How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?
Quick answer: easier actually, in my opinion. I didn’t take the exam this year and I am not taking it next year nor any year after that so perhaps I’m wrong.
A few nights ago, a CPA exam candidate was bitching about studying so I threw in my whining about digging into new CPA exam content for next year. Cry cry, we all have it rough.
Long story short, since I was stuck shuffling through new content anyway she asked an easy 2011 question.
Can you tell me if FAR will be that much harder in 2011? I don’t think I’ll get my NTS in time to schedule for 2010
How many of you are in that boat right now? I’ve seen quite a few of you making plans to knock out two exam parts this year that have just put in your applications; I’m truly sorry to be the one to break this to you but chances are you aren’t going to get in this year. It’s good to be realistic going into this, anyone could lie to you and say in 4 – 6 weeks you’ll have an exam date. Even if you do get approved to sit right now you still have to wait for payment coupons and NTSs, by the time all that is in your hand all the exam dates will be taken. Don’t trip, next year it will be easier and here is why:
Simulations: Big ass simulations are broken up into little parts so you can totally blow a few of them and have several different topics coming at you instead of just two. So if you’re not so hot on pensions, you still have 5 or 6 other chances to do well on simulation problems. In 2010, if you didn’t study the indirect method you better hope you don’t get it or else you’ve blown it. For candidates who have sat this year, you’ve likely already seen them testing out the new format.
Written Communication: You get a spell checker in written communication AND you only have to do essays once (unless you fail BEC). Come on, written communications are easy already, you don’t even have to be right you just have to rite good. In 2011, you won’t have to write 6 different essays in 3 sections but just 3 in 1. That’s a win. Throw in the spell checker and I really wonder why some of you are scrambling to take BEC this year so you don’t have to in 2011. Is writing that bad? Get used to it, you’re going to be writing a lot of unnecessary emails and it’s an important skill to have. You can’t protect the public interest if ur writin liek this. Point being, FAR won’t have written communication for those of you morally opposed to writing anything.
IFRS Just about everything you’ve learned in 2010 will still be relevant in 2011, especially in FAR. No one is throwing out GAAP (even our super excited friends at the AICPA who can’t wait for IFRS!) and some areas of FAR aren’t impacted by IFRS at all. It appears throughout FAR but you shouldn’t be too freaked out by it because you don’t have to be an IFRS expert to nail the material. Just read, learn and pass. It’s really simple. The questions will likely stay mild until the AICPA Board of Examiners figures out whether or not this was a good idea a few quarters down the road. Conservatism dictates they’ll take it slow with international content until we’re actually 100% on this convergence thing so don’t freak out, IFRS makes a lot more sense than cost accounting ever will.
Not bad right?
Here’s where the old timers chime in and tell us all about back in the day when you didn’t get a calculator and had to walk uphill both ways to get to an auditorium in the middle of nowhere for a 17-day marathon of CPA exam testing. In the dark. With no scratch paper. Commence telling us about the “Before Time” please.
FYI – This Is the Last CPA Exam Window To Blow Off Research Tabs
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that as is, research isn’t very important and if you’re running out of time on a simulation you should completely ignore it. It might be worth a point and let’s be real about it, no one uses it unless they need words for a written communication. Shame on you guys.
Starting January 1, 2011, however, you’re going to have to start giving a shit about the research. I know, lame. They want you to know how to search the code because that’s what you have to look forward to once you get those three letters after your name. Awesome, right? Figure it out.
Research problems will make up one simlet tab in REG, AUD and FAR. FAR and REG are fairly easy in that you only have three databases to search through; in REG, you’ll have to look through the Internal Revenue Code and Tax Services code while in FAR you only have the ASCs to worry about. AUD, however, is littered with 10 different sets of code so you better get familiar with research by A) using the research problems you already have in CPA review textbooks and software and B) playing with the actual functionality of the 2011 CPA exam format if you are sitting for the first time after January 1.
For those sitting for the first time in this coming window, you’ll still have the old research format (unless the AICPA Board of Examiners is trying out their new simlets one last time as pretest questions before the CBT-e beast goes live next year) so you can always feel welcome to ignore it if you are halfway through your simulation with only a quarter of it bubbled in. You can still find that tutorial on the AICPA’s website as well and it is advised that you try it out before you show up at Prometric and waste a bunch of time figuring out how to work the controls. It’s fairly straight-forward but you might as well give it a test drive as you can’t waste 5 minutes to pee let alone try to puzzle your way through an unfamiliar exam format.
