not have enough time to really prepare. Let’s be real here, you must not have put in much time or effort on either the first time around, am I right?

That being said, FAR looks like the more promising option though a 66 tells me that you’ve got a ways to go before you will be ready. It could be that you simply bombed one testlet and a simulation, in which case you don’t need to spend too much time going over all FAR topics in extensive detail but if you skimmed most of it the first time around, now might be the time to get serious and put in the work.

If you are asking which to take before 2011 because you are scared to death of the CBT-e changes, I would suggest taking AUD this year as the research will be harder next year while most of FAR will actually be easier (between removal of written communication, shorter “simlet” problems and fairly straight-forward IFRS vs GAAP content).

Regardless of which you choose, work on time management (perhaps that is your issue as it coincidentally tends to be a problem on both FAR and AUD) and use your score report to figure out where you need to focus for your second attempt.

Good luck!

Ed. note: Adrienne is currently trudging across this fine country, moving her life from not-so-fabulous-anymore San Francisco to an undisclosed location just outside of Washington DC. She’ll return to a full posting schedule next week after getting settled. As always, you are still welcome to get in touch with any CPA exam questions and/or post suggestions.

Where Can International CPA Candidates Get Certified Without Being Technically Licensed?

Getting back to the awesomeness that is the CPA exam for international candidates (piggybacking on the AICPA’s announcement earlier this week that they are moving forward with international testing in 2011), today’s reader question comes from a NY-based CPA exam candidate who originally hails from India.

I have passed all sections of the CPA exam in Delaware. I do not have experience to qualify for license yet. DE has stopped issuing certificate “alone” for CPA, they now issue combined cert + license. Is there a state who issues the certificate alone?


A few years ago, most international candidates went with either Colorado or Delaware simply because those state boards allowed for the easiest CPA exam experience without, well, the actual experience. International candidates could apply, show up to take the exams, pass and never actually become CPAs in the traditional sense but go home with those fantastic little letters on their résumés.

Unfortunately for international candidates, the state boards got together and decided that there might be some confusion between these certificate-holding CPAs and CPAs who fulfilled educational and experience requirements for licensure. As we all know, you could stay in school for 10 years reading about the stuff but there is just no substitute for good old work experience in the profession.

The old timers will recognize the term “two-tier state” as it was initially thought that passing the exam (the part where the certificate comes in) was the first step – or tier – and satisfying experience or additional education requirements the second.

So now that you have the backstory, where can you go? Right now Illinois is your only option and you will only have that available to you until 2012. They initially decided to eliminate the certificate in 2010 but the governor gave this CPA certificate plan a stay of execution until 2012, so get on it now if that’s your plan.

The other remaining one-tier states – Alabama, Kansas, Montana and Nebraska – all have a residency requirement or other restriction. That may mean they are out of the question for you. Montana requires a Social Security number for a certificate, something many international applicants obviously don’t have. Without knowing our reader’s specific details, this may or may not be an option. Anyone with experience with this little nuance in the the CPA certifying world is invited to share their experience.

Good luck and just be glad you aren’t getting licensed in New York!

AICPA Announces International CPA Exam Locations

Have you, like many foreigners, been tripping about getting into the US to take the CPA exam, battling with strict post 9/11 Visa rules and other assorted red tape? Trip no more, the CPA exam is about to go international. This is huge because the exam is also about to get an international makeover (like IFRS testing in FAR and international audit standards in AUD) but that couldn’t at all be coincidentally related to this announcement from the AICPA:

The Uniform CPA Examination will be offered outside the 55 U.S. jurisdictions for the first time in its history in 2011. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and Prometric – the three organizations that jointly offer the CPA Examination in the United States – reached an agreement to administer the exam in international locations.

The CPA Examination next year will be offered in Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

The international exam will be the same as the one offered in the U.S., using the same computerized format and administered in English. As in the U.S., the purpose of taking the examination will be to qualify for licensure as a CPA through U.S. state boards of accountancy.

Security has been one issue for the AICPA in deciding where to offer the CPA exam even though it will continue to administer the exam through Prometric. International testing will be subject to the same state board or jurisdiction rules that determine eligibility for CPA exam candidates since there is no Dubai Board of Accountancy. Just as now, potential international candidates will have to meet the requirements of whichever jurisdiction they choose to apply. Which I guess makes all the residency-requirement states out of the running to be a part of this epic new spin on the computerized CPA exam?

Some have mentioned on earlier bitch sessions about the AICPA that their motivation is a monetary one. Expanding membership, for example, brings in revenue. Increasing the passing CPA exam score (thereby causing more failures and, one would imagine, more subsequent $$$ retakes after) is another example though that’s just a rumor last I heard. So if one were inclined to postulate as to the motive behind this move and approach it skeptically, you might come to the conclusion that this could equal a pretty significant payday for the AICPA as well as NASBA, Prometric, ChoicePoint and all the CPA review courses who make a living off of this exam. I’m not against it.

I guess we will find out what significance the U.S. CPA exam still holds for the rest of the world. Even if we end up looking pretty bad when international candidates do way better on the AICPA’s new international exam content in 2011.

How Much Harder Is REG Going to Be in 2011?

Well we’ve reached the end of our 2011 wrap up series so here are FAR, AUD and BEC if you missed them.

Let’s skip the pleasantries and get right into what you’re dying to know, how bad is Regulation going to be next year?


Things they are a-changin’…but not much – The good news is that REG is hardly changing at all. After all, you can’t test international standards of federal taxation as globalization hasn’t completely taken over so don’t expect to see much different content-wise come 2011. You will see the new simulation problems and notice there are no longer written communications. But beyond the cosmetic changes, the actual content that makes up Regulation will be quite similar to what’s already being tested. Of course, that is true across the board as a good 90 – 95% of what is being tested will still be tested next year if my gut feeling is still any good. You guys have to remember – next time you are freaking out about new exam material – that CPA exam questions are difficult to develop and the AICPA Board of Examiners isn’t about to trash all their useful questions just to start testing you on the international stuff.

Tax year overlap – One thing to keep in mind when taking REG – in the first two windows of the year you can be tested on both current and former tax year numbers. This means if you take it in January of 2011 you may see 2010 tax numbers or you may see 2009 or a mix of both. Chances are the newer numbers will not make their way to the exam (hey, the AICPA BoE is super busy getting those IFRS questions in working order!) but just something to be aware of. That doesn’t mean you have to memorize tons of different tax tables but it would be wise to stay up on tax changes in the year ahead as many tax rates are still in the air at the point many review courses are rushing to go to print.

Who said anything about ethics? – Ethics and professional responsibility are moved out of REG and put back into AUD except for those pertaining to tax practice and will still be tested about the same as 2010: 15-20% versus 15-19% in 2011. Business law will carry less weight, making up 17-21% of all questions. Federal tax procedures get a boost from 8-12% in 2010 to 11-15% in 2011. Great news for those of you who really do not like taxes, federal taxation of entities gets a downgrade from 22-28% to 18-24%. Individual tax stays about the same, going from 12-18% to 13-19%. Don’t expect much of a break, it is Regulation after all.

Other than that, REG won’t see much of a change. Business structure (partnerships, et al.) has been moved out of BEC (rightfully so) and will only be tested in REG but you already know most of that stuff if you have passed either section in 2010.

If you can, I advise holding off on Regulation until the last two windows of the year so you have a better chance of getting only one year of tax numbers (the AICPA will generally test the previous year’s tax numbers) but if you are looking for a good one to hold off on taking until next year ahead of the CBT-e changes, REG would definitely be it.

Good luck and we’ll see you on Friday!

Oh and in case you didn’t get the memo, if you have a CPA exam question for us (for example, which part can I procrastinate on until the very end of 2011?, Is farting allowed at Prometric?, How can I tell my girlfriend to leave me the hell alone and let me study? etc etc), do get in touch.

How Much Harder Is AUD Going to Be in 2011?

Continuing with our previous posts on the 2011 CPA exam for FAR and BEC, we proudly present one heck of an Audit wrap up for those of you planning to take it next year.

Audit, unfortunately, is the one section that I think will be just a tad harder than it is this year but only in one small area. We’ll get to that in a minute.


Simulations – As with FAR and REG, Audit will contain 7 smaller simulation problems next year (called “simlets” or “task-based simulations”) instead of two large simulations. Written communication is gone and placed into BEC. Since AUD was the largest exam time-wise up until now, a half hour will be moved out of Audit and put into BEC. Now 4 1/2 hours, it will be cut down to 4. Since AUD is often one in which candidates run out of time even in 2010, it is all that much more important to learn important time management strategies to assure you do not run out of time.

MCQ – Multiple choice questions will make up 60 – 70% of your score while TBS (task-based simulation) problems will make up the remainder.

Research This is where Audit gets tricky and why I feel it is the only section that will be slightly harder in 2011 than it is now. Currently, research is just a tab buried in simulations and frankly not worth your time unless you have tons left and really love looking through the Code of Professional Conduct (or need something to copy for your written communication, though we would never recommend such a thing).

In 2011, research will be its own TBS with the same weight as other simulation problems (if graded). For FAR and REG this isn’t much of an issue as you only have the ASCs to dig through in FAR and just two sets of code for REG. But for Audit, you have a grand total of TEN different sets of code to search; the Code of Professional Conduct, PCAOB ASs, SASs, SSARS… you get the point. It wouldn’t hurt to try out the new research problems on the AICPA’s website here so you can get an idea of what you are up against. It is very similar to 2010’s research except that it is on its own and actually worth a couple points.

Ethics and Independence – Content-wise, professional ethics and independence are moved out of REG and into AUD (except those that pertain to tax practice, which will continue to be tested in REG) and international audit standards will be peppered in throughout. Planning the engagement will now make up 12 – 16% of problems whereas before it accounted for up to 28% of this section. Internal control is upped to 16 – 20% (from 12 – 18%). Audit procedures will get far less testing than in 2010, going from 32 – 38% of questions to 16 – 20%.

Hope that helps and see you on Tuesday for our last 2011 wrap up, Regulation!

How Much Harder Is BEC Going To Be In 2011?

Following the awesomeness that was our “How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?” post, I figured it would be a good idea to go over each section to compare this year’s CPA exam with next year’s. Today you’re lucky to get a good BEC wrap up.


Written Communication – As stated last Friday, written communications are moving from FAR, AUD and REG to strictly BEC. This is good (and possibly easier) for most of you as writing can be a right-brained activity while the rest of the CPA exam mostly tests your left brain’s ability to process and digest information.

