CPA Exam

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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.

Three Signs It Might Be Time to Quit Studying for the CPA Exam

Before you get upset at that headline, I don’t condone quitting the CPA exam process, especially if you’ve actually made some progress and passed some exams. But for some, quitting the exam is the only logical choice and it’s fair to present that argument for those of you truly struggling to get through.

Signs that you should keep going are obvious. If you are feeling unmotivated, bored, intimidated, anxious, panicky, upset, overwhelmed and/or a little depressed, you are just like every other CPA exam candidate out there. There isn’t a single person who gets through the entire experience without feeling some of those feelings, sometimes all at once. But in some very rare cases, struggling with the exam is a sign that perhaps you should be doing something else, and that’s what we’re talking about. So what are some other signs?


Severe depression Obviously if the entire exam process has you feeling dejected, depressed and hopeless, you may not be cut out for the stresses of public accounting and all that comes with the CPA designation. A little sadness or frustration is totally normal but if you find yourself staring at your CPA review flashcards wondering if the corners are sharp enough to slit your wrists, talk to a professional and consider a different line of work. Please. The exam is hard but it isn’t worth killing yourself over. No pun intended.

Complete lack of motivation Again, a little bit of procrastination or a motivation drought is normal if not totally expected. But if you absolutely cannot muster up the courage to crack open the first chapter of FAR for days on end, you’ll never make it. Either motivate yourself (we’ve given you plenty of tips on how to do this in previous CPA exam columns) or give up. I’m serious. If you don’t, you’re not getting through it.

Extreme agitation It’s OK if you’re high-strung, so is Caleb (that’s why he’s the perfect CPA). It’s OK if you are snapping at random passers-by with the nerve to bring their raunchy shrimp ramen lunch smell past your cube. But if you are yelling at everyone from the cat to the mailman for most of the day, the stress of the exam process has taken its toll on you. Remember, the exam is a sort of real world test run and it isn’t going to get any easier once you start your illustrious career in public accounting. Bail. Now. And relax, it’s really not that serious…

Let’s just say I know from professional experience most of these instances are few and far between. Very rarely in my career helping future CPAs pass the exam did I encounter someone who was doomed to 74s without any hope at all. Sure, there were people who failed. A lot. For some of them, they needed to fail in order to change their study habits, take the exam seriously, or really decide this was what they wanted to do.

Very often, I would encounter professionals in their late 40s or 50s who felt disappointed in themselves for abandoning the CPA exam 10, 15, or 20 years ago. So if you do happen to be really depressed, lazy, and/or pissed off and decide to quit, know that you’ll probably end up coming back at some point in your life wishing you’d just gotten it over with when you first had the chance.

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 Things to Consider if You Move Out of State Midway Through Your CPA Exams

It’s actually not too uncommon these days; you get your accounting degree, start out with the CPA exam, and realize a few months into it that your job prospects aren’t that rosy. So what do you do? Can you move midway through your exams? And if so, how do you keep the passing scores you’ve already gotten?


It’s much easier to transfer a license than it is CPA exam scores – Lucky for you, the exam is uniform meaning every candidate in every state gets questions from the same testing bank. So as long as you meet the requirements in your new state, you can continue taking exams in the state you originally applied in without actually flying back to take them. Prometric lets you schedule for any other state’s exam as long as you are approved so you can start in California, finish in New York and hey, maybe even squeeze in a vacation exam from Puerto Rico! OK, maybe that’s pushing it.

Know both your old and new state’s requirements – If you are in one of the two states (California or Virginia) that allow you to sit for the exam with 120 semester units, you will definitely have to wait until you have passed all exam parts and gotten licensed in your home state before transferring your license to your new one. NASBA has a pretty useful tool to look through exam requirements if you’re not sure but keep in mind it’ll run you $10 for a full day of scoping through the information.

Be conscious of the fact that exam fees vary from state to state – If you do plan on transferring your exam scores by applying in your new state, make sure you get the more expensive parts (FAR and AUD) out of the way first. It shouldn’t be too large of a difference but $50 can be huge when you’re pinching pennies and out of work.

If you do decide to transfer scores, all you have to do is apply in the new state as if you are a new candidate and request that the board recognize your passing scores. Again, why bother?

So our humble advice is to: A) put off studying until you are set up in your new place if you can and B) keep taking the exams just as if you were at home and worry about transferring your license later.

Keep in mind that you will have to meet your home state’s requirements first and then those of whichever state you have moved to so check with each state board if you are unsure whether you will meet both.

When in doubt, contact your state board for clarification and advice. If they’re not much help, try your state society of CPAs. And if that doesn’t work, get in touch with us and we’ll see what we can do to push you in the right direction.

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 Study Motivators for the CPA Exam During a Blackout Window

Blackout months are notorious for inviting procrastination, especially June. The weather is nice, the work is light, and if you’ve been studying for most of the year, the mid-point can be exactly where you lose what little motivation you had to study. Because you have an entire month “off”, it can be easy to fall into a rut of not studying.

So as we go into this month, let’s remember some ways to stay motivated, even when it’s tempting to run off and play in the sun:


Get a study buddy – Sometimes all you need is someone chewing you out encouraging you to keep going. If you’re doing this alone and know you’re slacking, maybe you need to recruit a friend to keep you in check.

Bribe yourself – Yes, bribing yourself is a pretty low tactic but whatever works, right? Promise yourself a splurge when you pass whatever section you are studying for or, if you’ve got a little extra cash to throw around, bribe yourself often with treats like $4 lattes and DVDs or whatever it is you’re into that won’t break the bank. This goes in reverse – if you aren’t studying and know it, punish yourself by taking away the movie tickets or nice dinners out.

Schedule your exam date close to the opening of the next window – This way you know you can’t blow off the entire month. Obviously this isn’t a good idea if you’re taking FAR and don’t plan on studying until June 1st but if you’re planning on taking a smaller section like BEC and have the time to put it, schedule your exam in the first or second week of the window so you know you can’t procrastinate. I guarantee you’ll only lose one exam fee because of not studying before you learn that particular lesson.

Good luck and if you’ve had luck breaking the procrastination habit, do share what worked for you!

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 Choose a CPA Exam Review Course

As many of you who have been reading Going Concern for some time already know, I used to be in CPA Review. I ditched that gig months ago to pursue my dream of writing full-time (so far so good) and can finally write a completely unbiased post on choosing a review course. I won’t name names here just for the sake of equal opportunity but let’s talk about how to pick a review coursntly, whether or not you actually need one.


First and foremost, if you are broke, you need to know that review courses are expensive. Like new car expensive. Ok, maybe like used Ford Focus expensive, either way, if you’re fresh out of school or still looking for work, you probably don’t have $2,000 lying around. It’s fine, you can get by on cheap textbooks but you’re going to have to bust your ass a tad harder than the guy who got his flashcards and full review paid for by the firm.

Keep in mind: the CPA exam is an investment of not just money but time. If you put $2,000 into it but still don’t study, you’re going to fail miserably. Unless you pay some brainiac $2,000 to take the exam for you but that would be illegal.

If you’ve got the cash for a full review, the first thing you’ll want to do is your homework. No, not practice MCQ, we’re talking research. A simple Google search will give you plenty of options (hell, there are less than a dozen CPA review providers so it’s not like you have to slog through pages upon pages of results). Remember: every candidate is different and what works for the stock photo chick on the company’s website may or may not work for you. Before you start looking for a course, take a personal inventory of your own needs and think up some questions to ask. Try these if you’re really stumped:

Is there an instructor or teacher available if I have questions about homework or content? And if so, how long should I expect to wait for a response?

How long from purchase do I have to access the material? Will it expire? Can I renew after that period and if so, are there any limitations on when?

Are there any discounts available?

Am I limited to one format or can I have the flexibility of combining online/live courses?

What is the policy for students who fail a part? Is there a repeat or discounted option?

Will I have access to updates as they are released and is there a cost and/or time limitation for this?

Those are a start. Most of this information is available on CPA review courses’ websites but sometimes it helps to get a real person on the phone and ask. You can quickly tell what sort of operation you are dealing with by the way the company’s phone staff handle your questions. The exam is a commitment and so is your choice of review course so be sure you are comfortable before you commit.

If you have already committed to a course that isn’t working for you, call around and ask if there are discounts available for students who have taken other courses. Most CPA review companies offer this.

Keep in mind that review courses – like all businesses – are still interested in making money above all else. Some will push full programs with all the bells and whistles while others rely on materials that look like they were made at Kinkos; at the end of the day, it’s not how shiny your review book is but how effective the instruction style is in teaching you the concepts that will help you pass.

And you will, as long as you put in the effort.

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 Signs That You Need a CPA Exam Study Buddy

Remember in elementary school when you used to have to partner up – or better yet form a chain – for safety while crossing streets on field trips or when returning back to the classroom? The CPA exam can sometimes be like that treacherous stretch and it’s totally OK to reach out and grab someone’s hand. Here are some telltale signs you need to phone a friend:


You’ve failed two of your last exam attempts and have studied at least 50% less than you should have because you just couldn’t get motivated to do it
If this is you, find someone who is really excited about the exam to study with. Believe it or not, there are some truly enthusiastic, motivated, excited candidates who are really into this thing. If you cannot locate one of those (using CPAnet or similar forums), settle for someone who will at least nag you enough to get you to study.

You spend too much time at work and not enough studying
Again, like our first case, you make excuses for not studying. Yours is just work (whatever it takes to get you out of it, right?) and though you know people at work that are taking the exam, you are too worn down at the end of the day to crack open a book. Find someone at your firm to study with and do MCQ at lunch. If you get one. Please, it’s not that bad.

You’re over 40, haven’t been in college in years, and none of your friends are accountants but you’ve decided to put in the effort to finally get the CPA you started pursuing years ago
It may feel like you’re on your own with this one but you have a larger incentive for seeking support than other candidates who are fresh out of school; none of your friends are taking this thing. Again, CPAnet is a good place to start if you are looking to find someone to study with or a group.

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.

What the AICPA’s New Website Means for CPA Exam Candidates

The short answer: not really anything but I spent 3 years slogging through that last design and can I tell the AICPA that it was absolutely awful? I’m not bitter or anything but I can only imagine what candidates felt like trying to find even the simplest bit of information.


They tell you before you take on the CPA exam to check out cpa-exam.org and run the tutorial before you actually sit down for a section so you can familiarize yourself with the computerized format. CPA Review providers cannot duplicate exam content or the environment exactly, as it is proprietary information, so simulations are a must-do and navigating is a skill you’ll pick up along the way if you don’t already have it. So as long as you’ve already done that, your next stop is the redesigned AICPA website.

Watch a PPT on becoming a CPA, learn about joining the AICPA as a candidate member, or check out their many resources on career options in the accounting industry. You’ve seen Start Here Go Places (an AICPA project that markets the exciting career of accounting to high schoolers and beyond), I don’t need to point you to that.

The AICPA is hot on marketing and excellent at it, even if they do make a poor choice every now and then (Benjamin Bankes, I’m talking about you, dude), so it’s no surprise that they are trying to seduce undecided college students and disgruntled finance professionals looking to switch professions. Things are slightly better in accounting so it isn’t all slick marketing, but I digress.

You can check licensure requirements for your state and even find out how much “average” accountants make. I encourage all of you considering accounting as a career to doublecheck those numbers with Going Concern salary threads.

Anyway.

Overall it’s an improvement and hopefully aggregating this information on the AICPA’s website will make it easier for candidates to find what they need. What do you think?

(Remember also that the ultimate authority on your CPA exam experience is your state board, NASBA, or CPA exam administrating company (like Washington), not the AICPA. Always check with your state board et al. before filing applications or forms if you are unsure on any CPA exam information you read.)