I hope to hear that all of you blow research off all the way up until November 30, 2010 (you know, to show your solidarity and commitment to the collective experience of taking this damn exam)… Yes, November 30th, the day most of you are sitting for one last part. Any update on Prometric blackouts in your area? So far I’ve heard the Bay Area is getting completely booked up for the last week of November (shock) but not much else. Any of you having trouble getting in at the last possible minute or more?
This is why we always tell you to schedule early but why listen to us?
If you’d like to know something about the exam (don’t ask where the tutorial is, I just gave it to you), get in touch.
What Are Small Accounting Firms’ CPA Exam Policies?
From the mailbag:
I work for a local accounting firm and am part of a committee to revise our CPA exam policy. [C]ould you do a story on other firms’ exam policies and what CPA exam candidates find the most motivating and helpful and like/dislike about their own firm policies.
I [am] looking for the bonus and reimbursement policy. I am interested to see how many smaller firms pay for study materials, reimburse for the exam, what type of bonuses they give, etc.
What we’ve generally heard is that it’s a mixed bag when it comes to small firms and their CPA exam policies. Bonuses are fairly common although the exact amount of the said bonus varies. Likewise, we’ve heard that firms will reimburse your costs for taking the exam, although there’s a cap on how attempts for each section (e.g. after you bomb FAR twice, you’re SOL).
Where the smaller firms are especially stingy is the cost of your review course materials. Hell even the Big 4 aren’t shelling out the cash for Becker, Roger, Wiley et. al like they were back in the mid-aughts.
Anyway, the readership knows better than us. If you work for a smaller firm, do share your firm’s policies on reimbursement, bonuses, etc. And as a more general question, what policies does your firm have that actually motivate you to crank this thing out? Does the bonus do it for you? Is the carrot stick take the form of a raise after you knock out the fourth section? Explain in excruciating detail. Our reader thanks you.
The Quickest 2011 CPA Exam Breakdown You’ll Ever Read
Because we know all of you are very busy tearing up your last exams before CBT-e hits in January of 2011, we won’t waste your time and get right to the point. 2011 is coming, the exam is changing and though we’ve been over it plenty in the last several months, let’s go over it one more time.
Simulations – This year’s simulations are next year’s simlets. Simulation problems will be shorter, task-based problems that should take you about 10 – 15 minutes to complete as opposed to the 45 minutes they take now. AUD and FAR will have 7 smaller simulation problems while REG will have 6. As usual, not all of these are graded.
Multiple choice – BEC and REG will contain 24 MCQ per testlet while FAR and AUD will still contain 30. MCQ will make up 60% of the FAR, AUD and REG exams and 85% of BEC.
Research – if you’re taking the exam this year, research is buried in simulations and doesn’t carry much weight point wise. Next year, however, research will be its own tab worth as many points as any of the other simlet problems. FAR research will be easy as it is limited to the ASCs (Accounting Standard Codification) and REG will mostly draw from the Internal Revenue Code but AUD will come with a dropdown menu that includes PCAOB ASs, the Code of Professional Conduct and SSARS just to name a few. You’ve been warned.
Written communication – WC is out of FAR, REG and AUD and slapped into BEC. You’ll have to write three written communications, of which two will be graded.
International standards – IFRS and international auditing standards will be added to current FAR and AUD content (respectively) while REG is mostly unchanged by this as you can’t really test international standards of federal taxation. Keep in mind that this additional content will most likely be gently mixed in with what is already being tested and does not make GAAP completely irrelevant so don’t use 2011 as an excuse to procrastinate all the way through the holidays.
Now stop wasting your time with inflammatory nonsense blogs and GET BACK TO STUDYING!
(btw: if you have a CPA exam question for us – anything from applying to qualifying to passing – do get in touch)
Weak Internal Controls at Prometric… Allowed or Bad Form?
Okay, this one pretty much takes the cake as far as CPA exam questions are concerned (as far as I have seen) and if this person is for real, I really really hope they have gotten in touch with the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric for clarification. Is this a legitimate question?
From our friends at the always useful and sometimes entertaining CPAnet forums:
Are you allowed to fart when you take the CPA Exam?
Told you this was a weird one.
The responses are what truly amazed me as we all know accountants are not known for having a good sense of humor if any at all (no offense, you guys know I’m right). Helpful CPAnet members weighed in with everything from “You can on the audit section if you have weak internal control” to “by all means pass GAAS”. One contributor suggested that farting during FAR is completely allowed, as no one wants to waste a precious second excusing themselves after a testlet to go rip one (or four) in the Prometric potty on an exam that’s already short on time. Love it.
