Listen, this may seem like a ridiculous question and knowing our tax-obsessed friend Joe Kristan, chances are he was kidding when he asked it but I couldn’t help but indulge him since this is actually one I have thought about more than once.
Being pretty well-covered from head to toe in ink myself, if it were allowed (and were I completely bankrupt of ethical fortitude), tattoos #34 – 47 co be mnemonic cheat sheets. But is it allowed?
@adrigonzo Can you tatoo [sic] cheat sheets on your arms? If so, what parts do you recommend?
Valid question (if ridiculous), no? Let’s look at the rules.
You cannot bring paper, pencil, notes, your cell phone, a calculator watch (who even USES one of those?!), or even a hat into Prometric and if you choose to bring a jacket (I hear those rooms get chilly), you’ve got to wear it all 3 – 4 hours of the exam or else risk running out of time to take a break and put it in your locker. But as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no requirement that would otherwise bar someone from writing down the “answers” in fancy script on the absorbent epidermis of their inner forearms. After all, it’s not like you can remove your skin, right?
Here’s the problem (or four):
The first is that the AICPA Board of Examiners guard their proprietary CPA exam questions with their lives. If it came down to someone being able to bypass the rules by slipping past Prometric with answers tattooed on them, chances are they’d not only skin the offender but sue the shit out of them to find out where they got those answers. Review courses may have practice questions that are similar to actual exam content and the AICPA may retire 50 questions from each section a year but NO ONE except for the AICPA Board of Examiners has an actual answer key.
That being said, if by some fluke someone were able to get their hands on real exam content (unlikely since you aren’t allowed to take scratch paper out of the room and trust me, every sheet is accounted for), the CPA exam that you get is actually pulled from a test bank of thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of questions. So even if you illegally smuggle out exam content and hand it to a tattoo artist, the odds that you would get the same questions on an exam are slim to none. Sure there are likely repeats (as anyone who has taken an exam section two or – God forbid – three or more times can tell you) but not so many that getting an entire random exam tattooed on you would do you any good.
So, let’s just say somehow someone gets their hands on an exact exam and somehow someone else just so happens to get that same exact exam (after tattooing the answers on their forearm). Exam content, as many of you should already know, changes twice a year. So even if the first two somehow work out, the tattoo will be obsolete in 6 months. Then what? Scrawl FAS 141(r) underneath the other rules like a cover-up? Tacky!
Lastly, let’s all keep in mind here that this is the CPA exam, a professional licensure examination that tests not only your knowledge but your personal ethics and ability to protect the public interest. Times may be changing and the public may be OK with being served by a CPA with a visible butterfly tattooed on their ankle (or, we can only hope one day, a full sleeve tattoo) but there is no way you are protecting the public if you’re starting off your career looking for ways to cheat the system.
So is it allowed? Technically yes from what I can gather. Morally that’s a big fat hell no and I shouldn’t have to explain why. We look forward to an announcement from the AICPA that all candidate tattoos must be biometrically logged before admission to the exam is granted.
If you have a career related question that also involves the CPA exam (like “should I take it before I try to get this awesome job at x firm?” or “Will I still get hired if I have a CPA and therefore scare the crap out of recruiters who want me to be as moldable to their whims as possible?”), please email me directly. Emailing firstname.lastname@example.org will just mean you getting trapped in Caleb’s inbox for weeks.
Now then, today’s reader question comes from a finance world immigrant looking to elbow his way into public accounting:
I graduated in 2005 with a Finance degree, I spent one year as a Staff Accountant then moved onto to become a Corporate Financial Analyst for the past 4 years. I am interested in making the change to public accounting and began the MSA program last year to get the requisite hours, I’ll be eligible for the CPA at the end of the Spring Semester but won’t quite be finished with the MSA program. There is the background…
…now my question is would I be better off staying in my current position and finishing the master’s program before I take the CPA and find a new job? Or would it be more beneficial for me to attempt to find a lower level job at a firm during the spring semester to start getting some experience, then attempting to take the CPA next fall? I’m eager for a change, but I would like to know what the best course of action might be and if it’s realistic to think I could find a CPA firm job before I have finished the master’s program or taken the CPA exam. Thanks for your help.
Here’s the obvious disclaimer: I am heavily biased towards the CPA designation for many reasons.
Firstly, having one obviously makes you more employable because it shows a level of dedication that employers salivate over. Forget all that junk about a CPA showing that you know your stuff, getting one shows that you have the ability to grind through months or even years of studying your ass off, which employers are into because it means that you might just show the same sort of dedication to ticking and tying.
