CPA Exam

Tax Lawyer Pursuing CPA Needs to Know: Take More Classes or Cram with a Review Course?

Whenever the news is slow and you kids are quiet (I won’t expect to hear from many of you until after April but just in case, here’s my email), there’s always CPAnet to troll and here’s a good one: tax and estate lawyer pursuing the CPA wants to know if he should take a bunch of classes to prepare for the CPA exam before jumping in.

I promise to let him down gently.


Here’s the question:

I am a tax and estate planning lawyer and have been taking accounting and tax classes at UCLA extension in preparation for the CPA exam.

Since tax season is hell, I would only have the second half of the year to take a revthe exam. That means June – November (& January) 2011, 2012, or beyond. I am unsure whether I should continue taking classes such as (auditing, internal auditing, nonprofit accounting, etc.) for the next year and a half until June 2012… or whether I should just sign up for a review session this June after I take Intermediate Accting 3 & (maybe) Managerial accounting this spring quarter AND study my butt off in the review course.

Without sounding too much like an ass, I’m a fairly smart guy (top 20% in top 20 law school, passed bar exam) and a very hard worker. I have a lot of information under my belt but it may not all be relevant.

So, do I absolutely need to take the 2 auditing classes offered at UCLAX or the nonprofit accounting class or can I cram the review course material? I have heard that advanced accounting is unnecessary and I learned consolidations in Business Enterprise Taxation. I don’t know econ, but I looked at some practice questions and I got most of them. Supply and demand doesn’t seem too complex.

Am I crazy to skip these classes and rely on the review course? My experience with the bar exam was that the courses in law school were more likely to confuse than to help.

First off, my professional experience has been that whenever someone says “I’m a fairly smart guy” or “I’m no idiot” or “at least I am not like the senior who probably ate paint chips as a kid,” that candidate almost always has difficulty getting through the CPA exam. Why? Because brains have nothing to do with it, stupid.

I often explain it to candidates like this: the CPA exam simply tests your left brain’s ability to process and spit out information exactly as it was put in. We don’t need creative right-brained accountants (especially now that Lehman is kaput) so the more right brain spin your brain tries to put on CPA exam information, the worse you’ll do on the exam. “Smarts” don’t factor in, it is merely a test of entry-level knowledge and we all know you don’t have to be smart to be an entry level accountant. Hell, you don’t have to be smart to be a partner either but we’ll let that one go.

That being said, it’s important to recognize that there are two distinct universes: the CPA exam universe and the real universe. In CPA exam world, all cash flows use the direct method, accountants are always ethical bordering on neurotic and there is always a very clear answer for any query. In the real world, we use indirect to save time, have trouble passing the open-book ethics exam after four tries and sometimes have to choose the “best answer” without knowing for sure that it’s right.

While more education is almost always a good idea (unless you’re already over-burdened with student loan debt to begin with), it may be easier for our future candidate above to simply jump into a good CPA exam review and call it a day. Some of the cheaper review programs will only build on the candidate’s knowledge base or help familiarize with the exam’s format and content but the pricier, higher-quality reviews also provide the information the candidate needs to pass, regardless of their experience level.

Remember: because the CPA exam tests entry-level knowledge, you aren’t expected to be a expert in anything. Not everyone takes advanced accounting and while some of those topics are tested, any decent review course can give you just enough to scrape by if you aren’t familiar with those areas. Don’t waste your time taking extra classes unless that is a personal goal of yours and, if so, either do it before or after but not during your CPA exam attempt.

The AICPA Talks to Going Concern About the New CPA Exam

Because I genuinely care about the well-being of you little CPA exam candidates out there, I recently put aside the inflammatory nonsense for a moment and took some time out of my busy schedule to chat with the AICPA about the new CPA exam that they were proud to say launched early this month without a hitch. We’re pretty excited about that too, mostly because it means we can finally stop talking about 2011 changes and get back to talking CPA exam strategy, which is largely unchanged as a result of CBT-e.

We here at Going Concern value reader input (even if we do value chastising said reader just as equally) and therefore reached out t//goingconcern.com/2011/01/what-would-you-ask-the-aicpa-about-the-new-cpa-exam/”>your input on the sorts of questions we should ask. You spoke and we listened so let’s cut right to the chase and give you some answers.


John Mattar, Ed.D., Director of Psychometrics and Research and Mike Decker, Director of Operations and Development, both of the AICPA Examinations Team, were kind and brave enough to speak with me and give me plenty of insight on the brain behind the new CPA exam.

First of all, we need to talk scoring as that’s the one thing you guys have complained about consistently since the exam went computerized in 2004 (except for written communication but that is an entirely different issue). We’re proud to tell you that we can finally say with certainty that the AICPA will not be changing the passing score from 75 moving forward. That’s right, put down your flaming pitchforks, all you 74s who were ready to flip should the score have been lowered to 70. “In terms of the score reported to candidates, right now the passing score on that reported scale is a 75 and it’s going to remain there because we want to have consistency over time,” John told us.

That means a 75 last year might not necessarily be the same as a 75 this year but a 75 is still passing and that’s what matters. As we all know, the AICPA uses a complicated and mysterious psychometric formula to determine weights for each question and bases a candidate’s score on this formula. It isn’t for you, little candidate, to worry about how they come up with their numbers nor should you feel as though the AICPA gets some sick thrill out of seeing you get a 74. Believe it or not, they’re neutral. They don’t care if you pass or fail, they only care about overseeing a professional examination that successfully tests the knowledge base of entry-level CPAs in the United States. That’s it.

Second, while the AICPA will be using a single score release formula for at least the first three testing windows of the year, candidates can anticipate a new and improved score release system that will hopefully be introduced by the end of the year. This means all candidates who test early in their window will be eligible to receive their scores in the first release and all other candidates can expect to receive their scores in more frequent batches through the end of that window’s blackout month. So forget the Wave 1/Wave 2 nonsense. “Due to a lot of the work we’re doing on the backend, we’re going to be able to release scores faster. We’re not actually going to be able to release the scores earlier until the 4th quarter because we need to do a greater analysis in the first three quarters,” Mike said. So while you guys see the new simulations and international content on the frontend, it’s important to remember that a lot of time and effort went into improving the backend of the CPA exam and faster scoring is one such improvement that we can expect to see by the end of the year. But these changes come at a price so be patient while the AICPA works through the first three windows of this year to finalize their new scoring process.

If you haven’t already, I recommend you check out How the CPA Exam is Scored for more details on this process. Expect an update to that document when new scoring takes effect later in the year.

As for CBT-e content, I initially congratulated the AICPA for finally streamlining some questionable areas of the exam (especially BEC) in the updated CSOs/SSOs but forgot that they don’t actually come up with content on their own. You can thank an extensive practice analysis and subsequent input from practicing CPAs for the CPA exam you know and love today, a process that takes into account input from the profession on what entry-level CPAs should know. That means the introduction of international financial reporting and auditing standards is entirely independent of the SEC’s do-we-or-do-we-not IFRS roadmap. This should be a comfort to some of you who are wondering just how much IFRS will appear on the exam in coming windows as it means the exam will most likely continue to test remedial international content and will mostly focus on major differences between IFRS and GAAP. Entry-level CPAs in the U.S. are not expected to be experts in IFRS, just as they are not expected to be experts in cost accounting, government accounting, non-profit accounting or any number of areas that have been consistently tested on the CPA exam for years now.

The best news is that though the e in CBT-e stands for evolution, those expecting to take the exam in 2012 or beyond shouldn’t expect such a large overhaul as we just saw any time soon. “We don’t plan to change the exam,” John said. “What we plan to do is keep the exam current with the profession to protect the public interest. If we do have significant changes in test content we would have to let candidates know in advance.”

That being said, the largest takeaway I got from my conversation with the AICPA was that they are simply interested in providing a consistent examination that continues to evolve to meet the needs of the profession. I swear to you that they really don’t get a sick thrill out of torturing you guys with changes, scoring delays and new content though it may appear that way sometimes, especially if you’re in the 74 x 3 club. It’s their job to make sure that the CPA exam represents the best interests of the profession, which means revising their strategy to keep up with the evolution of the industry.

We applaud the AICPA on a job well done and congratulate them for a successful CBT-e launch. So far, candidate feedback I have gotten on the new exam format has been mostly positive, which means that their hard work was totally worth it.

The AICPA, NASBA and Prometric Announce Successful Launch of the New CPA Exam

Even though only two testing days passed from the time CBT-e launched and the time the press release came out, the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric are very excited to announce the successful launch of the new CPA exam.


Via the AICPA:

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and Prometric today launched the new Uniform CPA Examination, called CBT-e, which includes for the first time questions on International Financial Reporting Standards among other sweeping and significant changes.

Changes were approved by the AICPA Board of Examiners based on input from state boards of accountancy in response to an Invitation to Comment, and a Practice Analysis designed to ensure the exam tests the modern knowledge and skills that are relevant for today’s entry-level CPAs. The new IFRS questions and other changes to the exam are the first major revisions since the CPA exam was computerized in 2004.

Overall, more emphasis is being placed on skills assessment using case study-based questions known as Task-Based Simulations. Authoritative literature in the CPA exam incorporates use of new Financial Accounting Standards Board codifications of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Professional responsibilities including ethics and independence have been added to the Auditing and Attestation section.

“The testing of IFRS knowledge and other international standards is a response to change in the business world in which new CPAs operate,” said Craig Mills, vice president of examinations for the AICPA. “We are proud and excited to be introducing innovations in this evolution of the computer-based test that both validate and update the content of the exam and improve the experience for candidates. The exam is one of three key requirements, along with education and experience, that help state boards and the profession maintain the highest standards and protect the public interest.”

In related news, I will be speaking with the AICPA this afternoon about the new exam and thanks to your input, will be interrogating them on score releases, potential changes to passing scores, the integrity of the exam (since the old timer paper and pencil folks continue to rag on the new exam as too easy) and the continued evolution of exam content beyond 2011. I’d like to ask them when the hell BEC is going to be more than a junk drawer but having seen some of the new 2011 content on that section, I have to say it looks like they are working on consolidating the most random CPA exam section into a more streamlined piece of psychometric awesomeness. It isn’t too late to get me your questions for the AICPA’s exam unit so if you have one that you haven’t gotten to me yet, get on that or drop it in the comments and I’ll try to sneak it in.

I’ve also spoken to at least a handful of candidates who tested last week and so far feedback is positive on the new format as I suspected it would be. For the love of Excel, please don’t get stressed out over international standards as you shouldn’t expect to receive an exam made up of 70% new content. Try 5 – 10% max.

Update to come on Friday.

Attention Overachievers: AICPA Announces 2009 Elijah Watt Sells Award Winners

For those of you who pride yourselves on being better than everyone else, the Elijah Watt Sells Award is just about as prestigious an acknowledgment as they come for future CPAs. The award, founded in 1923 and named after one of New York’s first CPAs, recognizes the top CPA exam scores in the country and means honor, recognition and sometimes a massive bonus for those talented enough at variances and constructing statements of cash flows under a time crunch to score in the way high 90s on all four parts of the exam.

The 2009 award is unique as multiple candidates managed the same exact exceptionally high scores so this timinners. Out of 93,000 CPA exam candidates in 2009, these 15 can say they are truly special.

We doubt any of the following winners spend their time trolling Going Concern but if they do, please accept our congratulations for a job well-done!

Kimberly Anne Brant (Minnesota), a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a Bachelor of Business Administration and Masters of Accounting, is currently employed with Deloitte & Touche LLP, in Minneapolis.

Michelle Elizabeth Burket (Virginia), a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BS in Business Administration and a Masters of Accounting is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers in McLean, Va.

Maria M. Goto (Hawaii), a graduate of the University of Washington with a BA in Accounting, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Kay J. Hashimoto (New York), a graduate of Harvard University with a BA in Economics and a MBA in Accounting from Canisius College, is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City.

Jeremy J. Hurwitch (Florida), a graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a BA in Accounting and Masters of Accounting, is currently employed with Deloitte & Touche LLP in Boca Raton, Fla.

Matthew Saje Kult (Wisconsin), a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a Bachelors in Accounting and Masters of Science in Public Accounting, is currently employed at Ernst & Young LLP in Milwaukee.

Isaiah L. Massey (Texas), a graduate of Wichita State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accountancy, and a Master in Professional Accounting from the University of Texas, is currently employed by Deloitte & Touche LLP in Houston.

Luke T. Olson (Georgia), a graduate of Brigham Young University with a BS in Accounting and Master of Accountancy, is currently employed with Ernst & Young in Atlanta.

Ryan Christopher Ossowski (Florida), a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a BS in Business Administration – Accounting, and BS in Computer Science, is currently employed with James Moore & Co., P.L. in Daytona Beach.

Andrew N. Rebstock (Wisconsin), a graduate of Marquette University with a BS in Business Administration and Master of Science in Accounting, is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Milwaukee.

Abigail Lindsay Richards (North Carolina), a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance, and Masters of Accountancy from the University of North Carolina, is currently employed with Duke Energy in Charlotte, N.C.

Peter William Rogers (New York), a graduate of Babson College with a BS and Master of Science in Accounting, is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in New York City.

Ryan Malcolm Scadding (Massachusetts), a graduate of Bryant University with a BS in Business Administration and Masters of Professional Accountancy, is currently employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Boston.

Jessie D. Wagner (Oklahoma), a graduate of Oklahoma State University – Stillwater with a BS in Business Administration and Master of Science in Accounting, is currently employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Tulsa, Okla.

Ryan F. Williamson (Illinois), a graduate of Governors State University with a BS in Accounting, a BA in Mathematics and Music from Illinois Wesleyan University, and an MS in Mathematics from Illinois State University, is currently employed with Groskreutz, Schmidt, Abraham, Eshleman & Gerretse in Kankakee, Ill.

For those of you who didn’t even come close, don’t worry, no one cares anyway.

What Would You Ask the AICPA About the New CPA Exam?

Lucky me, I’ll be speaking with the AICPA about the successful launch of CBT-e as well as grilling them about the new format, their motivation behind the change, and all this nonsense about changing the passing score from 75.

Because you guys are the ones taking the exam and I’m just the one writing about it, I figured it would be appropriate to give you all the opportunity to weigh in on what I should ask. I swear I’m not being lazy as I have plenty of my own questions to ask but thought it might be nice for all of you with questions to have the chance to get them answered directly from the source.

You’re welcome to put your suggestions in the comments or, if you’re embarrassed because your question also makes you look like a big fat failure, please feel free to email me and I promise I’ll guard your identity like Caleb guards his yoga mat.

If You Get a 76 on the CPA Exam, Would You Ask for a Retake?

We’re really not sure why someone would ask this question but they did so bear with us, we’re sure you’ll be just as baffled as we were when we first read it.


Via the CPAnet forums
:

Let’s say you passed a section of the CPA exam with a low score (say, 76). Is it possible to take that section again?

If you feel that you could do a lot better, and the score is important to you for any reason (job searching credentials, bragging rights, whatever), can you just take that section again?

Bragging rights? When was the last time you pulled out your 98 on FAR and slapped a lower colleague across the face with it? I’m not sure who this person is planning on bragging to but here’s a hint: NO. ONE. CARES. And when I say “no one” I actually mean absolutely no one; not the recruiter, not your boss, not your boy/girlfriend and certainly not your coworkers who probably lie about their own scores and have taken BEC four times to no avail anyway.

Nowhere in the candidate bulletin does it say anything about retaking a passed exam because, well, there’s only one person on the planet who would consider this and it’s the guy who posted the question on CPAnet. No one in their right mind would even consider retaking an exam part that they have passed, regardless of whether they got a 75 or an 80, a pass is a pass and I think we are all in agreement on that.

It’s possible, of course, if said candidate wants to wait 18 months, allow his passing score to drop off and give it another shot. But why oh why would anyone even think to do such a thing?

ARE YOU INSANE?!

Don’t Wait at the Mailbox for Your CPA Exam Score This Year

On top of content and cosmetic changes for the CPA exam in 2011, the AICPA has pledged to deliver scores more quickly and efficiently by replacing the current random two wave system with a simple, single release during the blackout month.

Here’s how it has worked up until now: depending on when you sit for the exam, you can get your scores in either Wave 1 or Wave 2. Wave 1 includes most people who tested early in the window and Wave 2 is (supposed to be) released before or during the blackout month (that’s March, June, September and December) so you can get a new NTS and reschedule a failed part in the next window. Anyone who has waited for a score in the last few windows can tell you this system is flawed and obviously under quite a bit of pressure with increased applicant volume in recent months.


But for the first three windows on 2011, the AICPA is going to try out a new score release system that would mean those who test in January/February will receive their scores in one release in March. Apr/May will be released in June and July/Aug will be released in September. That means California applicants better hope scores come out early in the blackout so they have time to submit a reapplication and wait for a new NTS as the Board of Accountancy there has been overwhelmed with new applicants and current CPA exam candidates, with three fewer days a month to process everyone thanks to Furlough Friday. Unfortunately for them, it looks like scores will be released at the end of each blackout month.

For now, a passing score is still 75 but the AICPA plans to take data from the first window of the year as it considers changing that going forward. Better get in those exam parts while you can!

The AICPA claims that those testing in the fourth quarter can expect an accelerated release but with all these changes and fancy new tricks up the AICPA’s sleeve, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Making CPA Exam Resolutions for 2011

I can’t believe the year is over and have already gotten my 2010 CPA exam rant out of the way so the following is specifically for those of you excited to get started on the brand-spanking new (not so new) CBT-e CPA exam that launches anew on January 1 or, more specifically, January 3rd, 2011. Or maybe January 4th. Anyway…


Last year, you probably swore up and down you’d be done with all four parts AND the ethics exam (for those of you who actually have to take one) by now but life happens and your plans fell through so instead of making unrealistic resolutions only to be disappointed, let’s tackle this the conservative way.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew One part per window is reasonable unless you are going to end up fired or divorced if you don’t get your CPA in the next two months. If you want to be ambitious and take two in a window that’s fine but the easiest way to get through it is by taking it slowly and carefully. Give each section the time it needs to get embedded in your brain just long enough for you to spit it all out, pass, and move on to the next section. There are always exceptions to the rule (and I’m sure they are going to take this opportunity to remind us how exceptional they are in the comments) but odds are you aren’t the exception so don’t try to overachieve, you don’t get bonus points for most failed attempts or most parts attempted in one testing window.

Plan! I can’t say it enough: if you don’t have a plan, you’re going to bomb miserably unless you’re one of those fantastic freaks who somehow pulls it off despite all your best procrastinating. If you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, think of your CPA exam plan in the same way you might approach weight loss. If you don’t plan out a specific diet and exercise plan, you’ll be shoveling cookies down your pie hole within a week.

Schedule. As in right now. If you wait until the last minute to schedule your exams (you know who you are, I talk to you all the time and you’re always sort of generally scheduled to take the exam “at the end of the window”), you’re missing an important motivator that can actually encourage you to study. If you schedule early, you’ve got actual dollars invested in an exam part and a big fat carrot to dangle in front of your face when you’re in the mood to blow off studying. Not just that but you have an actual day to circle on the calendar, which will help you when you’re planning how much time to spend studying in the days before.

Hope that helps and Happy New Year to all of you, see you next year!

P.S. – Please get in touch with us after the 4th with any and all (legal) feedback on the new CPA exam format, we’re excited to hear your thoughts on the AICPA’s exam makeover!

Five Ways To Stick To Your CPA Exam Plan During the Holidays

If you’re like most of us, you’ve been half checked out since Thanksgiving [Ed. note: like you don’t even know] and are most likely spending your December gorging yourself on cookies and getting tipsy at holiday parties. But if you’re also studying for the CPA exam, it’s critical to stick to your schedule or else you’ll end up in February wondering why you haven’t studying at all for the exam you scheduled months ago. Here are five quick and dirty ways to stick to your plan.


Turn people down Yes, we know it sucks to have to say “no” but the big key to getting through the exam is being disciplined, which sometimes means saying you’ve got to stay home and study when friends and family are begging you to come out and play. Keep your commitments to a minimum and only do the holiday activities you’ve absolutely have to without being disowned by your family. If you must attend a wild company party, make sure you don’t turn a day of partying into a week of recovering.

Take your CPA review materials with you If you’re traveling out of state to see family, it’s important to bring your review materials with you so you can keep studying while you’re sitting around hearing about your Uncle John’s aches and pains and/or third wife. Bonus: studying is a great excuse to get out of awkward family interactions and shoveling snow so break out the books and show them just how disciplined and determined you are. We guarantee it will inspire oohs and ahhs at the table and hopefully keep you on track to pass next window.

Stick to your schedule If you’ve taken our advice so far (we swear we’re qualified to dispense said advice), you already have a rock-solid study schedule that accounts for every hour of every day and has studying penciled in between work and sleep whenever you can sneak it. Don’t allow the holidays to invalidate that schedule, simply reschedule some areas accordingly. If you blow off entire chunks of your schedule to sip cider and make gingerbread houses with the nieces and nephews, you’re that much more likely to keep blowing it off come January. Adjust your schedule if you have to but be sure to stick to it!

Turn your social aversion into a study tool If you’re like most people – especially accountants – you can’t stand awkward social interactions. Since you’re studying for a professional examination with a reputation for being all-consuming, you’ve got an out when it comes to lame social activities like tree-trimming, caroling, and/or volunteering down at the homeless shelter. Screw all that, leverage your CPA exam misery to your benefit and use it as an out. It’s either that or recruit the homeless guys to help you blast through flashcard drills while you’re handing out Christmas Day turkey at the shelter.

Use days off to study… MORE! Yes I said it. You might have half days or PTO to cash in or the post holiday-party day after to lay around at home and recover but instead of taking a holiday, try squeezing in a little more study time so you’re that much more ready come next year.

And lastly, though this isn’t exactly a tip, ENJOY YOURSELF. You’ve earned a nice little break so take advantage of it, just don’t blow your entire plan in the process!

