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CPA Exam Question of the Week: Review Courses for the Working Stiff

Thumbnail image for cpa exam.jpgEditor’s note: We’re going to start a 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.
A lawyer with an accounting undergrad wants to know the following:

What is the most efficient CPA prep course/books etc., for an individual that works during the week for about 45-50 hours. I understand that we can take the exam in separate parts, so that will be very helpful.

Caleb reminds me that this answer should be objective so let’s get the “I’m a CPA Exam Expert because of my day job” plug in here.
First of all, lawyer guy, congratulations on diversifying and pursuing your CPA. My experience is that more finance, mortgage, law, and other professionals are gravitating towards the CPA these days (especially since 2007) and that’s a great sign that the industry still carries a level of prestige. Win for us, though some of us think the industry as a whole has some work to do (see also: Dennis Howlett on the Big 4 being TBTF)
So my answer is I don’t have your answer. What you need as a CPA exam candidate is important, and I don’t know you well enough to figure out what you need. Professionally I’ve learned that those from other industries or educational backgrounds tend to have “special needs” like something more intensive than a simple review or additional support in formulating a study plan. CPAnet has an entire forum dedicated to CPA review courses, that’s a good place to start for research into the matter.
Taking the exam in separate parts doesn’t really help because once you pass the first part, the clock is ticking. 18 months doesn’t seem like a long time but it will be over before you know it. I don’t even experience it and sometimes I am amazed when I realized I talked to someone at work when they graduated and now they have a month left to pass FAR or they’ll lose their first credit. Don’t be them. You will have to plan out your time.
That’s my second point for you. 45 – 50 hours? I know people who passed the entire exam in 4 months with two kids at home and a fulltime job at the Big 4. That’s overachieving but if she did it, you can certainly do it working less than I do a week. Plan out every hour of your week and fit in studying where you can. If you say “I will just do it after work…” but don’t have a schedule, trust me, you’ll never do it after work.
Figure to spend about 132 hours on FAR, 96 hours on REG, 80 hours on AUD and 64 hours on BEC. That’s watching review lectures 1 time and doing the AICPA recommended 2 – 3 hours of homework. You might need more, you might need less, that’s for you to figure out. Pencil that in between every other hour of your life – and I mean every hour, from sleeping to work – and get your exams scheduled early. Do some kind of final review 2 – 3 weeks before your exam dates and make sure you studied.
The last thing I can remind you is something my boss has hammered into my head 10,000 times. The CPA exam is not an IQ test, it’s a test of discipline. Keep that in mind and you’ll have nothing to worry about.