Secondly, having a CPA allows access to a professional network that cannot quite be accessed from the fringes (read: unlicensed fringes) and puts you in a different caliber. For someone trying to break into public accounting, having a CPA (or being darn close minus the work experience) right off the bat can put you on the fast track to career advancement that might otherwise be out of reach were you to both come from another industry and lack a CPA. Just my 2¢.
All that being said (possibly in more words than were necessary), yes you can find a job with a CPA firm before you have passed the exam but the best avenue to take is always to tackle the exam as early as you can before you get involved in life, work, family… you know, all that stuff that will turn into excuses for not having time to study later. Even your best-laid plans don’t always turn out as well as they appeared on paper, so that low level gig at a firm (if you can get one) might turn into a longer-term position that you can’t or won’t walk away from. Ask anyone who has studied for the CPA exam while grinding out their first year in public accounting if you need more clarification on just how large a pain in the ass that plan can be. You know, if you’re planning on having a life.
My suggestion: take the CPA exam as soon as possible and put your feelers out in the job market. Don’t bank on a CPA firm position landing in your lap but if you find one, it will be best to have as much of the exam done as you can get before you actually start. Good luck!
As many of you know, some parts of the CPA exam are changing significantly in 2011 though don’t listen to the rumors that say everything is changing profoundly. If you sit for the exam before 2010 and sit again in early 2011, chances are you will recognize much of the content and format of the exam beyond the few changes. We’ve covered those here before, feel free to check out our previous CPA exam posts for more detail.
Anyway, a lot of you are wondering if you should purchase CPA exam review materials now and if you do how you will handle the new material in 2011.
If you’ve done your homework, you’ve found a CPA review course that offers updated material at no additional charge. This could be in the form of split shipments, updates to books or new books altogether depending on whose program you have sunk your hard-earned money into. If you are unsure whether your course offers these or if you are still shopping around for a review, be sure to ask before committing as some providers could end up charging you for new materials.
Keep in mind, however, that much of what is being tested currently will still be tested in 2011, even in areas like FAR and AUD that are getting a significant amount of new international material added to them. If you read too many misinformed forum posts, you might be under the impression that 2010 material is completely and totally irrelevant in 2011 and that studying from these materials will mean guaranteed failure on the exam. That is simply not true. Of course it is a good idea to also study from whatever updates you might receive to 2010 materials if you are sitting in 2011 but it is not worth panicking over nor delaying your studying because you are holding out for brand new 2011 information.
The AICPA Board of Examiners is not about to throw away their precious bank of tried and true CPA exam questions, even though they are anxious to add new international content to that mix. Much of what CPAs have been tested on for the last 6 years will still be relevant next year and there is no need to hold a giant 2010 CPA review book bonfire to eliminate old, outdated content.
You will definitely want to get access to any material updates if you are allowed them by your review course but please, don’t burn books or run out and get all new materials just because you are afraid of being left behind in 2011. Debits still go on the left, even under IFRS.
Bypassing the pleasantries and getting straight into the reader question:
I passed BEC & REG on my first try, but I failed FAR & AUD. I need to take FAR or AUD before 2011. Which one do you suggest? FYI: I had 66 on FAR, 56 on AUD.
We’ve discussed what to do when you fail an exam section in the past and if you are familiar with the formula, you know that anything less than a 70 means you can pretty much go back to the drawing board. So the short answer here is that either FAR or AUD is fine but with a little over a month left before the end of 2010 testing, I am a little concerned that you may not have enough time to really prepare. Let’s be real here, you must not have put in much time or effort on either the first time around, am I right?
That being said, FAR looks like the more promising option though a 66 tells me that you’ve got a ways to go before you will be ready. It could be that you simply bombed one testlet and a simulation, in which case you don’t need to spend too much time going over all FAR topics in extensive detail but if you skimmed most of it the first time around, now might be the time to get serious and put in the work.
If you are asking which to take before 2011 because you are scared to death of the CBT-e changes, I would suggest taking AUD this year as the research will be harder next year while most of FAR will actually be easier (between removal of written communication, shorter “simlet” problems and fairly straight-forward IFRS vs GAAP content).
Regardless of which you choose, work on time management (perhaps that is your issue as it coincidentally tends to be a problem on both FAR and AUD) and use your score report to figure out where you need to focus for your second attempt.
Ed. note: Adrienne is currently trudging across this fine country, moving her life from not-so-fabulous-anymore San Francisco to an undisclosed location just outside of Washington DC. She’ll return to a full posting schedule next week after getting settled. As always, you are still welcome to get in touch with any CPA exam questions and/or post suggestions.