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

Here’s What You Need to Know About Authoritative Literature and Research on the CPA Exam

Though it doesn’t get much coverage in CPA exam study guides (for a reason, which we’ll get to later), your ability as a CPA exam candidate to tackle research on each exam section might make or break your overall performance.


When planning out the amount of time you will spend on each exam section (i.e. 45 minutes on each simulation as a general rule), you can rest easy if you save the research portion of each sim for the very end. It is believed to be worth only one point so if you can’t get to it, don’t worry about it too much. Focus on the written communications as those are worth 10 points – or one of them is, and you don’t know which one so take care of both and save the research for last only if you have the time.

As for practicing, newer CPA Review practice software already has this function built in.

If you would like to practice manually, you’ll have to take your active NTS to register for 6 months’ worth of access to the professional literature from cpa-exam.org. With this, you can search through AICPA Professional Standards and FASB Pronouncements to familiarize yourself with accounting regs, though you are still encouraged to take the tutorial CPA exam on the cpa-exam.org website as the research on its own is not exactly representative of the research function in the exam environment.

If that is not enough practice, book a 30 minute test run with Prometric to check out your testing center and the computer you’ll be using.

Anyway, don’t obsess too much over the literature. Like the tax code, a lot of your “answers” will be provided in the questions, it’s just up to you to look into what the questions are asking.

Think about it: CPAs have access to volumes of regs and standards in their careers, it is not imperative that they memorize each one. The CPA exam is meant to test your understanding of accounting fundamentals, not how well you can memorize 200 FASBs and spit them back out.

Just When You Thought You Knew the CPA Exam…Three Ways It Will Change in 2011

Now that we are nearing the end of the second CPA exam testing window in 2010, it’s about time to remind you (once again) that the CPA exam is scheduled for a pretty significant facelift in just two testing windows. Though we have covered it before, we thought it would be helpful to go over some of the planned changes.

Let’s meet your new CPA exam for 2011, shall we?


Changes to Content Specification Outlines – First and most significantly, the CSOs will undergo a huge overhaul. IFRS will be added – initially – to FAR and eventually international accounting standards and demonstration of an understanding of how they work will play a larger role in examination questions. Keep in mind that IFRS testing will be gradual and likely focus on the differences between IFRS and US GAAP initially until the AICPA BoE feels comfortable with candidate performance and the SEC’s procrastination on IFRS adoption. IFRS will also be tested in AUD and BEC (XBRL for one, which they have already been pre-testing for several windows) but expect a skiddish stance from the BoE in the beginning.

Audit loses 30 minutes to BEC – The reasoning behind this to allow candidates more time in BEC for written communications, which will be removed from FAR, AUD, and REG (where they currently are). Don’t bother trying to avoid written communication altogether by taking BEC this year and the other three next year, it’s an easy 10 points as long as you can write a standard business letter. You do not even have to be correct when you answer the question, you need only stay on topic and use good grammar.

International CPA exam testing is coming – Thirdly, the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric are working together to make international CPA exam testing a reality. Chances are if and when Prometric begins administering the CPA exam offshore, testing will be limited to a handful of countries (likely Japan, Dubai, and possibly India, where large numbers of Chartered Accountants tend to also seek the US CPA designation). We’ll see how this unfolds come 2011, as the AICPA would like to begin international testing with new CBT-e changes.

All in all, accounting is still accounting and the CPA exam will be exactly as it always has been: a test of your basic understanding of many broad topics that you may or may not ever encounter in your professional life. CBT-e will most likely be rolled out in pieces and subject to tweaks along the way.

All About the 4.5th Section of the CPA Exam: Ethics!

We covered Ethics before but since this is the last in our daily columns this week on the CPA exam, it’s a good way to wrap things up. Once again, if you are looking for CPA exam tips, tricks, hints or just have an idea for a topic you’d like to see addressed here, get in touch with us.

Last time we talked about the ethics exam, we suggested the following:


Speak to your state society of CPAs to find out if they offer some kind of ethics exam support. Helplines exist but you’ll never find them if you don’t look.

Because the ethics exam is open book, not timed, and allows potty breaks (unlike, say, FAR), take your time and don’t rush through it. You have more than 1.5 minutes to read through and answer the questions, take advantage of this fact.

If all else fails, try to find a lifeline. The CalCPA Education Foundation gives you a “lifeline” if you have unsuccessfully attempted their ethics exam three times.

A few more things to keep in mind:

If possible, choose the Online version of exam materials in searchable PDF form so you can search for keywords that will answer the questions. It beats flipping through a book and is often cheaper than the book version of the exam anyway.

Don’t take the ethics exam too early or you may have to take it again. If you decide to take the ethics exam before you have completed all four parts of the CPA exam, be sure you know how long your score is good for (probably a year max). You don’t want to have to take it twice so wait until you are at least 3/4 of the way through the exam or completely finished to tackle ethics.

Though review courses don’t have coursework on ethics, there are tons of resources available that consist of tips from others who have taken and passed the ethics exam. Start with the CPAnet forums, plenty of candidates and would-be CPAs have shared their experiences and many are happy to help if you have specific questions about how they did it.

Hope that helps and thanks for joining us for this week of CPA exam goodness!

All About Financial Accounting for the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: You can find our Audit, Regulation, and BEC outlines posted earlier in the week and expect an ethics review tomorrow to wrap things up.

Good news: Chances are you took most of this stuff in school so while it’s a lot of information to get through, most of it should be somewhat familiar.

Bad news: As the largest section, FAR covers a lot of ground and a lot of it isn’t very pleasant (like government, pensions, bonds and leases – all fairly heavily tested and all awful to get through when you’re studying) so prepare yourself accordingly and don’t take too much of it in at once.


FAR is a 4 hour exam and you will run out of time. Do not spend more than 1.5 minutes on each MCQ (FAR has 3 testlets of 30 questions each) and be sure to give yourself at least 45 minutes per simulation. If you run out of time towards the end, be sure to at minimum complete the written communication for both sims as only one is tested and you don’t know which one it is. It’s an easy 10 points and you don’t want to blow it.

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (6% – 16%)
Research (11% – 21%)
Analysis (13% – 23%)
Judgment (10% – 20%)
Understanding (35% – 45%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Financial Accounting and Reporting covers the following areas:

Concepts and standards for financial statements (17% – 23%) Financial accounting, consolidated and combined financial statements, balance sheet, income statement, notes to financial statements, financial statement analysis.

Typical items in financial statements (27% – 33%) Typical items: recognition, measurement, valuation and presentation in financial statements according to GAAP. Cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, inventory, PP&E, investments, intangibles and other assets, payables, deferred revenue, notes and bonds payable, equity and revenues.

Specific types of transactions and events (27% – 33%) Accounting changes and corrections of errors, business combination, contingent liabilities, discontinued operations, earnings per share, foreign currency transactions and translation, taxes, interest cost, leases, R&D costs, segment reporting, subsequent events.

Accounting and reporting for governmental entities (8% – 12%) Government accounting concepts (fund accounting, budgeting, and notes to financial statements), net assets, capital assets, transfers, financing sources, expenditures, encumbrances, etc etc. And of course governmental non-profit accounting is in this.

Accounting and reporting for nongovernmental (8% – 12%) Accounting and reporting for non-profit organizations, typical items for non-profits.

Studying for FAR should take between 100 – 150 hours regardless of whether or not you took multiple financial accounting classes in school. The key to FAR is taking it in small chunks to prevent being overwhelmed by information so don’t spend more than 3 hours per day studying and break each section into smaller subsections to retain your sanity through the process.

Good luck and see you tomorrow with ethics!

All About the BEC Section of the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: This is the third in our five-part series this week on the CPA exam. We’ve already done Audit and Regulation and will finish with FAR tomorrow and an ethics discussion Friday. As always, if you have CPA exam questions for us, get in touch and we’d love to help.

Let’s get into BEC, shall we?

Good news: It’s the smallest section, has no simulations, and requires the least amount of study time. All of these seem like bonuses and many candidates take BEC first because of it but remember that your 18 month window starts from when you sit for and pass the first part so you might want to start with the most difficult, not the easiest.

Bad news: Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it is easy. BEC is the junk drawer of the CPA exam meaning a lot of information that wouldn’t fit elsewhere is stuffed into this section. The other downside to BEC is that many candidates do not take it seriously enough because it is so small; that means it is imperative to give the section the same focus and dedication that you would any other section.


BEC is a 2.5 hour exam (likely 3 hours after the CBT-e changes planned for 2011) and consists of 3 MCQ testlets of 30 questions each. You should allow yourself 1.5 minutes per question (45 minutes per testlet).

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (0% – 13%)
Research (0% – 13%)
Analysis (8% – 18%)
Judgment (6% – 16%)
Understanding (55% – 65%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Business Environment & Concepts covers the following areas:

Business structures (17% – 23%) This means partnerships and expect to see quite a bit on this.

Economic concepts (8% – 12%) Business cycles, economics (inflation, deflation, interest rate changes), market influences, supply chain, foreign currencies and hedging.

Financial management (17% – 23%) Financial modeling, short and long term financing, loans, cash management.

Information technology (22% – 28%) Role of business IT systems, responsibilities within the IT function, IT fundamentals (hardware/software, networks, systems operation, etc).

Planning and measurement (22% – 28%) Planning and budgeting, organizational performance measures, cost measurement (don’t forget: cost accounting is AWFUL but pretty heavily tested so get on it!)

All About the Regulation Section of the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: this is the second in our 5-part series this week on the CPA exam. You can find Monday’s Auditing and Attestation breakdown here and stay tuned for the other two parts as well as an ethics wrap-up later in the week. As always, if you have a CPA exam question for us, get in touch.

So, let’s talk Regulation!

Good news: Like Audit, REG tends to have a slightly higher national pass rate than other sections (specifically BEC and FAR) and though business structures can drag, the tax stuff is fairly cut-and-dry. You won’t have to remember tax numbers as most of this information is provided so don’t obsess too much over specific numbers for the year, just stick to the concepts!

Bad news: Business structures can drag and the tax stuff is cut-and-dry. This means Regulation can be one of the most difficult sections to motivate yourself to study unless you are really, really into taxes.


Regulation is a 3 hour exam and is the only section to consist of three testlets of 24 multiple choice questions each (as opposed to other sections which contain 30 MCQ in each testlet). Because it is a shorter exam compared to other sections, that means that you have about 1.25 minutes to complete each question (30 minutes per testlet, leaving you 45 minutes for each simulation).

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (0% – 14%)
Research (9% – 19%)
Analysis (13% – 23%)
Judgment (8% – 18%)
Understanding (45% – 55%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Regulation covers the following areas:

Ethics and professional responsibility (15% – 20%) Professional conduct, independence, confidentiality, due care… you know, all the good stuff that makes you a CPA. Keep in mind this area will no longer be covered in REG after 2011.

Business law
(20% – 25%) Formations and terminations of businesses, authority of agents and principals, debtor-creditor relationships, government regulation (federal securities acts – heavy tested!!), negotiable instruments, insurance.

Federal tax procedures and accounting issues (8% – 12%) Just as it sounds, this area covers federal tax procedures as well as cash, accrual, percentage of completion, contract and installment sales.

Federal taxation of property transactions
(8% – 12%) Assets, depreciation and amortization, exchanges, and capital gains.

Federal taxation – individuals
(12% – 18%) Gross income, pass-through entities, exemptions, AMT, retirement, estate and gift taxes.

Federal taxation – entities (22% – 22%) S-Corps, partnerships, LLCs, LLPs, and trusts.