If I were taking the exam, I’d relish the opportunity to have three attempts at essays (since it might make up for my pathetic understanding of cash flows) but for many of you this is a weak area. That’s fine. In 2011 you’ll only have to try it once with three BEC-related WCs. You still do not have to get the answer correct but simply have to A) write like you have at least some sense of what a “business memo” contains B) not misspell any words (you get a spell-checker in 2011, no excuses) and C) stay on topic.

Easy. Currently you get two written communications in three different sections, while in 2011 you will get three written communications in one section.

No Simulations – Contrary to rumors I am still hearing for some unknown reason, BEC does not and will not contain simulations in 2011. It may not contain them for some time or the AICPA BoE could get creative and start testing them out in a few years, it’s hard to say but my understanding is that they are happy with written communication in BEC for now. Between you and me I imagine part of the motivation behind this is getting all of you off their backs about the fact that a multiple choice only exam section still takes the same amount of time to grade as more complicated sections like FAR, AUD and REG. But what do I know?

More Econ, Less IT – As for actual BEC content, IT will be more lightly tested while econ will carry more weight. Econ goes from 8-12% of questions to 16-20%. A new area, operations management, will make up 12 – 16% of questions you see. Business structure (partnerships etc) goes back to REG where it belongs and corporate governance takes its place with 16-20% of your questions coming from that area.

Narrowing Components – The new AICPA target weights have changed since last year. Before you were tested on five core components: communication, research, analysis, judgment and understanding. In 2011 (this is for all sections), you are tested on just three: knowledge and understanding, application of the body of knowledge and written communication. Knowledge and understanding make up the MCQ (80 – 90% of your score in 2011’s BEC exam) while written communication makes up the other 10 – 20%.

Will BEC be more focused than it has been since 2004? We wouldn’t put any money on that. It’s still the junk drawer of the CPA exam though it’s come quite a way since its debut with the computerized exam 6 years ago. As a person intimately acquainted with it, I feel it has a ways to go. But 2011 is an improvement and just like FAR probably easier for you guys in the long run.

How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?

Quick answer: easier actually, in my opinion. I didn’t take the exam this year and I am not taking it next year nor any year after that so perhaps I’m wrong.

A few nights ago, a CPA exam candidate was bitching about studying so I threw in my whining about digging into new CPA exam content for next year. Cry cry, we all have it rough.

Long story short, since I was stuck shuffling through new content anyway she asked an easy 2011 question.

Can you tell me if FAR will be that much harder in 2011? I don’t think I’ll get my NTS in time to schedule for 2010


How many of you are in that boat right now? I’ve seen quite a few of you making plans to knock out two exam parts this year that have just put in your applications; I’m truly sorry to be the one to break this to you but chances are you aren’t going to get in this year. It’s good to be realistic going into this, anyone could lie to you and say in 4 – 6 weeks you’ll have an exam date. Even if you do get approved to sit right now you still have to wait for payment coupons and NTSs, by the time all that is in your hand all the exam dates will be taken. Don’t trip, next year it will be easier and here is why:

Simulations: Big ass simulations are broken up into little parts so you can totally blow a few of them and have several different topics coming at you instead of just two. So if you’re not so hot on pensions, you still have 5 or 6 other chances to do well on simulation problems. In 2010, if you didn’t study the indirect method you better hope you don’t get it or else you’ve blown it. For candidates who have sat this year, you’ve likely already seen them testing out the new format.

Written Communication: You get a spell checker in written communication AND you only have to do essays once (unless you fail BEC). Come on, written communications are easy already, you don’t even have to be right you just have to rite good. In 2011, you won’t have to write 6 different essays in 3 sections but just 3 in 1. That’s a win. Throw in the spell checker and I really wonder why some of you are scrambling to take BEC this year so you don’t have to in 2011. Is writing that bad? Get used to it, you’re going to be writing a lot of unnecessary emails and it’s an important skill to have. You can’t protect the public interest if ur writin liek this. Point being, FAR won’t have written communication for those of you morally opposed to writing anything.

IFRS Just about everything you’ve learned in 2010 will still be relevant in 2011, especially in FAR. No one is throwing out GAAP (even our super excited friends at the AICPA who can’t wait for IFRS!) and some areas of FAR aren’t impacted by IFRS at all. It appears throughout FAR but you shouldn’t be too freaked out by it because you don’t have to be an IFRS expert to nail the material. Just read, learn and pass. It’s really simple. The questions will likely stay mild until the AICPA Board of Examiners figures out whether or not this was a good idea a few quarters down the road. Conservatism dictates they’ll take it slow with international content until we’re actually 100% on this convergence thing so don’t freak out, IFRS makes a lot more sense than cost accounting ever will.

Not bad right?

Here’s where the old timers chime in and tell us all about back in the day when you didn’t get a calculator and had to walk uphill both ways to get to an auditorium in the middle of nowhere for a 17-day marathon of CPA exam testing. In the dark. With no scratch paper. Commence telling us about the “Before Time” please.

FYI – This Is the Last CPA Exam Window To Blow Off Research Tabs

If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that as is, research isn’t very important and if you’re running out of time on a simulation you should completely ignore it. It might be worth a point and let’s be real about it, no one uses it unless they need words for a written communication. Shame on you guys.

Starting January 1, 2011, however, you’re going to have to start giving a shit about the research. I know, lame. They want you to know how to search the code because that’s what you have to look forward to once you get those three letters after your name. Awesome, right? Figure it out.


Research problems will make up one simlet tab in REG, AUD and FAR. FAR and REG are fairly easy in that you only have three databases to search through; in REG, you’ll have to look through the Internal Revenue Code and Tax Services code while in FAR you only have the ASCs to worry about. AUD, however, is littered with 10 different sets of code so you better get familiar with research by A) using the research problems you already have in CPA review textbooks and software and B) playing with the actual functionality of the 2011 CPA exam format if you are sitting for the first time after January 1.

For those sitting for the first time in this coming window, you’ll still have the old research format (unless the AICPA Board of Examiners is trying out their new simlets one last time as pretest questions before the CBT-e beast goes live next year) so you can always feel welcome to ignore it if you are halfway through your simulation with only a quarter of it bubbled in. You can still find that tutorial on the AICPA’s website as well and it is advised that you try it out before you show up at Prometric and waste a bunch of time figuring out how to work the controls. It’s fairly straight-forward but you might as well give it a test drive as you can’t waste 5 minutes to pee let alone try to puzzle your way through an unfamiliar exam format.

I hope to hear that all of you blow research off all the way up until November 30, 2010 (you know, to show your solidarity and commitment to the collective experience of taking this damn exam)… Yes, November 30th, the day most of you are sitting for one last part. Any update on Prometric blackouts in your area? So far I’ve heard the Bay Area is getting completely booked up for the last week of November (shock) but not much else. Any of you having trouble getting in at the last possible minute or more?

This is why we always tell you to schedule early but why listen to us?

If you’d like to know something about the exam (don’t ask where the tutorial is, I just gave it to you), get in touch.

What Are Small Accounting Firms’ CPA Exam Policies?

From the mailbag:

I work for a local accounting firm and am part of a committee to revise our CPA exam policy. [C]ould you do a story on other firms’ exam policies and what CPA exam candidates find the most motivating and helpful and like/dislike about their own firm policies.

I [am] looking for the bonus and reimbursement policy. I am interested to see how many smaller firms pay for study materials, reimburse for the exam, what type of bonuses they give, etc.


What we’ve generally heard is that it’s a mixed bag when it comes to small firms and their CPA exam policies. Bonuses are fairly common although the exact amount of the said bonus varies. Likewise, we’ve heard that firms will reimburse your costs for taking the exam, although there’s a cap on how attempts for each section (e.g. after you bomb FAR twice, you’re SOL).

Where the smaller firms are especially stingy is the cost of your review course materials. Hell even the Big 4 aren’t shelling out the cash for Becker, Roger, Wiley et. al like they were back in the mid-aughts.

Anyway, the readership knows better than us. If you work for a smaller firm, do share your firm’s policies on reimbursement, bonuses, etc. And as a more general question, what policies does your firm have that actually motivate you to crank this thing out? Does the bonus do it for you? Is the carrot stick take the form of a raise after you knock out the fourth section? Explain in excruciating detail. Our reader thanks you.

The Quickest 2011 CPA Exam Breakdown You’ll Ever Read

Because we know all of you are very busy tearing up your last exams before CBT-e hits in January of 2011, we won’t waste your time and get right to the point. 2011 is coming, the exam is changing and though we’ve been over it plenty in the last several months, let’s go over it one more time.


Simulations – This year’s simulations are next year’s simlets. Simulation problems will be shorter, task-based problems that should take you about 10 – 15 minutes to complete as opposed to the 45 minutes they take now. AUD and FAR will have 7 smaller simulation problems while REG will have 6. As usual, not all of these are graded.

Multiple choice – BEC and REG will contain 24 MCQ per testlet while FAR and AUD will still contain 30. MCQ will make up 60% of the FAR, AUD and REG exams and 85% of BEC.

Research – if you’re taking the exam this year, research is buried in simulations and doesn’t carry much weight point wise. Next year, however, research will be its own tab worth as many points as any of the other simlet problems. FAR research will be easy as it is limited to the ASCs (Accounting Standard Codification) and REG will mostly draw from the Internal Revenue Code but AUD will come with a dropdown menu that includes PCAOB ASs, the Code of Professional Conduct and SSARS just to name a few. You’ve been warned.

Written communication – WC is out of FAR, REG and AUD and slapped into BEC. You’ll have to write three written communications, of which two will be graded.

International standardsIFRS and international auditing standards will be added to current FAR and AUD content (respectively) while REG is mostly unchanged by this as you can’t really test international standards of federal taxation. Keep in mind that this additional content will most likely be gently mixed in with what is already being tested and does not make GAAP completely irrelevant so don’t use 2011 as an excuse to procrastinate all the way through the holidays.

Now stop wasting your time with inflammatory nonsense blogs and GET BACK TO STUDYING!

(btw: if you have a CPA exam question for us – anything from applying to qualifying to passing – do get in touch)

Weak Internal Controls at Prometric… Allowed or Bad Form?

Okay, this one pretty much takes the cake as far as CPA exam questions are concerned (as far as I have seen) and if this person is for real, I really really hope they have gotten in touch with the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric for clarification. Is this a legitimate question?

From our friends at the always useful and sometimes entertaining CPAnet forums:

Are you allowed to fart when you take the CPA Exam?


Told you this was a weird one.

