Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

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BornInCA
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Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by BornInCA » Mon Mar 28, 2016 8:50 pm

Dear Fellow Bogleheads,

I believe that the Bogleheads message boards are a great source of advice on nearly everything except banned topics. I've seen good advice beyond the typical advice on investing and personal finance.

I've taken a look at the various Boglehead threads:
viewtopic.php?t=96693
viewtopic.php?t=86035
viewtopic.php?t=52442

First of all, my congratulations to all who have become CPAs. I hope to join you one day. I could not find any recent (less than a year old) threads on this topic. I wonder if anything in terms of sentiment has changed since the most recent thread discussion on CPA exam preparation courses and techniques. I believe what has been the same is that lot of hours are required to study with little or no social/family life.

But what about the CPA review courses? Becker seems to be the most expensive vendor in terms of CPA review courses. Is Becker overhyped and overpriced? I have talked to practicing CPAs and most do recommend Becker. However, it's hard for me to convince myself that it is worth paying the high price and I have found a couple of vendors that “seem” better for me than Becker. I would like to see how others feel about Becker vs. other CPA review courses. I would love to hear about experiences with the various CPA review courses. Feel free to leave any additional tips regarding studying for the CPA Exam.

I've also checked out the various websites:
http://crushthecpaexam.com
http://ipassthecpaexam.com – I think it's the best for international CPA candidates (although I'm not one of them)
http://cpaexamguide.com
http://another71.com

I look forward to your responses!! All the best!! Thanks in advance!!

theDON2050
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by theDON2050 » Mon Mar 28, 2016 9:04 pm

http://www.another71.com/cpa-exam-forum/ is awesome. There is a bunch of great information on that forum as well as a community going through the same things you are.

My advice would be obtaining one of the top 3 or 4 review courses, studying each section, and answering as many multiple choice questions as possible. I had Becker for my review course. They do a good job but I have heard the other top courses are comparable. Good luck!

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Brantley
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by Brantley » Mon Mar 28, 2016 9:12 pm

Will your employer help to pay?
~Brantley

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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by jlawrence01 » Mon Mar 28, 2016 9:12 pm

I took the Becker class and passed all of four parts of the exam on the first try. I would recommend the review courses as they 1) provide you with the knowledge that you need to review and 20 they give you exam-taking tips that help you get through the long exam.

When you take the exam, no matter how well prepared, you will find something that honestly you have never heard of. You have to have the discipline not to let those things bother you and to move onto the areas that you know a lot about.

I am glad that I do not have to take that exam again. 19 hours of pure agony.

CantPassAgain
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by CantPassAgain » Mon Mar 28, 2016 9:21 pm

Purchase the Becker print and video study materials. Buy the flashcards as well. And buy a bunch of blank index cards.

In my opinion, don't waste your time with the live in class sessions. Do this on your own as it will require lengthy periods of intense concentration and the live sessions simply consist of highlighting sentences in the texbooks all day.

Start with the first video. Watch it. Then watch it again if you were confused about anything. If you are still confused, break out the book and read the corresponding material. When you are rock solid after the first block of videos, memorize the corresponding flash cards. Then answer all of the practice questions. For every question you get wrong, understand why. If it was because it wasn't covered sufficiently either by the videos or the flashcards, then make a new flashcard for that bit of info with the blank index cards I suggested you purchase. Place that flashcard with the rest of the corresponding flashcards and re-memorize all of them. Then run through the questions again. Once all are answered correctly, move on to the next video.

Don't spend too much time on the "suggested reading" sections. There is way too much of it and you get much more bang for your buck on the "essential" stuff (as expected).

After you get through a couple of sections go back and re-do all of the practice questions for all sections again and re-read your flashcards to make sure they are still memorized.

Rinse, repeat for 4 hours a night Mon-Fri and 6 hours on Saturday for 5 months or so. Take Sundays off.

I'm not particularly smart so it was an agonizing slog but the above worked for me and I passed all four parts the first time.

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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by LadyGeek » Mon Mar 28, 2016 9:22 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (career guidance).
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NOVACPA
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by NOVACPA » Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:29 am

I'm going to give another perspective.

I passed my exam and got my license while I was consulting for the Coast Guard. Many of the men I worked with were officers who would have loved to be on a ship or at home with their families and not studying. However, the United States had them in the Financial unit and they were smart and managed to use their time wisely.