Studying for REG should take between 80 and 100 hours depending on how familiar you are with the concepts before you begin studying and your professional experience with the material. Obviously if you work in tax you’ve got a leg up and can spend a little less time reviewing taxation.

Good luck and join us tomorrow as we review BEC!

All About the Audit Section of the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: Since I’m guest editing this week, we decided to do a 5-part feature on – what else – the CPA exam. I’ll be covering tips and tricks for each section and ethics on Friday so check in with us this week for the full breakdown. – JDA

So you’re taking Audit? Great.

Good news: traditionally, Audit tends to have a higher national pass rate than the other sections (only by a half a percentage point or so on average so don’t go getting excited that you can pass this one if you don’t study at all) and doesn’t require nearly as much effort as, say, FAR.

Bad news: chances are you didn’t take Auditing in college unless you’re planning on being an auditor so you have no idea what any of this stuff is about but like the rest of the exam, you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to know enough to get a 75. Yay!


Audit is the most expensive section as it is the longest at 4.5 hours and Prometric charges by the minute. Despite its length, you will still probably run out of time so time management is especially important with AUD. Do not spend more than 2 minutes on each MCQ, you’ve got 90 of them to get through and will need at least 45 minutes for each simulation.

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (10% – 20%)
Research (6% – 16%)
Analysis (12% – 22%)
Judgment (12% – 22%)
Understanding (35% – 45%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Audit covers the following areas:

Planning the engagement (22% – 28%) Determine scope and nature of engagement, Generally Accepted Audit Standards, assessing engagement risk, communications, formulating audit objectives, etc.

Internal controls (12% – 18%) Understanding of business processes and information flows, limitations of internal control, tests of controls and control risk.

Obtain and document information (32% – 38%) Performing planned procedures, audit sampling, substantive tests, contingencies, identifying control deficiencies, attestation engagements.

Review engagement and evaluate information (8% – 12%) Performing analytical procedures, evaluation of audit evidences, work reviews and reasonable assurance.

Prepare communications (12% – 18%) Reports, reports, reports! This section covers all kinds of reports, footnotes, disclosures, as well as required communications based on discovery of illegal acts, errors and fraud, and communications with audit committees.

Studying for AUD should take between 60 and 90 hours depending on what review course you are using and whether or not you have experience in this area. Obviously if you took Auditing in school you will need less time to review some of these areas.

Good luck and see you tomorrow with Regulation!

Three Ways Soon-to-be Accounting Grads Can Get Ready for the CPA Exam

With May graduation season nearly upon us, handfuls of future CPAs around the country are preparing to tackle one of the most important events of their careers: the CPA exam. Unlucky for them, few colleges adequately prepare accounting grads to enter the real world and though you may have the knowledge necessary to practice the art of accounting, chances are you’re completely lost on how to get started on the CPA exam.

Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. Just a reminder that if you have a CPA exam question for us, do feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help you along.

Anyway, soon-to-be grads, here’s what you need to be thinking about:


Confirm when your degree is posted – As with most things CPA exam, the rules and procedures vary depending on the state you will be sitting in. Few states allow you to sit with less than 150 semester units and even fewer allow you to sit without your degree posted to your transcripts so the first thing to do now is find out how long your school takes to post your degree. Some schools will let you pay an extra fee to expedite this process so if you are in a rush, inquire at your school if you can move this along.

Apply to sit for the exam with your state’s board of accountancy – Once you have your degree, you’ll need your school to send your transcripts to the board of accountancy to which you are applying (NASBA if you’re in a NASBA state, or CPAES – authorized provider of CPA exam qualification services for some states). You cannot send them in yourself (even sealed, official ones) and should submit any application fees and forms in at the same time as requesting your transcripts be sent.

The Board will match your application (and likely cash your check before doing anything else) with your transcripts and like magic, you’re authorized to sit for the exam. If you meet your state’s requirements, that is. It’s usually a good idea to look these up before leaving school just in case you need to sneak in Federal Taxation or Advanced Accounting to please your State Board.

Start studying for the exam when you apply to sit – Though it’s probably wise to focus on finals for now if you are graduating this spring, you can get a jump on studying by starting your CPA exam review around the same time you submit your application. Always check with your state to see how long this might take (generally 4 – 6 weeks) as you don’t want to start studying for BEC 4 months before you will actually be able to sit. Keep in mind that just because you are authorized to sit for the exam you will not necessarily begin testing immediately and will still have to factor in wait times for your payment coupons (NASBA wants their money) and Notice to Schedule (NTS). Generally these take 10 business days each to arrive.

So start the application process as soon as you qualify. A summer off can turn into 2 or 3 years of procrastination and next thing you know you are trying to remember which side debits go on and still no closer to your goal of CPA licensure.

Hope that helps and good luck to all of the soon-to-be new grads!

Here’s What to Expect on the FAR Section of the CPA Exam

Friendly reminder (especially now that tax season is over), if you have a CPA exam question for us, shoot us a note, tweet us, or find us on Facebook and pester us until we answer. Up to you but we know you have questions so stop being shy.

Anyway. We have question from Twitter this week from @jacmelirose:

“What are the most heavily tested subjects for FAR? Help? Taking FAR in a month day for day.”

Alright, let’s start with the obvious: asking “what are the most heavily tested subjects” usually means you haven’t studied up until this point and are looking for a shortcut. Understandable but keep in mind this goes against the CPA exam guru’s advice. Just sayin’.


A good place to start is with the Content Specification Outlines for the section you are studying. For FAR, you can expect to see the following:

Financial statements (17% – 23%) – that means profit and loss, balance sheet, cashflows and footnotes/disclosures.

Typical items in financial statements (27% – 33%) – you’re talking marketable securities (pretty heavily tested or so we hear), receivables, bonds, leases, inventory, PP&E (depreciation, mostly), liabilities and revenue recognition. As much as you hate bonds, expect to see plenty on the subject so get cracking.

Transactional items (27% – 33%) – business combinations (yup, consolidations), contingent liabilities, discontinued operations, earnings per share and extraordinary items.

Government accounting (8% – 12%) – Everyone’s favorite! It’s not heavily tested but you will need to know a little about fund accounting, budgets, and government financial statements.

Not-for-profit accounting (8% – 12%) – Again, not heavily tested but it does show up (several MCQ and maybe a sim) so you will want to be sure to understand how NFP accounting works by understanding the 4 statements: financing, activities, cash flows and functional expenses.

Because we all know it’s against the rules to discuss what actually appears on the exam, we won’t tell you to expect BONDS, LEASES, and PENSIONS (and LOTS of them). We also will not tell you to be on the lookout for inventory in simulations because, again, that would assume we’re telling you we know what’s actually on the exam and of course we don’t.

FAR takes about 132 hours to prepare for – if you’ve got a month to do it, you need to be extra diligent about creating a study plan. Block out no less than 3 hours per day for MCQ/sim practice or lecture videos. Generally your brain tunes out if you’re studying any more than that per day but if you do the math, you realize you need more like 4 hours per day to meet the 132 hour requirement. In other words: a month is not really enough time to study for FAR. Here’s hoping you’ve been studying all along and are just looking for some last minute advice. Good luck!

Here’s Your Study Plan for the Audit Section of the CPA Exam

Friendly reminder: >75 is here to answer your CPA Exam questions so send them over.

A reader sends us the following dilemma:

“I took the audit section only and failed, most of it was due to not committing enough time to it. If you have any tips to develop plans I would like any suggestions to creating a plan.”

First of all, no offense but I think you have already identified where you went wrong, are you sure you need our help? Oh well.


Let’s talk about Audit, shall we? The average CPA exam candidate will spend 60 – 90 hours studying for the Audit section – that assumes watching your CPA Review lectures 1 time and spending 2 – 3 hours on MCQ/sim practice problems for each hour of lecture. If you are taking the self-study route, you will obviously need to spend more time on MCQ/sims (about about 2 or 3 hours on top of the 2 – 3 you would be doing if you had videos to review) and create a structured study plan based on the most current CSOs (Content Specification Outlines), which you can always find on cpa-exam.org.

Those of you taking exams in early 2011 will want to be on top of exam changes planned to kick in in the first quarter, though the AICPA has been helpful and already released the CSOs for that period.

If you’ve taken the exam and failed, you already have an incredibly useful tool at your disposal – your score report. The report provided after you fail will compare you to other candidates: IGNORE THOSE NUMBERS. Who cares how you did relative to other candidates? All you need to glean from that information is an idea of where your stronger areas are in comparison to your weaker sections. The score report is broken down by different components of the CSOs for that section so obviously you will want to focus harder on areas that you performed poorly in.

About a week or two before your new exam date, give the entire section a once over just to be sure you are also sharp in areas you did well in the first time.

Schedule your new Audit exam AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as the information is still fresh in your mind. If you have a new exam scheduled in the meantime, reschedule it if you can. Unless you REALLY bombed Audit (68 or below), you will want to jump right back in while it is still floating around in your brain.

As for exam preparation and planning, we’ve covered that plenty of times on Going Concern so check out this, this, and this.

Top Five Excuses for Not Studying for the CPA Exam

CPA exam candidates are good at a lot of things; unfortunately, their most common talent is an exceptional ability to procrastinate and make excuses. A career in public accounting, naturally, seems to exacerbate this problem, creating a laundry list of reasons why candidates can’t put in the time to pass the exam.

In the interest of knocking you all around a little bit (out of love, of course) on this, the second day of the 2nd testing window of 2010, I present the top 5 excuses for not studying I’ve heard from candidates over the years. Perhaps you have a favorite of your own?


I’m too busy – This is a CPA exam candidate’s favorite lifeline. Busy season, pursuing a Masters, brown-nosing management and balancing a drinking habit with a dysfunctional relationship is hard work. We all know how many hours you work a week but some of you forget everyone else can see what you’re doing on Facebook. That hour you spent finding stray ducks in Farmville could have easily been an hour worth of MCQ practice. Stop deluding yourself – if you are too busy to study, maybe you’re too busy to be a CPA. I hear Starbucks is hiring.

It’s too hard – Really? A professional license is hard? You don’t say! Listen, if this were easy, everyone would be a CPA. It’s hard for a reason but it’s also manageable if you attack it with knowledge and preparedness. Go in there like a boy scout amped up on espresso and you’ll get your BEC merit badge in no time.

I’m really bad at tests – Jealous of that asshat you went to school with who could drink all weekend, cram for seven hours and ace finals while you studied your ass off only to get a D? Guess what, you’re in luck. The CPA exam isn’t like college exams and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to pass. Look around your office at some of the CPAs you work with and try to tell me otherwise. That’s what I thought.

I never took auditing (economics/tax/government accounting/et-effing-cetera) in college – So? I bet the guy who wrote the CPA exam questions you’re panicking over didn’t take auditing/econ/tax/etc either. The CPA exam requires you to know a lot about a little, no one is saying you need to be an expert in ANY subject. Again, look around your office and tell me some of those geniuses you work with are experts in anything, let alone subjects like advanced and governmental accounting.

I’m too old – This one is always funny to me, as if there’s an expiration date on your brain. Taking on the exam later in life actually puts one at an advantage: I don’t have official statistics on the matter but my professional experience has been that older candidates actually do better than younger ones. Think about it – if you’re over 30 now, look back to how you were at 22 fresh out of college. Do you really think 22 year old you was better equipped to be disciplined enough to commit 400 hours to studying? Exactly.

The reality is that excuses are more plentiful than CPAs – unfortunately there could be more but the potential future CPAs that could have been obviously got consumed with coming up with excuses instead of coming up with real study plans and goals to pass the exam.