Getting back to the awesomeness that is the CPA exam for international candidates (piggybacking on the AICPA’s announcement earlier this week that they are moving forward with international testing in 2011), today’s reader question comes from a NY-based CPA exam candidate who originally hails from India.
I have passed all sections of the CPA exam in Delaware. I do not have experience to qualify for license yet. DE has stopped issuing certificate “alone” for CPA, they now issue combined cert + license. Is there a state who issues the certificate alone?
A few years ago, most international candidates went with either Colorado or Delaware simply because those state boards allowed for the easiest CPA exam experience without, well, the actual experience. International candidates could apply, show up to take the exams, pass and never actually become CPAs in the traditional sense but go home with those fantastic little letters on their résumés.
Unfortunately for international candidates, the state boards got together and decided that there might be some confusion between these certificate-holding CPAs and CPAs who fulfilled educational and experience requirements for licensure. As we all know, you could stay in school for 10 years reading about the stuff but there is just no substitute for good old work experience in the profession.
The old timers will recognize the term “two-tier state” as it was initially thought that passing the exam (the part where the certificate comes in) was the first step – or tier – and satisfying experience or additional education requirements the second.
So now that you have the backstory, where can you go? Right now Illinois is your only option and you will only have that available to you until 2012. They initially decided to eliminate the certificate in 2010 but the governor gave this CPA certificate plan a stay of execution until 2012, so get on it now if that’s your plan.
The other remaining one-tier states – Alabama, Kansas, Montana and Nebraska – all have a residency requirement or other restriction. That may mean they are out of the question for you. Montana requires a Social Security number for a certificate, something many international applicants obviously don’t have. Without knowing our reader’s specific details, this may or may not be an option. Anyone with experience with this little nuance in the the CPA certifying world is invited to share their experience.
Good luck and just be glad you aren’t getting licensed in New York!
Have you, like many foreigners, been tripping about getting into the US to take the CPA exam, battling with strict post 9/11 Visa rules and other assorted red tape? Trip no more, the CPA exam is about to go international. This is huge because the exam is also about to get an international makeover (like IFRS testing in FAR and international audit standards in AUD) but that couldn’t at all be coincidentally related to this announcement from the AICPA:
The Uniform CPA Examination will be offered outside the 55 U.S. jurisdictions for the first time in its history in 2011. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and Prometric – the three organizations that jointly offer the CPA Examination in the United States – reached an agreement to administer the exam in international locations.
The CPA Examination next year will be offered in Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
The international exam will be the same as the one offered in the U.S., using the same computerized format and administered in English. As in the U.S., the purpose of taking the examination will be to qualify for licensure as a CPA through U.S. state boards of accountancy.
Security has been one issue for the AICPA in deciding where to offer the CPA exam even though it will continue to administer the exam through Prometric. International testing will be subject to the same state board or jurisdiction rules that determine eligibility for CPA exam candidates since there is no Dubai Board of Accountancy. Just as now, potential international candidates will have to meet the requirements of whichever jurisdiction they choose to apply. Which I guess makes all the residency-requirement states out of the running to be a part of this epic new spin on the computerized CPA exam?
Some have mentioned on earlier bitch sessions about the AICPA that their motivation is a monetary one. Expanding membership, for example, brings in revenue. Increasing the passing CPA exam score (thereby causing more failures and, one would imagine, more subsequent $$$ retakes after) is another example though that’s just a rumor last I heard. So if one were inclined to postulate as to the motive behind this move and approach it skeptically, you might come to the conclusion that this could equal a pretty significant payday for the AICPA as well as NASBA, Prometric, ChoicePoint and all the CPA review courses who make a living off of this exam. I’m not against it.
I guess we will find out what significance the U.S. CPA exam still holds for the rest of the world. Even if we end up looking pretty bad when international candidates do way better on the AICPA’s new international exam content in 2011.
Let’s skip the pleasantries and get right into what you’re dying to know, how bad is Regulation going to be next year?
Things they are a-changin’…but not much – The good news is that REG is hardly changing at all. After all, you can’t test international standards of federal taxation as globalization hasn’t completely taken over so don’t expect to see much different content-wise come 2011. You will see the new simulation problems and notice there are no longer written communications. But beyond the cosmetic changes, the actual content that makes up Regulation will be quite similar to what’s already being tested. Of course, that is true across the board as a good 90 – 95% of what is being tested will still be tested next year if my gut feeling is still any good. You guys have to remember – next time you are freaking out about new exam material – that CPA exam questions are difficult to develop and the AICPA Board of Examiners isn’t about to trash all their useful questions just to start testing you on the international stuff.