Do I Have To Wait To Get My Degree to Apply for the CPA Exam?

For today’s edition of “help me figure out my life even though the answers are pretty much freely available on Google and/or here on Going Concern”, we get a reader question about the CPA exam application process or, more specifically, how to get a jump on the process. Let’s go:

I am a college student I will have 150 credits in May 2010. Do I have to wait until I get my actual diploma before I can start the process of applying to sit for the test? I guess I’ve heard that it take up to 2 months to receive an NTS so I am worried that I will have to wait until August to actually take the CPA exam. Are there loopholes?


Well, dear reader, firstly if you are going to write in asking us a question like this, it really helps to know what state you will be applying in. All jurisdictions have their own rules and their own crap to sift through, so application timelines can vary wildly depending on where you are applying. I know for a fact you can bypass California’s 8 – 10 week application time by applying when you are not eligible to sit for the exam (like your last semester of college) and then just reapply when you ARE eligible as it will only take about a week to get a reapplication processed. If you call the exam unit in California, they might even give you this suggestion themselves. As for other states? Without knowing where you are it’s hard to tell you what to expect.

The general rule is that you must meet your state’s requirements before application. Some states allow you to apply when you are not eligible as long as you will meet their requirements within a set period of time (like 180 days). Call your state board to see if this is an option.

If you’re lucky enough to be in a 120 state, you can apply for the exam with 120 units and just have to reach 150 by the time you have passed all four parts of the exam.

Most states require your degree to have posted to your transcripts before you can apply for the exam. Again, there are always exceptions so your best bet is to talk to your state board directly and ask. Asking “are there any shortcuts to licensure?” won’t get you very far so try instead to ask if there is a way to apply for the exam before you are eligible to sit or if they have any suggestions for speeding up the process.

The best way to accomplish that is to make sure you have all your paperwork in order and, if available at your school, have your degree fast-tracked to appear on your transcripts as soon as possible. Your school may charge you a nominal fee for this service, but ask them if that’s a possibility if you’re trying to get this over with sooner rather than later.

How Soon Do CPA Exam Candidates Need To Learn New Tax Rules?

From the CPA exam grab bag, this question came in just before 2010 testing ended but since there were other things to write about, it sat collecting dust in my inbox. Fret not, our asker got her answer in time to sit for the exam on the second-to-last day of testing and now you get the answer too. Let’s go!

I’m studying for REG and I am fairly concerned about tax law changes. I’m using the 2009 Becker materials, and I try to use their website to see updates to tax law change, but when I’m taught through the lectures and the homework a certain law, it’s hard to then switch it up based on a little post from Becker’s online database.

An example is the estate tax disappearing. Or unemployment exclusion (2,400 in 2009, but now what? 0[%|] I think, right?). Anyways, I’m not too worried about understanding concepts and rules as much as worrying about not realizing that certain rules have changed.

Here’s the deal: REG can be a little tricky because it’s the one section where the AICPA allows newer pronouncements before the usual 6 month effective date. Usually what happens is the PCAOB comes out with some new audit standards and – assuming the SEC has approved them – they cannot appear on the CPA exam earlier than 6 months after adoption. The AICPA Board of Examiners does have its exceptions – like FASB 141(r) – where they are too excited to wait for it to be on the exam and will make a special announcement but for the most part, you can pretty much assume that there is a 6 month lag between the time rules/numbers/pronouncements come out and the time they appear on the exam.

For the estate tax and other such tricky issues that are still unresolved as yet, be glad they’re unresolved as it means you don’t have to worry about any new rules until decisions are made. And with the AICPA scrambling to load your 2011 exams with international financial reporting and other such awesomeness, it’s unlikely that their priority will be integrating new tax rules into testing once they are finalized.

Remember also that you are not expected to be an expert in any area, let alone the complicated abyss of tax rules. So the numbers are not as important as the fundamentals (read: concepts) in Regulation.

Hope that helps and if you have a question for us – new 2011 excitement, studying, how to convince Prometric that your fake mustache is actually medically necessary, etc – feel free to email us.

Should You Request a Rescore if a Simulation Snafu Cost You a Passing Grade on the CPA Exam?

For this, my first CPA exam advice column since 2010 testing finally closed, we have a pretty interesting question from a candidate in Georgia who wants to know if it her 74 is worth a rescore. Normally my advice is to forget about disputing your score as the AICPA has not actually changed a single failing score to passing in the last three years (remember, their formula is bulletproof and they are not about to admit their precious psychometric testing sucks) but this is a special case.

Hello, I have a question related to my score on Auditing and would appreciate any advice you could provide. I took the exam on 10/28/2010 and received my score of 74. I am wondering what my options are for appeal or review. The reason for this is because on the last simulation one of the tabs was not the same when I tried to review as when I first saw it. I am 100% sure that I had the choice of 6 options when taken the exam. But once I went back to review the test, there were only 4 choices available. I did report this to the coordinator that was present and she told me that she would write a report. I also reported in the section where they ask if there were any problems during testing.

Firstly, remember that Prometric test center staff are not hired by the AICPA to administer your test. They administer hundreds of different professional examinations, not just the CPA, so they don’t really get how important a single screwed up simulation can be to your overall score. Don’t be surprised if they merely wrote down your complaint and tossed it into the examination abyss.

That being said, the AICPA’s appeal process isn’t really going to help you. As I said above, the chances of a rescore turning out favorably for you are slim to none.

But you may have another option, available through your state board, that would allow you to meet with one of their representatives and see the questions you did not answer correctly. Whether or not this actually ends up in your 74 turning into a 75 is up for debate and in my three years of working in CPA review, I never met anyone who did this, let alone did it successfully.

Contact your state board and ask about the score appeal option. If available, you will likely have to pay a fee and there are no guarantees that anything positive will come of it but if you sincerely believe that the simulation changed, that’s a glitch and throwing out that simulation could just bring you beyond a 75.

Good luck!

I Am Mad Not Disappointed: A Parting Shot on Changes to the 2011 CPA Exam

On this, the final CPA exam testing day of 2010, I feel compelled to skip the advice column and launch straight into the rant. It’s finally over and here’s hoping you people will stop asking the same five questions about the 2011 exam over and over.


I don’t mean to offend anyone in particular so if you catch a feeling on this, it’s probably because I’m talking directly to you. You know who you are and I respectfully request you knock it the fuck off.

First, the misinformation surrounding the 2011 exam changes absolutely blows my mind. The AICPA announced these changes well in advance of the planned launch of CBT-e and I can’t speak for everyone but know that we here at Going Concern have covered just about every tiny detail of what’s ahead. Regardless, I still get my inbox blown up with the same simple questions, the answers to which may be found with a simple Google search or by checking out our previous posts on the subject. Information is everywhere, you’ve just got to get off your lazy ass and look for it.

I think you guys are forgetting that this is a professional examination and that you are allegedly professionals. Is it reasonable for professionals to work with financial statements being misinformed and confused by simple instructions? No. Is it reasonable for CPA exam candidates to have absolutely no idea what is happening in 2011? HELL NO.

The “OG” CPAs of the paper and pencil days laugh at candidates who have to take the computerized exam and for good reason, you guys can’t even figure out a simple change like CBT-e. People still seem to believe BEC will contain simulations in 2011 and for Christ’s sake, let’s all keep in mind that about 90 – 95% of what is being tested in 2010 will still be tested in 2011. Do you really think the AICPA Board of Examiners is going to trash all those wonderful questions they worked so hard to get? Please.

So while you guys are freaking out over changes that aren’t even going to happen, you could be studying current material and educating yourself on what’s new for next year. I’m shocked that so few of you know that the exam actually changes twice a year, every year anyway and that 2011 is really no different except for the fact that it is a bit larger a change than usual. It sickens me, actually, because I had so much more faith in you guys to go into the exam prepared and informed. Instead I continue to get the same 4 or 5 questions over and over and over and always walk away with the sense that you guys aren’t listening and unless it is handed to you, won’t go looking for the answers you need.

Seriously, knock it off. Now that 2011 is very nearly upon us, I expect ALL OF YOU to get off your asses, get to the Google and do some reading. It’s really not hard, the info is plastered all over the AICPA’s website as well as places like the CPAnet forums and various blogs strewn throughout the blogosphere.

You’re making the profession look bad, you know. How can accountants protect the public interest if they can’t even figure out a simple change to the CPA exam?

Side note: While I’m ranting about the 2011 exam, I should also throw in a few expletives meant specifically for the AICPA Board of Examiners for choosing to do this in the first place. WTF were you thinking?! We don’t even use IFRS and don’t know when we will, why the hell should we be so eager to test it now?!

/end rant

Top Five Resources For CPA Exam Candidates

Since I’m sick of writing about 2011 CPA exam changes and none of you asked any CPA exam questions this week, I’ve decided to be nice and offer you five excellent resources for CPA exam candidates, ranked in no particular order of importance.


CPAnet: The CPAnet forums offer a sense of community, suggestions and that all-too-important sense that you are not alone on your journey. Get tips on passing tricky parts, share your misery or get a kick out of helping other candidates by sharing your knowledge. The forums are a must for any candidate wishing to connect with others on the CPA exam adventure.

Twitter: Connecting with other CPA exam candidates and sources of CPA exam information (like @NASBA) can be incredibly useful. Follow the #CPAexam hashtag for news and views on all things CPA exam.

The AICPA: The AICPA has revamped its website and put together a comprehensive collection of CPA exam information, extensive tutorials and plenty of FAQs for your reading pleasure so you better be using them. Their “Become a CPA” section is jam-packed with useful info for international candidates, students interested in the CPA career path along with salary and career info.

NASBAtools: Access NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library or use CredentialNet to do all the applying for you so you can focus on taking the exam and not worry about being buried in four pounds of paperwork. You can also find more information on licensure from NASBA’s website here.

Me: Wow, what a narcissist right?! In all seriousness, if you aren’t sending in your CPA exam questions or reading previous columns we’ve done on the exam covering everything from simulations to time management, you aren’t using the resources correctly. I don’t write for my own good, I do it so you guys can be informed and prepared for what’s ahead so do me the favor of not making me feel like I’m writing to a wall.

Final Reminder of Five Ways the CPA Exam Could Change in 2011

We’ve been talking plenty about 2011 CPA exam changes but since this is my last Friday CPA exam column until the new exam hits in January of next year (December being a blackout month), I figured now would be a good time to go over what will or might be changing next year, much of which is entirely dependent on how things turn out early in the year when CBT-e launches.


First, international standards WILL be eligible to be tested beginning January 1, 2011 but that doesn’t mean the 2010 exam and 2011 will be completely different. I suspect that the AICPA Board of Examiners will be extremely conservative with new standards for at least the first two testing windows of 2011 if not longer. That means you will see new standards and questions but likely will not see too much new material if you’re testing in January/February or April/May.

Second, simulations and research problems WILL look different, unless you’ve taken the exam this year already, in which case you’ve probably already seen a preliminary version of 2011’s simlet problems. The format is changing slightly but pretty close to the current tabs in simulations so it may not look all that different to you come 2011. Research will be worth more than the single point it is now so check out the tutorial on the AICPA’s website and don’t forget to use your current NTS for a free 6 month subscription to the professional literature.

Third, the candidate performance report (score report) is changing. Check out the AICPA’s website for a somewhat complicated scoring FAQ that explains how they currently determine your performance and what all those “comparable” or “weaker” notations mean on your score report.

Fourth, possibly based on the third point, the AICPA has pledged to look into changing what qualifies as a passing score in 2011. They have been pretty quiet with details and have not really said whether new passing scores – if implemented – would be higher or lower than the current 75. The best bet until we hear otherwise is to relax and worry about it later if they decide an 80 works better. They have pledged to give scoring a look after the first window of 2011 so stay tuned and we’ll let you know if we hear anything at that point.

Lastly, remember that the AICPA is nothing if not conservative. That means even though things are changing next year, it is highly unlikely that the AICPA will feel comfortable completely changing things on candidates. So for those of you rushing to get in one last part in the next two weeks (remember: you’ve only got 8 testing days left in 2010!), I’m pretty sure you’ll find next year’s exam to be far more familiar to you than you might think.

Prioritizing the CPA Exam, Getting a Masters and a Big 4 Job Part MMXXXII

In today’s edition of “let me figure out your life for you and push the CPA exam down your throat”, our little would-be Big4er writes in wondering:

I’m trying to figure out some options to get to a Big 4 firm. I interned at a regional firm in Los Angeles this past summer and realized that I want to be at a Big4 firm instead. I have been through the on-campus recruiting process this quarter and unfortunately I did not receive any offers after going through PwC’s second round interviews. I did receive an offer from a regional firm in the San Francisco area. Though, my ultimate goal is to end up at a Big 4 firm.

I will be graduating in March 2011 and was planning on begin studying for my CPA exam. I hopby October or at least a majority of the exam. Do you guys recommend I study for my CPA and go through the recruiting process again next year or continue my education and get a Masters in Accounting and go through the recruiting process after that?

I love when you kids have a plan, or rather when you have a goal in mind and come banging on our door asking how to get there.

Anyway, as always, I am inclined to recommend getting the CPA exam out of the way before anything simply because it’s easier to do now before you’re bogged down with commitment (OK, mostly a really time-consuming Big 4 gig). However I’m a little sketchy on your actual timeline since you say you are graduating in March and plan to be done by October; does that mean you’re planning on taking two parts per testing window after you apply and are approved to sit for the exam?

Assuming you are applying in California (you mentioned LA), might I recommend you take the exam shortcut now while you still can? Here’s the deal: submit your application to the state board now while you don’t qualify, pay your $100, wait 8 – 10 weeks for a rejection letter and then apply again in March right after your degree posts to your transcripts so you can be approved to sit in just 1 – 2 short weeks. That way you cut down on the waiting time while you’d still be waiting anyway, can jump right into taking your exams and can get in April/May, July/August and October/November instead of trying to cram in four parts in two testing windows.

Keep in mind that tackling the CPA exam before going to the Big 4 – or any firm for that matter – can sometimes work against you. If you really stand out as a public accounting rockstar and have already passed the entire exam they might assume (usually correctly) that you’re simply trying to get your foot in the door for your two years of experience. So be careful with the overachieving there, it might be wise to get through two parts or perhaps just get started on the exam without actually blowing through all of it before you go knocking on PwC’s door again.

Unless you absolutely want a Masters in Accounting, keep in mind it isn’t necessary to have one in California and you can just as easily pick up 30 extra units in just about anything to meet the 150 requirement. I usually discourage California CPAs from taking that route unless they absolutely have to so if it isn’t something that you really want, don’t do it just to do it. You can always get a Masters later when you’re more settled in the profession, know what you want to be when you grow up, have finished the CPA exam and have made a dent in your undergrad student loans (always a good idea before you take on any more debt).

The only issue with blowing off a Masters now is that you will obviously have a harder time getting the Big 4’s attention after you graduate so I would say plan to get started on the CPA exam as quickly as possible and put on your best game face next time the Big 4 come sniffing around at your school while you can. Hopefully that lands you something for the fall, giving you a chance to complete the exam before your start date, at which time you can try out Big 4 life and then maybe get back to us on how that’s working out.

Hope that helps and good luck!

How Do I Prioritize Taking the CPA Exam, Finishing a Masters in Accounting and Getting a Job?

If you have a career related question that also involves the CPA exam (like “should I take it before I try to get this awesome job at x firm?” or “Will I still get hired if I have a CPA and therefore scare the crap out of recruiters who want me to be as moldable to their whims as possible?”), please email me directly. Emailing [email protected] will just mean you getting trapped in Caleb’s inbox for weeks.

Now then, today’s reader question comes from a finance world immigrant looking to elbow his way into public accounting:

I graduated in 2005 with a Finance degree, I spent one year as a Staff Accountant then moved onto to become a Corporate Financial Analyst for the past 4 years. I am interested in making the change to public accounting and began the MSA program last year to get the requisite hours, I’ll be eligible for the CPA at the end of the Spring Semester but won’t quite be finished with the MSA program. There is the background…

…now my question is would I be better off staying in my current position and finishing the master’s program before I take the CPA and find a new job? Or would it be more beneficial for me to attempt to find a lower level job at a firm during the spring semester to start getting some experience, then attempting to take the CPA next fall? I’m eager for a change, but I would like to know what the best course of action might be and if it’s realistic to think I could find a CPA firm job before I have finished the master’s program or taken the CPA exam. Thanks for your help.

Here’s the obvious disclaimer: I am heavily biased towards the CPA designation for many reasons.

Firstly, having one obviously makes you more employable because it shows a level of dedication that employers salivate over. Forget all that junk about a CPA showing that you know your stuff, getting one shows that you have the ability to grind through months or even years of studying your ass off, which employers are into because it means that you might just show the same sort of dedication to ticking and tying.

Secondly, having a CPA allows access to a professional network that cannot quite be accessed from the fringes (read: unlicensed fringes) and puts you in a different caliber. For someone trying to break into public accounting, having a CPA (or being darn close minus the work experience) right off the bat can put you on the fast track to career advancement that might otherwise be out of reach were you to both come from another industry and lack a CPA. Just my 2¢.

All that being said (possibly in more words than were necessary), yes you can find a job with a CPA firm before you have passed the exam but the best avenue to take is always to tackle the exam as early as you can before you get involved in life, work, family… you know, all that stuff that will turn into excuses for not having time to study later. Even your best-laid plans don’t always turn out as well as they appeared on paper, so that low level gig at a firm (if you can get one) might turn into a longer-term position that you can’t or won’t walk away from. Ask anyone who has studied for the CPA exam while grinding out their first year in public accounting if you need more clarification on just how large a pain in the ass that plan can be. You know, if you’re planning on having a life.

My suggestion: take the CPA exam as soon as possible and put your feelers out in the job market. Don’t bank on a CPA firm position landing in your lap but if you find one, it will be best to have as much of the exam done as you can get before you actually start. Good luck!

Will You Need New CPA Exam Materials In 2011?

As many of you know, some parts of the CPA exam are changing significantly in 2011 though don’t listen to the rumors that say everything is changing profoundly. If you sit for the exam before 2010 and sit again in early 2011, chances are you will recognize much of the content and format of the exam beyond the few changes. We’ve covered those here before, feel free to check out our previous CPA exam posts for more detail.

Anyway, a lot of you are wondering if you should purchase CPA exam review materials now and if you do how you will handle the new material in 2011.


If you’ve done your homework, you’ve found a CPA review course that offers updated material at no additional charge. This could be in the form of split shipments, updates to books or new books altogether depending on whose program you have sunk your hard-earned money into. If you are unsure whether your course offers these or if you are still shopping around for a review, be sure to ask before committing as some providers could end up charging you for new materials.

Keep in mind, however, that much of what is being tested currently will still be tested in 2011, even in areas like FAR and AUD that are getting a significant amount of new international material added to them. If you read too many misinformed forum posts, you might be under the impression that 2010 material is completely and totally irrelevant in 2011 and that studying from these materials will mean guaranteed failure on the exam. That is simply not true. Of course it is a good idea to also study from whatever updates you might receive to 2010 materials if you are sitting in 2011 but it is not worth panicking over nor delaying your studying because you are holding out for brand new 2011 information.

The AICPA Board of Examiners is not about to throw away their precious bank of tried and true CPA exam questions, even though they are anxious to add new international content to that mix. Much of what CPAs have been tested on for the last 6 years will still be relevant next year and there is no need to hold a giant 2010 CPA review book bonfire to eliminate old, outdated content.

You will definitely want to get access to any material updates if you are allowed them by your review course but please, don’t burn books or run out and get all new materials just because you are afraid of being left behind in 2011. Debits still go on the left, even under IFRS.

CPA Exam Dilemma: Do I Take Audit or FAR Before 2011?

Bypassing the pleasantries and getting straight into the reader question:

I passed BEC & REG on my first try, but I failed FAR & AUD. I need to take FAR or AUD before 2011. Which one do you suggest? FYI: I had 66 on FAR, 56 on AUD.


We’ve discussed what to do when you fail an exam section in the past and if you are familiar with the formula, you know that anything less than a 70 means you can pretty much go back to the drawing board. So the short answer here is that either FAR or AUD is fine but with a little over a month left before the end of 2010 testing, I am a little concerned that you may not have enough time to really prepare. Let’s be real here, you must not have put in much time or effort on either the first time around, am I right?

That being said, FAR looks like the more promising option though a 66 tells me that you’ve got a ways to go before you will be ready. It could be that you simply bombed one testlet and a simulation, in which case you don’t need to spend too much time going over all FAR topics in extensive detail but if you skimmed most of it the first time around, now might be the time to get serious and put in the work.

If you are asking which to take before 2011 because you are scared to death of the CBT-e changes, I would suggest taking AUD this year as the research will be harder next year while most of FAR will actually be easier (between removal of written communication, shorter “simlet” problems and fairly straight-forward IFRS vs GAAP content).

Regardless of which you choose, work on time management (perhaps that is your issue as it coincidentally tends to be a problem on both FAR and AUD) and use your score report to figure out where you need to focus for your second attempt.

Good luck!

Ed. note: Adrienne is currently trudging across this fine country, moving her life from not-so-fabulous-anymore San Francisco to an undisclosed location just outside of Washington DC. She’ll return to a full posting schedule next week after getting settled. As always, you are still welcome to get in touch with any CPA exam questions and/or post suggestions.

Where Can International CPA Candidates Get Certified Without Being Technically Licensed?

Getting back to the awesomeness that is the CPA exam for international candidates (piggybacking on the AICPA’s announcement earlier this week that they are moving forward with international testing in 2011), today’s reader question comes from a NY-based CPA exam candidate who originally hails from India.

I have passed all sections of the CPA exam in Delaware. I do not have experience to qualify for license yet. DE has stopped issuing certificate “alone” for CPA, they now issue combined cert + license. Is there a state who issues the certificate alone?


