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>75: The ‘Magical’ Order of CPA Exams

BelushiCollege_CPA.jpgEditor’s note: Welcome to latest edition of >75, our weekly post on questions that you have related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.
Just a reminder, if you have a CPA exam question for us, be sure to send them over. No question is too stupid, trust me, I’ve been in CPA Review for 3 years and have heard them all.
For today’s >75, let’s talk picking exam parts, shall we?
I get asked these questions at work constantly: “What part should I start with? Which is the easiest? Which is the hardest?”

My answer is always the same: there is no “easy” or “hard” section, they’re all equally and independently difficult for their own reasons. FAR is “hard” because of the sheer volume of information but believe it or not, BEC tends to be the part candidates struggle with most. AUD and REG have a slightly higher national pass rate but that does not make them any easier than the other two.
For now, I’ve been advising candidates to start with FAR so they can get it out of the way before IFRS hits the exam in 2011. In general, however, I advise our students to start with the part that they feel will be most difficult for them since your 18 month clock starts ticking once you pass the first part. If a candidate is going to struggle to pass one section, it’s best to do this before that 18 month period starts since the very last thing you want to do is to retake a section you already passed because you couldn’t pass that final part in time.
Point being, there’s no such thing as easy when it comes to the CPA exam. Nor is there a such thing as a “magical” order for taking the exams. But here are some tips for figuring out which part to start with:
Anxious candidates with a confidence problem – Start with Audit or Regulation, whichever section will be easiest for you since, as I said above, these tend to have a higher pass rate. Passing that first section will be a huge motivator to keep you going.
For candidates looking for “the easy way out” – Start with FAR. Since this section is the largest, getting it out of the way first will make the rest of your CPA exam experience seem downhill.
For candidates planning to take the exam through 2011 – Get FAR and BEC out of the way now. Communications will be hitting BEC in 2011 so if you get it done now, you can take AUD and REG in 2011 when they no longer have communications. Win!
Good luck!