July 21, 2018

Cramming

Sometimes It’s Your Own Fault You Aren’t Passing the CPA Exam

After I crashed Caleb’s Yaeger Radio appearance, someone wrote in looking for help. If you have a question, do the same. But please don’t ask which review course to use, I can’t help there.

Hello Adrienne

I heard you over Yaeger’s talk radio tonight. You were very informative and helpful. I wish I heard you few months ago, how to study and make time to study.

Here is my story:

I took the CPA exam 10 years ago, way back during paper and pencil days. I passed 3 parts and lost my credit due to my personal life issues.

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

Your advice is greatly appreciated.

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

>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.