The responses are what truly amazed me as we all know accountants are not known for having a good sense of humor if any at all (no offense, you guys know I’m right). Helpful CPAnet members weighed in with everything from “You can on the audit section if you have weak internal control” to “by all means pass GAAS”. One contributor suggested that farting during FAR is completely allowed, as no one wants to waste a precious second excusing themselves after a testlet to go rip one (or four) in the Prometric potty on an exam that’s already short on time. Love it.

We didn’t see “bodily emissions” on the list of banned items at the test center so without confirming for 100% certainty, we’re going to go ahead and say let ‘er rip. Literally. There’s absolutely no reason to hold it in for your fellow test-takers’ sake unless it’s chronic or otherwise obnoxious. But a fart? I don’t see a problem.

Then again, be careful. An accidental shart in the middle of a testlet could cost you your entire exam.

Five Things Every CPA Exam Candidate Needs

Let’s cut right to the chase and get into five things every CPA exam candidate really must have.


1. A good support system Maybe you’re lucky and your significant other has been supporting you all the way through this adventure to licensure but chances are he/she is pissed that you’d rather spend your evenings cuddling your CPA review book than them. Fine, don’t worry about them, worry about yourself and surround yourself with like-minded candidates who can support and inspire you. It can also be helpful to have someone to sit next to you on the pity potty when your scores come back less stellar than you’d hoped. Whether your support system comes from your social circle, coworkers or online forums, find one and use it.

2. A plan No kidding, you need one if you’re going to pull this off. That means scheduling your exams well in advance, plotting your course by creating a detailed study schedule and figuring out how to balance studying and everything else in your life. The better you plan ahead of time, the better you’ll do. I don’t have any figures supporting this so you’ll just have to trust me.

3. A Notice to Schedule I’m sure you already know you need an NTS if you’re going to get anywhere. What I mean is, if you’re actually going to take the exam you’ve got to start the application process as soon as possible and make sure you’ve met your state board’s requirements. Find out how long it takes well in advance of actually applying by reading up on your jurisdiction’s requirements and understand how long things take in your state. You can get a lot of this information first-hand from the CPAnet forums or by following the #CPAexam on Twitter. First-hand accounts from actual candidates will offer you more value than the official word from your state board, though their estimate may be somewhat realistic too. Schedule 45 days before your exam so you have one less thing to worry about when studying. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to apply or if you qualify, check out NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library for help.

4. Faith Oh so cheesy but it works. If you believe that you can get through this, one way or another you will. If you doubt yourself every step of the way, you’re going to suffer appropriately. So it’s generally a wise idea to have some faith in yourself otherwise you’ll be needlessly miserable through most of this entire process. Faith is whatever you define it as, only you know what it means for your particular belief system. Adjust accordingly to your personal circumstances.

5. Discipline You don’t need talent, nor a high IQ, nor a good GPA to get through the CPA exam. You can be marginally skilled in your career and only somewhat intelligent to pass but if you do not bring discipline to the table you’ll never get through it.

Optional additions: a good CPA review program, a reliable caffeine connection, a miserable bastard or two to commiserate with, and/or a good distraction to reward yourself with after you’ve put in your study hours.

Happy Last CPA Exam Testing Day of Q3 2010!

So we heard that some but not that many of you received your scores from this window, if so congrats (we hope) and do let us know how you did. For those of you stuck in Wave 2, um, sorry about that and here’s to hoping you get your 74 before the final window of 2010 gets too filled up to schedule before the dreaded CBT-e changes take effect January 1, 2011 in case you need a retake.

Remember, Q4 2010 could be the most difficult to schedule CPA exam testing window of all time so if you are in Wave 2 and want to take another stab at it before 2011 after you get a failing score towards the end of September, you better be sure to get your reapplication in for a new NTS as soon as you get your score. Be prepared to select an alternate Prometric location or date and time that you didn’t really want as it’s going to be rough getting in for some of you.


Of course, there are those of you in remote areas or CPA dead zones that may have no problems at all but for our little future CPAs in places like Texas, Illinois, California and New York (i.e. exceptionally large numbers of CPA exam candidates testing at any given time) be open to changing your dates or location if need be and don’t flip out if you can’t schedule where or when you want.

If you are testing today on this final testing day of Q3 2010 we’d love to hear what you’re taking. Jr Deputy Accountant’s unofficial poll of CPA exam candidates (really I’ve just been asking candidates I’ve talked to lately and not even taking a tally; sue me) reveals that a large number of you are actually going after BEC either today or before the end of the year to avoid written communication in 2011. That’s a bit of a shock, I assumed most of you would try to tackle FAR before IFRS hits but hey, whatever floats your boat. For those of you who pass BEC this year, you also have the advantage of getting a BEC exam with less economics and IT to worry about, not to mention no essays.

And if you don’t pass? Remember, there’s always next window, CBT-e or not and hopefully we have already calmed your fears surrounding the 2011 changes. It’s a little more to memorize with international standards thrown in the mix but you were already going to have to memorize a metric shit ton of information anyway so what are a few more standards going to hurt?

Good luck to all of you and don’t forget to get in your last minute CPA exam questions before it all changes in a few short months!

How Soon Will The New PCAOB Pronouncements Be Tested on the CPA Exam?

If you recall, the PCAOB got really busy not too long ago and doubled its audit standards virtually overnight, leading one CPA exam candidate to reach out and ask if this is at all relevant to his exam experience. If you don’t want to read the following and just want the short answer, it’s probably no.

Was wondering if you could do a brief post regarding the new pronouncements issued by the PCAOB earlier this month and when they will become eligible for testing on the exam. I am debating between taking this section and BEC in the next testing window. I’d prefer to take BEC since I don’t really feel like having to do the written portion when that goes into effect next year; however, if it comes down to memorizing a bunch of stuff that wasn’t included in my B—– package and that, I would rather get AUD out of the way. Thanks for your input!!

This is a great question so I’m happy to indulge you, let’s consult the AICPA, shall we? Lucky for all of us, they are very clear when it comes to most testing areas except for those in REG, which can cover both the current and former years’ tax numbers depending on when you take the exam. At least for this area we know for a fact that they will not be testing the new PCAOB audit standards until at least February 5, 2011. So says the AICPA:

Accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Uniform CPA Examination in the testing window beginning six months after a pronouncement’s effective date, unless early application is permitted. When early application is permitted, the new pronouncement is eligible to be tested in the window beginning six months after the issuance date. In this case, both the old and new pronouncements may be tested until the old pronouncement is superseded.

For the federal taxation area, the Internal Revenue Code and federal tax regulations in effect six months before the beginning of the current window may be tested.

For all other subjects covered in the Regulation (REG) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, materials eligible to be tested include federal laws in the window beginning six months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the window beginning one year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.

So what the hell are they saying? Basically unless they specifically say so – like with FAS 141(r) being tested beginning July 1st, 2009 – new pronouncements, rules and regs will not be tested until 6 – 12 months after date of issuance. Keep in mind CPA exam questions cost a lot in time and effort alone and we just don’t see the BoE leaping head over heel to make new questions from the PCAOB’s latest busywork.

This means you’ve got another 5 months to put off Audit without having to memorize 8 new audit standards but maybe by that time the PCAOB will have another 8 to tack on. They are very busy over there these days, you know.

CPA Exam Memory Aids, Do You Need Them?

For some, lease accounting comes easy and you don’t need a catchy tune to help you remember title-transfer, bargain purchase and 75% of its useful life. But for most of us, retaining the information critical to getting through a multiple choice question every minute or minute and a half requires either divine intervention or a really excellent collection of memory aids. Since some of you may be atheists, let’s talk memory aids. Pay attention, especially those of you taking FAR who need help getting through such a huge mess of information.


Post its are your friend! Are you having trouble remembering present value tables or the three necessary components of an audit opinion? Not to worry, just grab a pack (or 20) of sticky notes and start writing down mnemonics or calculations and sticking them everywhere you might see them; your fridge, the bathroom mirror, your car’s rearview mirror (don’t forget to take it down before you drive), your desk, and especially on top of the PlayStation. Swap out your old notes for new ones every couple of days as you add new information and be sure to read them every time you pass the note. If you’re one of those folks who has this stuff down but just needs a little encouragement, you can also use this trick to get a much-needed boost of confidence by writing your name, CPA and slapping them all over the house. Talk about motivation!

You have a few minutes and some scratch paper at the exam, so use it! While the Powers That Be may discourage using the 10 minutes before you actually get into the exam as a brain dump, there is no reason you can’t use 2 or 3 of those minutes to scratch out everything you can on the scratch paper you are given at Prometric. Mnemonics, keywords, formulas, FASBs, whatever, just start writing everything down before you actually launch the exam. You can help yourself out by bringing your review book with you to the test center (but not inside!) and reviewing it one last time in the car before you go in. But be careful, if you use the whole 10 minutes and don’t get through the screens, you’ll blow the whole exam and have to reschedule! 5 minutes tops!

Flashcards are your friend! No, I’m not talking about overpriced CPA review materials that your firm is nice enough to pay for, I am talking about a good old pack of 3x5s that you mark up yourself. I once had a student who claimed his homemade flashcards were what helped him through FAR even though his handwriting was so atrocious that even he couldn’t read it. Just the very act of writing down key topics helped him remember those areas when crunch time came and he was struggling at the exam. Of course this works best if you can actually read your own handwriting but don’t let that keep you from using this important tool to help in your retention of key areas. You can use them to quiz your study buddy or simply make a stack of hard-to-remember topics for your own review. Again, slip these in the car the night before you head to Prometric and flip through quickly before you walk in to take your exam.

Here’s the deal, the CPA exam isn’t meant to be easy and you aren’t supposed to be an expert on dozens if not hundreds of topics. You need to know a little bit about a lot so with the help of some simple tricks to train your brain to work in exam mode, you’ll be breezing through exam parts like no one’s business. Good luck!

Let’s Discuss: July/August CPA Exam Results

We received a simple request over the weekend:

With CPA exam results beginning to be released, could we get a thread going on how everyone is doing?


With short months until we ring in 2011, there’s seems to be plenty of people heeding Adrienne’s advice and are looking to knock this thing out, IFRS and simulation question changes be damned.

For those of you that have been studying and working, and you managed to pass your most recent section, you should seriously consider rewarding yourself by taking an impromptu trip to Burning Man, dropping [insert mind-bending hallucinogenic of choice] just to keep that fire burning for when you return to the cube farm.

For those of you that have once suffered yet another setback, you may feel like that you’re creeping deeper into the Abyss but don’t give up! You’re not a loser for life, just in this particular instance. That being said, you’re likely in a place where you need to vent a little and since losing it on your manager/staff/client isn’t advisable, you should consider expressing yourself below.