A few years ago, most international candidates went with either Colorado or Delaware simply because those state boards allowed for the easiest CPA exam experience without, well, the actual experience. International candidates could apply, show up to take the exams, pass and never actually become CPAs in the traditional sense but go home with those fantastic little letters on their résumés.

Unfortunately for international candidates, the state boards got together and decided that there might be some confusion between these certificate-holding CPAs and CPAs who fulfilled educational and experience requirements for licensure. As we all know, you could stay in school for 10 years reading about the stuff but there is just no substitute for good old work experience in the profession.

The old timers will recognize the term “two-tier state” as it was initially thought that passing the exam (the part where the certificate comes in) was the first step – or tier – and satisfying experience or additional education requirements the second.

So now that you have the backstory, where can you go? Right now Illinois is your only option and you will only have that available to you until 2012. They initially decided to eliminate the certificate in 2010 but the governor gave this CPA certificate plan a stay of execution until 2012, so get on it now if that’s your plan.

The other remaining one-tier states – Alabama, Kansas, Montana and Nebraska – all have a residency requirement or other restriction. That may mean they are out of the question for you. Montana requires a Social Security number for a certificate, something many international applicants obviously don’t have. Without knowing our reader’s specific details, this may or may not be an option. Anyone with experience with this little nuance in the the CPA certifying world is invited to share their experience.

Good luck and just be glad you aren’t getting licensed in New York!

AICPA Announces International CPA Exam Locations

Have you, like many foreigners, been tripping about getting into the US to take the CPA exam, battling with strict post 9/11 Visa rules and other assorted red tape? Trip no more, the CPA exam is about to go international. This is huge because the exam is also about to get an international makeover (like IFRS testing in FAR and international audit standards in AUD) but that couldn’t at all be coincidentally related to this announcement from the AICPA:

The Uniform CPA Examination will be offered outside the 55 U.S. jurisdictions for the first time in its history in 2011. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and Prometric – the three organizations that jointly offer the CPA Examination in the United States – reached an agreement to administer the exam in international locations.

The CPA Examination next year will be offered in Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

The international exam will be the same as the one offered in the U.S., using the same computerized format and administered in English. As in the U.S., the purpose of taking the examination will be to qualify for licensure as a CPA through U.S. state boards of accountancy.

Security has been one issue for the AICPA in deciding where to offer the CPA exam even though it will continue to administer the exam through Prometric. International testing will be subject to the same state board or jurisdiction rules that determine eligibility for CPA exam candidates since there is no Dubai Board of Accountancy. Just as now, potential international candidates will have to meet the requirements of whichever jurisdiction they choose to apply. Which I guess makes all the residency-requirement states out of the running to be a part of this epic new spin on the computerized CPA exam?

Some have mentioned on earlier bitch sessions about the AICPA that their motivation is a monetary one. Expanding membership, for example, brings in revenue. Increasing the passing CPA exam score (thereby causing more failures and, one would imagine, more subsequent $$$ retakes after) is another example though that’s just a rumor last I heard. So if one were inclined to postulate as to the motive behind this move and approach it skeptically, you might come to the conclusion that this could equal a pretty significant payday for the AICPA as well as NASBA, Prometric, ChoicePoint and all the CPA review courses who make a living off of this exam. I’m not against it.

I guess we will find out what significance the U.S. CPA exam still holds for the rest of the world. Even if we end up looking pretty bad when international candidates do way better on the AICPA’s new international exam content in 2011.

How Much Harder Is REG Going to Be in 2011?

Well we’ve reached the end of our 2011 wrap up series so here are FAR, AUD and BEC if you missed them.

Let’s skip the pleasantries and get right into what you’re dying to know, how bad is Regulation going to be next year?


Things they are a-changin’…but not much – The good news is that REG is hardly changing at all. After all, you can’t test international standards of federal taxation as globalization hasn’t completely taken over so don’t expect to see much different content-wise come 2011. You will see the new simulation problems and notice there are no longer written communications. But beyond the cosmetic changes, the actual content that makes up Regulation will be quite similar to what’s already being tested. Of course, that is true across the board as a good 90 – 95% of what is being tested will still be tested next year if my gut feeling is still any good. You guys have to remember – next time you are freaking out about new exam material – that CPA exam questions are difficult to develop and the AICPA Board of Examiners isn’t about to trash all their useful questions just to start testing you on the international stuff.

Tax year overlap – One thing to keep in mind when taking REG – in the first two windows of the year you can be tested on both current and former tax year numbers. This means if you take it in January of 2011 you may see 2010 tax numbers or you may see 2009 or a mix of both. Chances are the newer numbers will not make their way to the exam (hey, the AICPA BoE is super busy getting those IFRS questions in working order!) but just something to be aware of. That doesn’t mean you have to memorize tons of different tax tables but it would be wise to stay up on tax changes in the year ahead as many tax rates are still in the air at the point many review courses are rushing to go to print.

Who said anything about ethics? – Ethics and professional responsibility are moved out of REG and put back into AUD except for those pertaining to tax practice and will still be tested about the same as 2010: 15-20% versus 15-19% in 2011. Business law will carry less weight, making up 17-21% of all questions. Federal tax procedures get a boost from 8-12% in 2010 to 11-15% in 2011. Great news for those of you who really do not like taxes, federal taxation of entities gets a downgrade from 22-28% to 18-24%. Individual tax stays about the same, going from 12-18% to 13-19%. Don’t expect much of a break, it is Regulation after all.

Other than that, REG won’t see much of a change. Business structure (partnerships, et al.) has been moved out of BEC (rightfully so) and will only be tested in REG but you already know most of that stuff if you have passed either section in 2010.

If you can, I advise holding off on Regulation until the last two windows of the year so you have a better chance of getting only one year of tax numbers (the AICPA will generally test the previous year’s tax numbers) but if you are looking for a good one to hold off on taking until next year ahead of the CBT-e changes, REG would definitely be it.

Good luck and we’ll see you on Friday!

Oh and in case you didn’t get the memo, if you have a CPA exam question for us (for example, which part can I procrastinate on until the very end of 2011?, Is farting allowed at Prometric?, How can I tell my girlfriend to leave me the hell alone and let me study? etc etc), do get in touch.

How Much Harder Is BEC Going To Be In 2011?

Following the awesomeness that was our “How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?” post, I figured it would be a good idea to go over each section to compare this year’s CPA exam with next year’s. Today you’re lucky to get a good BEC wrap up.


Written Communication – As stated last Friday, written communications are moving from FAR, AUD and REG to strictly BEC. This is good (and possibly easier) for most of you as writing can be a right-brained activity while the rest of the CPA exam mostly tests your left brain’s ability to process and digest information.

If I were taking the exam, I’d relish the opportunity to have three attempts at essays (since it might make up for my pathetic understanding of cash flows) but for many of you this is a weak area. That’s fine. In 2011 you’ll only have to try it once with three BEC-related WCs. You still do not have to get the answer correct but simply have to A) write like you have at least some sense of what a “business memo” contains B) not misspell any words (you get a spell-checker in 2011, no excuses) and C) stay on topic.

Easy. Currently you get two written communications in three different sections, while in 2011 you will get three written communications in one section.

No Simulations – Contrary to rumors I am still hearing for some unknown reason, BEC does not and will not contain simulations in 2011. It may not contain them for some time or the AICPA BoE could get creative and start testing them out in a few years, it’s hard to say but my understanding is that they are happy with written communication in BEC for now. Between you and me I imagine part of the motivation behind this is getting all of you off their backs about the fact that a multiple choice only exam section still takes the same amount of time to grade as more complicated sections like FAR, AUD and REG. But what do I know?

More Econ, Less IT – As for actual BEC content, IT will be more lightly tested while econ will carry more weight. Econ goes from 8-12% of questions to 16-20%. A new area, operations management, will make up 12 – 16% of questions you see. Business structure (partnerships etc) goes back to REG where it belongs and corporate governance takes its place with 16-20% of your questions coming from that area.

Narrowing Components – The new AICPA target weights have changed since last year. Before you were tested on five core components: communication, research, analysis, judgment and understanding. In 2011 (this is for all sections), you are tested on just three: knowledge and understanding, application of the body of knowledge and written communication. Knowledge and understanding make up the MCQ (80 – 90% of your score in 2011’s BEC exam) while written communication makes up the other 10 – 20%.

Will BEC be more focused than it has been since 2004? We wouldn’t put any money on that. It’s still the junk drawer of the CPA exam though it’s come quite a way since its debut with the computerized exam 6 years ago. As a person intimately acquainted with it, I feel it has a ways to go. But 2011 is an improvement and just like FAR probably easier for you guys in the long run.

Soon-to-Be KPMG Associate Bounces Back From Accountant Hate Crime

We just got presenting you with some options for dealing with the occasional dick at your job. It goes without saying that 99% of the time, confrontations at the office don’t resort to fisticuffs but as we’ve detailed in these pages, accountant abuse is all too common – both verbal and physical.

Today’s account of bean counter beat downs is actually a positive one, as Bryan Steinhauer – who is starting at KPMG next month – has recently passed his first section of the CPA exam after suffering an assault in 2008, spending three months in coma and “endured thousands of hours of speech and physical therapy.”

We should clarify that Steinhauer was not not beaten because of his aspiring accountant status but because he was “allegedly dancing” with some dude’s girlfriend (which is punishable by death in some countries):

The 2008 assault near Binghamton University left Steinhauer with severe brain injuries. Doctors didn’t know if he would be able to speak again, let alone if he would live.

Now, two years later, as Steinhauer’s attacker Miladin Kovacevic prepares for prison, the resilient Brooklyn man is poised to pick up where he left off.

Steinhauer, 24, is about to start work at the accounting firm KPMG, capping a comeback that hospital officials call “mind-boggling.”

“I’m ready to move on to the next stage of my life, doing what I was meant to do,” a beaming Steinhauer told the Daily News. “It’s the biggest thing for me – to reclaim my life.”

Steinhauer has reason to be confident. Last week, he found out he passed the first part of the notoriously difficult CPA exam – no small feat for someone who suffered brain injuries so severe his memory was erased.

So, in case you don’t think you’re capable of bouncing back from a 74 on FAR, this guy recovered from brain damage and no memory to pass one part of the CPA exam. Normally, we’d suggest Adrienne chime in with some words of encouragement here but we don’t think it’s necessary.

Bryan Steinhauer reclaims life following brutal 2008 assault by Serbian athlete Miladin Kovacevic [NYDN]

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.

Accountants Still Can’t Not Write Good…or: Improving the Communication Skills of Students

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

“I am not good at writing. I want to be an accounting major so I don’t have to write.”

All of us who teach or advise students have heard this – our students’ dislike for writing papers. These students are under the false impression that accountants do not have to write, or at least not much.

Frequently, our students do not realize that written communication skills are essentiaprofession. As a matter of fact, communication skills are one of the five core competencies outlined in the CPA Vision Project, tested on the CPA Exam and demanded by employers.


The CPA Vision Project

The CPA Vision Project of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) addresses issues we must tackle to keep up with the challenges facing the profession. To remain competitive, CPAs need to demonstrate five core values and five core competencies.

One of the top five core competencies, Communication and Leadership Skills, is the ability to “give and exchange information within meaningful context and with appropriate delivery and interpersonal skills.” These core values and competencies are instrumental in providing the five core services outlined in the CPA Vision Project: Assurance and Information Integrity, Management Consulting and Performance Management, Technology Services, Financial Planning, and International Services.

If we want our students to offer these five core services efficiently and effectively, accounting classes must incorporate the ability to communicate well as a learning objective.

Writing on the CPA Exam

So what about the CPA Exam? Is the profession testing communication skills on the Exam? Yes.

The CPA Exam requires candidates to demonstrate their writing skills. Currently, CPA applicants complete constructed responses on the Auditing (AUD), Regulation (REG), and Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) sections of the exam.

With the introduction of the new CPA Exam format (CBT-e) in 2011, writing will remain an important part. However, instead of testing writing skills in AUD, REG, and FAR, the constructed response portion of the exam will be entirely tested in BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). Starting in 2011, CPA candidates will write three essays in BEC.

Entry-level accountants lack written communication skills

The CPA Vision Project demands communication skills and the CPA Exam tests them. Does that mean employers of new CPAs are pleased with new CPAs’ writing skills? No. Many employers of recent accounting graduates complain that their new employees do not possess the requisite writing skills. While our students may have strong technical skills, their written communication is often ineffective and poor.

In addition, accountants are spending less time on gathering, processing, and reporting information, and more time on interpretation and providing strategy and decision support. Accountants prepare notes to financial statements, interdepartmental memos, plans, and proposal communications with various stakeholders, written personnel evaluations, and articles in professional journals.

According to an article in The Trusted Professional, one-third of the accounting firms surveyed are unhappy with accountants’ writing skills. Correctly using grammar, organizing information, and writing clearly, concisely, and completely are necessary for business writing. In the worst case, poor writing skills can lead to dismissal of the accountant or inability to rise to higher managerial levels in the organization.

Because of the CPA Exam requirement and the needs of future employers, writing in accounting classes is an important part of many schools’ accounting curricula.

Communication: The business of accounting

Accounting is much more than financial statements and debits and credits. Properly and broadly understood, accounting is all about communication. Written and oral communication gives the numbers meaning, context, and focus on a decision.

We need to continue working on improving the writing skills of entry-level accountants, but these skills must be further reinforced once students enter the workplace. Firm training and management programs in which writing is given a high level of consciousness and priority will help ensure users have the best product available.

About the authors:
Gabriele Lingenfelter, CPA, teaches accounting and auditing for the Luter College of Business and Leadership at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Lingenfelter is actively involved on the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Audit & Attestation Subcommittee and the development of future CPA Exams. She also is a member of the VSCPA Editorial Task Force. Contact her at [email protected].

Phil Umansky, CPA, Ph.D., is associate professor of business at the Sydney Lewis School of Business at Virginia Union University and chairman of the Accounting and Finance Department. Umansky is a CPA Ambassador, a regular contributor to the WTVR Virginia This Morning TV Show on money management topics, and a member of the VSCPA Editorial Task Force. Contact him at [email protected].

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 standardsIFRS 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)

Should I Focus on the CPA Exam or an Internship with the Big 4?

Because I never check my LinkedIn messages, this is the first I’m getting to this particular question. That goes for Facebook, Twitter DMs, and/or @s because if it doesn’t land in my inbox directly I’m probably going to get to it last. That being said, if you have a question for either Caleb or myself (we have the industry somewhat completely figured out between us), get in touch with us directly and we’ll try not to steer your entire life wrong.

This ended up coming to me after I told the boyfriend of a would-be accoungirlfriend could probably find a gig in public if she got her CPA. Like any major life decision, it’s a commitment and as any of you who have whined about failing the CPA exam know, it isn’t an easy career path to take. Our asker today wants to know if he should jump too:

I really liked your response to Matt, regarding his girlfriend (who was taking ACCT 101 at the time he sent you a message). You had some great advice on things to consider before making accounting the career to devote one’s time to. I understand the importance you mentioned in having CPA next to your name when applying for jobs; because of this, I wonder if you think it would be better to get experience/internship first or invest the time into studying for the CPA exam and pass it before persuing [sic] any other obstacles of life?

I tapped Caleb for his thoughts first since he knows better than I do what it takes to be a Big 87654 grunt having done it himself.

If you want a job with The Big 4, go for the internship. The recruiting is far more competitive than in the past few years so if you want a job with one of those firms, than the best way to make that happen is to intern with them.

From a more general perspective, the work experience is invaluable as opposed studying for the exam. Sure you might have a jumpstart on your peers getting the CPA but an internship is individual experience that cannot be duplicated. The CPA exam is just at test that many of your peers will pass at one point or another during their careers. However those with internship experience will be able to point to specific experiences and accomplishments that other candidates may not have, setting you apart from them.

In my view, it appears as though the CPA is much easier to get through before you actually commit to A) a career B) a family C) just about anything else that you might be thinking about taking on at this point. Work experience is awesome but who can just grab that? You might get sucked into the public accounting whirlpool and 5 years later wonder why 5 busy seasons have gone by and you still haven’t passed the CPA exam.

Then again, your best chance to hit the Big 4 is as a new associate is right out of school – you might be the fluke who manages to get their attention at 35 once you’ve “figured out what you want to do with your life” but by then it’s likely too late for you to suddenly warm up to the Big 87654. It’s worse than trying to get into the military at that point, you’re flabby and already set in your ways, they need someone young and hungry and not yet jaded by a career in accounting. Good luck with that.

I say pass the exam now while you can (if you can). Then again, with passing CPA exam scores from the beginning you’re also a threat to the firms as you can easily bail for a real work-life balance in private accounting once you meet the work experience requirement. Who would continue to put up with the sort of abuse some of these firms put you guys through? Someone who has taken 3 years to get through FAR or made the mistake of starting a family AND a career in public before getting through or even touching the CPA exam.

If you don’t really want it (which it sounds like you don’t), be careful because it’s going to be harder for you if you’re just going through the motions. My advice.

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.

Five Things Every CPA Exam Candidate Needs

Let’s cut right to the chase and get into five things every CPA exam candidate really must have.


1. A good support system Maybe you’re lucky and your significant other has been supporting you all the way through this adventure to licensure but chances are he/she is pissed that you’d rather spend your evenings cuddling your CPA review book than them. Fine, don’t worry about them, worry about yourself and surround yourself with like-minded candidates who can support and inspire you. It can also be helpful to have someone to sit next to you on the pity potty when your scores come back less stellar than you’d hoped. Whether your support system comes from your social circle, coworkers or online forums, find one and use it.

2. A plan No kidding, you need one if you’re going to pull this off. That means scheduling your exams well in advance, plotting your course by creating a detailed study schedule and figuring out how to balance studying and everything else in your life. The better you plan ahead of time, the better you’ll do. I don’t have any figures supporting this so you’ll just have to trust me.

3. A Notice to Schedule I’m sure you already know you need an NTS if you’re going to get anywhere. What I mean is, if you’re actually going to take the exam you’ve got to start the application process as soon as possible and make sure you’ve met your state board’s requirements. Find out how long it takes well in advance of actually applying by reading up on your jurisdiction’s requirements and understand how long things take in your state. You can get a lot of this information first-hand from the CPAnet forums or by following the #CPAexam on Twitter. First-hand accounts from actual candidates will offer you more value than the official word from your state board, though their estimate may be somewhat realistic too. Schedule 45 days before your exam so you have one less thing to worry about when studying. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to apply or if you qualify, check out NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library for help.

4. Faith Oh so cheesy but it works. If you believe that you can get through this, one way or another you will. If you doubt yourself every step of the way, you’re going to suffer appropriately. So it’s generally a wise idea to have some faith in yourself otherwise you’ll be needlessly miserable through most of this entire process. Faith is whatever you define it as, only you know what it means for your particular belief system. Adjust accordingly to your personal circumstances.

5. Discipline You don’t need talent, nor a high IQ, nor a good GPA to get through the CPA exam. You can be marginally skilled in your career and only somewhat intelligent to pass but if you do not bring discipline to the table you’ll never get through it.

Optional additions: a good CPA review program, a reliable caffeine connection, a miserable bastard or two to commiserate with, and/or a good distraction to reward yourself with after you’ve put in your study hours.

I Don’t Want to Talk About the CPA Exam Anymore

It’s September, you guys are wearing my ass out with these 2011 questions and really I haven’t heard from very many of you lately so I guess that means you’ve got your heads buried in FAR. So I’m pretty much done for awhile unless you come up with some pressing issues that you need addressed. If you do, let me know. Otherwise let’s go back to one of my very favorite CPA exam items ever, the Ethical Craiglister.

Rest assured this person posted in 2002 so A) hopefully they’ve brushed up on their ethics, especially if they did end up scoring someone to help and B) the exam is now computerized, locked-down and way more monitored than it was back when this idiot posted on Craigslist for someone to take the ethics exam for him.

I think it’s the “serious replies only” that I really love about it. Like he expected to get flash and comment letters about what a disgrace to the profession he is.

I need someone to take CPA Ethics test for me
Date: 2002-01-03, 10:08PM PST

Local CPA candidate has no time to study; will PAY you to take the ethics exam for me! Serious replies, only. You must have passed test in California within last two years.

Hey, if you see this, please get in touch with me and let me know how that worked out. I’m really fucking curious to see how your life ended up after you were unleashed on public accounting.

Happy Last CPA Exam Testing Day of Q3 2010!

So we heard that some but not that many of you received your scores from this window, if so congrats (we hope) and do let us know how you did. For those of you stuck in Wave 2, um, sorry about that and here’s to hoping you get your 74 before the final window of 2010 gets too filled up to schedule before the dreaded CBT-e changes take effect January 1, 2011 in case you need a retake.

Remember, Q4 2010 could be the most difficult to schedule CPA exam testing window of all time so if you are in Wave 2 and want to take another stab at it before 2011 after you get a failing score towards the end of September, you better be sure to get your reapplication in for a new NTS as soon as you get your score. Be prepared to select an alternate Prometric location or date and time that you didn’t really want as it’s going to be rough getting in for some of you.


Of course, there are those of you in remote areas or CPA dead zones that may have no problems at all but for our little future CPAs in places like Texas, Illinois, California and New York (i.e. exceptionally large numbers of CPA exam candidates testing at any given time) be open to changing your dates or location if need be and don’t flip out if you can’t schedule where or when you want.

If you are testing today on this final testing day of Q3 2010 we’d love to hear what you’re taking. Jr Deputy Accountant’s unofficial poll of CPA exam candidates (really I’ve just been asking candidates I’ve talked to lately and not even taking a tally; sue me) reveals that a large number of you are actually going after BEC either today or before the end of the year to avoid written communication in 2011. That’s a bit of a shock, I assumed most of you would try to tackle FAR before IFRS hits but hey, whatever floats your boat. For those of you who pass BEC this year, you also have the advantage of getting a BEC exam with less economics and IT to worry about, not to mention no essays.