They studied from 4:30 to 5:45 a.m., spent time with their wives and kids for breakfast, worked 8 to 4 p.m. and went out with friends or hung out with family until 10:00 p.m. then studied from 10:00 to 12:00 a.m. Rise and repeat 5 days a week. Nearly all of them passed in under a year.

They made work, family, friends, and studying all happen.

I took the live classes as I liked the pace, accountability, and structure of the live courses. However, it may not be the best use of time, but keeps the distractions at bay.

Another tip, find the nearest wash and fold place that does laundry by the pound. It's not cheap, but will save you time and energy... Two things that you will lack over the next year.

Good luck!

NOVACPA

Texanbybirth
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by Texanbybirth » Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:49 am

About a month before each exam (I took BEC and REG days apart) I bought the Wiley CPA Exam Review books (http://www.amazon.com/Wiley-CPAexcel-Re ... 1119119995), and I read them about three times. I worked out all of the problems, and I think I took one practice exam for each section. I worked full-time, and went to class in the evenings for my MS degree, so when I got to studying for the exam it was a relief! I never really wanted to take a review class and be stuck to someone else's schedule with others in a classroom holding me back. I passed all four parts with very high scores the first time. (I'm also extremely good at taking tests and have a great memory: YMMV.)

As a side note, the other (older) CPAs I work with give me a hard time about how "easy" I had it when taking the exam. They talk about how they had to take all four parts at the same time, and pass at least two parts to get any credit, they didn't take it on a computer, and blah blah blah. :D :D

As another aside, I showed up one morning for the FAR section only to find out that I hadn't registered for it! I had gone through the entire process and forgotten to click submit. I frantically called the scheduling service, but there were no tests available in DFW that week. The only option: an exam in Houston that evening. I begrudgingly signed up and drove 4.5 hours on a Tuesday afternoon to take an exam that evening, slept in a crummy motel that night, and drove back the next day quite confident that I had passed. It's actually a fond memory I have of the whole process, looking back now of course. :happy

Best of luck being in the ~50% who pass! :sharebeer (Maybe wait to have a beer until you're done studying.)
Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow, | Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow. | None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master: | His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.

Spedward
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by Spedward » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:03 am

My advice is to get it done ASAP. The further out from school you get the tougher it is. I started working right out of grad school and said "I have 18 months - no big deal!" 15 month later I had to cram 4 exams into 3 months. It sucked, but I just read through the Becker books till I had an understanding of everything. Maybe a chapter a day till I finished the book. Then circled back and reviewed the troublesome areas. Then just used the flash cards and nothing more. Past them all the first time thank god. But I would say take the toughest first and study until you know everything like the back of your hand. Then use your score as a measure for how much you need to study for the rest. I made the mistake of over studying and score pretty high on all of them. No one cares about anything above a 75.

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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by ChesaPeAke27 » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:08 am

Becker is the most popular and I believe it's because of its success. My previous employer only paid for the exam fees, so I was on the hook for review materials myself. But, Becker provides a nice payment plan which makes it a bit easier to handle. The cost is minimal if you consider the value of the certification over your lifetime.

I know this is just anecdotal, but folks I knew who had struggled with the exam were using materials besides Becker. Passing the exams is really based on the individual, but I couldn't help but wonder if the other materials were up to snuff.

Near my exam dates, I would often supplement my studying with multiple choice questions from another71. The ninja questions were often different from the Becker questions and were only $40-50. I would start to recognize and memorize the Becker questions, so another test bank was beneficial.

On a lesser note, you will be able to lament among your accounting peers, sharing a mutual hatred for Tim Gearty and his supposed joint venture with the highlighter companies (he highlights everything). But, O'Linto is the man!

In short, go with Becker. You won't regret it. Put in the time and you will pass. It takes dedication.
ChesaPeAke27

SouthernCPA
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by SouthernCPA » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:19 am

I used Becker. They had an 18 month interest free installment payment option. I used this and then paid it off with my employer reimbursement once I passed.

Becker was great for me. I watched the videos, worked literally thousands of multiple choice questions and took hundreds of progress/practice tests.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you....take it seriously and put the time in. I worked full time when I passed all 4 sections. I would go to work, get home at 5:30, take a 30 minute jog, quick dinner and then study until about midnight or sometimes 1am. Then I was up and at work by 8am the next day. I studied on Saturdays for about 8 hours and then took Sundays off. My wife supported my efforts by basically not seeing me for 6 months - that was tough. It was a miserable time and summer, especially when friends (we have a very busy social life) are wondering where we have disappeared to and why I can't go fishing, boating, etc. But I got it done in 6 months and it has been good for my career. The credibility is there once you're a CPA. People trust what you have to say.