If you’re a candidate struggling to create one yourself, get in touch and >75 would be happy to help. Seriously. Just don’t start making excuses or I’ll front you off on Facebook next time I catch you playing Farmville when you should be learning pensions.

Three Ways to Get Back into Study Mode for the CPA Exam

Masochism at its finest means just thinking about the CPA exam while fully head down, eyes closed and trudging towards the busy season finish line. It’s cool, CPAs are a masochistic bunch and if you’re going to subject yourself to the torture of studying for the CPA exam while tackling your least favorite part of the year, have at it but please be smart about it.

It’s almost April and you know what that means – a brand new testing window filled with fun and exciting >75 action. Hopefully 75s, if you little masochists plan right.


Here are a few tips, you can do whatever you want with them. Ideally, you can ignore them for the next few weeks until you shift from busy season mode back to exam mode.

Don’t be unrealistic about your work load – Some of you complain about “busy season” and know damn well you haven’t pushed a difficult piece of paper in months while others haven’t seen the light of Facebook (nor the end of the tunnel) in weeks. Take a reasonable assessment of the free time you have to commit to the exam and plan accordingly. If you’re grinding all the way through April 15th, maybe a late April test date is a tad optimistic and not all that smart.

If you aren’t ready, blow it off – This goes against everything I always recommend to CPA exam candidates but it’s a wise piece of advice this time of year. If you are not ready for an exam, try to reschedule. Maybe taking FAR on April 1st made a lot of sense when you scheduled it in October but now that April is almost here and you haven’t seen daylight in two months, it’s not looking like such a bright idea. Of course, if you’re in a situation where you are about to lose credit for exams previously passed but still not prepared, there’s no harm in going to the exam anyway as you’re basically forfeiting the exam fee and might as well find out what’s on the test for next time.

Don’t permanent vacation yourself just because you’re tired – Shifting from busy season to exam mode, it is really easy to rationalize an extended vacation from studying just because you need a break. The rest is deserved but don’t let a few days of relaxation turn into several months of procrastination. It’s easier than you think and I’ve seen it enough times to know it happens all the time. Don’t be lazy, this is what you wanted.

Are Too Many People Passing the CPA Exam?

The AICPA recently announced that it would be re-evaluating the CPA exam scoring process and we’ve been wildly speculating awhile as to what that might actually mean. Staying true to the doom and gloom, yours truly immediately thought the AICPA Board of Examiners was convinced you kids would bomb FAR horribly in Q1 and 2 of 2011 with the addition of IFRS and they were just preparing for that.

Upon further reflection, maybe the exam is too easy. Maybe requirements to sit are not strict enough (even though we’re down to 4 states that allow you to sit with 120 units last I checked). Maybe the job market is worse than anyone wants to admit — now wait a minute, what does that have to do with it?


There isn’t raw data that tells us how many would-be CPAs we have on our hands who have passed all four parts of the CPA exam but still can’t get a job, at least none I’ve seen. I’ve spoken to these people and it doesn’t seem to be getting better in the aggregate.

I believe the BLS numbers somewhat concur with this conclusion, if you can believe them. (CPA Trendlines has them)

I hear you guys bitching about it all the time. If you’re still employed and trying to take the CPA exam, you get the extra special designation of ultra-masochist but it’s not you guys the AICPA BoE is worried about, it’s the bottleneck of people who’ve passed the CPA exam trying to squeeze in 2 years in public to get a license.

Case in point, a friend of mine here in the great (broke) state of California decided to take on the CPA exam a tad later in life than some of you. We won’t hate on her for that. She worked her ass off and eventually got through it. She’s a leader of a prestigious accounting society in her community and has the credentials a lot of the kids coming out of school don’t. She can’t find a job. She’s tried every firm in town large and small as well as the surrounding area. I’ve scouted the Bay Area and can’t find anything for her either.

She’d stay more than 2 years and be more than a body filling the chair but they don’t even have a chair for her.

She’s not the only one. So maybe the AICPA BoE caught on and is going to try to change that. They can’t create the jobs so what do you think they’ll do?

Oh, and if anyone has a lead on a public accounting gig in the top half of California for my qualified little friend here, do get in touch.

Three Ways the CPA Exam Could Change in the Near Future

If you’ve been trying to pass BEC since the CPA exam went computerized in 2004 (you can laugh all you want, I know a few people…), rejoice! The AICPA, NASBA, and Prometric have committed to another 10 year contract to administer and oversee the computerized CPA exam in 55 US jurisdictions.

“This 10-year extension of the exam contract from 2014 to 2024 continues the close and highly successful collaboration of the three organizations in the delivery of the computer-based examination for the past six years,” said Barry Melancon, AICPA president and CEO. “The CPA exam is the gateway to the accounting profession and under this arrangement we have seen the exam improve and grow. About 93,000 candidates took the examination in 2009 – a record.”

Now we imagine it must have been editorial privilege to leave out the actual passrates of those 93,000 2009 CPA exam candidates and we’ll not wildly speculate that the record is a direct result of threats that the exam will be jam-packed with IFRS come 2011.

What will the CPA exam of 2024 look like? Obviously no one knows but looking at the evolution of exam content since 2004, we can take a stab at guessing.

BEC will be a big priority – As we move from two simulations in FAR, AUD, and REG to 6 “simlets” (smaller, unrelated simulation problems) with communications being moved to BEC, I imagine it will be a big priority for the AICPA. It’s been notoriously “random” and filled with the bits and pieces that the AICPA couldn’t seem to make relevant in other CPA exam sections; the junk drawer of the exam, as it were.

IFRS – A lot is riding on implementation of IFRS questions (anyone volunteered to write those yet? I think the AICPA is still patiently waiting for help).

Scoring discussions planned after the first two quarters of 2011 – In other words: if you guys do well, the AICPA might leave it alone. Bomb and they might have to consider grading on a curve, invalidating that whole psychometric testing thing they’ve got going now.

Good luck with that. Really.

CPA Examination Contract Renewed in the U.S. Through 2024 [Press Release]

Four Ways to Force Yourself to Study for the CPA Exam

I’ll save you the hoo-rah, I’m pretty sure you don’t need it. It’s March already; if you aren’t studying, you’re working, and if you’re doing both right now I worry about your decision-making capabilities. Oh well.

Masochistic or not, it isn’t always easy to get yourself motivated to study.

You have entire CPA exam strategies laid out on the CPAnet forums here, here, and look, you even have a hoo-rah. Not everyone is an Elijah Watt-Sells so get that out of your head and worry about what works for you.


That strategy – finding a perfect fit for your own needs as a CPA exam candidate – also goes for motivation.

So how do you force yourself to study? Here are a few ideas:

Bribe yourself – Sock away $xxx for a new toy and reward a passing score with whatever your bribe is. If you’re cheap/laid off/sinking $1000s into failed exam fees and broke, it could be a decent dinner or a movie. Define splurge for yourself and make that the carrot you dangle in front of your face to get you to study.

Commiserate – You can find plenty of miserable accountants taking (and not always succeeding at) the CPA exam. You can also find support and encouragement if you’re actually trying to pass, so use resources like CPAnet and Twitter to find other candidates to speak to. If you’re taking a live review, sign up with someone else from your firm and go to class together. It helps to have someone else keeping you in check.

Visualize your goal – This might be the most, um, cheesy of methods but it absolutely works. Write CPA after your name on business cards and put them up where you will see them frequently (but don’t hand them out, that’d be illegal); though this tactic isn’t meant as a substitute for actually preparing (sorry to break it to you), a little positive thinking takes the anxious edge off.

Plan – Sometimes knowing there is a clearly defined schedule takes some of the panic out of the CPA exam, and if you’re disciplined enough, you won’t need motivation. Sure, it’s robotic, but that’s what studying for the CPA exam is. The exam doesn’t ask you to think critically outside of the parameters of financial reporting and accounting, nor do you get bonus points for creativity. So maybe you just need to have a plan, stick to it, suck it up, and move on until you’re done. It’s the most miserable of the options but sometimes all that works.

So? What worked for you?

>75: How Long Should I Study for Each Section of the CPA Exam?

>75 received this week’s question via Twitter DM from a CPA exam candidate who wished to remain anonymous. Whatever. For those of you who prefer being open, almost crude, about your CPA exam experiences in a social atmosphere, try CPAnet’s CPA Exam Club (GC is there). This guy won’t be signing up any time soon.

Candidate halfway through the exam process asks:

“How long does it take to study for each section? Like is two months enough for FAR?”


I get this question a lot, almost too often. It’s an easy answer: that all depends on you.

The general rule (according to the AICPA) is that you should be doing 2 – 3 hours of self-study (MCQ/sims) for each hour of review lecture you watch. So there is no magic timeframe to aim for; some people take a few weeks to prepare for FAR, others need more than 3 months. Since lecture times vary depending on who you’re with, it’s hard to pin down the sweet spot in terms of weeks or months.

If you are going alone without a review course and using just practice questions, you can substitute textbook reading (like Wiley CPA Review textbooks) for lecture hours but you will probably want to count half an hour of reading as the equivalent of one hour of lecture. Sorry, that means more MCQ.

A key point to keep in mind is that studying for the CPA exam is like dieting, you’ll do better if you take it in smaller pieces. If you were trying to lose some of that audit engagement weight, you’d eat several small meals instead of three large ones. Your study plan should be the same, spending no more than 2 or 3 hours at a time plugging away at lectures or practice questions. Anything beyond 4 hours and you’re zoned out.

I know, you’re unemployed and have all this time and want to knock out FAR in three weeks studying 8 hours a day every day. Best of luck with that! You’re wasting 5 hours a day as your brain tunes out around hour 3 and will not be able to draw upon what you’ve studied once you’re actually at Prometric.

As I said, this doesn’t really answer your question because only you can answer that question. Is two months enough time for FAR? Sure. Adjust it accordingly based on whether or not you are employed, dating, engaged in any other activities, and/or have any sort of life whatsoever. Just don’t ever ask me how to study for BEC in a week again, obviously that is not enough time.

Wake Forest Students’ CPA Exam Domination Is Explained

Last week we briefly mentioned Wake Forest’s announcement that their graduates had achieved the highest average scores on the CPA exam for the fifth year in a row. Wondering how such dominance could be made possible we decided to get ��������������������ate Professor Dr. Yvonne Hinson to find out.


The two main points that is primarily responsible for WFU students’ success on the CPA exam that Dr. Hinson impressed upon us were the ambition of the students and the curriculum that they go through. “We bring in very good students through our screening process and the students create an extremely competitive atmosphere,” Dr. Hinson told us. To compliment these go-getters, the faculty is always thinking ahead as to how to make the curriculum as challenging and relevant as possible.

Here are a few questions we asked Dr. Hinson about the success at Wake Forest:

What helps Wake Forest accounting students be so successful on the CPA Exam especially since these scores are for students without advanced degrees?

I believe that this relates to multiple things including:

1) Innovative curriculum that constantly changes. We teach the basics but try to always stay abreast of the emerging trends in the industry an incorporate those throughout our program where we decide they are relevant and ongoing. An example is out IFRS integration last year which was a full curriculum integration. We received a grant from PwC to complete this.

2) Faculty that are incredibly tied to the profession

3) Small class sizes and a lot of interaction between faculty and students. You can NOT hide in our classes!

4) Strong, motivated students.

5) We use Becker CPA review but the sections are handled my subject matter experts rather than all sections of Becker supervised by one or two people. Our faculty actually teach the Becker review.

Does the faculty make a point of communicating the importance of the exam?