And if you don’t pass? Remember, there’s always next window, CBT-e or not and hopefully we have already calmed your fears surrounding the 2011 changes. It’s a little more to memorize with international standards thrown in the mix but you were already going to have to memorize a metric shit ton of information anyway so what are a few more standards going to hurt?

Good luck to all of you and don’t forget to get in your last minute CPA exam questions before it all changes in a few short months!

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.

CPA Exam Memory Aids, Do You Need Them?

For some, lease accounting comes easy and you don’t need a catchy tune to help you remember title-transfer, bargain purchase and 75% of its useful life. But for most of us, retaining the information critical to getting through a multiple choice question every minute or minute and a half requires either divine intervention or a really excellent collection of memory aids. Since some of you may be atheists, let’s talk memory aids. Pay attention, especially those of you taking FAR who need help getting through such a huge mess of information.


Post its are your friend! Are you having trouble remembering present value tables or the three necessary components of an audit opinion? Not to worry, just grab a pack (or 20) of sticky notes and start writing down mnemonics or calculations and sticking them everywhere you might see them; your fridge, the bathroom mirror, your car’s rearview mirror (don’t forget to take it down before you drive), your desk, and especially on top of the PlayStation. Swap out your old notes for new ones every couple of days as you add new information and be sure to read them every time you pass the note. If you’re one of those folks who has this stuff down but just needs a little encouragement, you can also use this trick to get a much-needed boost of confidence by writing your name, CPA and slapping them all over the house. Talk about motivation!

You have a few minutes and some scratch paper at the exam, so use it! While the Powers That Be may discourage using the 10 minutes before you actually get into the exam as a brain dump, there is no reason you can’t use 2 or 3 of those minutes to scratch out everything you can on the scratch paper you are given at Prometric. Mnemonics, keywords, formulas, FASBs, whatever, just start writing everything down before you actually launch the exam. You can help yourself out by bringing your review book with you to the test center (but not inside!) and reviewing it one last time in the car before you go in. But be careful, if you use the whole 10 minutes and don’t get through the screens, you’ll blow the whole exam and have to reschedule! 5 minutes tops!

Flashcards are your friend! No, I’m not talking about overpriced CPA review materials that your firm is nice enough to pay for, I am talking about a good old pack of 3x5s that you mark up yourself. I once had a student who claimed his homemade flashcards were what helped him through FAR even though his handwriting was so atrocious that even he couldn’t read it. Just the very act of writing down key topics helped him remember those areas when crunch time came and he was struggling at the exam. Of course this works best if you can actually read your own handwriting but don’t let that keep you from using this important tool to help in your retention of key areas. You can use them to quiz your study buddy or simply make a stack of hard-to-remember topics for your own review. Again, slip these in the car the night before you head to Prometric and flip through quickly before you walk in to take your exam.

Here’s the deal, the CPA exam isn’t meant to be easy and you aren’t supposed to be an expert on dozens if not hundreds of topics. You need to know a little bit about a lot so with the help of some simple tricks to train your brain to work in exam mode, you’ll be breezing through exam parts like no one’s business. Good luck!

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.

Don’t Let 2011 CPA Exam Changes Keep You From Studying This Year

I’ve talked to a lot of panicked CPA exam candidates out there who seem to be bewildered and anxious about CBT-e changes coming up in just a few short months and even though we’ve covered it plenty here on Going Concern, I figured I’d take the time to remind you once again to relax. Please. Seriously. Like now.

A few things to keep in mind and then we’ll get to the good part.


1. Accounting is still accounting and IFRS puts debits on the left too. While international standards are spooking everyone, let’s take a deep breath and remember that accounting is still accounting whether it’s GAAP, government, IFRS or that wonky version of financial accounting that the Fed gets to make up. For the first few testing windows, if not years, it is highly likely that the AICPA will take a conservative approach when it comes to integrating the new standards into the CPA exam. They are not going to scrap years worth of effort put in to the computerized exam just to test international standards that aren’t even used in the U.S. so stop thinking 2011’s exam is THAT much different.

2. Regulation isn’t really changing at all. Does it ever? You’d be surprised how little the exam changes from year to year even as new standards are released and introduced to the bank of questions candidates receive. The fundamentals haven’t changed much over time and probably won’t. In the last three years, I can only remember two very large changes: a massive overhaul of Audit in mid 2007 that changed a lot of terminology but not much else and FAS 141(r) or, as candidates know it, business consolidations last year. Beyond that, the meat and potatoes of the exam have remained pretty constant in the 6 years since the exam went computerized.

3. Simulations will be easier. Believe it or not, the new sims should be way easier than the current ones. Instead of hoping you get a simulation that covers the two or three areas you studied (ahem, procrastinators, I’m talking directly to you), you get 6 or 7 smaller simulation problems that cover a multitude of areas. This makes your crapshoot odds of knowing what you’re doing far better than they are under the current structure.

So, now that we’ve pointed out those few things, I think you should know that there’s no reason to hold off on studying this year if your plan is to start taking exams in the beginning of 2011. GAAP will not change and will still be tested, it is just that new international standards will also be added to the mix.

You can certainly get a jump on studying by going over the current material towards the end of the year and then hit the 2011 stuff once it is available. Otherwise you’ll have to cram up to 150 hours of studying into a couple weeks right after New Year’s when you’re probably in no mood to study anyway. Trust me, a fourth quarter 2010 FAR exam isn’t going to be drastically different from a first quarter 2011 FAR exam except for the obvious international stuff sprinkled throughout. No big deal.

You CAN use 2010 books to START to prepare for the 2011 exam, just be sure to update them with 2011 material once it is available. If you rely solely on 2010 materials you will probably fail but you can definitely use them to get the foundation on topics that are still going to be tested in 2011 and beyond in much the same way they have been since 2004.

Hope some of you can now sleep at night. You’re welcome.

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 201and 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.

(UPDATE) CPA Status and Promotions: What Is Your Firm’s Policy?

With all the news on raises, promotions etc. etc., a reader got in touch, asking the following:

Can we start a thread to discuss when you need the CPA designation if you want to move up at various firms by practice (audit, tax, specialty groups, etc.) and what exceptions there are?


The idea jumped off of a recent comment on yesterday’s post discussing E&Y’s raises keeping pace with PwC:

From what I can derive, PwC was bleeding staff in the early part of the year to the best of my knowledge, requires more time to get promoted up the ranks (3 years to senior compared to 2 at all other firms) and the requirements are higher (must have passed the CPA exam). The higher raises, at least from PwC’s perspective, may be their way of staying competitive with the market because, without higher pay, PwC is not competitive. E&Y may also be attempting to compensate but I am not entirely sure what for.

So three years to earn a promotion to SA at PwC isn’t news to us and some – dare we say, many – may argue that should be the standard timeline for associates in the Big 4/second tier firms. You can debate that all you want but what about the CPA requirement? If PwC does in fact require their associates to have their license before making SA, that’s nothing if not a motivation to finish the CPA ASAP. At the same time, there are many SAs that don’t have their license that do excellent work but for whatever reason are still stalling on obtaining the CPA.

The reader continues by asking:

For instance, if you have an Enrolled Agent, can you still make manager if you’re in tax, etc. [?] I’m also curious about any place that will demote anyone of a certain level who hasn’t gotten their CPA in the last couple of years. KPMG has threatened it for managers in tax who are qualified to sit for the exam (U.S. accounting degree with enough hours), but I wonder if that’s more empty talk.

That’s the first we’ve heard of a demotion for not having a CPA but frankly, that seems appropriate. If the manager has an EA, then perhaps that’s a suitable exception, although the idea of a Big 4 tax manager without a CPA just doesn’t seem right. For many, the lack of the those three precious letters means the end of their careers at the Big 4, so it’s definitely an issue.

So indulge our reader and let us know your firm’s policy regarding promotions and CPA license status. Does it matter? Are there exceptions? Should your performance make up for your uncanny ability to fail FAR? Talk it out.

UPDATE: We obtained a copy of the KPMG policy mentioned above and it appears to be FSF with a few exceptions for those that are “CPA Eligible” and certain “waivers.” Also there’s this, “In circumstances of noncompliance without appropriate waiver, professionals may be subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to demotion or termination from the firm.”

KPMG Tax Promotion Policy

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.

This Is Your Final CPA Exam Chat Reminder…

Save August 3rd if you don’t already have plans, yours truly will be over at CPA Exam Club (brought to you by our friends at CPAnet) for a nice little chat about the CPA exam. Just some of the things we’ll we covering:

• 2011 exam changes: what you need to know, what’s changing and what you really should stop worrying about
• Exam strategies (especially around the 2011 changes): which parts to take in which order and why
• Study plans: how to make one and how to stick to one
• Hipster fashion tips for what to wear to Prometric
• Whatever else YOU come up with


In order to participate in the hour and a half chat you have to first register at CPA Exam Club and RSVP for the event. If you aren’t already on the site, it’s a great resource for candidates and a way to share tips and tricks, exam experiences and of course commiserate with your fellow future CPAs. Registration is free.

If you have questions that you’d like me to address during the chat, leave them on my profile page or go ahead and email me and I’ll do my best to address.

I have already agreed to be A) super nice and B) more helpful than usual so if you’ve been reluctant to submit your CPA exam questions here because you’re afraid I’ll yell at you (I probably will), here’s your chance to get an answer to any and all of your exam inquiries without getting snapped at. Get to it!

A 5 Step Plan to Passing the CPA Exam for Total Idiots

Disclaimer: I was going to use “for Dummies” in that headline but John Wiley & Sons owns that term. Since they’re also Going Concern advertisers, I figured it would be best not to tick them off. So don’t take my headline personally, call it creative license.

So, you want to pass the CPA exam eh? Here is your 5 step plan to get it done. Pay attention, kids, we’re only goince.

1. Apply early As soon as you are eligible to sit for the CPA exam (or even before if you are trying to bypass some state boards’ long application processing times), get your application, fees and fingerprint cards in. Assuming your accounting program did not prepare you for the exam, check with NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library or your state board to find out everything you need to know about requirements to sit in your state. Remember the CPA exam is uniform meaning you can sit for any state’s exam in any other state as long as you meet their requirements so if you don’t qualify at home, check out other states to see if you can sit there. Point being, you don’t want to have to juggle the exam, work AND a family so get this thing out of the way before you get engaged, promoted and/or knocked up. Trust us on that one.


2. Study OK, I shouldn’t even have to list this as a step but, uh, I’ve had the fortune of working with some of you for years so I feel it necessary to point out that unless you are some freak with a photographic memory, you are going to have to do some studying to pass. The entire exam can take anywhere between 200 and 1000 hours to study for (based on your familiarity with exam topics going into it) so be prepared to put in plenty of hours with your nose buried in your review books. We’re not suggesting you should develop a sick fascination for Peter Olinto but get comfortable with your CPA review instructor(s), you’re going to get awfully cozy for the next couple months.

3. Make some temporary sacrifices Sure there are the odd cases of CPA exam candidates who managed to pass with just a few hours of studying but for most of you, you’re going to have to accept that your life must change to accommodate the CPA exam process. If this means cutting off your needy girlfriend for a few months, grow a pair and tell her to stop bugging you when you’re focused on the exam. Your friends will be there when you’re done and if they aren’t, maybe you should stick to hanging out with other accountants (oh come on, it’s not so bad). Keep in mind the CPA exam torture is temporary and once you pass, you can drink all you want. In fact, you’re probably going to want to once you start nailing those promotions and putting in 80 hour workweeks. Deal.

4. Learn to plan but learn to accept that sometimes things do not go according to plan Shit happens. If you’re studying for the CPA exam, lots of shit happens. Some things are out of your control (busy season, for one) but plenty of things are completely under your control so worry about those and try not to get too upset about the rest. Learn to create a study plan that includes sufficient study time without sacrificing your own sanity (3 hours a day is plenty). Plan your exams well in advance and schedule in some kind of final review 2 – 3 weeks before exam day to be sure you are ready.

5. If you fall off the horse, get back up and kick the horse in the shins A 74 could be the most devastating CPA exam result of all but the reality is that this exam isn’t a cakewalk and you aren’t a failure just because you’ve failed. You’re only a failure if you allow it to keep you from pursuing your goal of CPA licensure. Get up, dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes (your score report is a huge clue into where you need more work) and schedule a retake as soon as possible. It’s entirely reasonable to feel defeated but no reason to pout so knock it off and suck it up. There’s a reason only 40%+/- of candidates pass on the first attempt, this thing isn’t easy on purpose. If it were easy, any idiot with half a brain would be a CPA.

But you aren’t just any idiot, are you? Go get ’em, killer!

Accounting News Roundup: Geithner Is Ready to Let Tax Cuts Die; Hayward on His Way Out?; PwC Wants Glitnir Lawsuit Tossed | 07.26.10

No new recession, let tax cuts die: Geithner [Reuters]
“The economy is not likely to slip back into recession but letting tax cuts for tans expire is necessary to show commitment to cutting budget deficits, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Sunday.

In appearances on several Sunday talk shows, Geithner said only 2 to 3 percent of Americans — those making $250,000 or more a year — will be affected when tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush end on schedule this year.”

BP Said to Prepare Dudley as CEO as Board Looks for Recovery [Bloomberg]
“BP Plc plans to name Robert Dudley to succeed Tony Hayward as chief executive officer as the board looks to recover the company’s position in the U.S., two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Dudley, the director of BP’s oil spill response unit, is ready to be announced as the company’s first American chief and to take the helm Oct. 1, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because a final decision hasn’t yet been made. The decision was reached in discussions with board members about how best to take BP forward and rebuild its U.S. position, the person said.”

Madoff Investors Brace for Lawsuits [WSJ]
“Irving Picard said he could wind up suing about half the estimated 2,000 individual investors he has called “net winners” from their dealings with Mr. Madoff. Such investors withdrew more from Mr. Madoff’s firm than the amount of principal they invested.

‘The people who made money, who got more, have made money at the expense of the people who didn’t,’ said Mr. Picard, who has the power under federal bankruptcy provisions to pursue money withdrawn from Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC before it collapsed in December 2008 and redistribute the funds fairly among victims.

Mr. Picard must file any so-called clawback lawsuits by December, the two-year anniversary of Mr. Madoff’s arrest and the filing of regulatory proceedings against him. ‘We’re not going to wait until the last minute,’ Mr. Picard said.”


Change the world or go home [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett implores you that if you want your firm or business to really stand out then it’s going to take more than a catchy slogan or a boilerplate email to get people’s attention. You best recognize an opportunity when you see one.

“I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve said but it is worth repeating. When disruption like SaaS comes along, it represents an opportunity. From a professional standpoint it should mean that firms can further commoditize what they do by using accounting dashboards that show them the status of their clients’ activity. It is a short step to seeing how this might be integrated into fees, billing, customer satisfaction measurement and the like.”

If You’re Going To San Francisco…AAA Will Be There [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Edith Orenstein has the lowdown on this year’s American Accounting Association’s (AAA) annual meeting. This year’s event is in AG’s backyard (she loves giving directions, btw) from July 31 to August 4th and will feature Francine McKenna and Professor Albrecht on one of the panels.

Join Me For a Nice Little CPA Exam Chat on August 3rd! [JDA]
Speaking of Adrienne, she’ll be over at CPA Exam Club to take your questions on everyone’s favorite test on August 3rd. Yes, that’s one week from tomorrow.

PwC Demands Dismissal of Glitnir Lawsuit [Iceland Review]
PwC’s lawyers argue that Glitnir and the firm agreed to do any legal wrangling in Iceland if the poo hit the fan. Late last week they requested that the lawsuit in New York be tossed.

Saltzman Hamma firm details merger with RubinBrown [Denver Business Journal]
“Saltzman Hamma Nelson Massaro LLP, a century-old Denver accounting firm, is merging with St. Louis-based RubinBrown LLP to form what’s expected to be among the 50 largest accounting firms in the United States, principals were set to announce on July 23.

The new entity, which will operate as RubinBrown, will employ 375 people in offices in Denver, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo. The merger will be effective Aug. 1.”

District Court Denies Charitable Deduction for Donation of Home to Fire Department [TaxProf Blog]
Just donate a car next time. It’s a far worse investment than a house.

IRS Proposes PTIN Fees [JofA]
$50 for your very own preparer tax identification number! Of course there’s also a ‘reasonable fee’ on top of that from “a third-party vendor that will administer the application and renewal process,” that gets thrown in for good measure.

My Life as a White-Collar Criminal [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar went on Canadian TV last week to talk about how much fun it is to be a crook. Except the whole possibility of prison part.

How a New Graduate Can Pass the CPA Exam (Almost) Before May 2011

This CPA exam candidate changes her name too often on Twitter to be linked to but asks us the following:

I am graduating this fall from [University of San Francisco] with an undergraduate degree in Accounting. My goal is to study and pass the test by May 2011.

I appreciate your input and advice.

First off, I love specific questions like this. If you have them you are, as always, welcome to send them in for future columns. If you have a particular goal (like passing before the 2011 changes or learning how to balance work, family and the exam), I feel better about wasting my time yelling at you because you’re much more likely to succeed. ROI, we all want one.

Anyway.


– Let’s start with the California Board of Accountancy. If you call their exam unit, they will tell you to expect a wait of 4 – 6 weeks for your application to be processed and you’ll get really excited when they cash the $100 application fee check three days after you mailed it. Don’t get excited, that’s the first thing they do (duh, it’s California). In reality, you can expect to wait about 8 weeks from the date you submit your application if you’re freshly graduated and applying with many other accounting grads in the state at the same time. Expect to wait 10 days for your payment coupon and 10 days for your Notice to Schedule once you get your ATT (Authorization to Test). So let’s say your school already posted your degree to your transcripts and you sent in your application today (7/16). You may not get approved until 9/16. Best case scenario they get you approved quickly and you get your ATT on 8/16 (don’t count on it).

Once you have that, it could be another 3 weeks until you are actually scheduling your exams. This year (since your goal is 2011, we’re assuming you’re starting as early as possible before new exam changes hit), the last window of the year will be especially hard to schedule. We’re just guessing on that since everyone seems afraid of CBT-e. It will be interesting to see the actual numbers once they are released.

Get the Hard Stuff Out of the Way – If you can get in one part this year, great. If you had to ask me which one you should take I’d usually say the one that will be hardest for you (since your rolling 18 month window doesn’t start until you actually sit for and pass that first one) but because of the 2011 changes I’m telling most candidates to take FAR. A lot of them are also trying to squeeze in BEC – I imagine they don’t like the idea of written communications and more economics but I could be wrong. Don’t take the easy route, you’ll regret it when you’re trying to pass that last really difficult section you put off and end up losing scores because 18 months came and went.

Don’t Be an Overachiever – I know the old timers will pipe in on this and say back in their day they didn’t have calculators and had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to the exam center twice a year to take all 4 parts over 19 1/2 hours but we humbly suggest sitting for no more than two parts per testing window. If you can get in for Q4 2010, you will have one exam done then take two more in Q1 2011 and the last one Q2 2011. So you may not exactly hit your May target but it’s OK to adjust your plans (don’t get mad at the Board of Accountancy but if you want a shortcut around their 8 week application time, get in touch with me) and you can still say you reached your goal.

The only other issue is getting those extra units to actually be licensed under Pathway 2 (the best idea for your own mobility) since you are an undergrad but you can get those in anything and have five years to meet the licensure requirements before you lose your exam scores.

Worry about that later. As for how to study, we’ve talked about CPA review courses, study strategies and things not to do in previous posts. Good luck!

If You Want to Screw Up the CPA Exam, Here are 5 Ways to Do It

I spend a lot of time yelling at you kids trying to tell you what to do: schedule early for the last window of the year, don’t overload yourself by trying to take on too many exam parts at once and be sure to bring your ID to Prometric (lay it out like your clothes on the night before the first day of school so you don’t forget).

Nag, nag, nag. I do it because I care and I want to see every accouig CPA dreams achieve their goal, even when that means a major risk for capital markets (you know who I am talking about, there are some people who shouldn’t be allowed within 50 feet of a balance sheet).

But let’s put all of that aside for now and talk about ways to blow it. I mean really blow it. Unlike most of my tips, if you follow these you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail.


Schedule too many exam parts in one window This is a common mistake, mostly for newbie CPA exam candidates. You get all excited and have three months to waste before starting work in the fall and decide to take as many parts as you can in a window just to get it over with. Great. Of course, you realize halfway through the first chapter of REG that you have too much on your plate and end up blowing all three. Congrats, you’ve just learned an important lesson: take it easy. We say no more than two exam parts per window and unless you will get fired if you don’t get this stupid CPA in the next 6 weeks, stick to that rule.

Put your social life (substitute “work life” for social life here if you don’t have one) ahead of the exam If you have a life, congratulations, but it’s going to have to get back burnered for a minute while you tackle this thing. You don’t have to break up with your girlfriend but if she isn’t in accounting and going through the same misery as you, you may have to cut her off for awhile so you can concentrate. You know, only if she’s that kind of girlfriend. Your friends will get over it. Try surrounding yourself with other, equally-miserable CPA exam candidates like yourself. They’ll never be available and will only pester you via text when they are procrastinating.

Study only when you feel like it This one is great for totally blowing it and if that’s your goal, all you have to do is tell yourself you’ll study after work or when you get a chance or maybe after the game is over. Without a solid study schedule, you’ll quickly realize you never feel like it.

Blow off the multiple choice and just watch CPA review videos Hey listen, in a former life I pawned CPA Review wares 60+ hours a week and let me tell you, we liked it when students got addicted to videos, it pays the bills. But we liked it better when students also did the homework because that meant they passed and failing students don’t help our numbers nor testimonials. So go ahead and stick with the “I’m going to watch FAR thirteen times until it totally sticks in my brain” method, it means more money for repeats and we liked that too.

Spend every moment obsessing over things that aren’t often tested or worth much (like research) Want a surefire way to fail? Focus on the minute details and obsess over rarely-tested information, ask questions in Live class about your own 401(k) instead of pensions and get really bent out of shape over tiny punctuation errors in your review texts. Chances are if this is your strategy, you’ll not only fail miserably but piss off a few CPA review instructors in the process. Good luck with that. Really.