So whatever your score is, Elijah Watts-worthy or you struggled to meet the CPA Exam Mendoza Line (we’re setting it at 50%) discuss your results. We’re here to celebrate/cry with you.

Don’t Let 2011 CPA Exam Changes Keep You From Studying This Year

I’ve talked to a lot of panicked CPA exam candidates out there who seem to be bewildered and anxious about CBT-e changes coming up in just a few short months and even though we’ve covered it plenty here on Going Concern, I figured I’d take the time to remind you once again to relax. Please. Seriously. Like now.

A few things to keep in mind and then we’ll get to the good part.


1. Accounting is still accounting and IFRS puts debits on the left too. While international standards are spooking everyone, let’s take a deep breath and remember that accounting is still accounting whether it’s GAAP, government, IFRS or that wonky version of financial accounting that the Fed gets to make up. For the first few testing windows, if not years, it is highly likely that the AICPA will take a conservative approach when it comes to integrating the new standards into the CPA exam. They are not going to scrap years worth of effort put in to the computerized exam just to test international standards that aren’t even used in the U.S. so stop thinking 2011’s exam is THAT much different.

2. Regulation isn’t really changing at all. Does it ever? You’d be surprised how little the exam changes from year to year even as new standards are released and introduced to the bank of questions candidates receive. The fundamentals haven’t changed much over time and probably won’t. In the last three years, I can only remember two very large changes: a massive overhaul of Audit in mid 2007 that changed a lot of terminology but not much else and FAS 141(r) or, as candidates know it, business consolidations last year. Beyond that, the meat and potatoes of the exam have remained pretty constant in the 6 years since the exam went computerized.

3. Simulations will be easier. Believe it or not, the new sims should be way easier than the current ones. Instead of hoping you get a simulation that covers the two or three areas you studied (ahem, procrastinators, I’m talking directly to you), you get 6 or 7 smaller simulation problems that cover a multitude of areas. This makes your crapshoot odds of knowing what you’re doing far better than they are under the current structure.

So, now that we’ve pointed out those few things, I think you should know that there’s no reason to hold off on studying this year if your plan is to start taking exams in the beginning of 2011. GAAP will not change and will still be tested, it is just that new international standards will also be added to the mix.

You can certainly get a jump on studying by going over the current material towards the end of the year and then hit the 2011 stuff once it is available. Otherwise you’ll have to cram up to 150 hours of studying into a couple weeks right after New Year’s when you’re probably in no mood to study anyway. Trust me, a fourth quarter 2010 FAR exam isn’t going to be drastically different from a first quarter 2011 FAR exam except for the obvious international stuff sprinkled throughout. No big deal.

You CAN use 2010 books to START to prepare for the 2011 exam, just be sure to update them with 2011 material once it is available. If you rely solely on 2010 materials you will probably fail but you can definitely use them to get the foundation on topics that are still going to be tested in 2011 and beyond in much the same way they have been since 2004.

Hope some of you can now sleep at night. You’re welcome.

Should CPA Exam Candidates Crack Open College Textbooks?

It’s a valid question and we haven’t answered it yet so let’s give it a shot, shall we? Here’s the specific reader inquiry:

I graduated in 2008 with an accounting degree, but I’ve not really pursued anything in accounting since then. Without talking too much about my personal life, I’ll just say I had better opportunities.

Anyways, I’m considering getting back into public accounting, and I plan on beginning taking the CPA exam in 2011, after busy season. If I order a CPA review course, will that be enough, or should I spend some time reviewing my books/notes from college?


Yeah, we’re with you on the “better opportunities,” be that foaming lattes or harvesting certain medicinal plants (depending on your state, of course), so let’s forget about what you’ve been doing since you graduated and focus on the task at hand: passing the CPA exam.

As we’ve told you plenty of times, it’s always best to knock the exam out as soon as you graduate since you likely still have some sort of study habits left over from college and aren’t yet tied down with family and a career but things don’t always work out that way for whatever reason. That’s fine, my professional experience has actually been that those who take some time off after school do better once they do start to tackle the exam simply because they are older, wiser and usually slightly more dedicated than a 22 year old fresh out of college. No offense to the dedicated 22 year olds out there, of course.

But please, whatever you do, don’t bother with your college textbooks. Chances are your cheap, lazy and overworked accounting professors used the same textbooks year after year while the CPA exam changes twice a year. Sure debits still went on the left even in 1903 but keep in mind the CPA exam isn’t necessarily a test of how good of a CPA you will be but a comprehensive skills test that identifies your shallow knowledge of a broad range of subjects. Think of the exam as a lake 15 miles wide but only an inch deep; some of your college texts may delve into some areas in detail that aren’t really tested on the exam or they could skip entire areas completely, especially since you graduated just as the economic crisis was hitting. Things have changed since then and with international standards hitting in 2011, the chances are even lower that these areas were covered in school.

For you, the best thing to do is find a review course that will help refresh your knowledge based on what you learned in school but also give you a general outline of topics that you may have forgotten or never covered when you were in college. I know it’s called “review” but a good review course can teach you as if you have no prior accounting experience whatsoever… assuming you do remember which side to stick the debits on.

Skip the textbooks and spend your time focusing on a review product that will give you exactly what you need to pass the exam. Good luck!

Tales From the CPA Exam: Is Gum Really Banned at Prometric?

Directly from CPAnet comes word that gum could possibly be banned by Prometric, although it may only apply if the testing staff are having a bad day. I didn’t see gum on the list of prohibited items either and would assume the rules are not there for interpretation by staff based on the mood they are in.

The test facilitator at Prometric today made me take my gum out before the exam. I rebutted with the fact that the AICPA does not prohibit gum in the list of prohbited items in the AICPA Candidate Bulletin: She then explained that people have left their gum in the testing center and it has been a “mess” to clean up. She seemed irritated and ornery, and I didn’t want to raise my blood pressure any higher before going into the test room… so I conceded and spit out my gum.

Now, I tend to consider myself to be a courteous and responsible gumchewer. I dispose of my gum in its original wrapper that always ends up in a trash can. One reason I like chewing gum while taking a test is b/c it allows me to harness any natural stress and focus on the task at hand. I really could’ve used some gum today, but I didn’t let that ruin my test. However, I will never be able to quantify the effect of my lack of gum on my final score tbd. Does anybody know the official gum rule? I think this lady was just having a bad day…

I didn’t attempt to reach Prometric to confirm this candidate’s story, I believe that our little candidate here IS a responsible gumchewer. Since this was posted on August 3 (assuming the night after the exam), the candidate still has until September 3 to request a rescore though it’s been several years since the AICPA has actually granted one (don’t waste the money).

I believe you can also contest the conditions of your testing center within the same 30 day window so if you absolutely must, go that route. Complain that you were subjected to conditions outside of your control that had a detrimental effect on your performance and see how that works out.

Or hope you passed and don’t bring gum next time. Regardless of why you wanted it, you should have been allowed it since it wasn’t on the list. Hopefully this person checks in and lets us know how it turns out.

Is Copy and Paste Cheating on CPA Exam Written Communications?

Today’s reader question comes from a CPA exam candidate who I imagine would prefer to remain totally anonymous so let’s blow right past the pleasantries and get to the question, shall we?

So I just finished my exam yesterday and I am a little concerned about my communications tab. As I still had about 2.5 hours remaining going into my first simulation, I had a lot of time to write my communication. With the amount of time I had, I was able to research my topic extensively.

In my communication, I had used sentences that were straight from the research tab, without referencing it, but a most of my memo was changed and modified into my own words. However, the fact that I used some sentences and phrases word for word concerns me. I can’t actually recall how much I copied, which concerns me even more. Do you know if this is considered cheating? Has anyone copied directly from the research tab and still passed the exam?

Let me tell you, this is a new one even for me so the best way to answer is by defining what the AICPA BoE is looking for in your written communication.

The three components of a successful written communication are organization, development, and expression. This means they are looking for a structured document with clear ideas, supporting information to supplement your statements and use of standard English when conveying your ideas. Now the AICPA BoE spends quite a bit of time and effort developing questions for the CPA exam but that does not mean they are also developing components for you to use in your communication. This means that if you do have lots of time left to work on your written communication, the very last thing you want to do is copy and paste. It was my understanding that the copy-paste function was limited to research problems within simulations only as “transfer to answer” but maybe I’m wrong (stranger things have happened).

That being said, your best hope is that they don’t notice you did that. I don’t think it counts as cheating, exactly, as cheating is defined as having someone pretend to be you to take the exam or somehow smuggling in exam answers as if you’d be able to predict what questions you would get. That last one is probably rare if not impossible as not even the review courses get the EXACT questions that will appear on the exam except for retired questions released each year by the AICPA.

If you took exact phrasing from the authoritative literature, you did not complete the objective of developing nor organizing your statements; you simply took what had already been organized for you and stuck it in there. Suffice to say this is a HUGE NO NO and probably means you will not get points for this area. As I said, maybe they won’t notice and you’ll pass, it’s hard to say.

If you find yourself with lots of time left over for written communication, use it to review your other simulation answers, not to develop the Howl of CPA exam WCs. All you need is a beginning, middle and end. Your answer could be totally wrong but you will still get the points as long as you are clear and concise. You do not get bonus points for flair so don’t bother, you’d be better off going over your simulation to make sure you did everything correctly.

So the short answer is: I don’t think it’s cheating but I don’t think you are going to get the points if they pick up on what you did. Since most WCs are machine graded, the machine may be thrown off by just how perfect your answer is, raising a red flag that gets yours pulled for human review. Again, I could be wrong on this as frankly I’ve never heard of anyone doing this.

Be sure to let us know how it went once you get your score and good luck!

P.S. – don’t do that again. Seriously.

Family Planning and the CPA Exam: Part 2

Last Friday, I tried to talk a soon-to-be-Mom out of trying to squeeze in at least one exam section this year before her baby is born but she refused to listen (I like that) and is asking how to do it “against medical advice” – or my advice, anyway. Since I admire that kind of dedication (even if I don’t necessarily agree with it), let’s see if we can come up with a plan.

Here’s her response to my comments last week:

I really appreciate and understand your response. At this time in my life it makes the most sense to get this done now. I am basically sitting around while my husband spends this year on internship. I am at a point where I will not be working this year and felt I might as well take the CPA now. Once my husband gets a job we will settle down and I will get a job. I heard it is much harder to take the CPA while one is working and that is why I figured it would make sense to do it now. I know there is some risk with trying to pass all 4 parts in an 18 month window, but after reading a lot of your articles and blogs on studying tips I feel I can realistically make this happen. Hopefully that will be the case.