Not really – there is the usual marketing around the results but the students tend to be very competitive and really drive a lot of that themselves. We do stress the importance of trying to get it out of the way before you begin work rather than trying to work busy season hours while also studying for the exam.

What is the biggest key that you (and your fellow faculty members) tell your students with re: to the exam?
Get it out of the way!! You do not want to be taking it while working if possible. We offer the review in May and June in an intensive session so that this is all they are concentrating on at that time.

Do most students take review courses in preparation for the exam?
Yes – Becker

What steps is the University taking to prepare students for IFRS and its eventual inclusion on the exam?
We have already integrated it throughout our undergraduate and graduate curriculum. We feel that the issue has nothing to do with where the U.S. is in respect to IFRS but rather that our students go our and operate in a global environment and are exposed to IFRS issues soon after graduation. Therefore, we have fiduciary duty to the students and to the profession to expose them to IFRS in their program.

Speaking of current topics, we also asked about Wake Forest implementing forensics into it’s curriculum, Dr. Hinson was quick to note, “Forensic accounting is also implemented in curriculum here, as this is another important area we recognized that our students would need exposure to.” Dr. Hinson mentioned Dr. George Aldhizer who she told us is “not on the leading edge but the bleeding edge of forensic accounting.” Indeed, Dr. Aldhizer’s most recent publication was “Medicare and Medicaid Fraud and Errors: A Ticking Time Bomb that Must Be Defused” for the Journal of Government and Financial Management. We’d say you can’t get more current than that.

One additional interesting thing we learned is that Wake Forest also offers a “Transaction Services Track” as part of its Master of Science in Accountancy that prepares many students for a career in in the advisory practices of the large firms.

So not only is the University taking a progressive approach to the CPA exam, they are preparing students for their careers in public accounting by offering a wide curriculum that will serve them in various areas of the firms. We applaud them in their effort and hope more schools take their lead.

Congratulations to Wake Forest on their five-peat (?) and the continued success of their students and faculty.

Most Aren’t Ready for IFRS on the CPA Exam

Last year, the AICPA Board of Examiners made it clear that though a roadmap for IFRS adoption in US financial reporting might be a ways off, it intended to start testing IFRS in Financial Accounting and Reporting (mostly, we’ll get to that in a second) in the first window of 2011. Just a friendly reminder, that’s only three testing windows away.

But what gives? According to the 2009 KPMG-AAA Faculty Survey, only 8% of respondents felt as though at least half of their accounting faculty were qualified to teach IFRS. Meanwhile, 70% of professors said their most significant challenge to teaching IFRS was finding room for it in the curriculum.

As far as I am aware, State Boards of Accountancy have not shown a desire to require IFRS coursework to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam at this time.

The Big 87654 committed to pushing IFRS in college classrooms as early as May of 2008 (months before the SEC announced an IFRS adoption roadmap) and they are still tossing millions at the initiative.


In December of 2008, The Summa’s Professor Albrecht insisted that the Big 87654 had certainly chosen the right candidate, lobbying Obama to accomplish their IFRS goals. Why? “Obscene profits,” he says, pointing to campaign contributions and Obama’s subsequent pro-IFRS SEC Chair pick as signs that IFRS doomsday is upon us. A little over a year later, the SEC appears too busy chasing “crime” and playing catch up to issue a clear directive on IFRS in the US.

So? How can the AICPA BoE insist on testing information that A) accounting students still aren’t being taught and B) isn’t widely understood or practiced by most CPAs in the US?

I certainly get what the AICPA is trying to do and if nothing else, they probably want to show off that their awesome psychometric CPA exam technology is OMGamazing! and ready to adapt in a timely and efficient manner. But pushing IFRS on unsuspecting CPA exam candidates isn’t really the way to demonstrate that.

Is it just a coincidence that now the AICPA is prepared to reevaluate their scoring process after the first two testing windows of 2011? Even they know this is an awful idea.

CPA Exam Results Are Rolling Out This Week for the Jan/Feb Window

If you’re a glutton for punishment and you sat for the CPA Exam during this window, NASBA Tweeted the above about an hour ago. We thought busy season sucked enough but studying for and taking the CPA exam during busy season has to be one of the most hideous cases of self-loathing an accountant can engage in and we hear it’s widespread.


Maybe sleeping and eating aren’t that crucial to your survival but we’re not really sure how you’re pulling this off. Are you listening to the Jr. Deputy Accountant on this? Since we’re too old to have taken the computerized exam, we were never tempted to try such a monumental feat.

So if you sat for BEC go find out if you passed and let us know because we care (seriously) and if you need to cry, make sure you don’t do it front of anyone. Nobody likes weeping at the office.

Is the AICPA Lowering the Bar on the CPA Exam?

Friendly reminder: >75 is here to answer your CPA Exam questions so send them over.

Sadly, JDA is technically still employed by a CPA Review course (and, of course, not a CPA) but hey, if any of you are looking to protect the public interest, have at it.

This may just be some wild speculating here but I have to admit my first thought upon seeing this was that the AICPA is scared everyone will freak out when IFRS hits the CPA Exam on January 1, 2011 and bomb horribly. Does this mean it’ll be graded on a curve? If so, I’m starting to have some concerns about that “protecting the public interest” bit.


Lowering the bar, AICPA Board of Examiners style:

THE AICPA EXAMINATIONS TEAM IS SEEKING CPA NOMINEES TO SERVE ON CPA EXAMINATION PANELS

When the new Uniform CPA Examination is launched on January 1, 2011, changes in content, format, and structure will be introduced. These changes will require the current passing score to be re-examined. The process to do so will include convening four panels of CPAs – one for each examination section – to prepare the groundwork for the passing score decision by the AICPA Board of Examiners. A new passing score determination is necessary in conjunction with the new examination to ensure that legally defensible CPA Examination pass/fail decisions continue to be made in protection of the public interest.

Panel Nominees

The AICPA is seeking nominations for passing score panel membership. Nominees should be CPAs who:

• have been licensed for between 3 and 5 years
• have supervised entry-level CPAs during the past year
• have NO affiliation with CPA Examination review courses, and
• are willing to participate in an August 2010 two-day meeting in Chicago, IL at the expense of the AICPA.

The selection of panelists from among qualified nominees will be made to ensure broad representation from all segments of the profession and demographic categories. Panelists will be given training at the August meetings on their responsibilities as panel participants.

Submitting Nominations

Nominations may be submitted online at http://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/4e5ag3f124 or the forms completed and returned by FAX to 609-671-2922. Or, the names and contact information of nominees may be sent by e-mail to passingscorepanel@aicpa.org The information collected about nominees will be used only for the purpose of selecting panel participants.

The deadline for submitting nominations is MARCH 31, 2010.

Like I said, JDA is out; any of you kids in on this?

>75: What to Do Two Weeks Before Your Exam

Happy Friday CPA Exam munchkins! For the self-loathing types that are going through busy season and sitting for an exam, let’s discuss what you should be doing in the two weeks before your exam, not how to quit your job (not my line of expertise).

At this point, you should be through lecture videos and homework at least once. Really? You have two weeks left! If you’ve been disciplined up to this point, you’re feeling comfortable with most of the MCQ.

A final review at this point is essential. You have enough time to go back over weak areas and give everything a last look over. If you have software or your firm blew a bunch of money on overpriced programs to do this for you, use it. If you’re going with just a book, take a look at questions you’ve gotten wrong more than once and review those areas in the text.


Though we all know it’s illegal to discuss what’s actually on the exam, there are plenty of blogs and forums that share “commonly tested” items, many of which are updated often. The CPANet forums are a perfect example of candidates openly sharing their experiences and identifying common testing patterns. The AICPA Board of Examiners used to give paper and pencil candidates a COPY of their exam as they left so don’t let partners tell you it was way more rough back in their day. Still, there are channels available; it’s up to the candidate to use them.

The BoE has also committed to faster scoring and a continued evolution of exam content. They do not expressly state what that means for candidates, that’s why it’s important to ask questions and know about changes. The only real signals they’ve sent so far are that they are excited to start testing IFRS years before it is implemented in the US and the computerized exam is due for more changes in the years ahead. And? Get it over with now, whether or not BEC will be easier with communications but an extra half an hour.

Anyway, the last week. It’s your last chance to review weak spots and work through practice questions once more. I know you’re pissed at me for not writing “now you can screw off and play PS3 after 16 hours of work” but that’s not really how it works.

At this point, you shouldn’t expect to feel entirely confident and that’s okay; focus only on the last few, most heavily-tested areas. You should already know what these are, if they don’t, put off your exam and start asking questions or reading textbooks. Most CPA Review programs (even the cheap ones) give you some idea of what these areas are.

Hope that helps. On the next >75, we’ll talk about what “simulataneous IFRS implementation” really means for FAR unless you have a CPA exam question, in which case I’ll save my anti-IFRS rant for a different Friday.

>75: Adrienne Gonzalez Shares Her Tips on How to Study for BEC in Just a Week

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for panic.jpgI’m not saying you’ll pass, I’m teaching you how to prepare in a week and maybe eke by. You already spent the money, you might as well give it a shot.
Let me be clear: I don’t advocate this. It’s important to give yourself time to study. BEC should take between 64 and 80 hours to prepare for. There are 168 hours in a week – work = 128 (our friend with a week to study for BEC – who requests to remain anonymous – is in tax so he has about 110) – sleeping 6 hours a night = 86 so if you don’t waste any waking hours commuting or eating, you can do it. You shouldn’t.


If nothing else, you’ll know what to expect on the exam in the next window. If you don’t study at all, try to retain what you can when you sit for this exam that you’re not ready for. Even though the AICPA BoE switches questions up from window to window and your next exam will be a little different, just go and pay attention.
There is a small chance you can pass. Do you know nothing about variance analysis? Clueless on economics? Your chances at passing will be smaller though I won’t pretend to have actual figures on that. The better your foundation, the easier it will be for you to fudge your way through it in a week. If you’re going into it blind, you’re probably not going to do well so focus on what came up on the exam.

Using the example above (or whatever your work/sleep/live schedule is), focus your attention on doing as many MCQ as possible. Even if you don’t understand them, sometimes working through them will make things click. You can try a cram course but your brain learns in layers so you can’t approach this like a final you didn’t study for. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, that’s just what I know.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to plan better next time. Don’t pay for all 4 parts with one NTS unless you have a huge block of time to take exam after exam. Got it?

Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.

>75: That Time of Year Again: Balancing the Exam and Busy Season

Help!.jpgEditor’s note: This is the latest edition of >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
Do you have a CPA exam question for >75? Send it in. I’ll be nice I swear. Possibly useful.
So it’s January and some of you are heading into a rough couple of months. With the 18 month clock ticking on the CPA exam, you don’t really have any options but to fight through it. Or argue with people on the Internet. Maybe that’s why you don’t have enough time to study?
Anyway. It’s not easy but remember it is also temporary so as long as you suffer through it a bit (oh please, is it really that bad?), it’s possible. Here are some things I’ve seen work:
Talking to management and partners – I know. You’re going to laugh me out of here (“wtf version of JDA is this?”) but stick with me. Have you asked? I’m not saying this is always a successful method but it can never hurt to ask or let management know you’re taking the CPA exam. Especially if you work in a smaller firm, just talk to someone above you with some pull. I’ve seen it so I know it isn’t impossible.