Tax year overlap – One thing to keep in mind when taking REG – in the first two windows of the year you can be tested on both current and former tax year numbers. This means if you take it in January of 2011 you may see 2010 tax numbers or you may see 2009 or a mix of both. Chances are the newer numbers will not make their way to the exam (hey, the AICPA BoE is super busy getting those IFRS questions in working order!) but just something to be aware of. That doesn’t mean you have to memorize tons of different tax tables but it would be wise to stay up on tax changes in the year ahead as many tax rates are still in the air at the point many review courses are rushing to go to print.
Who said anything about ethics? – Ethics and professional responsibility are moved out of REG and put back into AUD except for those pertaining to tax practice and will still be tested about the same as 2010: 15-20% versus 15-19% in 2011. Business law will carry less weight, making up 17-21% of all questions. Federal tax procedures get a boost from 8-12% in 2010 to 11-15% in 2011. Great news for those of you who really do not like taxes, federal taxation of entities gets a downgrade from 22-28% to 18-24%. Individual tax stays about the same, going from 12-18% to 13-19%. Don’t expect much of a break, it is Regulation after all.
Other than that, REG won’t see much of a change. Business structure (partnerships, et al.) has been moved out of BEC (rightfully so) and will only be tested in REG but you already know most of that stuff if you have passed either section in 2010.
If you can, I advise holding off on Regulation until the last two windows of the year so you have a better chance of getting only one year of tax numbers (the AICPA will generally test the previous year’s tax numbers) but if you are looking for a good one to hold off on taking until next year ahead of the CBT-e changes, REG would definitely be it.
Good luck and we’ll see you on Friday!
Oh and in case you didn’t get the memo, if you have a CPA exam question for us (for example, which part can I procrastinate on until the very end of 2011?, Is farting allowed at Prometric?, How can I tell my girlfriend to leave me the hell alone and let me study? etc etc), do get in touch.
Audit, unfortunately, is the one section that I think will be just a tad harder than it is this year but only in one small area. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Simulations – As with FAR and REG, Audit will contain 7 smaller simulation problems next year (called “simlets” or “task-based simulations”) instead of two large simulations. Written communication is gone and placed into BEC. Since AUD was the largest exam time-wise up until now, a half hour will be moved out of Audit and put into BEC. Now 4 1/2 hours, it will be cut down to 4. Since AUD is often one in which candidates run out of time even in 2010, it is all that much more important to learn important time management strategies to assure you do not run out of time.
MCQ – Multiple choice questions will make up 60 – 70% of your score while TBS (task-based simulation) problems will make up the remainder.
Research This is where Audit gets tricky and why I feel it is the only section that will be slightly harder in 2011 than it is now. Currently, research is just a tab buried in simulations and frankly not worth your time unless you have tons left and really love looking through the Code of Professional Conduct (or need something to copy for your written communication, though we would never recommend such a thing).
In 2011, research will be its own TBS with the same weight as other simulation problems (if graded). For FAR and REG this isn’t much of an issue as you only have the ASCs to dig through in FAR and just two sets of code for REG. But for Audit, you have a grand total of TEN different sets of code to search; the Code of Professional Conduct, PCAOB ASs, SASs, SSARS… you get the point. It wouldn’t hurt to try out the new research problems on the AICPA’s website here so you can get an idea of what you are up against. It is very similar to 2010’s research except that it is on its own and actually worth a couple points.
Ethics and Independence – Content-wise, professional ethics and independence are moved out of REG and into AUD (except those that pertain to tax practice, which will continue to be tested in REG) and international audit standards will be peppered in throughout. Planning the engagement will now make up 12 – 16% of problems whereas before it accounted for up to 28% of this section. Internal control is upped to 16 – 20% (from 12 – 18%). Audit procedures will get far less testing than in 2010, going from 32 – 38% of questions to 16 – 20%.
Hope that helps and see you on Tuesday for our last 2011 wrap up, Regulation!
Following the awesomeness that was our “How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?” post, I figured it would be a good idea to go over each section to compare this year’s CPA exam with next year’s. Today you’re lucky to get a good BEC wrap up.
Written Communication – As stated last Friday, written communications are moving from FAR, AUD and REG to strictly BEC. This is good (and possibly easier) for most of you as writing can be a right-brained activity while the rest of the CPA exam mostly tests your left brain’s ability to process and digest information.
If I were taking the exam, I’d relish the opportunity to have three attempts at essays (since it might make up for my pathetic understanding of cash flows) but for many of you this is a weak area. That’s fine. In 2011 you’ll only have to try it once with three BEC-related WCs. You still do not have to get the answer correct but simply have to A) write like you have at least some sense of what a “business memo” contains B) not misspell any words (you get a spell-checker in 2011, no excuses) and C) stay on topic.