Man, a new baby and Dad is working on an internship? Ouch.

Well let’s start with your plan: a good study plan pencils in at least 3 hours a day, no more than 3 hours at a time, over a consistent period of time. Your study plan will have to include time for rest so be sure to take lots of breaks and don’t try to do marathon study sessions of 5 or 6 hours at a time as you’ll stop retaining information after about 3. Ideally you need to figure out how to get in 150 hours of studying for FAR between now and your due date as you will have forgotten everything by the time the baby is born and you actually get back to being able to form complete sentences once you’re getting more than 3 hours of sleep a night.

Do NOT schedule your exam too close to your due date as I haven’t heard of getting your fees refunded because you ended up having a baby on exam day. If you have any control over this (planned C-section or something along those lines), obviously it will be easier to figure out how to schedule but otherwise just try to sit as many weeks before you’re due as you can. This may mean having to study 7 – 12 hours a day (in 3 hour chunks, of course) leading up to your exam date but if you need more breaks (like an hour of studying at a time), that’s fine too. Find a rhythm that works for you, I can’t tell you what formula is going to be best for your needs. When I was pregnant I found that I tended to stay up late because that’s when my son was most active, which would have been a perfect chance to study had I been so inclined at the time. I commend you for wanting to pass FAR more than I wanted to stuff my face with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Other than the above suggestions, your job now is no different from other CPA exam candidates’: study, practice MCQ, get familiar with simulations and go into the exam with confidence knowing you prepared as best you could.

Just hope your water doesn’t break.

Good luck!

Family Planning and the CPA Exam

For this particular post, as much as I would love to throw my experience with CPA exam candidates and children (sometimes interchangeable, mind you) around, I’m going to do something a little bit different. Would any of you with experience in the following care to weigh in and help?

Here’s the question via a CPA Exam Club member:

I am having a baby in 2 months and wasn’t planning on taking any parts of the exam until 2011, when I will hopefully have more rested nights and energy to study. However, after starting to do research about the CPA exam I discovered all of the changes taking place in 2011 and decided that it seemed prudent to get FAR out of the way in 201and can basically devote all of my time to studying until I have the baby and after I have the baby in order to take the exam in November. I am a pretty disciplined person with good time management. I am pretty quick at getting things done. I also got a 2nd bachelors in accounting and just completed a masters in accounting as well. Do you think I am being unrealistic in my pursuit of passing FAR in 2010?

If you think I can achieve this goal, what do you advise CPA hopefuls to do in order to pass? I am very determined to try and pass on the first try and would do whatever it takes in order to do so.

First of all, I remember what being 7 months pregnant felt like and while I loved being pregnant with my son, at that point the very last thing I would have been able to do would have been to study. So my first piece of advice not just to our little CPA exam candidate friend above but all of you with family plans on the horizon is to WAIT until you have passed the CPA exam to start cranking out the tax deductions. The exam is hard enough on its own, add a career and kids into the mix (especially for Moms) and you have a recipe for disappointment. Or at least a nervous breakdown, which you probably don’t want either.

I often tell candidates to be prepared for any and every possible thing to go wrong and mess up their perfect plans along the way. For parents, it’s almost a guarantee that even our best-laid plans will somehow be ruined, delayed or otherwise compromised.

Discipline is a requirement to get through the exam but even your best intentions can’t fight the inevitable. I could barely function once my son was born (waking up every 2 hours to feed will do that to you), let alone actually do anything productive.

So my advice to you is to wait. Wait until your child is a little older (or at a minimum sleeping through the night) and hopefully you have a supportive partner who will happily babysit while you head off to live CPA review classes. I can’t tell you how many Moms I have seen in live classes, most of whom refuse to take advantage of the convenience of online, on-demand review simply because they are desperate for a break. You know it’s bad when you’d take 8 hours of government and non-profit accounting over being at home with your brood but let’s face it, this Mom thing is the world’s roughest gig.

It sounds to me like you have a plan and that’s awesome but be sure you are being realistic. It’s already almost September, meaning the last window of 2010 is close upon us and if you haven’t already made an appointment at Prometric, you might run yourself into the ground trying to squeeze FAR in (that’s if you can even get in to schedule). And let’s just say you pass (which I’m confident you will once you get off the ground) and then have the baby. What happens when motherhood takes its toll and you aren’t able to resume studying until your child is a year old and your 18 month window is fast approaching?

Enjoy these last two months, take care of yourself and bask in your baby once he or she arrives. The exam will be here waiting patiently in the meantime and by then maybe the AICPA BoE will have ironed out all the IFRS kinks or thrown out new content altogether. Trust me, the changes next year are not that big of a deal and CBT-e will actually be easier than 2010’s exam if I’m guessing correctly (I usually do). You will put in no more effort in 2011 to pass than you would have in 2010 so better to spend the energy when you actually have it instead of running yourself into the ground at a time when you need to be in fighting shape.

Hope that helps!

If you have a CPA exam question for us, get in touch and we’ll do our best to answer.

CBT-e Strategies: What To Do When You’re Still Sitting for the CPA Exam in 2011

Those of you who graduated in May should already be buried in your review books and planning to sit for some parts – if you haven’t already – but for some of you, the long wait to get your applications processed is anything but over OR you managed to procrastinate up until this point and haven’t even begun the process. I’ll resist the urge to smack you if you promise to submit those as soon as you’re done reading this post. Regardless of where you’re at in the process, chances are you’re tripping about 2011 changes. Not to worry, my big fat brain packed with CPA exam goodness is here to help.


Accounting Is Still Accounting – Even if they are testing IFRS in 2011, debits still go on the left (at least I’m pretty sure they still do under IFRS) and pension accounting is still really annoying. Keep in mind, IFRS isn’t the norm in the wild – at least in the U.S. at this point – and will not be for several years so it would be irresponsible of the AICPA Board of Examiners to heavily test rules that aren’t even widely accepted in practice. So relax, the changes are coming but they aren’t nearly as scary as you think.

FAR – If you are able to, get FAR done this year so you don’t have to worry about it next year. The first two windows of 2011 will say a lot about the AICPA’s strategy but knowing them, I wouldn’t expect 2010’s exam to be completely different from 2011’s. Those questions cost a lot of time and energy to make and the BoE isn’t about to trash all of them just so they can start testing rules that we don’t even use. With me on this one? Calm down.

CPA Review Materials – If you haven’t yet committed to a CPA review course, be sure to ask about 2011 materials and how changes affect the course you choose THIS year. A good review course will offer updates to the material but be on the lookout for additional product purchase charges or fees to update your materials. For BEC, REG and AUD the changes are minimal: international audit standards will appear here and there and a few things are moved around but for the most part the largest change in these areas will be the cosmetic change in BEC as written communications are moved out of the other three sections and stuck there. This does not change the content, only how you prepare and the point percentages for this section.

You can find the new 2011 CSOs via the AICPA here if you’d like a better look at what you’re in for next year but as I said, it doesn’t take long to figure out that next year’s exam really doesn’t look all that different from this year’s.

This Is Your Final CPA Exam Chat Reminder…

Save August 3rd if you don’t already have plans, yours truly will be over at CPA Exam Club (brought to you by our friends at CPAnet) for a nice little chat about the CPA exam. Just some of the things we’ll we covering:

• 2011 exam changes: what you need to know, what’s changing and what you really should stop worrying about
• Exam strategies (especially around the 2011 changes): which parts to take in which order and why
• Study plans: how to make one and how to stick to one
• Hipster fashion tips for what to wear to Prometric
• Whatever else YOU come up with


In order to participate in the hour and a half chat you have to first register at CPA Exam Club and RSVP for the event. If you aren’t already on the site, it’s a great resource for candidates and a way to share tips and tricks, exam experiences and of course commiserate with your fellow future CPAs. Registration is free.

If you have questions that you’d like me to address during the chat, leave them on my profile page or go ahead and email me and I’ll do my best to address.

I have already agreed to be A) super nice and B) more helpful than usual so if you’ve been reluctant to submit your CPA exam questions here because you’re afraid I’ll yell at you (I probably will), here’s your chance to get an answer to any and all of your exam inquiries without getting snapped at. Get to it!

A 5 Step Plan to Passing the CPA Exam for Total Idiots

Disclaimer: I was going to use “for Dummies” in that headline but John Wiley & Sons owns that term. Since they’re also Going Concern advertisers, I figured it would be best not to tick them off. So don’t take my headline personally, call it creative license.

So, you want to pass the CPA exam eh? Here is your 5 step plan to get it done. Pay attention, kids, we’re only goince.

1. Apply early As soon as you are eligible to sit for the CPA exam (or even before if you are trying to bypass some state boards’ long application processing times), get your application, fees and fingerprint cards in. Assuming your accounting program did not prepare you for the exam, check with NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library or your state board to find out everything you need to know about requirements to sit in your state. Remember the CPA exam is uniform meaning you can sit for any state’s exam in any other state as long as you meet their requirements so if you don’t qualify at home, check out other states to see if you can sit there. Point being, you don’t want to have to juggle the exam, work AND a family so get this thing out of the way before you get engaged, promoted and/or knocked up. Trust us on that one.


2. Study OK, I shouldn’t even have to list this as a step but, uh, I’ve had the fortune of working with some of you for years so I feel it necessary to point out that unless you are some freak with a photographic memory, you are going to have to do some studying to pass. The entire exam can take anywhere between 200 and 1000 hours to study for (based on your familiarity with exam topics going into it) so be prepared to put in plenty of hours with your nose buried in your review books. We’re not suggesting you should develop a sick fascination for Peter Olinto but get comfortable with your CPA review instructor(s), you’re going to get awfully cozy for the next couple months.

3. Make some temporary sacrifices Sure there are the odd cases of CPA exam candidates who managed to pass with just a few hours of studying but for most of you, you’re going to have to accept that your life must change to accommodate the CPA exam process. If this means cutting off your needy girlfriend for a few months, grow a pair and tell her to stop bugging you when you’re focused on the exam. Your friends will be there when you’re done and if they aren’t, maybe you should stick to hanging out with other accountants (oh come on, it’s not so bad). Keep in mind the CPA exam torture is temporary and once you pass, you can drink all you want. In fact, you’re probably going to want to once you start nailing those promotions and putting in 80 hour workweeks. Deal.