Cutting out the extraneous crap – You know exactly what I mean. Time management for studying is a lot like budgeting for chronic spenders. I used to burn through paychecks until I actually printed out three months worth of debit and ATM charges and saw how I was $2 and $7 and $14ing my way to $0 in no time. In much the same way, you have to figure out where you are spending your time in a week (or a day if that works better for you). Things that take “a few minutes” (Facebook anyone?) add up so count them.
Not doing too much – One exam is enough if you really are swamped. It’s fine. Just don’t let post April 15th suddenly turn into late August because you were “so wiped out” from busy season. Take a realistic break but don’t get too detached from your goal.
What works for you to get through busy season and the exam? And don’t say trolling accounting websites trying to pick Internet fights.
Good luck? As always, it has nothing to do with circumstance, it’s just discipline.

>75: Procrastination

Procrastinate.jpgEditor’s note: This is the latest edition of >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
First of all, I have to give it to all of you little future CPAs of America, you REALLY know how to put things off until the last minute, don’t you?
I’m going to let you in on a tiny little secret: the exam never goes away.
Let me paint an “imaginary” scenario where CPA Review classes are starting in less than 48 hours. Classes have been on hold for over two months and suddenly, within this 48 hour period, there is a rush of panicked CPA exam candidates realizing they’ve got less than a day left to figure out a plan. Anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture?
I’m not talking about a handful of people, I’m talking about a significant chunk of you. You know who you are and you know exactly what I’m talking about.


So what is it? Do you believe that the exam will pass itself? Or if you put it off long enough somehow you’ll wake up one day a CPA? I hate to break it to you but that’s really moronic.
There are students in our classes that are 50-some years old. Think about that. They graduated 30 years ago and are STILL putting this stupid ass exam off. So don’t think you’re some hero of procrastination just because you let 18 months go by and started losing exam scores, you aren’t special.
The bottom line is this: it is all about what you want to do with your life. Do you really want to be a CPA? Then you’ll suck it up and finish. Don’t do it because your parents want it or your girlfriend wants it or it’s your grandma’s dying wish. You are only setting yourself up for a life of half-assed failure, misery, and disappointment.
Which is kind of like what you’re setting yourself up for with a CPA and a career in public accounting except + tchotchkes. Win* (I think).
Point is, stop. In the time it takes for you to come up with 1000 excuses, you could have already booked your exam and gotten through at least 150 MCQ. Yes, it sucks but guess what? You picked it. You can make it worse on yourself and be that 50 year old guy in the back of our Live class or you can just get through it and stop bitching.
/end rant. Do it.
*I’m obligated to say that because of my day job

>75’s Year in (CPA) Review

Thumbnail image for confidence.jpgShameless self promotion: JDA also did a Year in Review and I tried really hard to keep the accounting crap out of it.
Anyway, on to the CPA exam. We’re heading into the last day of the year and I have got to say, you bastards have me overdosing on Red Bull just to keep up. I’m not sure what happened this year but it feels like a lot of you got fed up with dragging your asses along on this exam. Or maybe you got laid off and all the sudden had a whole bunch of time to study. I’m guessing a lot of you finally realized for the first time in your careers that you can’t coast forever.
I talked to a lot of you this year. A LOT. So many that I’m about ready to crawl into bed for the next 72 hours (after we make the last day of the year, of course) and hibernate. Where did all of you come from? Why now?


Whatever inspired this surge in interest in those three letters, I have to say I saw a lot of inspirational shit go down in CPA exam land. Like the guy with a learning disability who finished in a year using both a full review and a supplement each time. Guess what? CPA. Or the student who put this off for so long she couldn’t believe she was that old sitting in that chair taking that test she’d dreaded for 15 years since college. She failed miserably the first time around, walking in there convinced she would.
The Self Fulfilling Prophesy candidate probably makes up 15% of our student base (I’m making that number up) and takes a little extra encouragement to pass. The second time around, she went in there and got through the exams. Now she just needs to find a job.
And that’s our other student. My Firm is Paying for This guy doesn’t realize that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, nor that there’s a bonus in it for him if he can just pass. Hell, they bought his ticket in. But they also worked him into the ground and he never studied on account of always being “too busy”. He’s got lots of time to study now that he’s laid off but his materials are outdated and useless. Too bad.
Wherever they come from, whomever pays for them to get there, this was sort of the year for the CPA exam. Or maybe the AICPA just scared everyone shitless with that IFRS threat and that’s why everyone is scrambling to take this exam and get it over with. Whatever works, I’m okay with it. I keep a case of Red Bull under the sink in the office.

More CPA Exam Scores Are Released for the October/November Window

Thumbnail image for fingers crossed.jpgNASBA has announced via Twitter that more scores have been released for the final window of the year. Bad news is that it takes 24 – 48 hours for them to post. Our recommendation would be to jump over to NASBA and spend the next 24 hours refreshing the page until it posts. Or chew your fingernails until they bleed, whatever works for you.
If you end up with an early Christmaskuh gift, please share. If you got coal, also share before you go into the corner sobbing.

>75: Seriously. Enough with the “Am I Outdated?”

Thumbnail image for ben bankes at the NYC marathon.jpgEditor’s note: Welcome to a special Wednesday edition of >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
Enough with this question, I’m going to start emailing students this article directly.
First of all, if you don’t send me questions, I can’t answer them. No question is too stupid, trust me, I’ve been in CPA Review for almost 3 years. They don’t tell you kids shit about the exam in college, better to ask than listen to some guy you work with (he’s wrong 87% of the time – or so I have calculated from professional experience via our students). So send them in. I’ll try to be nice and at least sort of useful.


That being said, I keep getting the question at work about materials. 2010 materials. Updates to 2009 materials. Being the most up-to-date in the cubicle farm. I got it, your brain is programmed to think December 31st equals a whole new year. How many of you are getting married this 31st, btw? Happy Anniversary to my boss – the CPA – and his wife on that fine day that you CPAs love so much. Deductions, bitch.
As previously disclosed, the AICPA Board of Examiners doesn’t want you to know they’re cheap. Those difficulty-weighted questions cost a whole shit ton of money to pop in that exam (speaking of which, any IFRS experts out there willing to contribute their time to screwing with CPA exam candidates? Prestige! Honor! No money though.) and the BoE likes questions that have a little more, erm, staying power. Those guys’ “creativity” keeps me in a job so I can’t really elaborate, you get the point.
That means you’ve got a 6 month window to work with from the time pronouncements are announced and when they actually start appearing on the exam. They might appear earlier as pre-test (not counted toward your score and about 15% of exam content) but unless specifically noted – as in SFAS 141(r) – pronouncements trickle into the exam slowly and on a delay.
When new exam content does appear (as it does twice a year, inevitably), it tends to be introduced slowly. Think about it – the only test run those questions got was pre-test, and you were not expected to know that information anyway. How can they gather intelligence from candidates’ collective knowledge of things they don’t know? Seems bizarre to me but whatever, can’t question the wisdom of the AICPA.
Except in the case of the Feed the Pig campaign.

>75: The ‘Magical’ Order of CPA Exams

BelushiCollege_CPA.jpgEditor’s note: Welcome to latest edition of >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
Just a reminder, if you have a CPA exam question for us, be sure to send them over. No question is too stupid, trust me, I’ve been in CPA Review for 3 years and have heard them all.
For today’s >75, let’s talk picking exam parts, shall we?
I get asked these questions at work constantly: “What part should I start with? Which is the easiest? Which is the hardest?”


My answer is always the same: there is no “easy” or “hard” section, they’re all equally and independently difficult for their own reasons. FAR is “hard” because of the sheer volume of information but believe it or not, BEC tends to be the part candidates struggle with most. AUD and REG have a slightly higher national pass rate but that does not make them any easier than the other two.
For now, I’ve been advising candidates to start with FAR so they can get it out of the way before IFRS hits the exam in 2011. In general, however, I advise our students to start with the part that they feel will be most difficult for them since your 18 month clock starts ticking once you pass the first part. If a candidate is going to struggle to pass one section, it’s best to do this before that 18 month period starts since the very last thing you want to do is to retake a section you already passed because you couldn’t pass that final part in time.
Point being, there’s no such thing as easy when it comes to the CPA exam. Nor is there a such thing as a “magical” order for taking the exams. But here are some tips for figuring out which part to start with:
Anxious candidates with a confidence problem – Start with Audit or Regulation, whichever section will be easiest for you since, as I said above, these tend to have a higher pass rate. Passing that first section will be a huge motivator to keep you going.
For candidates looking for “the easy way out” – Start with FAR. Since this section is the largest, getting it out of the way first will make the rest of your CPA exam experience seem downhill.
For candidates planning to take the exam through 2011 – Get FAR and BEC out of the way now. Communications will be hitting BEC in 2011 so if you get it done now, you can take AUD and REG in 2011 when they no longer have communications. Win!
Good luck!

>75: What Happens When You Get a 74?

agony.jpgEditor’s note: Welcome to latest edition of >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
It might be the worst feeling in the world. Trust me, I know people who have gotten 17s and 24s on the exam – these are not my CPA Review students, of course, these are people who tried to go the CPA exam alone – and a 74 beats their misery any day of the week.


Nearly 99% of the candidates I talk to (I’m making that percentage up off the top of my head, mind you) who get a 74 on any part of the exam did everything they were supposed to do. They did hours of multiple choice and tons of practice simulations and even did the tutorial at cpa-exam.org before test day.
These are people who asked me very early on how they could plan their time, requested updates weeks before they were available and had me emailing 3 years’ worth of previous CPA exam questions for them to practice on. From all appearances, they did everything they were supposed to and yet got a 74, the worst possible score you can get (17 on FAR aside but we won’t talk about that mmmmmkay?).
So what do you do if you’re that person?
Don’t bother requesting a “rescore” from the AICPA Board of Examiners: For all of 2008, not a single rescore request resulted in a candidate going from FAIL to PASS. It’s a waste of time and money and the AICPA isn’t going to admit their CBT is at all faulty (those of you who have actually taken it probably know better but we won’t talk about that either) so accept your score and move on.
Don’t move on to a new section While you have to deal with the fact that you’re going to have to pay re-application fees to the Board and another exam fee, the best thing you can do in the case of a 70 – 74 is to go right back to that section and schedule a new exam as soon as possible. A 74 especially shows that you have an excellent command of the information, just a little more studying and you’re over that hump.
Look at your score report: Your score report is going to give you quite a bit of insight on where you went wrong the first time. When you fail an exam part, they go so far as to tell you where you failed the worst, USE THAT! When you go back over your review materials, there’s no need to watch every single lecture video again fourteen times – just look at the report, figure out where you need more work, and do extra practice questions in those areas.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up. If this exam were easy, everyone would be a CPA.

A Thanksgiving Reminder from >75

turkey.jpgEditor’s note: Welcome to latest edition of >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
For CPA exam candidates, the final few weeks of the year can be a time of extreme pressure and/or procrastination. I won’t name names and bust any of our CPA Review students out (you know who you are) but I can tick off at least 25 people taking the exam today and next Monday, trying to squeeze in one last part before the New Year.
So how exactly is one supposed to show up for an exam the Monday after Turkey Day before the tryptophan coma has worn off?


Plan better next time: This is a terrible time of year to be sitting for the exam but unfortunately it’s also the busiest. More candidates cram into the final testing window of the year than any other window so if you’re testing in the 4th quarter next year, keep that in mind when you’re scheduling your exams. Schedule early and don’t get stuck testing the week after Thanksgiving.
Prioritize: Do you really need to hit your parents house, your in-laws’ house and your best friend’s grandma’s house for Thanksgiving? If you’re really serious about preparing through the weekend (which you should have already been doing weeks before this), cut dinner short, stick to one holiday meal and spend your Black Friday studying instead of getting trampled in the Wal-mart parking lot. It’s better for your brain and better for your wallet.
You might have to have a chat with friends and family: If you’re trying to get a section in right when 2010’s first window opens up, you will be doing some studying through the December holidays and your absence might cause just a little bit of resentment. If you’re serious about getting the exam over with, sit down with loved ones and let them know that you need their support, not their shit. They have no idea what you are going through unless you tell them to back off and give you the time you need to study. And if that doesn’t work, coal for everyone in their stockings.
My final point is this: it goes without saying that the holidays can be a stressful time for everyone and we all know what sort of stress taking the CPA exam causes. Mixing these two can be a dangerous cocktail of end-of-the-year misery if you don’t stay focused and plan your time accordingly. And look at it this way, you might get out of having to wear an ugly sweater or two.