Easy. Currently you get two written communications in three different sections, while in 2011 you will get three written communications in one section.
No Simulations – Contrary to rumors I am still hearing for some unknown reason, BEC does not and will not contain simulations in 2011. It may not contain them for some time or the AICPA BoE could get creative and start testing them out in a few years, it’s hard to say but my understanding is that they are happy with written communication in BEC for now. Between you and me I imagine part of the motivation behind this is getting all of you off their backs about the fact that a multiple choice only exam section still takes the same amount of time to grade as more complicated sections like FAR, AUD and REG. But what do I know?
More Econ, Less IT – As for actual BEC content, IT will be more lightly tested while econ will carry more weight. Econ goes from 8-12% of questions to 16-20%. A new area, operations management, will make up 12 – 16% of questions you see. Business structure (partnerships etc) goes back to REG where it belongs and corporate governance takes its place with 16-20% of your questions coming from that area.
Narrowing Components – The new AICPA target weights have changed since last year. Before you were tested on five core components: communication, research, analysis, judgment and understanding. In 2011 (this is for all sections), you are tested on just three: knowledge and understanding, application of the body of knowledge and written communication. Knowledge and understanding make up the MCQ (80 – 90% of your score in 2011’s BEC exam) while written communication makes up the other 10 – 20%.
Will BEC be more focused than it has been since 2004? We wouldn’t put any money on that. It’s still the junk drawer of the CPA exam though it’s come quite a way since its debut with the computerized exam 6 years ago. As a person intimately acquainted with it, I feel it has a ways to go. But 2011 is an improvement and just like FAR probably easier for you guys in the long run.
Quick answer: easier actually, in my opinion. I didn’t take the exam this year and I am not taking it next year nor any year after that so perhaps I’m wrong.
A few nights ago, a CPA exam candidate was bitching about studying so I threw in my whining about digging into new CPA exam content for next year. Cry cry, we all have it rough.
Long story short, since I was stuck shuffling through new content anyway she asked an easy 2011 question.
Can you tell me if FAR will be that much harder in 2011? I don’t think I’ll get my NTS in time to schedule for 2010
How many of you are in that boat right now? I’ve seen quite a few of you making plans to knock out two exam parts this year that have just put in your applications; I’m truly sorry to be the one to break this to you but chances are you aren’t going to get in this year. It’s good to be realistic going into this, anyone could lie to you and say in 4 – 6 weeks you’ll have an exam date. Even if you do get approved to sit right now you still have to wait for payment coupons and NTSs, by the time all that is in your hand all the exam dates will be taken. Don’t trip, next year it will be easier and here is why:
Simulations: Big ass simulations are broken up into little parts so you can totally blow a few of them and have several different topics coming at you instead of just two. So if you’re not so hot on pensions, you still have 5 or 6 other chances to do well on simulation problems. In 2010, if you didn’t study the indirect method you better hope you don’t get it or else you’ve blown it. For candidates who have sat this year, you’ve likely already seen them testing out the new format.
Written Communication: You get a spell checker in written communication AND you only have to do essays once (unless you fail BEC). Come on, written communications are easy already, you don’t even have to be right you just have to rite good. In 2011, you won’t have to write 6 different essays in 3 sections but just 3 in 1. That’s a win. Throw in the spell checker and I really wonder why some of you are scrambling to take BEC this year so you don’t have to in 2011. Is writing that bad? Get used to it, you’re going to be writing a lot of unnecessary emails and it’s an important skill to have. You can’t protect the public interest if ur writin liek this. Point being, FAR won’t have written communication for those of you morally opposed to writing anything.
IFRS Just about everything you’ve learned in 2010 will still be relevant in 2011, especially in FAR. No one is throwing out GAAP (even our super excited friends at the AICPA who can’t wait for IFRS!) and some areas of FAR aren’t impacted by IFRS at all. It appears throughout FAR but you shouldn’t be too freaked out by it because you don’t have to be an IFRS expert to nail the material. Just read, learn and pass. It’s really simple. The questions will likely stay mild until the AICPA Board of Examiners figures out whether or not this was a good idea a few quarters down the road. Conservatism dictates they’ll take it slow with international content until we’re actually 100% on this convergence thing so don’t freak out, IFRS makes a lot more sense than cost accounting ever will.
Not bad right?
Here’s where the old timers chime in and tell us all about back in the day when you didn’t get a calculator and had to walk uphill both ways to get to an auditorium in the middle of nowhere for a 17-day marathon of CPA exam testing. In the dark. With no scratch paper. Commence telling us about the “Before Time” please.