4. Learn to plan but learn to accept that sometimes things do not go according to plan Shit happens. If you’re studying for the CPA exam, lots of shit happens. Some things are out of your control (busy season, for one) but plenty of things are completely under your control so worry about those and try not to get too upset about the rest. Learn to create a study plan that includes sufficient study time without sacrificing your own sanity (3 hours a day is plenty). Plan your exams well in advance and schedule in some kind of final review 2 – 3 weeks before exam day to be sure you are ready.

5. If you fall off the horse, get back up and kick the horse in the shins A 74 could be the most devastating CPA exam result of all but the reality is that this exam isn’t a cakewalk and you aren’t a failure just because you’ve failed. You’re only a failure if you allow it to keep you from pursuing your goal of CPA licensure. Get up, dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes (your score report is a huge clue into where you need more work) and schedule a retake as soon as possible. It’s entirely reasonable to feel defeated but no reason to pout so knock it off and suck it up. There’s a reason only 40%+/- of candidates pass on the first attempt, this thing isn’t easy on purpose. If it were easy, any idiot with half a brain would be a CPA.

But you aren’t just any idiot, are you? Go get ’em, killer!

Did I Start Studying For the CPA Exam Too Early?

Friendly reminder: Going Concern’s own Adrienne Gonzalez will be chatting with CPA exam candidates over at CPA Exam Club on 8/3. We’ll be talking about the exam process, study strategies and all things CPA exam so if you haven’t already, head over to CPA Exam Club to RSVP for the chat if you have questions that you’re just dying to get answered.

Today’s reader question is probably one that some of you are more than familiar with… you graduate and jump right in to CPA review hoping your state board will process your application quickly and assume you’ll be ready to sit in a matter of weeks, only to discover that state boards aren’t nearly as quick as we wish ’s the sitch:

I recently graduated from Yeshiva University with a BS in Accounting. The week after I graduated, I started a Becker course (started with FAR) and planned to take the test at the end of July. Since then, my NTS has taken forever, so I prob. won’t get it for a couple weeks.

I recently started a full time position (hours are not regular, only staying 2-3 hours late a couple days a week) and am in the middle of moving apartments so my studying habits have been, for lack of better word, shite. [creative edit on our part]

The Becker AUD course starts on Tuesday. Would you say that sitting in on the course, while simultaneously studying for FAR is a bad idea? And also, assuming I’m starting from square 1 with FAR all over again, planning on taking it in the end of August, is this enough time, IYO, to be prepared to pass? (Obv with a structured study schedule of about 3 hours per day).

First of all, for those of you who haven’t already made this mistake, please keep in mind when you are plotting out your exam strategy that just because you are ready to take the exam doesn’t mean the state board is ready to process your application. A general rule is it can take anywhere from 4 – 10 weeks from the time you send in your application, fees and transcripts to the time you are actually ready to schedule your first exam. If you are 100% sure you meet the requirements to apply in your state, it’s safe to start your review a few weeks after you apply.

For our friend here who jumped the gun, however, it’s a little late so let’s see what we can do.

I’m going to say no on starting with Audit simply because I’m somewhat familiar with Becker’s repeat requirements (some of the strictest and most expensive in the exciting world of CPA review) and chances are you are going to need that class later on down the road. Our humble advice is to keep studying FAR and hope you can schedule yourself for that section in the final window of the year. The last window is always the hardest to schedule but we’re anticipating additional scheduling problems this year because of the rush to get exam parts in before the CPA exam changes in 2011 so be prepared to pick an alternate Prometric center or adjust your desired dates/times. As long as you’re open to that, you should be fine.

You can, of course, start studying Audit now and plan to take that one in the last window along with FAR but again, you’re likely to run into some serious scheduling trouble for Q4. Normally we’d tell you to go for it but this year is special and you’ll be lucky to get in one section let alone two before 2011 so worry about cramming in additional sections come January. Simultaneously studying is fine but we’re betting you won’t be able to get in to take both in the last quarter so save yourself the time and trouble by focusing on FAR for now.

Be honest, have you studied for FAR at all? Starting from scratch you can put in anywhere from 80 – 150 hours of studying so even between full-time job and a move it can be done but it sounds like what you need more than my advice on Audit is a study strategy that actually works for you. My biggest piece of advice is to take this process seriously and put off any other unnecessary drama (like an apartment move), if possible until after you have passed.

How a New Graduate Can Pass the CPA Exam (Almost) Before May 2011

This CPA exam candidate changes her name too often on Twitter to be linked to but asks us the following:

I am graduating this fall from [University of San Francisco] with an undergraduate degree in Accounting. My goal is to study and pass the test by May 2011.

I appreciate your input and advice.

First off, I love specific questions like this. If you have them you are, as always, welcome to send them in for future columns. If you have a particular goal (like passing before the 2011 changes or learning how to balance work, family and the exam), I feel better about wasting my time yelling at you because you’re much more likely to succeed. ROI, we all want one.

Anyway.


– Let’s start with the California Board of Accountancy. If you call their exam unit, they will tell you to expect a wait of 4 – 6 weeks for your application to be processed and you’ll get really excited when they cash the $100 application fee check three days after you mailed it. Don’t get excited, that’s the first thing they do (duh, it’s California). In reality, you can expect to wait about 8 weeks from the date you submit your application if you’re freshly graduated and applying with many other accounting grads in the state at the same time. Expect to wait 10 days for your payment coupon and 10 days for your Notice to Schedule once you get your ATT (Authorization to Test). So let’s say your school already posted your degree to your transcripts and you sent in your application today (7/16). You may not get approved until 9/16. Best case scenario they get you approved quickly and you get your ATT on 8/16 (don’t count on it).

Once you have that, it could be another 3 weeks until you are actually scheduling your exams. This year (since your goal is 2011, we’re assuming you’re starting as early as possible before new exam changes hit), the last window of the year will be especially hard to schedule. We’re just guessing on that since everyone seems afraid of CBT-e. It will be interesting to see the actual numbers once they are released.

Get the Hard Stuff Out of the Way – If you can get in one part this year, great. If you had to ask me which one you should take I’d usually say the one that will be hardest for you (since your rolling 18 month window doesn’t start until you actually sit for and pass that first one) but because of the 2011 changes I’m telling most candidates to take FAR. A lot of them are also trying to squeeze in BEC – I imagine they don’t like the idea of written communications and more economics but I could be wrong. Don’t take the easy route, you’ll regret it when you’re trying to pass that last really difficult section you put off and end up losing scores because 18 months came and went.

Don’t Be an Overachiever – I know the old timers will pipe in on this and say back in their day they didn’t have calculators and had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to the exam center twice a year to take all 4 parts over 19 1/2 hours but we humbly suggest sitting for no more than two parts per testing window. If you can get in for Q4 2010, you will have one exam done then take two more in Q1 2011 and the last one Q2 2011. So you may not exactly hit your May target but it’s OK to adjust your plans (don’t get mad at the Board of Accountancy but if you want a shortcut around their 8 week application time, get in touch with me) and you can still say you reached your goal.

The only other issue is getting those extra units to actually be licensed under Pathway 2 (the best idea for your own mobility) since you are an undergrad but you can get those in anything and have five years to meet the licensure requirements before you lose your exam scores.

Worry about that later. As for how to study, we’ve talked about CPA review courses, study strategies and things not to do in previous posts. Good luck!

If You Want to Screw Up the CPA Exam, Here are 5 Ways to Do It

I spend a lot of time yelling at you kids trying to tell you what to do: schedule early for the last window of the year, don’t overload yourself by trying to take on too many exam parts at once and be sure to bring your ID to Prometric (lay it out like your clothes on the night before the first day of school so you don’t forget).

Nag, nag, nag. I do it because I care and I want to see every accouig CPA dreams achieve their goal, even when that means a major risk for capital markets (you know who I am talking about, there are some people who shouldn’t be allowed within 50 feet of a balance sheet).

But let’s put all of that aside for now and talk about ways to blow it. I mean really blow it. Unlike most of my tips, if you follow these you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail.


Schedule too many exam parts in one window This is a common mistake, mostly for newbie CPA exam candidates. You get all excited and have three months to waste before starting work in the fall and decide to take as many parts as you can in a window just to get it over with. Great. Of course, you realize halfway through the first chapter of REG that you have too much on your plate and end up blowing all three. Congrats, you’ve just learned an important lesson: take it easy. We say no more than two exam parts per window and unless you will get fired if you don’t get this stupid CPA in the next 6 weeks, stick to that rule.

Put your social life (substitute “work life” for social life here if you don’t have one) ahead of the exam If you have a life, congratulations, but it’s going to have to get back burnered for a minute while you tackle this thing. You don’t have to break up with your girlfriend but if she isn’t in accounting and going through the same misery as you, you may have to cut her off for awhile so you can concentrate. You know, only if she’s that kind of girlfriend. Your friends will get over it. Try surrounding yourself with other, equally-miserable CPA exam candidates like yourself. They’ll never be available and will only pester you via text when they are procrastinating.

Study only when you feel like it This one is great for totally blowing it and if that’s your goal, all you have to do is tell yourself you’ll study after work or when you get a chance or maybe after the game is over. Without a solid study schedule, you’ll quickly realize you never feel like it.

Blow off the multiple choice and just watch CPA review videos Hey listen, in a former life I pawned CPA Review wares 60+ hours a week and let me tell you, we liked it when students got addicted to videos, it pays the bills. But we liked it better when students also did the homework because that meant they passed and failing students don’t help our numbers nor testimonials. So go ahead and stick with the “I’m going to watch FAR thirteen times until it totally sticks in my brain” method, it means more money for repeats and we liked that too.

Spend every moment obsessing over things that aren’t often tested or worth much (like research) Want a surefire way to fail? Focus on the minute details and obsess over rarely-tested information, ask questions in Live class about your own 401(k) instead of pensions and get really bent out of shape over tiny punctuation errors in your review texts. Chances are if this is your strategy, you’ll not only fail miserably but piss off a few CPA review instructors in the process. Good luck with that. Really.

Is a Month Long Enough to Study for Regulation?

We’ve given you plenty of tips on studying for REG but let’s go over it one more time, shall we?

NBAinmyDNA asks:

Is 1 month enough time to study for Regulation? I haven’t studied yet and I have the exam scheduled for beginning of August.


Regulation should take about 80 and 100 hours to study for, since we don’t live your life we can’t tell you how much other stuff you would have going on in a month so it’s up to you to figure out how to fit that time in. In a general sense, it can be done in a month but you might be better off taking slightly more time just so you aren’t overloading on information. Regulation isn’t a huge or overly-complicated section but if you’re trying to do all your studying in one month, you’re going to have to cut out just about any chance you might have at a social life between now and then.