Is a Month Long Enough to Study for Regulation?

We’ve given you plenty of tips on studying for REG but let’s go over it one more time, shall we?

NBAinmyDNA asks:

Is 1 month enough time to study for Regulation? I haven’t studied yet and I have the exam scheduled for beginning of August.


Regulation should take about 80 and 100 hours to study for, since we don’t live your life we can’t tell you how much other stuff you would have going on in a month so it’s up to you to figure out how to fit that time in. In a general sense, it can be done in a month but you might be better off taking slightly more time just so you aren’t overloading on information. Regulation isn’t a huge or overly-complicated section but if you’re trying to do all your studying in one month, you’re going to have to cut out just about any chance you might have at a social life between now and then.

When trying to “cram” for a CPA exam section, it is easy to over-study in an attempt to get in as much studying as possible within a short period of time. So this is a good time to point out that your brain learns in layers and gets bored easily so don’t study for more than 3 hours at a time without taking a long break. If you plan on spending your weekends studying, stick to the 3 hour rule and try to plan something moderately enjoyable for yourself in between (renting a movie is OK, going out and getting wasted is NOT).

Studying 3 hours a day for 28 days will clock you in at about 84 hours, which is on the low end of study targets for this section and kind of exhausting. If you can buy yourself a few more weeks and put off your exam, you can stick to 1 – 2 hours a day and still have a life. Be diligent about creating a study schedule and sticking to it as you’re short on time to study as is, you can’t afford to miss 2 or 3 study sessions.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Summer Studying: A CPA Exam Plan for Warm Months

Alright, little future CPAs, most of you are probably still recovering from the holiday weekend and if you’re lucky enough to have a job, reluctantly dragging yourselves back to the grind which sometimes means studying for the CPA exam. Taking the summer to study? Good for you! We’ve got some tips for keeping on track when the weather is nice and the work is light.


Don’t overdo it!
If you just graduated and aren’t starting at a firm until the fall, you might be one of those candidates who decides to take all four CPA exam sections in one testing window. That’s all well and good but let’s be realistic: your degree may not post to your transcripts until August and even then you’ve still got to wait for your state board to process your application. Find out how long the process takes in your state and plan accordingly! If you’ve been approved to sit for the exam and have a few months to study, we humbly suggest taking on no more than two sections per testing window. It’s a lot easier to study when you aren’t working but trust us, it’s a lot easier to pass exams when you’ve got the time to concentrate on each section and cramming all four into one window can sometimes put a damper on that process. So slow it down, killer!

Make time for fun
Listen, no one said you have to give up your life to pass the exam and it might be a good idea to retain your sanity through the process so by all means, get out and enjoy yourself in moderation. Once you’ve created a solid study plan by accounting for each hour of each day and planning study time in between, you can afford to pencil in “fun” here and there to keep yourself motivated. Moderation is key, you don’t want to be puzzling out variance analysis while nursing a hangover so save the big bashes for when you pass.

Remember you only have two testing windows left until the CPA exam changes in 2011
Amazing how motivated you can become when you remind yourself that if you don’t get FAR out of the way this year, you’ll be forced to identify differences between GAAP and IFRS. As you know, you learned one of these in school and the other is a big fat unknown not just to many accounting students in America but many of our CPAs as well. If you’ve been putting off the exam or half-assing it for the last several testing windows, now is the time to stop and get serious about your goal. It isn’t getting any easier and it isn’t going to pass itself.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

You’re Going to Grad School: Do You Sit for the CPA Exam or Wait?

For many of you it is graduation season and that means planning to start at a firm in the fall or going back to school. But do you really need grad school?

Here’s our question from a reader planning on eventually taking the CPA exam but unsure as to when:

I just finished my undergraduate degree in the summer and therefore did not meet any of the application deadlines for grad school this Fall. I plan on going to grad school in the Spring, but in the meantime, I wanted to register to sit for the CPA exam. Is this a dumb thing to do? Most of my friends are going to grad school and studying for the CPA exam simultaneously. I don’t want to wait to the Spring to start taking the CPA though–but perhaps it will be more beneficial to me to wait. I need all the help I can get to pass. On the other hand, I’ve heard that you don’t necessarily need everything you learn in grad school to do well on the CPA exam, and all that extra information that they feed you can actually confuse you. I would love to hear your input on this.

Let’s be honest here, there are two distinct universes: 1) the CPA exam universe and 2) the actual universe.

Scenarios presented on the CPA exam are often contrived in the way that only made-up content can be and very often fail to match real-world experiences that you will encounter in your exciting career as a CPA. That also means that college may have poorly prepared you for the CPA exam universe, whether undergrad or graduate level. The CPA exam changes twice a year but it’s pretty likely that your college professors used the same books several years in a row. Of course accounting is still accounting but you are right to assume that grad school may not adequately prepare you for the CPA exam. Why do you think review courses make so much money?

Our advice is ALWAYS the same when it comes to loading up your plate with other things while trying to tackle the CPA exam: less is more. If you can trim out part of your social life, take time off of work, and avoid any additional educational or professional responsibilities while studying, you’re in a much better place to focus on the exam. Ask any of your friends who are trying to do grad school and the CPA exam at the same time in a few months how things are working out and I guarantee you they’ll tell you it’s not the cake walk they thought it would be. If you can save yourself the headache, do it, you can always go back to school later.

Grad school may make you more hireable and teach you a few tips and tricks for your career but as far as the exam goes, if that’s your only motivation for getting more education, you’d be better off just picking up some extra units to meet the 150 hour rule and focusing your efforts with a good review program. Again, college texts are usually outdated and don’t cover the same topics as the CPA exam.

It is our humble advice that you apply for the CPA exam immediately and make it your goal to complete all exam parts before you start school in the Spring since you will have the time to focus on the task at hand. Good luck!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Failing the CPA Exam the Easy Way…or: How to Use Your Scores to Determine Your Next Move

Nationally, only 43% of CPA exam candidates who sit for any exam part pass on their first try and that number shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who has gone into an exam completely unprepared or totally intimidated. Failure may be inevitable but it doesn’t have to be the end, nor does it mean you should give up on trying to become a CPA.

So what do you do if you’ve failed?

There are two paths to take and your option from here depends a lot on how you did. Not all less-than-74s are created equal.


If you scored < 70: If you got anything less than a 70, give or take, you can put this exam off until later and move on to the next section if you are having difficulty grasping the information, especially if you scored in the bottom 60s or lower. UNLESS you are on a time crunch (like you have to get this one passed or you’ll lose credit on another section), blow this one off and move on to another. If you want to continue and try this one again you can but you should start from scratch, use your score report to gain insight into where you need more work, and review EVERYTHING as if you have not studied at all.

If you scored > 70: Pay your re-application fee and get a new NTS for this exam ASAP! A score above 70, while disappointing if less than 75, shows that you have an excellent command of the information and you’ll want to retake this one while the information is still fresh in your mind. DO NOT move on to another section. Use your score report to gain insight into your weaker areas but don’t obsess too much over what it tells you, keep in mind the report compares you to other candidates and you don’t care how other people did on the exam, you need to know where YOU need to do more work. DO NOT waste your time watching all of your CPA review lectures again, focus on doing MCQ/simulation practice questions and brush up on the areas you are weak in. Then, just before your exam, give everything a very quick overview one last time to make sure you have not forgotten the things you already know.

The point is that most CPA exam candidates experience failure at one point in the process, and some will experience failure repeatedly along the way. Be smart about your mistakes, learn from them and move on. You CAN pass, it’s just a matter of understanding how to overcome the many stumbling blocks you may encounter along the way.

Also see:
What Happens When You Get a 74?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

How Simulations are Changing for the 2011 CPA Exam

As most of you already know, the CPA exam is changing and our last two testing windows are quickly approaching. If you are concerned about the impact of IFRS on CPA exam content, get FAR done this year. If you absolutely hate written communication, knock out BEC in 2010 as it will contain them in 2011. A few topics will be moving around and for an overview of everything that’s changing starting January 1, 2011, check out the updated Content Specification Outlines for all the gruesome details.

The biggest and most obvious change will be a shift in the thinking of the CPA exam itself
Whereas we have always considered the CPA to be a world-renowned designation and GAAP the be-all-end-all of accounting rules, we now must recognize the global nature of capital markets and future CPAs will be expected to demonstrate a working knowledge of international standards in financial reporting and auditing.


For 2011 simulations, we’re expecting that the AICPA Board of Examiners will continue to use a similar format (you may see tabs that you recognize if you’ve already taken exam parts and done some simulation problems) but instead of getting 2 large sims, you’ll get 7 task-based simlets (6 in Regulation).

Contrary to popular rumor, BEC WILL NOT CONTAIN SIMULATIONS
Blame that on the folks who don’t read but BEC will only contain written communications (3, of which 2 will be graded) and will go from 90 multiple choice to 72. You’ll get an extra 30 minutes to complete this part, which will be taken away from Audit.

The Unknown
It’s difficult to say at this point what candidates should expect come January 2011. Will research still be worth 1 point and therefore easily blown off if you’re running out of time? Will simlets require extended journal entries that can take quite a bit of time to put together? The honest answer is that we don’t know.

The AICPA used to have a tutorial at cpa-exam.org but since they redid their website, these tutorials have moved to their main page and can be found here. The cpa-exam.org site is still down and, presumably, will not be brought back now that everything is stashed on the AICPA’s website.

So our guess is that the new format WILL be available in tutorial form from the AICPA before January though we haven’t seen anything to date. When the research function changed in mid 2008, they made it available for practice at least one window prior to the new function appearing on the exam and 2011’s simlets should be no different. We’ll let you know if we spot the new format available for practice so stay tuned and better knock out some exams while you can, there are only four testing months left before everything changes!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Three Myths About Simulation Questions on the CPA Exam

6 years after the advent of the computerized CPA exam, candidates are fairly used to simulations by now (just in time for them to change) but they can still be a source of fear and apprehension for candidates just starting out.

Let’s start with debunking some popular myths. Remember, all of this information is current to the 2010 CPA exam and will be changing in 2011. Since it doesn’t make sense to repeat myself, I’m talking about what to expect for the next two windows of 2010.


Only one simulation is graded. Only one written communication is graded but both simulations are definitely graded and there is no progressive difficulty like there is with MCQ. If your second simulation feels harder than the first, it doesn’t mean you’re doing better, it probably means you got screwed on a simulation that covers the one subject you blew off when you were studying. This will get easier next year as more, smaller “simlets” make your knowledge of a broad range of topics more vital to the scoring process than your intimate knowledge of two topics is now.

Research is an important tab. It actually isn’t. It isn’t worth too many points so if you have to save anything for last, it’s research. If you have time left over, by all means, knock yourself out.

Written communications are sometimes hand-graded for correctness. Actually they don’t care at all if you are right, you just have to address the issue you are presented with using keywords and write good English use proper business grammar. It’s easy, you’re supposed to be doing this all the time via e-mail and if you aren’t, maybe you should start practicing. Caleb, this means you with your IDKs.

We will dig into the details onCP 2011’s new “simlets” on Friday.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

If I Pass CPA Exam Parts in 2010, Will I Have to Pass Them Again in 2011?

Have a question on the CPA Exam? What section is easiest? How should I study for Regulation? Are pants mandatory at the testing site? Shoot us an email with your query.

It’s the big question on everyone’s minds so we better address it now before you cute little CPA exam candidates start freaking out:

Do you know what will happen if as of December 31, 2010 I have completed two sections of the exam? Will I only have to take the remaining two sections or will I be subject to the new exam parts coming in 2011?


Good question. First of all, keep in mind that a lot of the hype surrounding the 2011 changes is:

A) CPA Review course marketing (“buy new materials! Be sure you’re up to date!”)

B) AICPA marketing (“Hey! Check out how advanced we are and how easily we can integrate a whole new set of standards into our psychometric exams!”)

C) Misinformation spread by candidates who “heard from someone” that BEC will now contain 10 simulations and all of them will be graded.

Just stop. The two biggest changes for 2011 are the addition of IFRS (which will mostly affect FAR) and communications in BEC, that’s it! That means get FAR out of the way this year if you can and throw in BEC before December if you are allergic to written communication. The exam changes twice a year anyway, this is nothing new.

Now that that’s out of the way, the rolling 18 month period also stays the same so whatever you have passed in the last 18 months will still be good. Again, if you’re freaking out about all of this, get FAR done ASAP and you will have minimal IFRS and GAAP codification garbage to deal with. A few sections are moved around (for example, business structures will be moving out of BEC) but it’s mostly the same content. REG is hardly changed at all and AUD will be one half hour shorter with more on professional ethics while BEC will be one half hour longer with written communications.

Simulations are trimmed down to “simlets” and instead of getting one topic, you have a better chance of doing well as they will be smaller and consist of several different topics. In my opinion, the exam is just getting easier.

I’m willing to bet that testing will be a bit of a bumpy ride for the first two windows of the year as the AICPA BoE gets its bearings with the new information and somewhat adjusted formats. But debits are still on the left and credits on the right so it’s not worth getting bent out of shape over; the exam will still suck and you’ll still have to study but thankfully, just like thousands of CPAs before you, you’ll rarely use anything you learned for the exam in the real world.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

So Your Firm Is Going to Pay For You to Take the CPA Exam: Four Things To Remember

Have a question on the CPA Exam? What section is easiest? How should I study for Regulation? Are pants mandatory at the testing site? Shoot us an email with your query.

Not only do you have a job (congrats!) but you have a job that is willing to pay for you to take the CPA exam. Awesome! But before you load up on review materials, be sure you know what your employer expects and understand that there are situations where you can be held liable for materials if you don’t live up to your employer’s expectations.


This is Business – First of all, though you can’t claim a deduction, reimbursement of your CPA exam expenses (education, exam fees, etc) is treated as a business expense, just like any other training. If you’re desperate to get someone to help out with review course or exam fees, try selling this point to your employer.

Make the Most of Time You Have Now – If you’re in the Big 4 or anywhere down to the middle, chances are your review course fees are covered and your performance on the exam might be rewarded with a bonus. Don’t blow this! It’s easier for you to study and pass exams before you are loaded down with responsibilities and managers are much more lenient with first years looking for time off than they are if you’re in your 4th consecutive year of failing FAR. Take this seriously and realize that your firm will probably only pay once; blow it and you’re going to have to come up with retake fees on your own.

This Isn’t 2006 – Several years ago, firms would happily pay $3,000 and up for overpriced review courses with all the bells and whistles but since belts have been tightened, some are reluctant to cough up a chunk of cash without a guaranteed return on their investment. Look at this subsidy not as a gift but as additional income. Would you blow $3,000 of your own income on something and then never use it?

Ask Your Firms Lots of Questions – If your firm does not already have an agreement with a review course but is willing to pay your fees, ask lots of questions upfront and find out if you can invoice for repeats or supplemental products if you need them. One of the larger firms has a “we’ll pay for anything once” rule meaning they will only cut one check, regardless of whether it’s for $2 or $2,000. Other firms have strict rules about what you can order and when you can start (think government agencies). Regardless of how your firm works, ask about what is covered and what is expected in return.

In this economy, you can’t afford to blow a free review course and discounted or all-expense-paid trips to Prometric.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Will a CMA or CFM Get You Some Kind of CPA Exam “Credit”?

The short answer is no. The medium answer is hell no and the long answer is the rest of this post but first, let’s address the reader question, shall we?

Will any of the sections passed for the CMA and/or CFM count against the requirements for the CPA examination? In other words, can I avoid taking certain sections of the CPA examination because I have passed the CMA and CFM?


ALL candidates have to pass all four parts of the exam and for the lucky ones, there’s even a fifth part to worry about called ethics but that’s not all of you so we won’t get into that. There is no credit given for life experience, other letters after your name, certifications, and/or letters from your Mom attesting to your good moral character. You don’t get extra credit for making your written communications 15 paragraphs long, nor do you get a bonus for having the prettiest scribbles on your scratch paper. Nothing. Sorry kid but them’s the breaks.

CMAs are not automatically eligible to sit for the CPA exam simply because they are CMAs however required coursework for both credentials are similar so if you are eligible to pursue one, you may be eligible to pursue the other without additional education. This career track is best accomplished by getting an MBA or Masters in accounting, not completing your Bachelor’s and simply picking up a few extra units to fulfill the CPA’s 150 hour requirement.

If you are into it, check out some recent IMA numbers on salary potential for CMAs and CPAs. So while you won’t be able to get out of any of the usual CPA exam gruntwork, it still might be worth it to pursue anyway. And bonus, you might just be able to count your CPE units twice for both designations.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Four Time Management Tips for the CPA Exam

The subject of time management can be a sore one for CPA exam candidates, mostly the ones who have taken and failed at least one part knowing this was largely due to blowing too much time on a particular section or dedicating too much time to one component, like MCQ, and not nearly enough on simulations.

In order to combat this problem, it’s critical to set yourself a little countdown clock on your scratch paper as soon as you sit down at the computer to make sure you are leaving yourself plenty of time when you need it most.


Always allow 45 minutes for each simulation – Be sure to do each written communication first as only one is graded but you don’t know which and it’s an easy 10 points if you at least manage to scribble something down, even if you don’t have time to get through all the simulation tabs you can still pass if you have done the communications. It’s a crapshoot but stranger things have happened.

No more than a minute and a half on each multiple choice question – Add up the number of MCQ in a testlet and count up, writing the time you should be finished on your scratch paper. Let’s say you’re taking FAR and started at 10 am; you will need 45 minutes for each testlet if you are going to have 45 minutes left over for each simulation. So by 10:45, you should be on testlet 2, by 11:30, you’re on to testlet 3. That leaves you plenty of time for the sims. For REG, you’ve only got about 1.25 minutes per MCQ as you’ve got 3 hours total to get through the entire thing. If you’re doing well on time, go back and check the MCQ you marked for review (if any) otherwise trudge on to the next part and never take a break! You don’t have time!

And remember: never leave any questions blank! GUESS! – If you get it wrong, it’s wrong. If you get it right, you’re smarter and/or luckier than you thought and are that much closer to your CPA. The exam is a plus-point basis exam meaning you don’t lose points for wrong answers, you can only add points as you go.

If you’re short on time, forget the research – If you are running out of time on the simulations, try to complete as much as you can in each tab and blow off the research, as yet it isn’t worth much. This may change when CBT-e hits in 2011 but for now, it’s not worth it if you don’t have the time. You’d be better off reviewing your written communication if you only have two or three minutes to spare.

You learned all about time management when studying for the exam so take that knowledge into the testing center and knock ’em dead!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

How to Avoid ID Problems at the CPA Exam

Although the instructions are pretty clear, this question comes up fairly often so let’s make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to ID that works at Prometric when taking the CPA exam.

Prometric is very clear about what you should have before you get to the testing center (at least half an hour early, of course, and smokers should make that an hour so they can get in as many as they can before they start – you don’t want to waste those breaks).


First and foremost, check in with them 24 hours before your exam to confirm your appointment. The night before your exam date, set out your NTS and make sure you have two forms of exactly matching ID ready so you aren’t scrambling to find it in the morning.

At least one of your forms of ID must have a recent photograph and both must be valid (i.e. not expired) and signed. Try a credit card and a driver’s license, forget about a Social Security card or a student ID as Prometric will not accept these. A passport is OK but must be accompanied by a secondary ID (like a credit or debit card).

The name on your primary photo ID must match your Notice to Schedule exactly. If you show up and both names are different (foreign candidates who use both an English name and their native name sometimes run into this problem), Prometric will not allow you to test and you will forfeit exam fees. If there are any issues with your ID, contact them in advance to see if an exception can be made or make sure you will be okay come test day. Make sure to do this within your NTS timeframe and no less than 15 days before your exam date so you can at least reschedule without losing your exam fee if need be.

Got it?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

The CPA Exam Application Timeline

Since graduation season is once again upon us, we thought we’d revisit a time tested favorite question from CPA exam candidates: When should I apply for the CPA exam?

First, find out when your school posts degrees to transcripts and whether or not the state you are applying to requires a degree before you can apply. If you are unsure of your state’s requirements or which state you might qualify in, NASBA has a really handy search tool you can use ($10 for 24 hours of access). Or just check out the website to read up on your state’s requirements. If you need a degree before you can apply, you’re going to need to know how long you’ll be waiting for your school to post it. Don’t apply any earlier as your application will be rejected and you’re out the initial exam fee.


If you’re planning on jumping right in to studying, you can generally apply to sit for the exam right after your degree posts. Remember, at this point you want to have tied up all the loose ends in your life that will keep you from studying; crazy ex-girlfriend, slave-driving boss, roommate drama… you get it. Sweep all that aside and submit your application (and fees!) as soon as you can. Don’t forget, just because they cashed your check does not mean you have been approved to sit so don’t get excited if you see it clear a week after you sent it in. That’s usually the first thing they do since you’re out the fee whether or not you qualify and hey, who doesn’t want money?

Now, should you start studying right away? It depends on how long your state takes to process applications. If you are looking at a 6 – 8 week wait, you may want to hold off on cracking the books, especially if you plan to start with something small like BEC. If you start studying too soon, you run the risk of being denied to sit for the exam and losing precious CPA review time (many programs have expiration dates – always ask!) catching up on units you need to qualify. Don’t invest in a review course until you’re absolutely sure you will be able to start sitting for exams right away. If you come from a quick processing state (usually a search through the CPAnet forums can reveal more detailed information from other candidates in your shoes) and are absolutely certain you meet your state’s requirements, you can start studying as soon as you send in the application.

Congrats to the spring grads and feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions about the CPA exam!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Three Signs It Might Be Time to Quit Studying for the CPA Exam

Before you get upset at that headline, I don’t condone quitting the CPA exam process, especially if you’ve actually made some progress and passed some exams. But for some, quitting the exam is the only logical choice and it’s fair to present that argument for those of you truly struggling to get through.