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that as is, research isn’t very important and if you’re running out of time on a simulation you should completely ignore it. It might be worth a point and let’s be real about it, no one uses it unless they need words for a written communication. Shame on you guys.
Starting January 1, 2011, however, you’re going to have to start giving a shit about the research. I know, lame. They want you to know how to search the code because that’s what you have to look forward to once you get those three letters after your name. Awesome, right? Figure it out.
Research problems will make up one simlet tab in REG, AUD and FAR. FAR and REG are fairly easy in that you only have three databases to search through; in REG, you’ll have to look through the Internal Revenue Code and Tax Services code while in FAR you only have the ASCs to worry about. AUD, however, is littered with 10 different sets of code so you better get familiar with research by A) using the research problems you already have in CPA review textbooks and software and B) playing with the actual functionality of the 2011 CPA exam format if you are sitting for the first time after January 1.
For those sitting for the first time in this coming window, you’ll still have the old research format (unless the AICPA Board of Examiners is trying out their new simlets one last time as pretest questions before the CBT-e beast goes live next year) so you can always feel welcome to ignore it if you are halfway through your simulation with only a quarter of it bubbled in. You can still find that tutorial on the AICPA’s website as well and it is advised that you try it out before you show up at Prometric and waste a bunch of time figuring out how to work the controls. It’s fairly straight-forward but you might as well give it a test drive as you can’t waste 5 minutes to pee let alone try to puzzle your way through an unfamiliar exam format.
I hope to hear that all of you blow research off all the way up until November 30, 2010 (you know, to show your solidarity and commitment to the collective experience of taking this damn exam)… Yes, November 30th, the day most of you are sitting for one last part. Any update on Prometric blackouts in your area? So far I’ve heard the Bay Area is getting completely booked up for the last week of November (shock) but not much else. Any of you having trouble getting in at the last possible minute or more?
This is why we always tell you to schedule early but why listen to us?
If you’d like to know something about the exam (don’t ask where the tutorial is, I just gave it to you), get in touch.
From the mailbag:
I work for a local accounting firm and am part of a committee to revise our CPA exam policy. [C]ould you do a story on other firms’ exam policies and what CPA exam candidates find the most motivating and helpful and like/dislike about their own firm policies.
I [am] looking for the bonus and reimbursement policy. I am interested to see how many smaller firms pay for study materials, reimburse for the exam, what type of bonuses they give, etc.
What we’ve generally heard is that it’s a mixed bag when it comes to small firms and their CPA exam policies. Bonuses are fairly common although the exact amount of the said bonus varies. Likewise, we’ve heard that firms will reimburse your costs for taking the exam, although there’s a cap on how attempts for each section (e.g. after you bomb FAR twice, you’re SOL).
Where the smaller firms are especially stingy is the cost of your review course materials. Hell even the Big 4 aren’t shelling out the cash for Becker, Roger, Wiley et. al like they were back in the mid-aughts.
Anyway, the readership knows better than us. If you work for a smaller firm, do share your firm’s policies on reimbursement, bonuses, etc. And as a more general question, what policies does your firm have that actually motivate you to crank this thing out? Does the bonus do it for you? Is the carrot stick take the form of a raise after you knock out the fourth section? Explain in excruciating detail. Our reader thanks you.
Because we know all of you are very busy tearing up your last exams before CBT-e hits in January of 2011, we won’t waste your time and get right to the point. 2011 is coming, the exam is changing and though we’ve been over it plenty in the last several months, let’s go over it one more time.
Simulations – This year’s simulations are next year’s simlets. Simulation problems will be shorter, task-based problems that should take you about 10 – 15 minutes to complete as opposed to the 45 minutes they take now. AUD and FAR will have 7 smaller simulation problems while REG will have 6. As usual, not all of these are graded.
Multiple choice – BEC and REG will contain 24 MCQ per testlet while FAR and AUD will still contain 30. MCQ will make up 60% of the FAR, AUD and REG exams and 85% of BEC.
Research – if you’re taking the exam this year, research is buried in simulations and doesn’t carry much weight point wise. Next year, however, research will be its own tab worth as many points as any of the other simlet problems. FAR research will be easy as it is limited to the ASCs (Accounting Standard Codification) and REG will mostly draw from the Internal Revenue Code but AUD will come with a dropdown menu that includes PCAOB ASs, the Code of Professional Conduct and SSARS just to name a few. You’ve been warned.
Written communication – WC is out of FAR, REG and AUD and slapped into BEC. You’ll have to write three written communications, of which two will be graded.