When trying to “cram” for a CPA exam section, it is easy to over-study in an attempt to get in as much studying as possible within a short period of time. So this is a good time to point out that your brain learns in layers and gets bored easily so don’t study for more than 3 hours at a time without taking a long break. If you plan on spending your weekends studying, stick to the 3 hour rule and try to plan something moderately enjoyable for yourself in between (renting a movie is OK, going out and getting wasted is NOT).

Studying 3 hours a day for 28 days will clock you in at about 84 hours, which is on the low end of study targets for this section and kind of exhausting. If you can buy yourself a few more weeks and put off your exam, you can stick to 1 – 2 hours a day and still have a life. Be diligent about creating a study schedule and sticking to it as you’re short on time to study as is, you can’t afford to miss 2 or 3 study sessions.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Summer Studying: A CPA Exam Plan for Warm Months

Alright, little future CPAs, most of you are probably still recovering from the holiday weekend and if you’re lucky enough to have a job, reluctantly dragging yourselves back to the grind which sometimes means studying for the CPA exam. Taking the summer to study? Good for you! We’ve got some tips for keeping on track when the weather is nice and the work is light.


Don’t overdo it!
If you just graduated and aren’t starting at a firm until the fall, you might be one of those candidates who decides to take all four CPA exam sections in one testing window. That’s all well and good but let’s be realistic: your degree may not post to your transcripts until August and even then you’ve still got to wait for your state board to process your application. Find out how long the process takes in your state and plan accordingly! If you’ve been approved to sit for the exam and have a few months to study, we humbly suggest taking on no more than two sections per testing window. It’s a lot easier to study when you aren’t working but trust us, it’s a lot easier to pass exams when you’ve got the time to concentrate on each section and cramming all four into one window can sometimes put a damper on that process. So slow it down, killer!

Make time for fun
Listen, no one said you have to give up your life to pass the exam and it might be a good idea to retain your sanity through the process so by all means, get out and enjoy yourself in moderation. Once you’ve created a solid study plan by accounting for each hour of each day and planning study time in between, you can afford to pencil in “fun” here and there to keep yourself motivated. Moderation is key, you don’t want to be puzzling out variance analysis while nursing a hangover so save the big bashes for when you pass.

Remember you only have two testing windows left until the CPA exam changes in 2011
Amazing how motivated you can become when you remind yourself that if you don’t get FAR out of the way this year, you’ll be forced to identify differences between GAAP and IFRS. As you know, you learned one of these in school and the other is a big fat unknown not just to many accounting students in America but many of our CPAs as well. If you’ve been putting off the exam or half-assing it for the last several testing windows, now is the time to stop and get serious about your goal. It isn’t getting any easier and it isn’t going to pass itself.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

You’re Going to Grad School: Do You Sit for the CPA Exam or Wait?

For many of you it is graduation season and that means planning to start at a firm in the fall or going back to school. But do you really need grad school?

Here’s our question from a reader planning on eventually taking the CPA exam but unsure as to when:

I just finished my undergraduate degree in the summer and therefore did not meet any of the application deadlines for grad school this Fall. I plan on going to grad school in the Spring, but in the meantime, I wanted to register to sit for the CPA exam. Is this a dumb thing to do? Most of my friends are going to grad school and studying for the CPA exam simultaneously. I don’t want to wait to the Spring to start taking the CPA though–but perhaps it will be more beneficial to me to wait. I need all the help I can get to pass. On the other hand, I’ve heard that you don’t necessarily need everything you learn in grad school to do well on the CPA exam, and all that extra information that they feed you can actually confuse you. I would love to hear your input on this.

Let’s be honest here, there are two distinct universes: 1) the CPA exam universe and 2) the actual universe.

Scenarios presented on the CPA exam are often contrived in the way that only made-up content can be and very often fail to match real-world experiences that you will encounter in your exciting career as a CPA. That also means that college may have poorly prepared you for the CPA exam universe, whether undergrad or graduate level. The CPA exam changes twice a year but it’s pretty likely that your college professors used the same books several years in a row. Of course accounting is still accounting but you are right to assume that grad school may not adequately prepare you for the CPA exam. Why do you think review courses make so much money?

Our advice is ALWAYS the same when it comes to loading up your plate with other things while trying to tackle the CPA exam: less is more. If you can trim out part of your social life, take time off of work, and avoid any additional educational or professional responsibilities while studying, you’re in a much better place to focus on the exam. Ask any of your friends who are trying to do grad school and the CPA exam at the same time in a few months how things are working out and I guarantee you they’ll tell you it’s not the cake walk they thought it would be. If you can save yourself the headache, do it, you can always go back to school later.

Grad school may make you more hireable and teach you a few tips and tricks for your career but as far as the exam goes, if that’s your only motivation for getting more education, you’d be better off just picking up some extra units to meet the 150 hour rule and focusing your efforts with a good review program. Again, college texts are usually outdated and don’t cover the same topics as the CPA exam.

It is our humble advice that you apply for the CPA exam immediately and make it your goal to complete all exam parts before you start school in the Spring since you will have the time to focus on the task at hand. Good luck!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Failing the CPA Exam the Easy Way…or: How to Use Your Scores to Determine Your Next Move

Nationally, only 43% of CPA exam candidates who sit for any exam part pass on their first try and that number shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who has gone into an exam completely unprepared or totally intimidated. Failure may be inevitable but it doesn’t have to be the end, nor does it mean you should give up on trying to become a CPA.

So what do you do if you’ve failed?

There are two paths to take and your option from here depends a lot on how you did. Not all less-than-74s are created equal.


If you scored < 70: If you got anything less than a 70, give or take, you can put this exam off until later and move on to the next section if you are having difficulty grasping the information, especially if you scored in the bottom 60s or lower. UNLESS you are on a time crunch (like you have to get this one passed or you’ll lose credit on another section), blow this one off and move on to another. If you want to continue and try this one again you can but you should start from scratch, use your score report to gain insight into where you need more work, and review EVERYTHING as if you have not studied at all.

If you scored > 70: Pay your re-application fee and get a new NTS for this exam ASAP! A score above 70, while disappointing if less than 75, shows that you have an excellent command of the information and you’ll want to retake this one while the information is still fresh in your mind. DO NOT move on to another section. Use your score report to gain insight into your weaker areas but don’t obsess too much over what it tells you, keep in mind the report compares you to other candidates and you don’t care how other people did on the exam, you need to know where YOU need to do more work. DO NOT waste your time watching all of your CPA review lectures again, focus on doing MCQ/simulation practice questions and brush up on the areas you are weak in. Then, just before your exam, give everything a very quick overview one last time to make sure you have not forgotten the things you already know.

The point is that most CPA exam candidates experience failure at one point in the process, and some will experience failure repeatedly along the way. Be smart about your mistakes, learn from them and move on. You CAN pass, it’s just a matter of understanding how to overcome the many stumbling blocks you may encounter along the way.

Also see:
What Happens When You Get a 74?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

How Simulations are Changing for the 2011 CPA Exam

As most of you already know, the CPA exam is changing and our last two testing windows are quickly approaching. If you are concerned about the impact of IFRS on CPA exam content, get FAR done this year. If you absolutely hate written communication, knock out BEC in 2010 as it will contain them in 2011. A few topics will be moving around and for an overview of everything that’s changing starting January 1, 2011, check out the updated Content Specification Outlines for all the gruesome details.

The biggest and most obvious change will be a shift in the thinking of the CPA exam itself
Whereas we have always considered the CPA to be a world-renowned designation and GAAP the be-all-end-all of accounting rules, we now must recognize the global nature of capital markets and future CPAs will be expected to demonstrate a working knowledge of international standards in financial reporting and auditing.


For 2011 simulations, we’re expecting that the AICPA Board of Examiners will continue to use a similar format (you may see tabs that you recognize if you’ve already taken exam parts and done some simulation problems) but instead of getting 2 large sims, you’ll get 7 task-based simlets (6 in Regulation).

Contrary to popular rumor, BEC WILL NOT CONTAIN SIMULATIONS
Blame that on the folks who don’t read but BEC will only contain written communications (3, of which 2 will be graded) and will go from 90 multiple choice to 72. You’ll get an extra 30 minutes to complete this part, which will be taken away from Audit.

The Unknown
It’s difficult to say at this point what candidates should expect come January 2011. Will research still be worth 1 point and therefore easily blown off if you’re running out of time? Will simlets require extended journal entries that can take quite a bit of time to put together? The honest answer is that we don’t know.

The AICPA used to have a tutorial at cpa-exam.org but since they redid their website, these tutorials have moved to their main page and can be found here. The cpa-exam.org site is still down and, presumably, will not be brought back now that everything is stashed on the AICPA’s website.

So our guess is that the new format WILL be available in tutorial form from the AICPA before January though we haven’t seen anything to date. When the research function changed in mid 2008, they made it available for practice at least one window prior to the new function appearing on the exam and 2011’s simlets should be no different. We’ll let you know if we spot the new format available for practice so stay tuned and better knock out some exams while you can, there are only four testing months left before everything changes!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Three Myths About Simulation Questions on the CPA Exam

6 years after the advent of the computerized CPA exam, candidates are fairly used to simulations by now (just in time for them to change) but they can still be a source of fear and apprehension for candidates just starting out.

Let’s start with debunking some popular myths. Remember, all of this information is current to the 2010 CPA exam and will be changing in 2011. Since it doesn’t make sense to repeat myself, I’m talking about what to expect for the next two windows of 2010.


Only one simulation is graded. Only one written communication is graded but both simulations are definitely graded and there is no progressive difficulty like there is with MCQ. If your second simulation feels harder than the first, it doesn’t mean you’re doing better, it probably means you got screwed on a simulation that covers the one subject you blew off when you were studying. This will get easier next year as more, smaller “simlets” make your knowledge of a broad range of topics more vital to the scoring process than your intimate knowledge of two topics is now.

Research is an important tab. It actually isn’t. It isn’t worth too many points so if you have to save anything for last, it’s research. If you have time left over, by all means, knock yourself out.

Written communications are sometimes hand-graded for correctness. Actually they don’t care at all if you are right, you just have to address the issue you are presented with using keywords and write good English use proper business grammar. It’s easy, you’re supposed to be doing this all the time via e-mail and if you aren’t, maybe you should start practicing. Caleb, this means you with your IDKs.

We will dig into the details onCP 2011’s new “simlets” on Friday.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

If I Pass CPA Exam Parts in 2010, Will I Have to Pass Them Again in 2011?

Have a question on the CPA Exam? What section is easiest? How should I study for Regulation? Are pants mandatory at the testing site? Shoot us an email with your query.