I think if you go into it with that mindset that you're doing it and you're getting it done quickly, you'll succeed. It's a ton of hard work, but in the big scheme of things it's a small sacrifice. It seems like a big looming liability when you've got 4 sections to pass, but focus on one at a time. Once you get 2 behind you the momentum shifts and you're eager to knock the other two out.

The exam is only something that other CPA's can understand. Your friends in insurance, securities, etc will all say "just come hang out I'm sure you've studied enough." They don't get it!

tedclu
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by tedclu » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:24 am

the CPA exam covers lots of topics, but they don't go too deep. I wouldn't waste time on over studying a single topic. The becker/wiley/ gliem etc review books goes way too deep on what you really need to know for the exam. it is hard to know what really need to be the focus with the books.

I would go to a local 4 year school and see if their accounting school has any review courses. I took one at my alma mater it was the best investment I made, they were able to pin point which topics are usually covered, and what you "need" to know.

Joel
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by Joel » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:32 am

I highly recommend Roger CPA Review. It prepares you to pass and he is entertaining. Take lots of practice exams.

And get that thing done as soon as possible. I just recently left the Big 4 after almost 4 years and it was a requirement for all the best positions. As soon as I got my license the head hunters have not stopped. I got an incredible offer when I was not looking, whereas I have peers without their license who have spent over a year actively recruiting and have not been able to find a good opportunity for them.
My investment policy statement: https://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=190093

keystone
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by keystone » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:40 am

Texanbybirth wrote:
As a side note, the other (older) CPAs I work with give me a hard time about how "easy" I had it when taking the exam. They talk about how they had to take all four parts at the same time, and pass at least two parts to get any credit, they didn't take it on a computer, and blah blah blah. :D :D
Tell me about it! I hear this all the time. Those are the same people who walked 6 miles to school each way, all uphill, in 2 feet of snow. Never mind that the passing rates for all 4 parts are about the same today as they were back then.

I agree with the sentiment about taking the exam as close to graduation as possible. I was working full-time and going to grad school at night. Once I had enough accounting credits, I sat for 2 sections during my summer and winter "breaks" while I was still in school. I think this helped tremendously as some of the material was still fresh in my mind.

I never took any review course. Instead, I referred to the Wiley books for each section and signed up for the Ninja test question database:

http://www.another71.com/mcq/

I also relied on the free test questions available here:

https://www.cpareviewforfree.com/

At the beginning of my studies for each section, I remember doing terrible on my practice test scores (around 30-40% correct). But for each question that I got wrong, I would go back and research why I was wrong. This seemed like the most "fun" way for me to work through each section.

And I absolutely concur that you should never spend too much time trying to learn a single topic. If you're not picking up a concept quickly, skip it. There's so much material that you can absolutely pass without knowing everything.

dsmil
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by dsmil » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:53 am

My best advice is to come up with a plan that works for you and allows you to study consistently. Some people study hardcore for a couple of weeks and are able to pass the test. Others need a few months with a review course.

I originally bought the Yaeger review program, which comes with video instruction DVD's, the Wiley books, and Wiley test bank software. I am not a great listener and the DVD's felt like a waste of study time. I would watch the DVD's at night and would literally be falling asleep on the couch watching them. This isn't a knock on the program, as I think any video instruction would have done the same for me.

What worked for me was using the Wiley Books and Wiley test bank software, and changing my study times. I took public transportation to work and got to the office 1.5 hours early everyday, which allowed me 2+ hours of solid study time everyday, for 2-3 months per test. No studying at home and no falling asleep on the couch! I was also able to snag a copy of the Another71.com Ninja Notes from a friend, which I sometimes looked over during slow periods at work.

For taking the test, I wanted to get a difficult one over with first, so the clock would start rolling after I was already finished with it. I failed Financial twice (while watching the DVD's during busy season), then started my new study plan and passed financial, passed Audit, passed BEC, then failed Reg, then passed Reg. Good luck to you!

aprilcpa
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by aprilcpa » Tue Mar 29, 2016 10:52 am

Back when I took the exam, a college an hour away had a CPA exam review class (my degree was not in accounting, I decided after working a while that I wanted to be a CPA). We basically went thru the Bisk CPA review books. Back then, I took the exam in November and I ate, breathed, and slept the CPA review from August - November. I was working at the time, but my employer both paid for the course and allowed me to go to class four days a week. While driving, I listened to the review tapes. I got up at 5 am to study before I either went to class or work. Sometimes I was so tired I just put my headphones on and listened to the tapes while I rested. I made lots of index cards.