Signs that you should keep going are obvious. If you are feeling unmotivated, bored, intimidated, anxious, panicky, upset, overwhelmed and/or a little depressed, you are just like every other CPA exam candidate out there. There isn’t a single person who gets through the entire experience without feeling some of those feelings, sometimes all at once. But in some very rare cases, struggling with the exam is a sign that perhaps you should be doing something else, and that’s what we’re talking about. So what are some other signs?


Severe depression Obviously if the entire exam process has you feeling dejected, depressed and hopeless, you may not be cut out for the stresses of public accounting and all that comes with the CPA designation. A little sadness or frustration is totally normal but if you find yourself staring at your CPA review flashcards wondering if the corners are sharp enough to slit your wrists, talk to a professional and consider a different line of work. Please. The exam is hard but it isn’t worth killing yourself over. No pun intended.

Complete lack of motivation Again, a little bit of procrastination or a motivation drought is normal if not totally expected. But if you absolutely cannot muster up the courage to crack open the first chapter of FAR for days on end, you’ll never make it. Either motivate yourself (we’ve given you plenty of tips on how to do this in previous CPA exam columns) or give up. I’m serious. If you don’t, you’re not getting through it.

Extreme agitation It’s OK if you’re high-strung, so is Caleb (that’s why he’s the perfect CPA). It’s OK if you are snapping at random passers-by with the nerve to bring their raunchy shrimp ramen lunch smell past your cube. But if you are yelling at everyone from the cat to the mailman for most of the day, the stress of the exam process has taken its toll on you. Remember, the exam is a sort of real world test run and it isn’t going to get any easier once you start your illustrious career in public accounting. Bail. Now. And relax, it’s really not that serious…

Let’s just say I know from professional experience most of these instances are few and far between. Very rarely in my career helping future CPAs pass the exam did I encounter someone who was doomed to 74s without any hope at all. Sure, there were people who failed. A lot. For some of them, they needed to fail in order to change their study habits, take the exam seriously, or really decide this was what they wanted to do.

Very often, I would encounter professionals in their late 40s or 50s who felt disappointed in themselves for abandoning the CPA exam 10, 15, or 20 years ago. So if you do happen to be really depressed, lazy, and/or pissed off and decide to quit, know that you’ll probably end up coming back at some point in your life wishing you’d just gotten it over with when you first had the chance.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Three Things to Consider if You Move Out of State Midway Through Your CPA Exams

It’s actually not too uncommon these days; you get your accounting degree, start out with the CPA exam, and realize a few months into it that your job prospects aren’t that rosy. So what do you do? Can you move midway through your exams? And if so, how do you keep the passing scores you’ve already gotten?


It’s much easier to transfer a license than it is CPA exam scores – Lucky for you, the exam is uniform meaning every candidate in every state gets questions from the same testing bank. So as long as you meet the requirements in your new state, you can continue taking exams in the state you originally applied in without actually flying back to take them. Prometric lets you schedule for any other state’s exam as long as you are approved so you can start in California, finish in New York and hey, maybe even squeeze in a vacation exam from Puerto Rico! OK, maybe that’s pushing it.

Know both your old and new state’s requirements – If you are in one of the two states (California or Virginia) that allow you to sit for the exam with 120 semester units, you will definitely have to wait until you have passed all exam parts and gotten licensed in your home state before transferring your license to your new one. NASBA has a pretty useful tool to look through exam requirements if you’re not sure but keep in mind it’ll run you $10 for a full day of scoping through the information.

Be conscious of the fact that exam fees vary from state to state – If you do plan on transferring your exam scores by applying in your new state, make sure you get the more expensive parts (FAR and AUD) out of the way first. It shouldn’t be too large of a difference but $50 can be huge when you’re pinching pennies and out of work.

If you do decide to transfer scores, all you have to do is apply in the new state as if you are a new candidate and request that the board recognize your passing scores. Again, why bother?

So our humble advice is to: A) put off studying until you are set up in your new place if you can and B) keep taking the exams just as if you were at home and worry about transferring your license later.

Keep in mind that you will have to meet your home state’s requirements first and then those of whichever state you have moved to so check with each state board if you are unsure whether you will meet both.

When in doubt, contact your state board for clarification and advice. If they’re not much help, try your state society of CPAs. And if that doesn’t work, get in touch with us and we’ll see what we can do to push you in the right direction.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Three Study Motivators for the CPA Exam During a Blackout Window

Blackout months are notorious for inviting procrastination, especially June. The weather is nice, the work is light, and if you’ve been studying for most of the year, the mid-point can be exactly where you lose what little motivation you had to study. Because you have an entire month “off”, it can be easy to fall into a rut of not studying.

So as we go into this month, let’s remember some ways to stay motivated, even when it’s tempting to run off and play in the sun:


Get a study buddy – Sometimes all you need is someone chewing you out encouraging you to keep going. If you’re doing this alone and know you’re slacking, maybe you need to recruit a friend to keep you in check.

Bribe yourself – Yes, bribing yourself is a pretty low tactic but whatever works, right? Promise yourself a splurge when you pass whatever section you are studying for or, if you’ve got a little extra cash to throw around, bribe yourself often with treats like $4 lattes and DVDs or whatever it is you’re into that won’t break the bank. This goes in reverse – if you aren’t studying and know it, punish yourself by taking away the movie tickets or nice dinners out.

Schedule your exam date close to the opening of the next window – This way you know you can’t blow off the entire month. Obviously this isn’t a good idea if you’re taking FAR and don’t plan on studying until June 1st but if you’re planning on taking a smaller section like BEC and have the time to put it, schedule your exam in the first or second week of the window so you know you can’t procrastinate. I guarantee you’ll only lose one exam fee because of not studying before you learn that particular lesson.

Good luck and if you’ve had luck breaking the procrastination habit, do share what worked for you!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

How to Choose a CPA Exam Review Course

As many of you who have been reading Going Concern for some time already know, I used to be in CPA Review. I ditched that gig months ago to pursue my dream of writing full-time (so far so good) and can finally write a completely unbiased post on choosing a review course. I won’t name names here just for the sake of equal opportunity but let’s talk about how to pick a review coursntly, whether or not you actually need one.


First and foremost, if you are broke, you need to know that review courses are expensive. Like new car expensive. Ok, maybe like used Ford Focus expensive, either way, if you’re fresh out of school or still looking for work, you probably don’t have $2,000 lying around. It’s fine, you can get by on cheap textbooks but you’re going to have to bust your ass a tad harder than the guy who got his flashcards and full review paid for by the firm.

Keep in mind: the CPA exam is an investment of not just money but time. If you put $2,000 into it but still don’t study, you’re going to fail miserably. Unless you pay some brainiac $2,000 to take the exam for you but that would be illegal.

If you’ve got the cash for a full review, the first thing you’ll want to do is your homework. No, not practice MCQ, we’re talking research. A simple Google search will give you plenty of options (hell, there are less than a dozen CPA review providers so it’s not like you have to slog through pages upon pages of results). Remember: every candidate is different and what works for the stock photo chick on the company’s website may or may not work for you. Before you start looking for a course, take a personal inventory of your own needs and think up some questions to ask. Try these if you’re really stumped:

Is there an instructor or teacher available if I have questions about homework or content? And if so, how long should I expect to wait for a response?

How long from purchase do I have to access the material? Will it expire? Can I renew after that period and if so, are there any limitations on when?

Are there any discounts available?

Am I limited to one format or can I have the flexibility of combining online/live courses?

What is the policy for students who fail a part? Is there a repeat or discounted option?

Will I have access to updates as they are released and is there a cost and/or time limitation for this?

Those are a start. Most of this information is available on CPA review courses’ websites but sometimes it helps to get a real person on the phone and ask. You can quickly tell what sort of operation you are dealing with by the way the company’s phone staff handle your questions. The exam is a commitment and so is your choice of review course so be sure you are comfortable before you commit.

If you have already committed to a course that isn’t working for you, call around and ask if there are discounts available for students who have taken other courses. Most CPA review companies offer this.

Keep in mind that review courses – like all businesses – are still interested in making money above all else. Some will push full programs with all the bells and whistles while others rely on materials that look like they were made at Kinkos; at the end of the day, it’s not how shiny your review book is but how effective the instruction style is in teaching you the concepts that will help you pass.

And you will, as long as you put in the effort.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Three Signs That You Need a CPA Exam Study Buddy

Remember in elementary school when you used to have to partner up – or better yet form a chain – for safety while crossing streets on field trips or when returning back to the classroom? The CPA exam can sometimes be like that treacherous stretch and it’s totally OK to reach out and grab someone’s hand. Here are some telltale signs you need to phone a friend:


You’ve failed two of your last exam attempts and have studied at least 50% less than you should have because you just couldn’t get motivated to do it
If this is you, find someone who is really excited about the exam to study with. Believe it or not, there are some truly enthusiastic, motivated, excited candidates who are really into this thing. If you cannot locate one of those (using CPAnet or similar forums), settle for someone who will at least nag you enough to get you to study.

You spend too much time at work and not enough studying
Again, like our first case, you make excuses for not studying. Yours is just work (whatever it takes to get you out of it, right?) and though you know people at work that are taking the exam, you are too worn down at the end of the day to crack open a book. Find someone at your firm to study with and do MCQ at lunch. If you get one. Please, it’s not that bad.

You’re over 40, haven’t been in college in years, and none of your friends are accountants but you’ve decided to put in the effort to finally get the CPA you started pursuing years ago
It may feel like you’re on your own with this one but you have a larger incentive for seeking support than other candidates who are fresh out of school; none of your friends are taking this thing. Again, CPAnet is a good place to start if you are looking to find someone to study with or a group.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

What the AICPA’s New Website Means for CPA Exam Candidates

The short answer: not really anything but I spent 3 years slogging through that last design and can I tell the AICPA that it was absolutely awful? I’m not bitter or anything but I can only imagine what candidates felt like trying to find even the simplest bit of information.


They tell you before you take on the CPA exam to check out cpa-exam.org and run the tutorial before you actually sit down for a section so you can familiarize yourself with the computerized format. CPA Review providers cannot duplicate exam content or the environment exactly, as it is proprietary information, so simulations are a must-do and navigating is a skill you’ll pick up along the way if you don’t already have it. So as long as you’ve already done that, your next stop is the redesigned AICPA website.

Watch a PPT on becoming a CPA, learn about joining the AICPA as a candidate member, or check out their many resources on career options in the accounting industry. You’ve seen Start Here Go Places (an AICPA project that markets the exciting career of accounting to high schoolers and beyond), I don’t need to point you to that.

The AICPA is hot on marketing and excellent at it, even if they do make a poor choice every now and then (Benjamin Bankes, I’m talking about you, dude), so it’s no surprise that they are trying to seduce undecided college students and disgruntled finance professionals looking to switch professions. Things are slightly better in accounting so it isn’t all slick marketing, but I digress.

You can check licensure requirements for your state and even find out how much “average” accountants make. I encourage all of you considering accounting as a career to doublecheck those numbers with Going Concern salary threads.

Anyway.

Overall it’s an improvement and hopefully aggregating this information on the AICPA’s website will make it easier for candidates to find what they need. What do you think?

(Remember also that the ultimate authority on your CPA exam experience is your state board, NASBA, or CPA exam administrating company (like Washington), not the AICPA. Always check with your state board et al. before filing applications or forms if you are unsure on any CPA exam information you read.)

Adrienne Gonzalez is a Going Concern contributor and former CPA wrangler. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Authoritative Literature and Research on the CPA Exam

Though it doesn’t get much coverage in CPA exam study guides (for a reason, which we’ll get to later), your ability as a CPA exam candidate to tackle research on each exam section might make or break your overall performance.


When planning out the amount of time you will spend on each exam section (i.e. 45 minutes on each simulation as a general rule), you can rest easy if you save the research portion of each sim for the very end. It is believed to be worth only one point so if you can’t get to it, don’t worry about it too much. Focus on the written communications as those are worth 10 points – or one of them is, and you don’t know which one so take care of both and save the research for last only if you have the time.

As for practicing, newer CPA Review practice software already has this function built in.

If you would like to practice manually, you’ll have to take your active NTS to register for 6 months’ worth of access to the professional literature from cpa-exam.org. With this, you can search through AICPA Professional Standards and FASB Pronouncements to familiarize yourself with accounting regs, though you are still encouraged to take the tutorial CPA exam on the cpa-exam.org website as the research on its own is not exactly representative of the research function in the exam environment.

If that is not enough practice, book a 30 minute test run with Prometric to check out your testing center and the computer you’ll be using.

Anyway, don’t obsess too much over the literature. Like the tax code, a lot of your “answers” will be provided in the questions, it’s just up to you to look into what the questions are asking.

Think about it: CPAs have access to volumes of regs and standards in their careers, it is not imperative that they memorize each one. The CPA exam is meant to test your understanding of accounting fundamentals, not how well you can memorize 200 FASBs and spit them back out.

Just When You Thought You Knew the CPA Exam…Three Ways It Will Change in 2011

Now that we are nearing the end of the second CPA exam testing window in 2010, it’s about time to remind you (once again) that the CPA exam is scheduled for a pretty significant facelift in just two testing windows. Though we have covered it before, we thought it would be helpful to go over some of the planned changes.

Let’s meet your new CPA exam for 2011, shall we?


Changes to Content Specification Outlines – First and most significantly, the CSOs will undergo a huge overhaul. IFRS will be added – initially – to FAR and eventually international accounting standards and demonstration of an understanding of how they work will play a larger role in examination questions. Keep in mind that IFRS testing will be gradual and likely focus on the differences between IFRS and US GAAP initially until the AICPA BoE feels comfortable with candidate performance and the SEC’s procrastination on IFRS adoption. IFRS will also be tested in AUD and BEC (XBRL for one, which they have already been pre-testing for several windows) but expect a skiddish stance from the BoE in the beginning.

Audit loses 30 minutes to BEC – The reasoning behind this to allow candidates more time in BEC for written communications, which will be removed from FAR, AUD, and REG (where they currently are). Don’t bother trying to avoid written communication altogether by taking BEC this year and the other three next year, it’s an easy 10 points as long as you can write a standard business letter. You do not even have to be correct when you answer the question, you need only stay on topic and use good grammar.

International CPA exam testing is coming – Thirdly, the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric are working together to make international CPA exam testing a reality. Chances are if and when Prometric begins administering the CPA exam offshore, testing will be limited to a handful of countries (likely Japan, Dubai, and possibly India, where large numbers of Chartered Accountants tend to also seek the US CPA designation). We’ll see how this unfolds come 2011, as the AICPA would like to begin international testing with new CBT-e changes.

All in all, accounting is still accounting and the CPA exam will be exactly as it always has been: a test of your basic understanding of many broad topics that you may or may not ever encounter in your professional life. CBT-e will most likely be rolled out in pieces and subject to tweaks along the way.

All About the 4.5th Section of the CPA Exam: Ethics!

We covered Ethics before but since this is the last in our daily columns this week on the CPA exam, it’s a good way to wrap things up. Once again, if you are looking for CPA exam tips, tricks, hints or just have an idea for a topic you’d like to see addressed here, get in touch with us.

Last time we talked about the ethics exam, we suggested the following:


Speak to your state society of CPAs to find out if they offer some kind of ethics exam support. Helplines exist but you’ll never find them if you don’t look.

Because the ethics exam is open book, not timed, and allows potty breaks (unlike, say, FAR), take your time and don’t rush through it. You have more than 1.5 minutes to read through and answer the questions, take advantage of this fact.

If all else fails, try to find a lifeline. The CalCPA Education Foundation gives you a “lifeline” if you have unsuccessfully attempted their ethics exam three times.

A few more things to keep in mind:

If possible, choose the Online version of exam materials in searchable PDF form so you can search for keywords that will answer the questions. It beats flipping through a book and is often cheaper than the book version of the exam anyway.

Don’t take the ethics exam too early or you may have to take it again. If you decide to take the ethics exam before you have completed all four parts of the CPA exam, be sure you know how long your score is good for (probably a year max). You don’t want to have to take it twice so wait until you are at least 3/4 of the way through the exam or completely finished to tackle ethics.

Though review courses don’t have coursework on ethics, there are tons of resources available that consist of tips from others who have taken and passed the ethics exam. Start with the CPAnet forums, plenty of candidates and would-be CPAs have shared their experiences and many are happy to help if you have specific questions about how they did it.

Hope that helps and thanks for joining us for this week of CPA exam goodness!

All About Financial Accounting for the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: You can find our Audit, Regulation, and BEC outlines posted earlier in the week and expect an ethics review tomorrow to wrap things up.

Good news: Chances are you took most of this stuff in school so while it’s a lot of information to get through, most of it should be somewhat familiar.

Bad news: As the largest section, FAR covers a lot of ground and a lot of it isn’t very pleasant (like government, pensions, bonds and leases – all fairly heavily tested and all awful to get through when you’re studying) so prepare yourself accordingly and don’t take too much of it in at once.


FAR is a 4 hour exam and you will run out of time. Do not spend more than 1.5 minutes on each MCQ (FAR has 3 testlets of 30 questions each) and be sure to give yourself at least 45 minutes per simulation. If you run out of time towards the end, be sure to at minimum complete the written communication for both sims as only one is tested and you don’t know which one it is. It’s an easy 10 points and you don’t want to blow it.

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (6% – 16%)
Research (11% – 21%)
Analysis (13% – 23%)
Judgment (10% – 20%)
Understanding (35% – 45%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Financial Accounting and Reporting covers the following areas:

Concepts and standards for financial statements (17% – 23%) Financial accounting, consolidated and combined financial statements, balance sheet, income statement, notes to financial statements, financial statement analysis.

Typical items in financial statements (27% – 33%) Typical items: recognition, measurement, valuation and presentation in financial statements according to GAAP. Cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, inventory, PP&E, investments, intangibles and other assets, payables, deferred revenue, notes and bonds payable, equity and revenues.

Specific types of transactions and events (27% – 33%) Accounting changes and corrections of errors, business combination, contingent liabilities, discontinued operations, earnings per share, foreign currency transactions and translation, taxes, interest cost, leases, R&D costs, segment reporting, subsequent events.

Accounting and reporting for governmental entities (8% – 12%) Government accounting concepts (fund accounting, budgeting, and notes to financial statements), net assets, capital assets, transfers, financing sources, expenditures, encumbrances, etc etc. And of course governmental non-profit accounting is in this.

Accounting and reporting for nongovernmental (8% – 12%) Accounting and reporting for non-profit organizations, typical items for non-profits.

Studying for FAR should take between 100 – 150 hours regardless of whether or not you took multiple financial accounting classes in school. The key to FAR is taking it in small chunks to prevent being overwhelmed by information so don’t spend more than 3 hours per day studying and break each section into smaller subsections to retain your sanity through the process.

Good luck and see you tomorrow with ethics!

All About the BEC Section of the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: This is the third in our five-part series this week on the CPA exam. We’ve already done Audit and Regulation and will finish with FAR tomorrow and an ethics discussion Friday. As always, if you have CPA exam questions for us, get in touch and we’d love to help.

Let’s get into BEC, shall we?

Good news: It’s the smallest section, has no simulations, and requires the least amount of study time. All of these seem like bonuses and many candidates take BEC first because of it but remember that your 18 month window starts from when you sit for and pass the first part so you might want to start with the most difficult, not the easiest.

Bad news: Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it is easy. BEC is the junk drawer of the CPA exam meaning a lot of information that wouldn’t fit elsewhere is stuffed into this section. The other downside to BEC is that many candidates do not take it seriously enough because it is so small; that means it is imperative to give the section the same focus and dedication that you would any other section.


BEC is a 2.5 hour exam (likely 3 hours after the CBT-e changes planned for 2011) and consists of 3 MCQ testlets of 30 questions each. You should allow yourself 1.5 minutes per question (45 minutes per testlet).

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (0% – 13%)
Research (0% – 13%)
Analysis (8% – 18%)
Judgment (6% – 16%)
Understanding (55% – 65%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Business Environment & Concepts covers the following areas:

Business structures (17% – 23%) This means partnerships and expect to see quite a bit on this.

Economic concepts (8% – 12%) Business cycles, economics (inflation, deflation, interest rate changes), market influences, supply chain, foreign currencies and hedging.

Financial management (17% – 23%) Financial modeling, short and long term financing, loans, cash management.

Information technology (22% – 28%) Role of business IT systems, responsibilities within the IT function, IT fundamentals (hardware/software, networks, systems operation, etc).

Planning and measurement (22% – 28%) Planning and budgeting, organizational performance measures, cost measurement (don’t forget: cost accounting is AWFUL but pretty heavily tested so get on it!)

All About the Regulation Section of the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: this is the second in our 5-part series this week on the CPA exam. You can find Monday’s Auditing and Attestation breakdown here and stay tuned for the other two parts as well as an ethics wrap-up later in the week. As always, if you have a CPA exam question for us, get in touch.

So, let’s talk Regulation!

Good news: Like Audit, REG tends to have a slightly higher national pass rate than other sections (specifically BEC and FAR) and though business structures can drag, the tax stuff is fairly cut-and-dry. You won’t have to remember tax numbers as most of this information is provided so don’t obsess too much over specific numbers for the year, just stick to the concepts!

Bad news: Business structures can drag and the tax stuff is cut-and-dry. This means Regulation can be one of the most difficult sections to motivate yourself to study unless you are really, really into taxes.


Regulation is a 3 hour exam and is the only section to consist of three testlets of 24 multiple choice questions each (as opposed to other sections which contain 30 MCQ in each testlet). Because it is a shorter exam compared to other sections, that means that you have about 1.25 minutes to complete each question (30 minutes per testlet, leaving you 45 minutes for each simulation).