It’s the big question on everyone’s minds so we better address it now before you cute little CPA exam candidates start freaking out:

Do you know what will happen if as of December 31, 2010 I have completed two sections of the exam? Will I only have to take the remaining two sections or will I be subject to the new exam parts coming in 2011?


Good question. First of all, keep in mind that a lot of the hype surrounding the 2011 changes is:

A) CPA Review course marketing (“buy new materials! Be sure you’re up to date!”)

B) AICPA marketing (“Hey! Check out how advanced we are and how easily we can integrate a whole new set of standards into our psychometric exams!”)

C) Misinformation spread by candidates who “heard from someone” that BEC will now contain 10 simulations and all of them will be graded.

Just stop. The two biggest changes for 2011 are the addition of IFRS (which will mostly affect FAR) and communications in BEC, that’s it! That means get FAR out of the way this year if you can and throw in BEC before December if you are allergic to written communication. The exam changes twice a year anyway, this is nothing new.

Now that that’s out of the way, the rolling 18 month period also stays the same so whatever you have passed in the last 18 months will still be good. Again, if you’re freaking out about all of this, get FAR done ASAP and you will have minimal IFRS and GAAP codification garbage to deal with. A few sections are moved around (for example, business structures will be moving out of BEC) but it’s mostly the same content. REG is hardly changed at all and AUD will be one half hour shorter with more on professional ethics while BEC will be one half hour longer with written communications.

Simulations are trimmed down to “simlets” and instead of getting one topic, you have a better chance of doing well as they will be smaller and consist of several different topics. In my opinion, the exam is just getting easier.

I’m willing to bet that testing will be a bit of a bumpy ride for the first two windows of the year as the AICPA BoE gets its bearings with the new information and somewhat adjusted formats. But debits are still on the left and credits on the right so it’s not worth getting bent out of shape over; the exam will still suck and you’ll still have to study but thankfully, just like thousands of CPAs before you, you’ll rarely use anything you learned for the exam in the real world.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

So Your Firm Is Going to Pay For You to Take the CPA Exam: Four Things To Remember

Have a question on the CPA Exam? What section is easiest? How should I study for Regulation? Are pants mandatory at the testing site? Shoot us an email with your query.

Not only do you have a job (congrats!) but you have a job that is willing to pay for you to take the CPA exam. Awesome! But before you load up on review materials, be sure you know what your employer expects and understand that there are situations where you can be held liable for materials if you don’t live up to your employer’s expectations.


This is Business – First of all, though you can’t claim a deduction, reimbursement of your CPA exam expenses (education, exam fees, etc) is treated as a business expense, just like any other training. If you’re desperate to get someone to help out with review course or exam fees, try selling this point to your employer.

Make the Most of Time You Have Now – If you’re in the Big 4 or anywhere down to the middle, chances are your review course fees are covered and your performance on the exam might be rewarded with a bonus. Don’t blow this! It’s easier for you to study and pass exams before you are loaded down with responsibilities and managers are much more lenient with first years looking for time off than they are if you’re in your 4th consecutive year of failing FAR. Take this seriously and realize that your firm will probably only pay once; blow it and you’re going to have to come up with retake fees on your own.

This Isn’t 2006 – Several years ago, firms would happily pay $3,000 and up for overpriced review courses with all the bells and whistles but since belts have been tightened, some are reluctant to cough up a chunk of cash without a guaranteed return on their investment. Look at this subsidy not as a gift but as additional income. Would you blow $3,000 of your own income on something and then never use it?

Ask Your Firms Lots of Questions – If your firm does not already have an agreement with a review course but is willing to pay your fees, ask lots of questions upfront and find out if you can invoice for repeats or supplemental products if you need them. One of the larger firms has a “we’ll pay for anything once” rule meaning they will only cut one check, regardless of whether it’s for $2 or $2,000. Other firms have strict rules about what you can order and when you can start (think government agencies). Regardless of how your firm works, ask about what is covered and what is expected in return.

In this economy, you can’t afford to blow a free review course and discounted or all-expense-paid trips to Prometric.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Will a CMA or CFM Get You Some Kind of CPA Exam “Credit”?

The short answer is no. The medium answer is hell no and the long answer is the rest of this post but first, let’s address the reader question, shall we?

Will any of the sections passed for the CMA and/or CFM count against the requirements for the CPA examination? In other words, can I avoid taking certain sections of the CPA examination because I have passed the CMA and CFM?


ALL candidates have to pass all four parts of the exam and for the lucky ones, there’s even a fifth part to worry about called ethics but that’s not all of you so we won’t get into that. There is no credit given for life experience, other letters after your name, certifications, and/or letters from your Mom attesting to your good moral character. You don’t get extra credit for making your written communications 15 paragraphs long, nor do you get a bonus for having the prettiest scribbles on your scratch paper. Nothing. Sorry kid but them’s the breaks.

CMAs are not automatically eligible to sit for the CPA exam simply because they are CMAs however required coursework for both credentials are similar so if you are eligible to pursue one, you may be eligible to pursue the other without additional education. This career track is best accomplished by getting an MBA or Masters in accounting, not completing your Bachelor’s and simply picking up a few extra units to fulfill the CPA’s 150 hour requirement.

If you are into it, check out some recent IMA numbers on salary potential for CMAs and CPAs. So while you won’t be able to get out of any of the usual CPA exam gruntwork, it still might be worth it to pursue anyway. And bonus, you might just be able to count your CPE units twice for both designations.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Four Time Management Tips for the CPA Exam

The subject of time management can be a sore one for CPA exam candidates, mostly the ones who have taken and failed at least one part knowing this was largely due to blowing too much time on a particular section or dedicating too much time to one component, like MCQ, and not nearly enough on simulations.

In order to combat this problem, it’s critical to set yourself a little countdown clock on your scratch paper as soon as you sit down at the computer to make sure you are leaving yourself plenty of time when you need it most.


Always allow 45 minutes for each simulation – Be sure to do each written communication first as only one is graded but you don’t know which and it’s an easy 10 points if you at least manage to scribble something down, even if you don’t have time to get through all the simulation tabs you can still pass if you have done the communications. It’s a crapshoot but stranger things have happened.

No more than a minute and a half on each multiple choice question – Add up the number of MCQ in a testlet and count up, writing the time you should be finished on your scratch paper. Let’s say you’re taking FAR and started at 10 am; you will need 45 minutes for each testlet if you are going to have 45 minutes left over for each simulation. So by 10:45, you should be on testlet 2, by 11:30, you’re on to testlet 3. That leaves you plenty of time for the sims. For REG, you’ve only got about 1.25 minutes per MCQ as you’ve got 3 hours total to get through the entire thing. If you’re doing well on time, go back and check the MCQ you marked for review (if any) otherwise trudge on to the next part and never take a break! You don’t have time!

And remember: never leave any questions blank! GUESS! – If you get it wrong, it’s wrong. If you get it right, you’re smarter and/or luckier than you thought and are that much closer to your CPA. The exam is a plus-point basis exam meaning you don’t lose points for wrong answers, you can only add points as you go.

If you’re short on time, forget the research – If you are running out of time on the simulations, try to complete as much as you can in each tab and blow off the research, as yet it isn’t worth much. This may change when CBT-e hits in 2011 but for now, it’s not worth it if you don’t have the time. You’d be better off reviewing your written communication if you only have two or three minutes to spare.

You learned all about time management when studying for the exam so take that knowledge into the testing center and knock ’em dead!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

How to Avoid ID Problems at the CPA Exam

Although the instructions are pretty clear, this question comes up fairly often so let’s make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to ID that works at Prometric when taking the CPA exam.

Prometric is very clear about what you should have before you get to the testing center (at least half an hour early, of course, and smokers should make that an hour so they can get in as many as they can before they start – you don’t want to waste those breaks).


First and foremost, check in with them 24 hours before your exam to confirm your appointment. The night before your exam date, set out your NTS and make sure you have two forms of exactly matching ID ready so you aren’t scrambling to find it in the morning.

At least one of your forms of ID must have a recent photograph and both must be valid (i.e. not expired) and signed. Try a credit card and a driver’s license, forget about a Social Security card or a student ID as Prometric will not accept these. A passport is OK but must be accompanied by a secondary ID (like a credit or debit card).

The name on your primary photo ID must match your Notice to Schedule exactly. If you show up and both names are different (foreign candidates who use both an English name and their native name sometimes run into this problem), Prometric will not allow you to test and you will forfeit exam fees. If there are any issues with your ID, contact them in advance to see if an exception can be made or make sure you will be okay come test day. Make sure to do this within your NTS timeframe and no less than 15 days before your exam date so you can at least reschedule without losing your exam fee if need be.

Got it?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

The CPA Exam Application Timeline

Since graduation season is once again upon us, we thought we’d revisit a time tested favorite question from CPA exam candidates: When should I apply for the CPA exam?

First, find out when your school posts degrees to transcripts and whether or not the state you are applying to requires a degree before you can apply. If you are unsure of your state’s requirements or which state you might qualify in, NASBA has a really handy search tool you can use ($10 for 24 hours of access). Or just check out the website to read up on your state’s requirements. If you need a degree before you can apply, you’re going to need to know how long you’ll be waiting for your school to post it. Don’t apply any earlier as your application will be rejected and you’re out the initial exam fee.


If you’re planning on jumping right in to studying, you can generally apply to sit for the exam right after your degree posts. Remember, at this point you want to have tied up all the loose ends in your life that will keep you from studying; crazy ex-girlfriend, slave-driving boss, roommate drama… you get it. Sweep all that aside and submit your application (and fees!) as soon as you can. Don’t forget, just because they cashed your check does not mean you have been approved to sit so don’t get excited if you see it clear a week after you sent it in. That’s usually the first thing they do since you’re out the fee whether or not you qualify and hey, who doesn’t want money?

Now, should you start studying right away? It depends on how long your state takes to process applications. If you are looking at a 6 – 8 week wait, you may want to hold off on cracking the books, especially if you plan to start with something small like BEC. If you start studying too soon, you run the risk of being denied to sit for the exam and losing precious CPA review time (many programs have expiration dates – always ask!) catching up on units you need to qualify. Don’t invest in a review course until you’re absolutely sure you will be able to start sitting for exams right away. If you come from a quick processing state (usually a search through the CPAnet forums can reveal more detailed information from other candidates in your shoes) and are absolutely certain you meet your state’s requirements, you can start studying as soon as you send in the application.

Congrats to the spring grads and feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions about the CPA exam!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.