I was disheartened when I made in the 50-60 range on our practice test the week before the exam. However, I learned that I was not carefully reading the questions. I was pleasantly surprised when I got my congratulations envelope!!!

I wish you luck!

fishmonger
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by fishmonger » Tue Mar 29, 2016 11:13 am

I used Becker to pass the exam in 2013. It's by far the most expensive, but I followed the at-home study version and passed all 4 parts on the first try.

To me, if you want to save the frustration of having to take parts multiple times (or god forbid lose a section due to too much time passing), Becker is well worth it. Prepare yourself though, it's basically like being in school full-time for a year in terms of the volume of material to study. The last thing I will say which my father repeated over and over (CPA since 1972), is once you pass, you have it for the rest of your life

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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by Gill » Tue Mar 29, 2016 11:32 am

I studied with a course consisting of audio tapes and review books and studied nearly every day for ten months, passing all parts on the first try. I prefer studying alone to classroom sessions where there is a lot of time wasted. There is no way of avoiding it being a grind. Years before I passed the NY Bar Exam in much the same way, but I don't remember applying myself quite so much because I was fresh out of law school. There are no shortcuts. Good luck!
Gill
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by dubsem » Tue Mar 29, 2016 11:51 am

Timeline went: graduated college, studied during summer before starting full-time Big 4 in the fall, passed all 4 parts within 8 months. Luckily, Becker self-study materials were paid for, but I also purchased a Wiley CPA exam review book (consisted of nothing but past Q&A's and simulations). I didn't spend as much time as I wanted outside during those 8 months, but afterward, I stayed out as long as I could because I didn't have a dark cloud of studying hanging over my head.

Most important thing to do is put in the time to study. Be familiar with all topics, but only go in depth for the highly likely/heaviest weighted topics. As far as the CPA benefit, I was treated better at Big 4, and other hiring managers discuss the designation during interviews.
G.O.O.D.

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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by Caduceus » Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:35 pm

Just out of curiosity, for those who have taken both the CFA and CPA exams, which did you find more difficult to pass? Which required greater time commitment?

tedclu
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by tedclu » Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:44 pm

Caduceus wrote:Just out of curiosity, for those who have taken both the CFA and CPA exams, which did you find more difficult to pass? Which required greater time commitment?
9/10 will tell you CPA exam is harder

angler-39
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by angler-39 » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:16 pm

I took Becker and passed all four parts first time. Three things have stayed with me now for 25+ years:
1) Qualify for the free retake. This means do all your homework on time and turn it in. If you complete required amount of homework and go to the required number of classes, you can retake the class for free (if needed). But to qualify you need to do the homework. That helped me. And, on the tape, he says, 'If you are embarrassed by your homework, you'll be embarrassed by your grade.' So I always did my homework and never missed a class. I was travelling for work and went to three-or-four classes out of state so I wouldn't miss.
2) During the exam, I could literally hear his voice in my head as I was reading the questions and was also hearing his voice giving me the answers. Almost like hypnotism(!). It was almost disturbing. I did borrow the tape player (which ran at half-speed) a couple times for classes that I was confused about.
3) Acidophilus (this was near the very end of the course, maybe the last class! I do not use it, but it somehow always stuck in my head!

My advice: take Becker, qualify for the free retake, study your tail off, and most likely you will pass.

Good luck!
George.

SQRT
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by SQRT » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:22 pm

tedclu wrote:
Caduceus wrote:Just out of curiosity, for those who have taken both the CFA and CPA exams, which did you find more difficult to pass? Which required greater time commitment?
9/10 will tell you CPA exam is harder
Got my CPA exam in 1976 and my CFA in 1998 so I'm not sure my experience is relevant anymore, but CPA exam covered a wider breadth of material than the CFA and thus in my view more difficult. CFA was very specific. Passed both on first attempt. CPA knowledge was quite useful in passing the CFA.

clutchied
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Re: Advice for Passing the CPA Exam 2016-17 edition

Post by clutchied » Wed Mar 30, 2016 9:51 am

just get a review course and stick with it.

I didn't and messed around for years ignoring my responsibilities.

I finally just bit the bullet and bought becker and flew through them first try.


It's the structure and learning how to take the test that is important.

Good luck! It made my career.

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