International standards – IFRS and international auditing standards will be added to current FAR and AUD content (respectively) while REG is mostly unchanged by this as you can’t really test international standards of federal taxation. Keep in mind that this additional content will most likely be gently mixed in with what is already being tested and does not make GAAP completely irrelevant so don’t use 2011 as an excuse to procrastinate all the way through the holidays.
Now stop wasting your time with inflammatory nonsense blogs and GET BACK TO STUDYING!
(btw: if you have a CPA exam question for us – anything from applying to qualifying to passing – do get in touch)
Okay, this one pretty much takes the cake as far as CPA exam questions are concerned (as far as I have seen) and if this person is for real, I really really hope they have gotten in touch with the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric for clarification. Is this a legitimate question?
Are you allowed to fart when you take the CPA Exam?
Told you this was a weird one.
The responses are what truly amazed me as we all know accountants are not known for having a good sense of humor if any at all (no offense, you guys know I’m right). Helpful CPAnet members weighed in with everything from “You can on the audit section if you have weak internal control” to “by all means pass GAAS”. One contributor suggested that farting during FAR is completely allowed, as no one wants to waste a precious second excusing themselves after a testlet to go rip one (or four) in the Prometric potty on an exam that’s already short on time. Love it.
We didn’t see “bodily emissions” on the list of banned items at the test center so without confirming for 100% certainty, we’re going to go ahead and say let ‘er rip. Literally. There’s absolutely no reason to hold it in for your fellow test-takers’ sake unless it’s chronic or otherwise obnoxious. But a fart? I don’t see a problem.
Then again, be careful. An accidental shart in the middle of a testlet could cost you your entire exam.
If you recall, the PCAOB got really busy not too long ago and doubled its audit standards virtually overnight, leading one CPA exam candidate to reach out and ask if this is at all relevant to his exam experience. If you don’t want to read the following and just want the short answer, it’s probably no.
Was wondering if you could do a brief post regarding the new pronouncements issued by the PCAOB earlier this month and when they will become eligible for testing on the exam. I am debating between taking this section and BEC in the next testing window. I’d prefer to take BEC since I don’t really feel like having to do the written portion when that goes into effect next year; however, if it comes down to memorizing a bunch of stuff that wasn’t included in my B—– package and that, I would rather get AUD out of the way. Thanks for your input!!
This is a great question so I’m happy to indulge you, let’s consult the AICPA, shall we? Lucky for all of us, they are very clear when it comes to most testing areas except for those in REG, which can cover both the current and former years’ tax numbers depending on when you take the exam. At least for this area we know for a fact that they will not be testing the new PCAOB audit standards until at least February 5, 2011. So says the AICPA:
Accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Uniform CPA Examination in the testing window beginning six months after a pronouncement’s effective date, unless early application is permitted. When early application is permitted, the new pronouncement is eligible to be tested in the window beginning six months after the issuance date. In this case, both the old and new pronouncements may be tested until the old pronouncement is superseded.
For the federal taxation area, the Internal Revenue Code and federal tax regulations in effect six months before the beginning of the current window may be tested.
For all other subjects covered in the Regulation (REG) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, materials eligible to be tested include federal laws in the window beginning six months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the window beginning one year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.
So what the hell are they saying? Basically unless they specifically say so – like with FAS 141(r) being tested beginning July 1st, 2009 – new pronouncements, rules and regs will not be tested until 6 – 12 months after date of issuance. Keep in mind CPA exam questions cost a lot in time and effort alone and we just don’t see the BoE leaping head over heel to make new questions from the PCAOB’s latest busywork.
This means you’ve got another 5 months to put off Audit without having to memorize 8 new audit standards but maybe by that time the PCAOB will have another 8 to tack on. They are very busy over there these days, you know.
We received a simple request over the weekend:
With CPA exam results beginning to be released, could we get a thread going on how everyone is doing?
With short months until we ring in 2011, there’s seems to be plenty of people heeding Adrienne’s advice and are looking to knock this thing out, IFRS and simulation question changes be damned.
For those of you that have been studying and working, and you managed to pass your most recent section, you should seriously consider rewarding yourself by taking an impromptu trip to Burning Man, dropping [insert mind-bending hallucinogenic of choice] just to keep that fire burning for when you return to the cube farm.
For those of you that have once suffered yet another setback, you may feel like that you’re creeping deeper into the Abyss but don’t give up! You’re not a loser for life, just in this particular instance. That being said, you’re likely in a place where you need to vent a little and since losing it on your manager/staff/client isn’t advisable, you should consider expressing yourself below.