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (0% – 14%)
Research (9% – 19%)
Analysis (13% – 23%)
Judgment (8% – 18%)
Understanding (45% – 55%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Regulation covers the following areas:

Ethics and professional responsibility (15% – 20%) Professional conduct, independence, confidentiality, due care… you know, all the good stuff that makes you a CPA. Keep in mind this area will no longer be covered in REG after 2011.

Business law
(20% – 25%) Formations and terminations of businesses, authority of agents and principals, debtor-creditor relationships, government regulation (federal securities acts – heavy tested!!), negotiable instruments, insurance.

Federal tax procedures and accounting issues (8% – 12%) Just as it sounds, this area covers federal tax procedures as well as cash, accrual, percentage of completion, contract and installment sales.

Federal taxation of property transactions
(8% – 12%) Assets, depreciation and amortization, exchanges, and capital gains.

Federal taxation – individuals
(12% – 18%) Gross income, pass-through entities, exemptions, AMT, retirement, estate and gift taxes.

Federal taxation – entities (22% – 22%) S-Corps, partnerships, LLCs, LLPs, and trusts.

Studying for REG should take between 80 and 100 hours depending on how familiar you are with the concepts before you begin studying and your professional experience with the material. Obviously if you work in tax you’ve got a leg up and can spend a little less time reviewing taxation.

Good luck and join us tomorrow as we review BEC!

All About the Audit Section of the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: Since I’m guest editing this week, we decided to do a 5-part feature on – what else – the CPA exam. I’ll be covering tips and tricks for each section and ethics on Friday so check in with us this week for the full breakdown. – JDA

So you’re taking Audit? Great.

Good news: traditionally, Audit tends to have a higher national pass rate than the other sections (only by a half a percentage point or so on average so don’t go getting excited that you can pass this one if you don’t study at all) and doesn’t require nearly as much effort as, say, FAR.

Bad news: chances are you didn’t take Auditing in college unless you’re planning on being an auditor so you have no idea what any of this stuff is about but like the rest of the exam, you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to know enough to get a 75. Yay!


Audit is the most expensive section as it is the longest at 4.5 hours and Prometric charges by the minute. Despite its length, you will still probably run out of time so time management is especially important with AUD. Do not spend more than 2 minutes on each MCQ, you’ve got 90 of them to get through and will need at least 45 minutes for each simulation.

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (10% – 20%)
Research (6% – 16%)
Analysis (12% – 22%)
Judgment (12% – 22%)
Understanding (35% – 45%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Audit covers the following areas:

Planning the engagement (22% – 28%) Determine scope and nature of engagement, Generally Accepted Audit Standards, assessing engagement risk, communications, formulating audit objectives, etc.

Internal controls (12% – 18%) Understanding of business processes and information flows, limitations of internal control, tests of controls and control risk.

Obtain and document information (32% – 38%) Performing planned procedures, audit sampling, substantive tests, contingencies, identifying control deficiencies, attestation engagements.

Review engagement and evaluate information (8% – 12%) Performing analytical procedures, evaluation of audit evidences, work reviews and reasonable assurance.

Prepare communications (12% – 18%) Reports, reports, reports! This section covers all kinds of reports, footnotes, disclosures, as well as required communications based on discovery of illegal acts, errors and fraud, and communications with audit committees.

Studying for AUD should take between 60 and 90 hours depending on what review course you are using and whether or not you have experience in this area. Obviously if you took Auditing in school you will need less time to review some of these areas.

Good luck and see you tomorrow with Regulation!

Three Ways Soon-to-be Accounting Grads Can Get Ready for the CPA Exam

With May graduation season nearly upon us, handfuls of future CPAs around the country are preparing to tackle one of the most important events of their careers: the CPA exam. Unlucky for them, few colleges adequately prepare accounting grads to enter the real world and though you may have the knowledge necessary to practice the art of accounting, chances are you’re completely lost on how to get started on the CPA exam.

Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. Just a reminder that if you have a CPA exam question for us, do feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help you along.

Anyway, soon-to-be grads, here’s what you need to be thinking about:


Confirm when your degree is posted – As with most things CPA exam, the rules and procedures vary depending on the state you will be sitting in. Few states allow you to sit with less than 150 semester units and even fewer allow you to sit without your degree posted to your transcripts so the first thing to do now is find out how long your school takes to post your degree. Some schools will let you pay an extra fee to expedite this process so if you are in a rush, inquire at your school if you can move this along.

Apply to sit for the exam with your state’s board of accountancy – Once you have your degree, you’ll need your school to send your transcripts to the board of accountancy to which you are applying (NASBA if you’re in a NASBA state, or CPAES – authorized provider of CPA exam qualification services for some states). You cannot send them in yourself (even sealed, official ones) and should submit any application fees and forms in at the same time as requesting your transcripts be sent.

The Board will match your application (and likely cash your check before doing anything else) with your transcripts and like magic, you’re authorized to sit for the exam. If you meet your state’s requirements, that is. It’s usually a good idea to look these up before leaving school just in case you need to sneak in Federal Taxation or Advanced Accounting to please your State Board.

Start studying for the exam when you apply to sit – Though it’s probably wise to focus on finals for now if you are graduating this spring, you can get a jump on studying by starting your CPA exam review around the same time you submit your application. Always check with your state to see how long this might take (generally 4 – 6 weeks) as you don’t want to start studying for BEC 4 months before you will actually be able to sit. Keep in mind that just because you are authorized to sit for the exam you will not necessarily begin testing immediately and will still have to factor in wait times for your payment coupons (NASBA wants their money) and Notice to Schedule (NTS). Generally these take 10 business days each to arrive.

So start the application process as soon as you qualify. A summer off can turn into 2 or 3 years of procrastination and next thing you know you are trying to remember which side debits go on and still no closer to your goal of CPA licensure.

Hope that helps and good luck to all of the soon-to-be new grads!

Here’s What to Expect on the FAR Section of the CPA Exam

Friendly reminder (especially now that tax season is over), if you have a CPA exam question for us, shoot us a note, tweet us, or find us on Facebook and pester us until we answer. Up to you but we know you have questions so stop being shy.

Anyway. We have question from Twitter this week from @jacmelirose:

“What are the most heavily tested subjects for FAR? Help? Taking FAR in a month day for day.”

Alright, let’s start with the obvious: asking “what are the most heavily tested subjects” usually means you haven’t studied up until this point and are looking for a shortcut. Understandable but keep in mind this goes against the CPA exam guru’s advice. Just sayin’.


A good place to start is with the Content Specification Outlines for the section you are studying. For FAR, you can expect to see the following:

Financial statements (17% – 23%) – that means profit and loss, balance sheet, cashflows and footnotes/disclosures.

Typical items in financial statements (27% – 33%) – you’re talking marketable securities (pretty heavily tested or so we hear), receivables, bonds, leases, inventory, PP&E (depreciation, mostly), liabilities and revenue recognition. As much as you hate bonds, expect to see plenty on the subject so get cracking.

Transactional items (27% – 33%) – business combinations (yup, consolidations), contingent liabilities, discontinued operations, earnings per share and extraordinary items.

Government accounting (8% – 12%) – Everyone’s favorite! It’s not heavily tested but you will need to know a little about fund accounting, budgets, and government financial statements.

Not-for-profit accounting (8% – 12%) – Again, not heavily tested but it does show up (several MCQ and maybe a sim) so you will want to be sure to understand how NFP accounting works by understanding the 4 statements: financing, activities, cash flows and functional expenses.

Because we all know it’s against the rules to discuss what actually appears on the exam, we won’t tell you to expect BONDS, LEASES, and PENSIONS (and LOTS of them). We also will not tell you to be on the lookout for inventory in simulations because, again, that would assume we’re telling you we know what’s actually on the exam and of course we don’t.

FAR takes about 132 hours to prepare for – if you’ve got a month to do it, you need to be extra diligent about creating a study plan. Block out no less than 3 hours per day for MCQ/sim practice or lecture videos. Generally your brain tunes out if you’re studying any more than that per day but if you do the math, you realize you need more like 4 hours per day to meet the 132 hour requirement. In other words: a month is not really enough time to study for FAR. Here’s hoping you’ve been studying all along and are just looking for some last minute advice. Good luck!

Here’s Your Study Plan for the Audit Section of the CPA Exam

Friendly reminder: >75 is here to answer your CPA Exam questions so send them over.

A reader sends us the following dilemma:

“I took the audit section only and failed, most of it was due to not committing enough time to it. If you have any tips to develop plans I would like any suggestions to creating a plan.”

First of all, no offense but I think you have already identified where you went wrong, are you sure you need our help? Oh well.


Let’s talk about Audit, shall we? The average CPA exam candidate will spend 60 – 90 hours studying for the Audit section – that assumes watching your CPA Review lectures 1 time and spending 2 – 3 hours on MCQ/sim practice problems for each hour of lecture. If you are taking the self-study route, you will obviously need to spend more time on MCQ/sims (about about 2 or 3 hours on top of the 2 – 3 you would be doing if you had videos to review) and create a structured study plan based on the most current CSOs (Content Specification Outlines), which you can always find on cpa-exam.org.

Those of you taking exams in early 2011 will want to be on top of exam changes planned to kick in in the first quarter, though the AICPA has been helpful and already released the CSOs for that period.

If you’ve taken the exam and failed, you already have an incredibly useful tool at your disposal – your score report. The report provided after you fail will compare you to other candidates: IGNORE THOSE NUMBERS. Who cares how you did relative to other candidates? All you need to glean from that information is an idea of where your stronger areas are in comparison to your weaker sections. The score report is broken down by different components of the CSOs for that section so obviously you will want to focus harder on areas that you performed poorly in.

About a week or two before your new exam date, give the entire section a once over just to be sure you are also sharp in areas you did well in the first time.

Schedule your new Audit exam AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as the information is still fresh in your mind. If you have a new exam scheduled in the meantime, reschedule it if you can. Unless you REALLY bombed Audit (68 or below), you will want to jump right back in while it is still floating around in your brain.

As for exam preparation and planning, we’ve covered that plenty of times on Going Concern so check out this, this, and this.

Top Five Excuses for Not Studying for the CPA Exam

CPA exam candidates are good at a lot of things; unfortunately, their most common talent is an exceptional ability to procrastinate and make excuses. A career in public accounting, naturally, seems to exacerbate this problem, creating a laundry list of reasons why candidates can’t put in the time to pass the exam.

In the interest of knocking you all around a little bit (out of love, of course) on this, the second day of the 2nd testing window of 2010, I present the top 5 excuses for not studying I’ve heard from candidates over the years. Perhaps you have a favorite of your own?


I’m too busy – This is a CPA exam candidate’s favorite lifeline. Busy season, pursuing a Masters, brown-nosing management and balancing a drinking habit with a dysfunctional relationship is hard work. We all know how many hours you work a week but some of you forget everyone else can see what you’re doing on Facebook. That hour you spent finding stray ducks in Farmville could have easily been an hour worth of MCQ practice. Stop deluding yourself – if you are too busy to study, maybe you’re too busy to be a CPA. I hear Starbucks is hiring.

It’s too hard – Really? A professional license is hard? You don’t say! Listen, if this were easy, everyone would be a CPA. It’s hard for a reason but it’s also manageable if you attack it with knowledge and preparedness. Go in there like a boy scout amped up on espresso and you’ll get your BEC merit badge in no time.

I’m really bad at tests – Jealous of that asshat you went to school with who could drink all weekend, cram for seven hours and ace finals while you studied your ass off only to get a D? Guess what, you’re in luck. The CPA exam isn’t like college exams and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to pass. Look around your office at some of the CPAs you work with and try to tell me otherwise. That’s what I thought.

I never took auditing (economics/tax/government accounting/et-effing-cetera) in college – So? I bet the guy who wrote the CPA exam questions you’re panicking over didn’t take auditing/econ/tax/etc either. The CPA exam requires you to know a lot about a little, no one is saying you need to be an expert in ANY subject. Again, look around your office and tell me some of those geniuses you work with are experts in anything, let alone subjects like advanced and governmental accounting.

I’m too old – This one is always funny to me, as if there’s an expiration date on your brain. Taking on the exam later in life actually puts one at an advantage: I don’t have official statistics on the matter but my professional experience has been that older candidates actually do better than younger ones. Think about it – if you’re over 30 now, look back to how you were at 22 fresh out of college. Do you really think 22 year old you was better equipped to be disciplined enough to commit 400 hours to studying? Exactly.

The reality is that excuses are more plentiful than CPAs – unfortunately there could be more but the potential future CPAs that could have been obviously got consumed with coming up with excuses instead of coming up with real study plans and goals to pass the exam.

If you’re a candidate struggling to create one yourself, get in touch and >75 would be happy to help. Seriously. Just don’t start making excuses or I’ll front you off on Facebook next time I catch you playing Farmville when you should be learning pensions.

Three Ways to Get Back into Study Mode for the CPA Exam

Masochism at its finest means just thinking about the CPA exam while fully head down, eyes closed and trudging towards the busy season finish line. It’s cool, CPAs are a masochistic bunch and if you’re going to subject yourself to the torture of studying for the CPA exam while tackling your least favorite part of the year, have at it but please be smart about it.

It’s almost April and you know what that means – a brand new testing window filled with fun and exciting >75 action. Hopefully 75s, if you little masochists plan right.


Here are a few tips, you can do whatever you want with them. Ideally, you can ignore them for the next few weeks until you shift from busy season mode back to exam mode.

Don’t be unrealistic about your work load – Some of you complain about “busy season” and know damn well you haven’t pushed a difficult piece of paper in months while others haven’t seen the light of Facebook (nor the end of the tunnel) in weeks. Take a reasonable assessment of the free time you have to commit to the exam and plan accordingly. If you’re grinding all the way through April 15th, maybe a late April test date is a tad optimistic and not all that smart.

If you aren’t ready, blow it off – This goes against everything I always recommend to CPA exam candidates but it’s a wise piece of advice this time of year. If you are not ready for an exam, try to reschedule. Maybe taking FAR on April 1st made a lot of sense when you scheduled it in October but now that April is almost here and you haven’t seen daylight in two months, it’s not looking like such a bright idea. Of course, if you’re in a situation where you are about to lose credit for exams previously passed but still not prepared, there’s no harm in going to the exam anyway as you’re basically forfeiting the exam fee and might as well find out what’s on the test for next time.

Don’t permanent vacation yourself just because you’re tired – Shifting from busy season to exam mode, it is really easy to rationalize an extended vacation from studying just because you need a break. The rest is deserved but don’t let a few days of relaxation turn into several months of procrastination. It’s easier than you think and I’ve seen it enough times to know it happens all the time. Don’t be lazy, this is what you wanted.

Are Too Many People Passing the CPA Exam?

The AICPA recently announced that it would be re-evaluating the CPA exam scoring process and we’ve been wildly speculating awhile as to what that might actually mean. Staying true to the doom and gloom, yours truly immediately thought the AICPA Board of Examiners was convinced you kids would bomb FAR horribly in Q1 and 2 of 2011 with the addition of IFRS and they were just preparing for that.

Upon further reflection, maybe the exam is too easy. Maybe requirements to sit are not strict enough (even though we’re down to 4 states that allow you to sit with 120 units last I checked). Maybe the job market is worse than anyone wants to admit — now wait a minute, what does that have to do with it?


There isn’t raw data that tells us how many would-be CPAs we have on our hands who have passed all four parts of the CPA exam but still can’t get a job, at least none I’ve seen. I’ve spoken to these people and it doesn’t seem to be getting better in the aggregate.

I believe the BLS numbers somewhat concur with this conclusion, if you can believe them. (CPA Trendlines has them)

I hear you guys bitching about it all the time. If you’re still employed and trying to take the CPA exam, you get the extra special designation of ultra-masochist but it’s not you guys the AICPA BoE is worried about, it’s the bottleneck of people who’ve passed the CPA exam trying to squeeze in 2 years in public to get a license.

Case in point, a friend of mine here in the great (broke) state of California decided to take on the CPA exam a tad later in life than some of you. We won’t hate on her for that. She worked her ass off and eventually got through it. She’s a leader of a prestigious accounting society in her community and has the credentials a lot of the kids coming out of school don’t. She can’t find a job. She’s tried every firm in town large and small as well as the surrounding area. I’ve scouted the Bay Area and can’t find anything for her either.

She’d stay more than 2 years and be more than a body filling the chair but they don’t even have a chair for her.

She’s not the only one. So maybe the AICPA BoE caught on and is going to try to change that. They can’t create the jobs so what do you think they’ll do?

Oh, and if anyone has a lead on a public accounting gig in the top half of California for my qualified little friend here, do get in touch.

Three Ways the CPA Exam Could Change in the Near Future

If you’ve been trying to pass BEC since the CPA exam went computerized in 2004 (you can laugh all you want, I know a few people…), rejoice! The AICPA, NASBA, and Prometric have committed to another 10 year contract to administer and oversee the computerized CPA exam in 55 US jurisdictions.

“This 10-year extension of the exam contract from 2014 to 2024 continues the close and highly successful collaboration of the three organizations in the delivery of the computer-based examination for the past six years,” said Barry Melancon, AICPA president and CEO. “The CPA exam is the gateway to the accounting profession and under this arrangement we have seen the exam improve and grow. About 93,000 candidates took the examination in 2009 – a record.”

Now we imagine it must have been editorial privilege to leave out the actual passrates of those 93,000 2009 CPA exam candidates and we’ll not wildly speculate that the record is a direct result of threats that the exam will be jam-packed with IFRS come 2011.

What will the CPA exam of 2024 look like? Obviously no one knows but looking at the evolution of exam content since 2004, we can take a stab at guessing.

BEC will be a big priority – As we move from two simulations in FAR, AUD, and REG to 6 “simlets” (smaller, unrelated simulation problems) with communications being moved to BEC, I imagine it will be a big priority for the AICPA. It’s been notoriously “random” and filled with the bits and pieces that the AICPA couldn’t seem to make relevant in other CPA exam sections; the junk drawer of the exam, as it were.

IFRS – A lot is riding on implementation of IFRS questions (anyone volunteered to write those yet? I think the AICPA is still patiently waiting for help).

Scoring discussions planned after the first two quarters of 2011 – In other words: if you guys do well, the AICPA might leave it alone. Bomb and they might have to consider grading on a curve, invalidating that whole psychometric testing thing they’ve got going now.

Good luck with that. Really.

CPA Examination Contract Renewed in the U.S. Through 2024 [Press Release]

Four Ways to Force Yourself to Study for the CPA Exam

I’ll save you the hoo-rah, I’m pretty sure you don’t need it. It’s March already; if you aren’t studying, you’re working, and if you’re doing both right now I worry about your decision-making capabilities. Oh well.

Masochistic or not, it isn’t always easy to get yourself motivated to study.

You have entire CPA exam strategies laid out on the CPAnet forums here, here, and look, you even have a hoo-rah. Not everyone is an Elijah Watt-Sells so get that out of your head and worry about what works for you.


That strategy – finding a perfect fit for your own needs as a CPA exam candidate – also goes for motivation.

So how do you force yourself to study? Here are a few ideas:

Bribe yourself – Sock away $xxx for a new toy and reward a passing score with whatever your bribe is. If you’re cheap/laid off/sinking $1000s into failed exam fees and broke, it could be a decent dinner or a movie. Define splurge for yourself and make that the carrot you dangle in front of your face to get you to study.

Commiserate – You can find plenty of miserable accountants taking (and not always succeeding at) the CPA exam. You can also find support and encouragement if you’re actually trying to pass, so use resources like CPAnet and Twitter to find other candidates to speak to. If you’re taking a live review, sign up with someone else from your firm and go to class together. It helps to have someone else keeping you in check.

Visualize your goal – This might be the most, um, cheesy of methods but it absolutely works. Write CPA after your name on business cards and put them up where you will see them frequently (but don’t hand them out, that’d be illegal); though this tactic isn’t meant as a substitute for actually preparing (sorry to break it to you), a little positive thinking takes the anxious edge off.

Plan – Sometimes knowing there is a clearly defined schedule takes some of the panic out of the CPA exam, and if you’re disciplined enough, you won’t need motivation. Sure, it’s robotic, but that’s what studying for the CPA exam is. The exam doesn’t ask you to think critically outside of the parameters of financial reporting and accounting, nor do you get bonus points for creativity. So maybe you just need to have a plan, stick to it, suck it up, and move on until you’re done. It’s the most miserable of the options but sometimes all that works.

So? What worked for you?

>75: How Long Should I Study for Each Section of the CPA Exam?

>75 received this week’s question via Twitter DM from a CPA exam candidate who wished to remain anonymous. Whatever. For those of you who prefer being open, almost crude, about your CPA exam experiences in a social atmosphere, try CPAnet’s CPA Exam Club (GC is there). This guy won’t be signing up any time soon.

Candidate halfway through the exam process asks:

“How long does it take to study for each section? Like is two months enough for FAR?”


I get this question a lot, almost too often. It’s an easy answer: that all depends on you.

The general rule (according to the AICPA) is that you should be doing 2 – 3 hours of self-study (MCQ/sims) for each hour of review lecture you watch. So there is no magic timeframe to aim for; some people take a few weeks to prepare for FAR, others need more than 3 months. Since lecture times vary depending on who you’re with, it’s hard to pin down the sweet spot in terms of weeks or months.

If you are going alone without a review course and using just practice questions, you can substitute textbook reading (like Wiley CPA Review textbooks) for lecture hours but you will probably want to count half an hour of reading as the equivalent of one hour of lecture. Sorry, that means more MCQ.

A key point to keep in mind is that studying for the CPA exam is like dieting, you’ll do better if you take it in smaller pieces. If you were trying to lose some of that audit engagement weight, you’d eat several small meals instead of three large ones. Your study plan should be the same, spending no more than 2 or 3 hours at a time plugging away at lectures or practice questions. Anything beyond 4 hours and you’re zoned out.

I know, you’re unemployed and have all this time and want to knock out FAR in three weeks studying 8 hours a day every day. Best of luck with that! You’re wasting 5 hours a day as your brain tunes out around hour 3 and will not be able to draw upon what you’ve studied once you’re actually at Prometric.