We didn’t see “bodily emissions” on the list of banned items at the test center so without confirming for 100% certainty, we’re going to go ahead and say let ‘er rip. Literally. There’s absolutely no reason to hold it in for your fellow test-takers’ sake unless it’s chronic or otherwise obnoxious. But a fart? I don’t see a problem.
Then again, be careful. An accidental shart in the middle of a testlet could cost you your entire exam.
How Soon Will The New PCAOB Pronouncements Be Tested on the CPA Exam?
If you recall, the PCAOB got really busy not too long ago and doubled its audit standards virtually overnight, leading one CPA exam candidate to reach out and ask if this is at all relevant to his exam experience. If you don’t want to read the following and just want the short answer, it’s probably no.
Was wondering if you could do a brief post regarding the new pronouncements issued by the PCAOB earlier this month and when they will become eligible for testing on the exam. I am debating between taking this section and BEC in the next testing window. I’d prefer to take BEC since I don’t really feel like having to do the written portion when that goes into effect next year; however, if it comes down to memorizing a bunch of stuff that wasn’t included in my B—– package and that, I would rather get AUD out of the way. Thanks for your input!!
This is a great question so I’m happy to indulge you, let’s consult the AICPA, shall we? Lucky for all of us, they are very clear when it comes to most testing areas except for those in REG, which can cover both the current and former years’ tax numbers depending on when you take the exam. At least for this area we know for a fact that they will not be testing the new PCAOB audit standards until at least February 5, 2011. So says the AICPA:
Accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Uniform CPA Examination in the testing window beginning six months after a pronouncement’s effective date, unless early application is permitted. When early application is permitted, the new pronouncement is eligible to be tested in the window beginning six months after the issuance date. In this case, both the old and new pronouncements may be tested until the old pronouncement is superseded.
For the federal taxation area, the Internal Revenue Code and federal tax regulations in effect six months before the beginning of the current window may be tested.
For all other subjects covered in the Regulation (REG) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, materials eligible to be tested include federal laws in the window beginning six months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the window beginning one year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.
So what the hell are they saying? Basically unless they specifically say so – like with FAS 141(r) being tested beginning July 1st, 2009 – new pronouncements, rules and regs will not be tested until 6 – 12 months after date of issuance. Keep in mind CPA exam questions cost a lot in time and effort alone and we just don’t see the BoE leaping head over heel to make new questions from the PCAOB’s latest busywork.
This means you’ve got another 5 months to put off Audit without having to memorize 8 new audit standards but maybe by that time the PCAOB will have another 8 to tack on. They are very busy over there these days, you know.
Let’s Discuss: July/August CPA Exam Results
We received a simple request over the weekend:
With CPA exam results beginning to be released, could we get a thread going on how everyone is doing?
With short months until we ring in 2011, there’s seems to be plenty of people heeding Adrienne’s advice and are looking to knock this thing out, IFRS and simulation question changes be damned.
For those of you that have been studying and working, and you managed to pass your most recent section, you should seriously consider rewarding yourself by taking an impromptu trip to Burning Man, dropping [insert mind-bending hallucinogenic of choice] just to keep that fire burning for when you return to the cube farm.
For those of you that have once suffered yet another setback, you may feel like that you’re creeping deeper into the Abyss but don’t give up! You’re not a loser for life, just in this particular instance. That being said, you’re likely in a place where you need to vent a little and since losing it on your manager/staff/client isn’t advisable, you should consider expressing yourself below.
So whatever your score is, Elijah Watts-worthy or you struggled to meet the CPA Exam Mendoza Line (we’re setting it at 50%) discuss your results. We’re here to celebrate/cry with you.
Tales From the CPA Exam: Is Gum Really Banned at Prometric?
Directly from CPAnet comes word that gum could possibly be banned by Prometric, although it may only apply if the testing staff are having a bad day. I didn’t see gum on the list of prohibited items either and would assume the rules are not there for interpretation by staff based on the mood they are in.
The test facilitator at Prometric today made me take my gum out before the exam. I rebutted with the fact that the AICPA does not prohibit gum in the list of prohbited items in the AICPA Candidate Bulletin: She then explained that people have left their gum in the testing center and it has been a “mess” to clean up. She seemed irritated and ornery, and I didn’t want to raise my blood pressure any higher before going into the test room… so I conceded and spit out my gum.