So whatever your score is, Elijah Watts-worthy or you struggled to meet the CPA Exam Mendoza Line (we’re setting it at 50%) discuss your results. We’re here to celebrate/cry with you.
Directly from CPAnet comes word that gum could possibly be banned by Prometric, although it may only apply if the testing staff are having a bad day. I didn’t see gum on the list of prohibited items either and would assume the rules are not there for interpretation by staff based on the mood they are in.
The test facilitator at Prometric today made me take my gum out before the exam. I rebutted with the fact that the AICPA does not prohibit gum in the list of prohbited items in the AICPA Candidate Bulletin: She then explained that people have left their gum in the testing center and it has been a “mess” to clean up. She seemed irritated and ornery, and I didn’t want to raise my blood pressure any higher before going into the test room… so I conceded and spit out my gum.
Now, I tend to consider myself to be a courteous and responsible gumchewer. I dispose of my gum in its original wrapper that always ends up in a trash can. One reason I like chewing gum while taking a test is b/c it allows me to harness any natural stress and focus on the task at hand. I really could’ve used some gum today, but I didn’t let that ruin my test. However, I will never be able to quantify the effect of my lack of gum on my final score tbd. Does anybody know the official gum rule? I think this lady was just having a bad day…
I didn’t attempt to reach Prometric to confirm this candidate’s story, I believe that our little candidate here IS a responsible gumchewer. Since this was posted on August 3 (assuming the night after the exam), the candidate still has until September 3 to request a rescore though it’s been several years since the AICPA has actually granted one (don’t waste the money).
I believe you can also contest the conditions of your testing center within the same 30 day window so if you absolutely must, go that route. Complain that you were subjected to conditions outside of your control that had a detrimental effect on your performance and see how that works out.
Or hope you passed and don’t bring gum next time. Regardless of why you wanted it, you should have been allowed it since it wasn’t on the list. Hopefully this person checks in and lets us know how it turns out.
Today’s reader question comes from a CPA exam candidate who I imagine would prefer to remain totally anonymous so let’s blow right past the pleasantries and get to the question, shall we?
So I just finished my exam yesterday and I am a little concerned about my communications tab. As I still had about 2.5 hours remaining going into my first simulation, I had a lot of time to write my communication. With the amount of time I had, I was able to research my topic extensively.
In my communication, I had used sentences that were straight from the research tab, without referencing it, but a most of my memo was changed and modified into my own words. However, the fact that I used some sentences and phrases word for word concerns me. I can’t actually recall how much I copied, which concerns me even more. Do you know if this is considered cheating? Has anyone copied directly from the research tab and still passed the exam?
Let me tell you, this is a new one even for me so the best way to answer is by defining what the AICPA BoE is looking for in your written communication.
The three components of a successful written communication are organization, development, and expression. This means they are looking for a structured document with clear ideas, supporting information to supplement your statements and use of standard English when conveying your ideas. Now the AICPA BoE spends quite a bit of time and effort developing questions for the CPA exam but that does not mean they are also developing components for you to use in your communication. This means that if you do have lots of time left to work on your written communication, the very last thing you want to do is copy and paste. It was my understanding that the copy-paste function was limited to research problems within simulations only as “transfer to answer” but maybe I’m wrong (stranger things have happened).
That being said, your best hope is that they don’t notice you did that. I don’t think it counts as cheating, exactly, as cheating is defined as having someone pretend to be you to take the exam or somehow smuggling in exam answers as if you’d be able to predict what questions you would get. That last one is probably rare if not impossible as not even the review courses get the EXACT questions that will appear on the exam except for retired questions released each year by the AICPA.
If you took exact phrasing from the authoritative literature, you did not complete the objective of developing nor organizing your statements; you simply took what had already been organized for you and stuck it in there. Suffice to say this is a HUGE NO NO and probably means you will not get points for this area. As I said, maybe they won’t notice and you’ll pass, it’s hard to say.
If you find yourself with lots of time left over for written communication, use it to review your other simulation answers, not to develop the Howl of CPA exam WCs. All you need is a beginning, middle and end. Your answer could be totally wrong but you will still get the points as long as you are clear and concise. You do not get bonus points for flair so don’t bother, you’d be better off going over your simulation to make sure you did everything correctly.
So the short answer is: I don’t think it’s cheating but I don’t think you are going to get the points if they pick up on what you did. Since most WCs are machine graded, the machine may be thrown off by just how perfect your answer is, raising a red flag that gets yours pulled for human review. Again, I could be wrong on this as frankly I’ve never heard of anyone doing this.
Be sure to let us know how it went once you get your score and good luck!
P.S. – don’t do that again. Seriously.
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 201 and 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.
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.