CPA exam advice

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

Bypassing the pleasantries and getting straight into the reader question:

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


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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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 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.