Now, I tend to consider myself to be a courteous and responsible gumchewer. I dispose of my gum in its original wrapper that always ends up in a trash can. One reason I like chewing gum while taking a test is b/c it allows me to harness any natural stress and focus on the task at hand. I really could’ve used some gum today, but I didn’t let that ruin my test. However, I will never be able to quantify the effect of my lack of gum on my final score tbd. Does anybody know the official gum rule? I think this lady was just having a bad day…
I didn’t attempt to reach Prometric to confirm this candidate’s story, I believe that our little candidate here IS a responsible gumchewer. Since this was posted on August 3 (assuming the night after the exam), the candidate still has until September 3 to request a rescore though it’s been several years since the AICPA has actually granted one (don’t waste the money).
I believe you can also contest the conditions of your testing center within the same 30 day window so if you absolutely must, go that route. Complain that you were subjected to conditions outside of your control that had a detrimental effect on your performance and see how that works out.
Or hope you passed and don’t bring gum next time. Regardless of why you wanted it, you should have been allowed it since it wasn’t on the list. Hopefully this person checks in and lets us know how it turns out.
Is Copy and Paste Cheating on CPA Exam Written Communications?
Today’s reader question comes from a CPA exam candidate who I imagine would prefer to remain totally anonymous so let’s blow right past the pleasantries and get to the question, shall we?
So I just finished my exam yesterday and I am a little concerned about my communications tab. As I still had about 2.5 hours remaining going into my first simulation, I had a lot of time to write my communication. With the amount of time I had, I was able to research my topic extensively.
In my communication, I had used sentences that were straight from the research tab, without referencing it, but a most of my memo was changed and modified into my own words. However, the fact that I used some sentences and phrases word for word concerns me. I can’t actually recall how much I copied, which concerns me even more. Do you know if this is considered cheating? Has anyone copied directly from the research tab and still passed the exam?
Let me tell you, this is a new one even for me so the best way to answer is by defining what the AICPA BoE is looking for in your written communication.
The three components of a successful written communication are organization, development, and expression. This means they are looking for a structured document with clear ideas, supporting information to supplement your statements and use of standard English when conveying your ideas. Now the AICPA BoE spends quite a bit of time and effort developing questions for the CPA exam but that does not mean they are also developing components for you to use in your communication. This means that if you do have lots of time left to work on your written communication, the very last thing you want to do is copy and paste. It was my understanding that the copy-paste function was limited to research problems within simulations only as “transfer to answer” but maybe I’m wrong (stranger things have happened).
That being said, your best hope is that they don’t notice you did that. I don’t think it counts as cheating, exactly, as cheating is defined as having someone pretend to be you to take the exam or somehow smuggling in exam answers as if you’d be able to predict what questions you would get. That last one is probably rare if not impossible as not even the review courses get the EXACT questions that will appear on the exam except for retired questions released each year by the AICPA.
If you took exact phrasing from the authoritative literature, you did not complete the objective of developing nor organizing your statements; you simply took what had already been organized for you and stuck it in there. Suffice to say this is a HUGE NO NO and probably means you will not get points for this area. As I said, maybe they won’t notice and you’ll pass, it’s hard to say.
If you find yourself with lots of time left over for written communication, use it to review your other simulation answers, not to develop the Howl of CPA exam WCs. All you need is a beginning, middle and end. Your answer could be totally wrong but you will still get the points as long as you are clear and concise. You do not get bonus points for flair so don’t bother, you’d be better off going over your simulation to make sure you did everything correctly.
So the short answer is: I don’t think it’s cheating but I don’t think you are going to get the points if they pick up on what you did. Since most WCs are machine graded, the machine may be thrown off by just how perfect your answer is, raising a red flag that gets yours pulled for human review. Again, I could be wrong on this as frankly I’ve never heard of anyone doing this.
Be sure to let us know how it went once you get your score and good luck!
P.S. – don’t do that again. Seriously.
Family Planning and the CPA Exam
For this particular post, as much as I would love to throw my experience with CPA exam candidates and children (sometimes interchangeable, mind you) around, I’m going to do something a little bit different. Would any of you with experience in the following care to weigh in and help?
Here’s the question via a CPA Exam Club member:
I am having a baby in 2 months and wasn’t planning on taking any parts of the exam until 2011, when I will hopefully have more rested nights and energy to study. However, after starting to do research about the CPA exam I discovered all of the changes taking place in 2011 and decided that it seemed prudent to get FAR out of the way in 201 and can basically devote all of my time to studying until I have the baby and after I have the baby in order to take the exam in November. I am a pretty disciplined person with good time management. I am pretty quick at getting things done. I also got a 2nd bachelors in accounting and just completed a masters in accounting as well. Do you think I am being unrealistic in my pursuit of passing FAR in 2010?
If you think I can achieve this goal, what do you advise CPA hopefuls to do in order to pass? I am very determined to try and pass on the first try and would do whatever it takes in order to do so.