Reader Poll: CPA Exam

TPTB have requested additional information from you to assist in their diabolical plans. As always, your help is appreciated. Kindly answer the following harmless question:

New Material for the CPA Exam: Am I Outdated?

Thumbnail image for cpa exam.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter. See all of GC’s posts on the CPA Exam here.
As most of you know, my day job involves teaching unlicensed accountants how to pass the CPA exam so everything I’m about to tell you comes from experience. One of the most frequent questions I’ve been getting these days revolves around new material to correspond with the new year, so let’s debunk some of those common rumors about new exam material, shall we?


• Stop thinking IFRS is going to hit the exam in 2010. You have at least another year to procrastinate, and that’s the best case scenario. The AICPA said “some time in 2011” which means “when we get around to it”. Even when IFRS hits the exam its impact will be minimal at best so stop freaking out.
• Yes, new CPA exam materials are the best when available but keep in mind AICPA pronouncements take at least two windows to hit the exam, meaning if you take the exam in the first quarter of 2010 you will be tested on information released in June of 2009.
Trust me when I say this: the AICPA Board of Examiners is cheap (no offense AICPA BoE but you know you are). Although review courses would love to tell you to get the latest latest info, chances are the AICPA BoE will prefer testing standard questions over introducing excessive amounts of new content. Sure, they test new things all the time but don’t expect them to overhaul the exam every quarter just for shits and giggles. New questions cost a lot of money and the AICPA BoE would rather recycle old questions than pay to create new ones. Use this to your advantage.
So, that being said, what’s the big deal about IFRS hitting the CPA exam? Stop panicking, it’s not as bad as you think.
IFRS is actually much more principles-based than rule based, which means you have a pamphlet to study instead of two dictionaries worth of GAAP. The AICPA is offering courses on IFRS for professionals or any simple textbook can suffice if you need a primer. However you look at it, the AICPA BoE does not expect you to know IFRS like an accountant in China. All they want to know is if you know the differences between IFRS and GAAP. Easy, right?
Lastly, if you have a review course, you should be able to request updates to the material as long as you’re a student. So don’t worry for the first two testing windows of 2010 but come June of 2010, ask for an update and you should be good. New AICPA pronouncements are released twice a year so ask again in December if you haven’t finished this thing by now.

>75: Study. Sit. Pass. Get on with Your Life

Thumbnail image for cpa exam.jpgEditor’s note: Welcome to >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
Alright. So this guy comments and his question is too long and complicated to keep my attention. Kindly SUMMARIZE your question, send it to us and >75 will get to it when she stops pounding her head on her desk.
Now then, please pay attention.

I need help from some vets. I did my undergrad in finance, but spent the last 7 yrs in the family business, hotels. Always hated it. Being an owner, I know what it’s like to be the ‘man’ and having to manage a manager, i also know what it’s like to be an overworked slave to a business as a property manager myself. I’m effective as a manager, win awards, employee turn over below industry standards, profitable, etc…on the macro level as an asset manager, i have a pretty good business savvy from HR/training, finance, basic accounting, leadership, capital raising, basic auditing. In the hotel business, your inventory has a 24 hour shelf life. I can think quick on my feet under stressful situations, and think stragetically as well. So at 30, i have the business IQ of someone close to 40. I’m a worrier and 24 hour business dealing with public has burned me out as i like people, but i’m not that much of a ‘people’ person..though i can turn it on when needed. i have recently been diagnosed with ADD which explains, while capable, i had trouble in school.

Stop. Just stop. First and foremost: the CPA exam isn’t an IQ test so please remove that from the equation, brainiac. We are talking about discipline and how well you can plan out your time.
I congratulate you on your illustrious career but no one cares about that at the Board of Accountancy. You have to meet the educational and experience requirements in the state you apply to and sorry, life experience doesn’t count in any of those states.
If you have the units and prepare correctly, you can do it. But get all this “wordiness” out of your plan, just learn the information, sit for the exam, get 75s on everything and move on with your life + CPA.
That’s my humble suggestion.
As for not being a “people” person, congratulations, you’re already on your way to being a CPA.
If anyone has a CPA exam question for >75, let us know. I’ll try to be nice but at least informative.
Here’s the obligatory CPA Review disclaimer (I work for Roger, how do you think I figured all of this out? TT BPO 75 or 90, bitches).

CPA Exam Question of the Week: Review Courses for the Working Stiff

Thumbnail image for cpa exam.jpgEditor’s note: We’re going to start a weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to tips@goingconcern.com and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
A lawyer with an accounting undergrad wants to know the following:

What is the most efficient CPA prep course/books etc., for an individual that works during the week for about 45-50 hours. I understand that we can take the exam in separate parts, so that will be very helpful.


Caleb reminds me that this answer should be objective so let’s get the “I’m a CPA Exam Expert because of my day job” plug in here.
First of all, lawyer guy, congratulations on diversifying and pursuing your CPA. My experience is that more finance, mortgage, law, and other professionals are gravitating towards the CPA these days (especially since 2007) and that’s a great sign that the industry still carries a level of prestige. Win for us, though some of us think the industry as a whole has some work to do (see also: Dennis Howlett on the Big 4 being TBTF)
So my answer is I don’t have your answer. What you need as a CPA exam candidate is important, and I don’t know you well enough to figure out what you need. Professionally I’ve learned that those from other industries or educational backgrounds tend to have “special needs” like something more intensive than a simple review or additional support in formulating a study plan. CPAnet has an entire forum dedicated to CPA review courses, that’s a good place to start for research into the matter.
Taking the exam in separate parts doesn’t really help because once you pass the first part, the clock is ticking. 18 months doesn’t seem like a long time but it will be over before you know it. I don’t even experience it and sometimes I am amazed when I realized I talked to someone at work when they graduated and now they have a month left to pass FAR or they’ll lose their first credit. Don’t be them. You will have to plan out your time.
That’s my second point for you. 45 – 50 hours? I know people who passed the entire exam in 4 months with two kids at home and a fulltime job at the Big 4. That’s overachieving but if she did it, you can certainly do it working less than I do a week. Plan out every hour of your week and fit in studying where you can. If you say “I will just do it after work…” but don’t have a schedule, trust me, you’ll never do it after work.
Figure to spend about 132 hours on FAR, 96 hours on REG, 80 hours on AUD and 64 hours on BEC. That’s watching review lectures 1 time and doing the AICPA recommended 2 – 3 hours of homework. You might need more, you might need less, that’s for you to figure out. Pencil that in between every other hour of your life – and I mean every hour, from sleeping to work – and get your exams scheduled early. Do some kind of final review 2 – 3 weeks before your exam dates and make sure you studied.
The last thing I can remind you is something my boss has hammered into my head 10,000 times. The CPA exam is not an IQ test, it’s a test of discipline. Keep that in mind and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Five Really Simple Facts About the CPA Exam

Five.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
The CPA exam is full of myth and legend due in large part to the fact that you’re not supposed to discuss what’s actually on it. Of course everyone does and rumors fly around firms (“I heard IFRS is being tested in simulations…” “Tim in tax was thrown out of Prometric for wearing a hoodie to the exam…”) until they’ve been transformed into CPA exam nightmare tales based entirely in fiction. Knock it off, kids, let’s stick with the facts.


Of the two communications, only one is graded. Lucky you, you don’t know which one. Candidates get all bent out of shape over the communications but all you have to do is write a standard business letter. You don’t even have to answer the question correctly, you just have to stay on topic! Easy ten points, don’t blow it and do the communications first.
The research portion is only worth 1 point so if you don’t have time, blow it off. Yes, I said blow it off. If you’re crunched to complete a simulation, this is the last thing you want to spend your time on. Skip it unless you have lots of time.
The CPA exam is NOT graded on a curve, your score is not a percentage and is on a “plus point” basis. This means if you don’t know an answer, guess. Never leave a question blank, everyone starts with 0 points and earns up from there. More difficult MCQ earn you more points when answered correctly and no, the AICPA doesn’t reveal the secret psychometric formula that it uses to determine this.
There are no “easy” multiple choice. You only get moderate or difficult. Every exam starts moderate and MCQ testlets will get more difficult if you are doing well or stay the same if you’re bombing. So yours could be moderate, difficult, moderate or moderate, difficult, difficult or if you really didn’t study: moderate, moderate, FAIL. Sorry, made that last one up. You get the point.
14 – 16% of the exam isn’t even graded. Outrageous as it may seem, the AICPA loves pre-testing things that you have never learned just to scare the shit out of you. Actually, they’re testing new questions and gauging candidate reaction so good for you if you know XBRL but sorry, you’re not getting any credit for it. If you get bizarre MCQ, now you know why.
Thanks to my day job, I guess I’m some sort of CPA exam expert so I encourage Going Concern readers who are interested in CPA exam content to get in touch with us and let us know if there’s something you’d like to see us cover on this subject. Good times, kids, good times!

The CPA Exam: It’s Too Late Now

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for panic.jpgIt’s October which means CPA exam candidates have about 7 weeks left to sneak in one more exam part before the end of the year. If you’re like most candidates, you blew off this entire year with excuses or got disappointed by failing scores early in the year and haven’t given the exam much thought since. Well you better start because you’ve got about 1,248 hours until the final window of the year is closed.
Sometimes procrastination pays off but in this instance, the exam will never get easier and you’ll never get through it if you keep putting it off.
Continued, after the jump


Typical prep time for the sections is as follows*:
BEC – 64 hours
AUD – 80 hours
REG – 96 hours
FAR – 132 hours
With 1,248 hours remaining until the December blackout, you should easily be able to fit in FAR, right? Wrong. If you’re working fulltime, lets just take out 50 hours a week, leaving you with 898 hours. But you’ve got to sleep, right? So if you get 6 hours a night, that leaves 580 hours. Well hell, you could prepare for two sections in that time, couldn’t you?
Not so much. Do you think you’re the only one who waited until the last minute?
The lesson for next year? Schedule early. Chances are if you’re trying to fit in one more section before the end of the year, you will not be able to sit at the Prometric test center of your choice, or may not be able to get the time/date that you desire. Well, that sucks for you, so hopefully you remember that for next time.
If you don’t start studying now, you’ve probably blown it for the year and should just wait for the first window of 2010. Remember the CPA exam isn’t like college, you can’t just stay over-caffeinated for a weekend and cram everything in that you need. Think of the information like a fine wine, it’s got to ferment in your brain to be useful come test day. Your brain learns best in layers anyway and without the foundation, you’re going to get tricked by the easiest MCQ simply because you don’t have the background on each concept.
Otherwise it will be November before you know it and you won’t have cracked a single CPA Review book between now and then. Trust me on this one, kids, start early and start slow. I’m trying to help you.
*Time based on video lectures and AICPA recommendation of 2 – 3 hours of self-study MCQ/sims for every hour of lecture but we’re sure you’re all Einsteins when it comes to this stuff so it’s probably less.