As I said, this doesn’t really answer your question because only you can answer that question. Is two months enough time for FAR? Sure. Adjust it accordingly based on whether or not you are employed, dating, engaged in any other activities, and/or have any sort of life whatsoever. Just don’t ever ask me how to study for BEC in a week again, obviously that is not enough time.

Wake Forest Students’ CPA Exam Domination Is Explained

Last week we briefly mentioned Wake Forest’s announcement that their graduates had achieved the highest average scores on the CPA exam for the fifth year in a row. Wondering how such dominance could be made possible we decided to get ��������������������ate Professor Dr. Yvonne Hinson to find out.


The two main points that is primarily responsible for WFU students’ success on the CPA exam that Dr. Hinson impressed upon us were the ambition of the students and the curriculum that they go through. “We bring in very good students through our screening process and the students create an extremely competitive atmosphere,” Dr. Hinson told us. To compliment these go-getters, the faculty is always thinking ahead as to how to make the curriculum as challenging and relevant as possible.

Here are a few questions we asked Dr. Hinson about the success at Wake Forest:

What helps Wake Forest accounting students be so successful on the CPA Exam especially since these scores are for students without advanced degrees?

I believe that this relates to multiple things including:

1) Innovative curriculum that constantly changes. We teach the basics but try to always stay abreast of the emerging trends in the industry an incorporate those throughout our program where we decide they are relevant and ongoing. An example is out IFRS integration last year which was a full curriculum integration. We received a grant from PwC to complete this.

2) Faculty that are incredibly tied to the profession

3) Small class sizes and a lot of interaction between faculty and students. You can NOT hide in our classes!

4) Strong, motivated students.

5) We use Becker CPA review but the sections are handled my subject matter experts rather than all sections of Becker supervised by one or two people. Our faculty actually teach the Becker review.

Does the faculty make a point of communicating the importance of the exam?

Not really – there is the usual marketing around the results but the students tend to be very competitive and really drive a lot of that themselves. We do stress the importance of trying to get it out of the way before you begin work rather than trying to work busy season hours while also studying for the exam.

What is the biggest key that you (and your fellow faculty members) tell your students with re: to the exam?
Get it out of the way!! You do not want to be taking it while working if possible. We offer the review in May and June in an intensive session so that this is all they are concentrating on at that time.

Do most students take review courses in preparation for the exam?
Yes – Becker

What steps is the University taking to prepare students for IFRS and its eventual inclusion on the exam?
We have already integrated it throughout our undergraduate and graduate curriculum. We feel that the issue has nothing to do with where the U.S. is in respect to IFRS but rather that our students go our and operate in a global environment and are exposed to IFRS issues soon after graduation. Therefore, we have fiduciary duty to the students and to the profession to expose them to IFRS in their program.

Speaking of current topics, we also asked about Wake Forest implementing forensics into it’s curriculum, Dr. Hinson was quick to note, “Forensic accounting is also implemented in curriculum here, as this is another important area we recognized that our students would need exposure to.” Dr. Hinson mentioned Dr. George Aldhizer who she told us is “not on the leading edge but the bleeding edge of forensic accounting.” Indeed, Dr. Aldhizer’s most recent publication was “Medicare and Medicaid Fraud and Errors: A Ticking Time Bomb that Must Be Defused” for the Journal of Government and Financial Management. We’d say you can’t get more current than that.

One additional interesting thing we learned is that Wake Forest also offers a “Transaction Services Track” as part of its Master of Science in Accountancy that prepares many students for a career in in the advisory practices of the large firms.

So not only is the University taking a progressive approach to the CPA exam, they are preparing students for their careers in public accounting by offering a wide curriculum that will serve them in various areas of the firms. We applaud them in their effort and hope more schools take their lead.

Congratulations to Wake Forest on their five-peat (?) and the continued success of their students and faculty.

Most Aren’t Ready for IFRS on the CPA Exam

Last year, the AICPA Board of Examiners made it clear that though a roadmap for IFRS adoption in US financial reporting might be a ways off, it intended to start testing IFRS in Financial Accounting and Reporting (mostly, we’ll get to that in a second) in the first window of 2011. Just a friendly reminder, that’s only three testing windows away.

But what gives? According to the 2009 KPMG-AAA Faculty Survey, only 8% of respondents felt as though at least half of their accounting faculty were qualified to teach IFRS. Meanwhile, 70% of professors said their most significant challenge to teaching IFRS was finding room for it in the curriculum.

As far as I am aware, State Boards of Accountancy have not shown a desire to require IFRS coursework to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam at this time.

The Big 87654 committed to pushing IFRS in college classrooms as early as May of 2008 (months before the SEC announced an IFRS adoption roadmap) and they are still tossing millions at the initiative.


In December of 2008, The Summa’s Professor Albrecht insisted that the Big 87654 had certainly chosen the right candidate, lobbying Obama to accomplish their IFRS goals. Why? “Obscene profits,” he says, pointing to campaign contributions and Obama’s subsequent pro-IFRS SEC Chair pick as signs that IFRS doomsday is upon us. A little over a year later, the SEC appears too busy chasing “crime” and playing catch up to issue a clear directive on IFRS in the US.

So? How can the AICPA BoE insist on testing information that A) accounting students still aren’t being taught and B) isn’t widely understood or practiced by most CPAs in the US?

I certainly get what the AICPA is trying to do and if nothing else, they probably want to show off that their awesome psychometric CPA exam technology is OMGamazing! and ready to adapt in a timely and efficient manner. But pushing IFRS on unsuspecting CPA exam candidates isn’t really the way to demonstrate that.

Is it just a coincidence that now the AICPA is prepared to reevaluate their scoring process after the first two testing windows of 2011? Even they know this is an awful idea.

CPA Exam Results Are Rolling Out This Week for the Jan/Feb Window

If you’re a glutton for punishment and you sat for the CPA Exam during this window, NASBA Tweeted the above about an hour ago. We thought busy season sucked enough but studying for and taking the CPA exam during busy season has to be one of the most hideous cases of self-loathing an accountant can engage in and we hear it’s widespread.


Maybe sleeping and eating aren’t that crucial to your survival but we’re not really sure how you’re pulling this off. Are you listening to the Jr. Deputy Accountant on this? Since we’re too old to have taken the computerized exam, we were never tempted to try such a monumental feat.

So if you sat for BEC go find out if you passed and let us know because we care (seriously) and if you need to cry, make sure you don’t do it front of anyone. Nobody likes weeping at the office.

Accounting News Roundup: Is the IASB Giving Up on the FASB?; Wake Forest Grads Crush the CPA Exam; NFL Looking at Rams Buyer’s BDO Tax Shelter Connection | 02.16.10

IASB softens stance on convergence [FT]
We’re not jumping to any conclusions but yesterday the IASB made the statement that it “would no longer pursue convergence with its US peer as ‘an objective in itself'”. Now we’re not entirely sure what “an objective in itself” means but it kinda, sorta sounds like “to hell with you FASB, we’ve got our own plans.”

This revelation was part of “constitution review” in order for the IASB “to justify its public accountability” to its critics. In this review the IASB seemed to be changing its tone on just what convergence is:

In a review of its constitution published on Monday the IASB’s oversight board addressed this concern over the convergence project and said it would “emphasise that convergence is a strategy aimed at promoting and facilitating the adoption of IFRS, but it is not an objective by itself”.

So just spreading the good word about IFRS without any stated objective? Does that sound about right? It sounds a little like financial reporting evangelism.


Wake graduates get highest passing rates on CPA exam [Winston Salem-Journal]
This is in no way presented to make you feel bad about yourself. Here are the 2008 (the most recent data available) passing rates at WF: 93% on FAR; 87.5% on Audit; 83.22% on regulation; 93.7% on BEC. The overall passing rate was 89.7%. The University has had the highest scores five years running.

If you need to go cry in the bathroom, you may do so now.

Rams buyer’s $85 million battle with IRS [Chicago Tribune]
Shahid Khan announced last week that he was buying 60% of the St. Louis Rams. Great news right? Ordinarily, yes but now the NFL is looking into his association with a BDO tax partner that was convicted of helping clients avoid taxes through shelters.

The IRS said in court papers that the Khans hired the Chicago-based BDO Seidman accounting firm and met with tax partner Robert Greisman. The Khans engaged in at least five questionable tax shelters, with names like Son-of-Boss and Dad, and paid BDO $8.5 million in fees, about 10 percent of the alleged tax savings, according to court documents.

Yet when the revenue agency questioned Khan about his returns, he was unable to identify what services BDO provided, an IRS agent said in court documents. In April 2007, the IRS made formal requests for information to Greisman and one of his partners in Michigan in connection with its investigation of the Khans.

Greisman pleaded guilty last July to conspiracy charges related to the creation of the shelters and BDO is currently being sued by Khan for negligence and malpractice. The NFL may have saved them themselves the trouble by letting Rush Limbaugh own part of the team…

Is the AICPA Lowering the Bar on the CPA Exam?

Friendly reminder: >75 is here to answer your CPA Exam questions so send them over.

Sadly, JDA is technically still employed by a CPA Review course (and, of course, not a CPA) but hey, if any of you are looking to protect the public interest, have at it.

This may just be some wild speculating here but I have to admit my first thought upon seeing this was that the AICPA is scared everyone will freak out when IFRS hits the CPA Exam on January 1, 2011 and bomb horribly. Does this mean it’ll be graded on a curve? If so, I’m starting to have some concerns about that “protecting the public interest” bit.


Lowering the bar, AICPA Board of Examiners style:

THE AICPA EXAMINATIONS TEAM IS SEEKING CPA NOMINEES TO SERVE ON CPA EXAMINATION PANELS

When the new Uniform CPA Examination is launched on January 1, 2011, changes in content, format, and structure will be introduced. These changes will require the current passing score to be re-examined. The process to do so will include convening four panels of CPAs – one for each examination section – to prepare the groundwork for the passing score decision by the AICPA Board of Examiners. A new passing score determination is necessary in conjunction with the new examination to ensure that legally defensible CPA Examination pass/fail decisions continue to be made in protection of the public interest.

Panel Nominees

The AICPA is seeking nominations for passing score panel membership. Nominees should be CPAs who:

• have been licensed for between 3 and 5 years
• have supervised entry-level CPAs during the past year
• have NO affiliation with CPA Examination review courses, and
• are willing to participate in an August 2010 two-day meeting in Chicago, IL at the expense of the AICPA.

The selection of panelists from among qualified nominees will be made to ensure broad representation from all segments of the profession and demographic categories. Panelists will be given training at the August meetings on their responsibilities as panel participants.

Submitting Nominations

Nominations may be submitted online at http://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/4e5ag3f124 or the forms completed and returned by FAX to 609-671-2922. Or, the names and contact information of nominees may be sent by e-mail to [email protected] The information collected about nominees will be used only for the purpose of selecting panel participants.

The deadline for submitting nominations is MARCH 31, 2010.

Like I said, JDA is out; any of you kids in on this?

>75: What to Do Two Weeks Before Your Exam

Happy Friday CPA Exam munchkins! For the self-loathing types that are going through busy season and sitting for an exam, let’s discuss what you should be doing in the two weeks before your exam, not how to quit your job (not my line of expertise).

At this point, you should be through lecture videos and homework at least once. Really? You have two weeks left! If you’ve been disciplined up to this point, you’re feeling comfortable with most of the MCQ.

A final review at this point is essential. You have enough time to go back over weak areas and give everything a last look over. If you have software or your firm blew a bunch of money on overpriced programs to do this for you, use it. If you’re going with just a book, take a look at questions you’ve gotten wrong more than once and review those areas in the text.


Though we all know it’s illegal to discuss what’s actually on the exam, there are plenty of blogs and forums that share “commonly tested” items, many of which are updated often. The CPANet forums are a perfect example of candidates openly sharing their experiences and identifying common testing patterns. The AICPA Board of Examiners used to give paper and pencil candidates a COPY of their exam as they left so don’t let partners tell you it was way more rough back in their day. Still, there are channels available; it’s up to the candidate to use them.

The BoE has also committed to faster scoring and a continued evolution of exam content. They do not expressly state what that means for candidates, that’s why it’s important to ask questions and know about changes. The only real signals they’ve sent so far are that they are excited to start testing IFRS years before it is implemented in the US and the computerized exam is due for more changes in the years ahead. And? Get it over with now, whether or not BEC will be easier with communications but an extra half an hour.

Anyway, the last week. It’s your last chance to review weak spots and work through practice questions once more. I know you’re pissed at me for not writing “now you can screw off and play PS3 after 16 hours of work” but that’s not really how it works.

At this point, you shouldn’t expect to feel entirely confident and that’s okay; focus only on the last few, most heavily-tested areas. You should already know what these are, if they don’t, put off your exam and start asking questions or reading textbooks. Most CPA Review programs (even the cheap ones) give you some idea of what these areas are.

Hope that helps. On the next >75, we’ll talk about what “simulataneous IFRS implementation” really means for FAR unless you have a CPA exam question, in which case I’ll save my anti-IFRS rant for a different Friday.

>75: Adrienne Gonzalez Shares Her Tips on How to Study for BEC in Just a Week

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for panic.jpgI’m not saying you’ll pass, I’m teaching you how to prepare in a week and maybe eke by. You already spent the money, you might as well give it a shot.
Let me be clear: I don’t advocate this. It’s important to give yourself time to study. BEC should take between 64 and 80 hours to prepare for. There are 168 hours in a week – work = 128 (our friend with a week to study for BEC – who requests to remain anonymous – is in tax so he has about 110) – sleeping 6 hours a night = 86 so if you don’t waste any waking hours commuting or eating, you can do it. You shouldn’t.


If nothing else, you’ll know what to expect on the exam in the next window. If you don’t study at all, try to retain what you can when you sit for this exam that you’re not ready for. Even though the AICPA BoE switches questions up from window to window and your next exam will be a little different, just go and pay attention.
There is a small chance you can pass. Do you know nothing about variance analysis? Clueless on economics? Your chances at passing will be smaller though I won’t pretend to have actual figures on that. The better your foundation, the easier it will be for you to fudge your way through it in a week. If you’re going into it blind, you’re probably not going to do well so focus on what came up on the exam.

Using the example above (or whatever your work/sleep/live schedule is), focus your attention on doing as many MCQ as possible. Even if you don’t understand them, sometimes working through them will make things click. You can try a cram course but your brain learns in layers so you can’t approach this like a final you didn’t study for. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, that’s just what I know.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to plan better next time. Don’t pay for all 4 parts with one NTS unless you have a huge block of time to take exam after exam. Got it?

Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.

Open Thread: CPA Exam Pass Rates for 2009

Cumulative scores under 50%? Sigh. You really packed it in at the end didn’t you? Don’t worry, we still believe in you (click to enlarge):
Picture 2.png
All this does is reinforce the idea that you need to be paying attention to what the JDA tells you every week in >75.
Discuss the past, the future, the section that is your sworn nemesis, the story about the taking your last section on the last day of the eighteenth month. Whatever you like. It’s fine if you have to cry a little bit.

>75: Procrastination

Procrastinate.jpgEditor’s note: This is the 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.
First of all, I have to give it to all of you little future CPAs of America, you REALLY know how to put things off until the last minute, don’t you?
I’m going to let you in on a tiny little secret: the exam never goes away.
Let me paint an “imaginary” scenario where CPA Review classes are starting in less than 48 hours. Classes have been on hold for over two months and suddenly, within this 48 hour period, there is a rush of panicked CPA exam candidates realizing they’ve got less than a day left to figure out a plan. Anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture?
I’m not talking about a handful of people, I’m talking about a significant chunk of you. You know who you are and you know exactly what I’m talking about.


So what is it? Do you believe that the exam will pass itself? Or if you put it off long enough somehow you’ll wake up one day a CPA? I hate to break it to you but that’s really moronic.
There are students in our classes that are 50-some years old. Think about that. They graduated 30 years ago and are STILL putting this stupid ass exam off. So don’t think you’re some hero of procrastination just because you let 18 months go by and started losing exam scores, you aren’t special.
The bottom line is this: it is all about what you want to do with your life. Do you really want to be a CPA? Then you’ll suck it up and finish. Don’t do it because your parents want it or your girlfriend wants it or it’s your grandma’s dying wish. You are only setting yourself up for a life of half-assed failure, misery, and disappointment.
Which is kind of like what you’re setting yourself up for with a CPA and a career in public accounting except + tchotchkes. Win* (I think).
Point is, stop. In the time it takes for you to come up with 1000 excuses, you could have already booked your exam and gotten through at least 150 MCQ. Yes, it sucks but guess what? You picked it. You can make it worse on yourself and be that 50 year old guy in the back of our Live class or you can just get through it and stop bitching.
/end rant. Do it.
*I’m obligated to say that because of my day job

More CPA Exam Scores Are Released for the October/November Window

Thumbnail image for fingers crossed.jpgNASBA has announced via Twitter that more scores have been released for the final window of the year. Bad news is that it takes 24 – 48 hours for them to post. Our recommendation would be to jump over to NASBA and spend the next 24 hours refreshing the page until it posts. Or chew your fingernails until they bleed, whatever works for you.
If you end up with an early Christmaskuh gift, please share. If you got coal, also share before you go into the corner sobbing.

Reader Poll: CPA Exam

TPTB have requested additional information from you to assist in their diabolical plans. As always, your help is appreciated. Kindly answer the following harmless question:

>75: Who Is Going to Pay for My CPA Exam Materials?

empty wallet.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.
It’s a question I get all the time at work. “I’m starting with such-and-such firm, do they pay for your CPA review course?”


So! A commentator asks >75 the same question:

I did a bit of research, and it turns out that PwC is the most generous – paying for Becker + Flashcards, while E&Y will not pay for the Flashcards, and KPMG apparently requiring [sic] its staff to attend live classes offered by Becker, and have signed attendance sheet to get the reimbursement.

First of all, smarty, what makes you think pre-packaged flash cards are your secret to CPA exam success? If anything, it has been my professional experience that candidates who make their own flashcards do better than those who rely on a review course to make them on their behalf. I had a student who admitted his handwriting was so bad even he couldn’t read it but just the act of creating a set of note cards for FAR helped him reinforce the key topics. So just because you get a bunch of shit for free doesn’t mean you’re any better off than the guy who had to charge his review course or skip a couple happy hours to pay for it.
As you probably know, the firms do not discuss their agreements. I know what they are but I’m not telling either. That being said, in this economy, I’m not sure if you think you’re going to get a free CPA Review ride. Um, you did comment on a layoff post after all.
I deal with quite a few public accounting HR staff as a result of my job and let me give you a hint: there’s no such thing as a free ride on the other end. They are reluctant to hire if they think they will be used for a free review course and a CPA to sign off on hours like some cheap whore.
The firms are tightening their belts and they are most certainly being more conservative about hiring bodies to fill chairs and kicking down $1,500 – $3,000 for review courses. You might be sick of it too if you paid for staff member after staff member only to be abandoned the minute that staff hits 2 years. Those days are over.
My advice? Ask around but don’t count on it and don’t you dare let on that you care in an interview; HR managers that I know will instantly – albeit silently – slide your pathetic little resume to the bottom of the pile in favor of someone who has already started on the CPA exam process without their hand out.
As someone on the original post from which this question came said:

all of you, seriously, this is the most important thing right now to you?? suck it up and take the exam. it is not your god given right to get reimbursed for everything. and besides, you morons missed the biggest things about the exam and passing it – the bonuses firms pay to pass it. the reimbursement is the smallest piece of it. the bonus is the bigger issue. but you are so busy talking nonsense about flashcards you miss the big picture. you should have been part of the lay offs

Amen! (Someone please tell me that guy passed??)

Hump Day Reminders: Polls and CPA Exam Question of the Week

Thumbnail image for RL-Stine-and-kids_350.jpgWe think it’s important to remind you that voting ends tonight at 11:59 PDT for our two polls from Monday:
Caption Contest Poll: KPMG Scary Stories
Satisfied with Your Salary?
So jump over and vote in both the polls. We’ll give you the results tomorrow.
Also don’t forget to submit your questions to us for this week’s CPA Exam Question of the Week. You can submit your questions to [email protected] through tomorrow. Anything received on Friday will be considered for next week.

PwC Is Sick of You Not Passing the CPA Exam

olinto_cpa.jpgStudying for CPA exam got you down? Tired of choosing between sleeping and listening to Peter Olinto’s melodic voice talking about partnership basis calculations?
Luckily P. Dubs feels your pain. We’ve heard from a couple of sources that PwC is pushing sabbaticals for those of you that are scoring just slighty better than Tiger Woods.
We’ve heard that San Jose is offering tax associates 20% of their salary through the end of the year to get their act together. We also hear the same offer has been made to audit associates in New York. We would assume it’s on the same time frame since both offices will need every warm body available come 2010.
We kindly requested some details from PwC but they haven’t gotten back to us.
If you’ve got more details on this offer from Dubs or are considering participating so you can strike the Pedro and T. Gearty from your gray mass, discuss in the comments.

Try to Compose Yourselves After Reading This Post

Being accountants, we don’t have too may rock stars among us. Oh sure, maybe Tim Flynn is the cock of the walk at the Radio Station or Barry Salzberg can’t walk around Big D’s office without associates crawling all over each other to touch his clothes but these men pale in comparison to the immortal we are about to present to you.
If you saw this man on the street, his swagger would make your knees week, his impeccable attire would cause you to stare uncontrollably and the sound of his voice might overcome you with so much nervous excitement that you might projectile vomit all over him.
Find out who this man-god is, after the jump


We present you with this:
Tim2.png
Now we realize that the mere thought of Tim Gearty and Bob Herz on a cruise at the same time is probably more than most of you can handle but we had to share with you that the oracle of Becker Review was on Twitter bestowing encouragement and wisdom. All of you out there working to dominate the CPA exam can now rest easy that Tim will always be available in the Twitterverse.
You’re welcome.