First of all, I remember what being 7 months pregnant felt like and while I loved being pregnant with my son, at that point the very last thing I would have been able to do would have been to study. So my first piece of advice not just to our little CPA exam candidate friend above but all of you with family plans on the horizon is to WAIT until you have passed the CPA exam to start cranking out the tax deductions. The exam is hard enough on its own, add a career and kids into the mix (especially for Moms) and you have a recipe for disappointment. Or at least a nervous breakdown, which you probably don’t want either.
I often tell candidates to be prepared for any and every possible thing to go wrong and mess up their perfect plans along the way. For parents, it’s almost a guarantee that even our best-laid plans will somehow be ruined, delayed or otherwise compromised.
Discipline is a requirement to get through the exam but even your best intentions can’t fight the inevitable. I could barely function once my son was born (waking up every 2 hours to feed will do that to you), let alone actually do anything productive.
So my advice to you is to wait. Wait until your child is a little older (or at a minimum sleeping through the night) and hopefully you have a supportive partner who will happily babysit while you head off to live CPA review classes. I can’t tell you how many Moms I have seen in live classes, most of whom refuse to take advantage of the convenience of online, on-demand review simply because they are desperate for a break. You know it’s bad when you’d take 8 hours of government and non-profit accounting over being at home with your brood but let’s face it, this Mom thing is the world’s roughest gig.
It sounds to me like you have a plan and that’s awesome but be sure you are being realistic. It’s already almost September, meaning the last window of 2010 is close upon us and if you haven’t already made an appointment at Prometric, you might run yourself into the ground trying to squeeze FAR in (that’s if you can even get in to schedule). And let’s just say you pass (which I’m confident you will once you get off the ground) and then have the baby. What happens when motherhood takes its toll and you aren’t able to resume studying until your child is a year old and your 18 month window is fast approaching?
Enjoy these last two months, take care of yourself and bask in your baby once he or she arrives. The exam will be here waiting patiently in the meantime and by then maybe the AICPA BoE will have ironed out all the IFRS kinks or thrown out new content altogether. Trust me, the changes next year are not that big of a deal and CBT-e will actually be easier than 2010’s exam if I’m guessing correctly (I usually do). You will put in no more effort in 2011 to pass than you would have in 2010 so better to spend the energy when you actually have it instead of running yourself into the ground at a time when you need to be in fighting shape.
Hope that helps!
If you have a CPA exam question for us, get in touch and we’ll do our best to answer.
CBT-e Strategies: What To Do When You’re Still Sitting for the CPA Exam in 2011
Those of you who graduated in May should already be buried in your review books and planning to sit for some parts – if you haven’t already – but for some of you, the long wait to get your applications processed is anything but over OR you managed to procrastinate up until this point and haven’t even begun the process. I’ll resist the urge to smack you if you promise to submit those as soon as you’re done reading this post. Regardless of where you’re at in the process, chances are you’re tripping about 2011 changes. Not to worry, my big fat brain packed with CPA exam goodness is here to help.
Accounting Is Still Accounting – Even if they are testing IFRS in 2011, debits still go on the left (at least I’m pretty sure they still do under IFRS) and pension accounting is still really annoying. Keep in mind, IFRS isn’t the norm in the wild – at least in the U.S. at this point – and will not be for several years so it would be irresponsible of the AICPA Board of Examiners to heavily test rules that aren’t even widely accepted in practice. So relax, the changes are coming but they aren’t nearly as scary as you think.
FAR – If you are able to, get FAR done this year so you don’t have to worry about it next year. The first two windows of 2011 will say a lot about the AICPA’s strategy but knowing them, I wouldn’t expect 2010’s exam to be completely different from 2011’s. Those questions cost a lot of time and energy to make and the BoE isn’t about to trash all of them just so they can start testing rules that we don’t even use. With me on this one? Calm down.
CPA Review Materials – If you haven’t yet committed to a CPA review course, be sure to ask about 2011 materials and how changes affect the course you choose THIS year. A good review course will offer updates to the material but be on the lookout for additional product purchase charges or fees to update your materials. For BEC, REG and AUD the changes are minimal: international audit standards will appear here and there and a few things are moved around but for the most part the largest change in these areas will be the cosmetic change in BEC as written communications are moved out of the other three sections and stuck there. This does not change the content, only how you prepare and the point percentages for this section.
You can find the new 2011 CSOs via the AICPA here if you’d like a better look at what you’re in for next year but as I said, it doesn’t take long to figure out that next year’s exam really doesn’t look all that different from this year’s.