CPA Exam Changes Shouldn’t Affect You

The CPA Exam is apparently changing, whether you like it or not.
More, after the jump


Web CPA:

The American Institute of CPAs has scheduled Jan. 1, 2011 as the official launch date of CBT-e, a more technologically modern version of the Uniform CPA Examination…CBT-e, short for Computer-Based Testing evolution, will also update the content of the Uniform CPA Exam. The exam will include new content and skill specification outlines, including questions about International Financial Reporting Standards…Also starting on Jan. 1, 2011, new authoritative literature will be released based on the FASB Codification of accounting standards and a new research task format will be introduced on the CPA Examination.

Considering this is over a year off, these changes should not be of concern for most of you but considering some of the scores we’ve seen for this year and pretty much everyone seems to be ignoring the new Codification, maybe some of you should be worried.

NASBA Still Moseying Around Getting Your CPA Exam Scores Released

panic.jpgA little follow up from last week’s post on NASBA toying with you. Shockingly, scores are either just coming out or haven’t been released.
Most people we’ve checked with are still waiting and it’s been 2+ months. By now for most of you waiting this long for your scores have probably had to start taking Xanax but we’re sure they’ll be out any day know, so try to relax.
If you’ve gotten your score(s) and passed, feel free to gloat in the comments, or if you’re still waiting, discuss how you’re coping.

PwC Is Sick of You Not Passing the CPA Exam

olinto_cpa.jpgStudying for CPA exam got you down? Tired of choosing between sleeping and listening to Peter Olinto’s melodic voice talking about partnership basis calculations?
Luckily P. Dubs feels your pain. We’ve heard from a couple of sources that PwC is pushing sabbaticals for those of you that are scoring just slighty better than Tiger Woods.
We’ve heard that San Jose is offering tax associates 20% of their salary through the end of the year to get their act together. We also hear the same offer has been made to audit associates in New York. We would assume it’s on the same time frame since both offices will need every warm body available come 2010.
We kindly requested some details from PwC but they haven’t gotten back to us.
If you’ve got more details on this offer from Dubs or are considering participating so you can strike the Pedro and T. Gearty from your gray mass, discuss in the comments.

Is NASBA Torturing You?

fingers crossed.jpgWe got a request to start a thread on the CPA exam results being totally MIA. The last thread seemed to indicate that results were slow to come out but here we are a month later and some of you took your exam(s) back in July.
So what the hell, NASBA? People can’t sleep at night. Get with the program!
Discuss your anxiety in the comments or if you’ve got your scores, just tell us you got between 75 and 79. Anything higher and you might has well be one of those Elijah Watts rocket-scientists.

The CPA Exam for Commitmentphobes

Editor’s note: Adrienne Gonzalez is founder and managing editor of Jr Deputy Accountant as well as regular contributor to leading financial/investment sites like Seeking Alpha and GoldmanSachs666. You see all of her posts for GC by going here. By day, she teaches unlicensed accountants to pass the CPA exam, though what she does in her copious amounts of freetime in the evening is really none of your business. Follow her adventures in Fedbashing and CPA-wrangling on Twitter @adrigonzo but please don’t show up unannounced at her San Francisco office as she’s got a mean streak. Her favorite FASB is 166.
The first time I addressed the CPA exam here on Going Concern, I may have given the firms a little too much credit. Keep in mind that I write from the perspective of a CPA Review Project Coordinator; in other words, I’ve heard every excuse in the book.
I need more time on my course. Work got really busy and…
Continued, after the jump


Listen, I understand that the CPA exam is a serious commitment. I also understand that first and second year new hires get worked like slave labor. What I do not understand is why this should be my problem 2 years after the student’s course expired with not a peep in between. Can you use this excuse in college? “Yeah, sorry I didn’t make it to my Final… um, I know it was 3 years ago but can I just take it again? I got really busy.” I dare you to try.
What I’ve learned from my time in the CPA Review trenches – something that I will take with me for the rest of my life – is quite simple. In the time it takes to come up with reasons why you don’t have the energy, time, knowledge, or ability to pass the CPA exam, you could have already passed it.
Yes, you. You could have passed this thing years ago. All of a sudden you’re staring down a promotion and realize that there’s no way you’ll be able to make the leap with that obnoxious colleague who passed the exam in 4 months. How can you possibly compare?
Well you can’t, first of all. Second of all, I’m willing to bet my entire inventory of Wiley CPA Review books that he’s full of shit. So is the guy who said he had an hour and a half left when he walked out of FAR, as is the chick who says she got a 95 on BEC (she’s our student, you know, and she got three 60s before that, not to mention cussed out by me for an hour before she finally passed). They are not you. And you, little CPA exam candidate, are the only person who matters in all of this.
Not your parents, not your boss, not your firm and not even your significant other. You. Is this what you want to do with your life or not?
If it was, you’d be at the Prometric center in full war paint ready for battle 45 minutes before they open, not calling me trying to explain how complicated your life got in the two years since I’ve heard from you. Apparently you forgot that you friended me on Facebook and I can see you filling out 79 quizzes in just three short hours.
What exactly are you waiting for? Time? Trust me, you’ll never have it.

Let’s Discuss CPA Exam Results

Explain yourselves.
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Let’s Talk the CPA Exam

Disclaimer: Author is Project Coordinator/new media scientist for a leading CPA Review course. She’ll try her best not to bash any competitors (*coughthismeansyouTimGeartycough*)
Let me start this by saying we have a problem in the accounting industry. I’m not sure if it starts with the accounting professors or the firms, nor am I sure whether or not it is even fair to blame the powers that be over the accountants themselves but there seems to be an overwhelming thread of apathy and fear dominating professional licensure.
More, after the jump


Some facts are unavoidable; firms don’t always support the journey to CPA licensure (let’s face it, it isn’t exactly an easy trip), accounting professors don’t always prep future grads for the careers they are about to embark on and of course the AICPA Board of Examiners complicates things by throwing curveballs like new pronouncements and a laundry list of changes to exam content that pile up every six months. Who can keep up?
Well that’s the candidate’s job, isn’t it? Is this what you wanted to do with your life? Is this the path you took?
Of course it is, if it weren’t such a long, drawn-out process we’d have way more CPAs running around signing off on half-assed audits and trying to claim a client’s parrot as a deduction. Firms hate to think that they aren’t getting all of your blood, sweat, and tears; knowing that the exam will likely take all the good brain cells an accountant has left, they hate to see their new hires buried in Financial Accounting and Reporting. Why?! Don’t they want qualified professionals on their payroll? Well yes. To hear the firms tell it, new hires are the ones dropping the ball.
I can’t say why the Big 4 and beyond make it appear as if they do not support licensure. I do know that in the last two years I have personally witnessed a critical shift in the industry; whereas once upon a time the they just wanted a warm body in the chair to push buttons, they are now looking beyond “mediocre” and towards ambition, which inevitably leads to certification. The days of stumbling up the corporate ladder to manager without a CPA license are over and frankly I couldn’t be happier to see that shift.

Countdown for Current CPA Testing Window

olinto_cpa.jpgSince exam scores were being released last week, we probably don’t need to remind some of you that next Monday marks the end of the current testing window for the CPA exam. For some of you that means that you’re working 10-12 hours a day and then going home to study on your own or to listen to the sweet voice of Peter Olinto. For a few of you, it may mean that you’re coming up on your 18 month deadline to finish the exam. SHUDDER.
Of course if you were/are up for manager and you’re still studying, you probably haven’t been sleeping for months. We’re guessing that tax associate didn’t even bother registering to sit this summer but we could be wrong.
Whatever your situation, we’re sure that you feel like you could be studying more. Does your firm allow you to study at work? If so, is that even feasible for your current workloads? The firms put a big priority on passing the exam but your work better get done, right? Are they still paying bonuses for passing or did they cut that too? Let us know about your firm and whether or not passing the exam is a reality considering you’re all doing more with less.

CPA Exam Results May Be Available for the Current Testing Window

fingers crossed.jpgReceived notice from a reader that CPA Exam results are available for the most recent window. So if you took the CPA Exam at the beginning or middle of July, check your state’s board of examiners’ website and share the good news or your tale of woe in the comments.
Also feel free to discuss your affinity (or lack thereof) for Peter Olinto and Tim Gearty in helping you on your quest.

Try to Compose Yourselves After Reading This Post

Being accountants, we don’t have too may rock stars among us. Oh sure, maybe Tim Flynn is the cock of the walk at the Radio Station or Barry Salzberg can’t walk around Big D’s office without associates crawling all over each other to touch his clothes but these men pale in comparison to the immortal we are about to present to you.
If you saw this man on the street, his swagger would make your knees week, his impeccable attire would cause you to stare uncontrollably and the sound of his voice might overcome you with so much nervous excitement that you might projectile vomit all over him.
Find out who this man-god is, after the jump


We present you with this:
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Now we realize that the mere thought of Tim Gearty and Bob Herz on a cruise at the same time is probably more than most of you can handle but we had to share with you that the oracle of Becker Review was on Twitter bestowing encouragement and wisdom. All of you out there working to dominate the CPA exam can now rest easy that Tim will always be available in the Twitterverse.
You’re welcome.

Dear Becker,

olinto_cpa.jpgA reader was kind enough to share with us a letter they sent to Becker after the software expired and was rendered utterly useless.
Here’s an excerpt:
“The Becker lectures sang to me like a siren’s song. Much like poor Odysseus, I screamed for more. Yet, unlike Odysseus, there was no one there to keep me safe. Tim Gearty became the man that I yearned to be. He is smart, funny, humorous, debonair, more dashing than James Bond and full of more knowledge than Ken Jennings. His style rivals that of GQ’s Man of the Month.”
Check out more love for Tim Gearty and Peter Olinto in the whole letter, after the jump

Becker.doc

We’re Here to Listen to Your CPA Exam Stories Because We’re Solid Like That

Cpa_exam.jpgOkay, so the purpose of the Elijah Watt Sells post was not to make any of you feel like you’re lesser accountants. We just figured that a good portion of you were hung over today and the story of 10 individuals that got vomit-worthy scores on the CPA exam would get you past the nausea and running to the bathroom to lose that 3 am breakfast.
Now that you’re feeling better, we want to appeal to the rest of you. We want your CPA exam horror stories. Not because we want you to send you running back into the bathroom to sob in the stall. Not because some people we know passed all four sections in one sitting and don’t have any good stories. No, no. We want your stories because we here to listen to you. Besides, they’re probably funny now anyway. Aren’t they? Even if you’re still mortified or pissed off, this your opportunity to vent about it.
Sooooo, did you run out of gas on the way to the exam site? Did your computer crash with 10 minutes to go and you had to re-take the entire exam? We’re you caught cheating?!? Or watching porn? Impress us…

Elijah Watt Sells Award Recipients Make the Rest of Us Want to Puke

The AICPA announced the winners of the Elijah Watt Sells awards yesterday. For you mere mortals, this is an award for the 10 highest cumulative scorers on the CPA exam.
Glancing over the recipients we notice that two Big 4 firms (KPMG and Deloitte) enslave employ five of the recipients. A couple of recipients work in industry and a few more work for smaller, local firms.
This leads to the obvious question of why the hell P. Dubya and E&Y were totally shut out? Grant Thornton and BDO were also blanked. Are the honchos at the Radio Station and Big D giving the worker bees more time to study? Are P. Dubs, E&Y, et al. cutting out the bonuses for passing and thus destroying anyone’s motivation for passing? Are those of you looking to pass already choosing between eating and sleeping (and maybe sex) so studying just isn’t happening? Sells was a Big D founder so maybe the whole thing is rigged? Thoughts anyone?
Oh and congratulate the recipients while you’re at it (without vomiting on them).
AICPA-HONORS-TOP-CPA-EXAMINATION-PERFORMERS.pdf