Passing the CPA exam was a goal of mine for quite a while. I am glad I have finally passed it, and I’d like to share some things I learned/realized along the way that will hopefully help other candidates taking the exam. What I’ll describe below is based on my own experience only.
If you are still in school, start taking the exam as soon as possible after you finish school. Many candidates will get employed shortly after getting out of school, and work will definitely keep you busy. Many candidates join public accounting right after school to get some experience under their belt. I got a job as an auditor at a public accounting firm, and my first year there was my best and easiest year. They did not expect much of me since I was a newbie, and I never had so much downtime as I did during my first year. I had plenty of opportunities to study at work during that downtime but for one reason or another I chose not to. Wrong! From my second year on, I have always been busy at work. Throw in out-of-state travel to the client sites, long days, work on Saturdays, Sundays and late in the evenings, and there is absolutely no time left for studying. Do not procrastinate! Your employer may not require that you pass the exam during your first or second year but you will be glad you did. It will make your life so much easier!
2. Order of taking each part of the exam.
Many ask which part of the exam to take first/last. I think it is totally up to the candidate, but in my opinion, you should start with the most difficult (for you) part. Do remember that you are only given 18 months to pass all 4 parts, and they’ll start expiring one by one if you do not pass them within the 18-month window. Tackle the hardest part first and put it behind you. Again, in my opinion, taking an easier part first might make the whole exam look like an easy one, and you will not be studying as hard as needed for the more difficult parts.
3. Study materials.
Many may not agree with me here but I strongly believe you get what you pay for. Looking back at my own experience, I should have purchased the more expensive course from the get-go. In the end, it will save you time and money! Retaking failed parts of the exam is costly and those costs add up quickly. One might as well pay more at first but have a higher chance of passing on the first try. FAR, for example, was the most difficult part for me. I took it, probably, 6 times while using cheaper study materials and still could not pass it. I passed it on the first try once I bought a more expensive course. Many ask whether study materials from multiple authors should be purchased or whether one study course should be chosen. In my opinion, purchasing a more expensive course and using materials from that course only should be sufficient. As a rule, the more expensive courses tend to have a lot more multiple choice questions and provide one with enough opportunities to practice.
4. Study techniques.
Now, only because one buys an expensive course does not mean she/he will pass the exam. The exam is a beast and requires a lot of studying to pass it. This is what worked for me: after failing FAR again, and again, and again, I shelled out some money and purchased an expensive course. I could have watched videos, do simulations and multiple choice questions in the comfort of my home. I, however, chose to also go to live classes in my town that met in the evenings twice a week. It did not cost anything and came as an option when purchasing the study materials. What going to those live classes made me do is to sit down and study. Each class was 4 hours or so long, so that’s 8 additional hours of studying a week. I would then come home, and watch videos again, thus reinforcing what was taught in class, then do multiple choise, etc. I had several instructors teaching FAR. Some instructors just project videos on the board for everyone to watch and do not do anything else. Not all of them are like that though. Some instructors do take the time to pause videos and try to explain the material in their own words. It did help a lot with some of the more challending topics like taxes and mergers/acquisitions. So if you have an option of going to a live class, my suggestion is that you do it. What will help you pass the exam is working those multiple choice questions but understanding the material first will help you solve the multiple choice problems.
Stay away from negative and have the “can do it” attitude. People tend to concentrate on their failures more than they do on their accomplishments and all of us heard stories how many times this and that failed the exam. Well, that was their experience. Do not let the negative experience of others scare you. Keep the ultimate goal in mind. Passing the exam is difficult but it will set you apart from those who have not passed it, and it will be worth it in the long run.
GOOD LUCK!!! 9 months ago