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Let’s Talk About CPA Review Again, Shall We?

Last week, Caleb respectfully requested you all participate in a TPTB-sponsored poll to tell us which review course you are using. As expected, a comment was made along the lines of “it doesn’t matter which review course you use,” which we hear just about every time we dare to bring up the subject of CPA review.

We’ve talked about picking a review course, getting the most out of yours and even got bold enough to name names but have thus far (mostly) avoided getting into the dirty details due to my perceived bias as a former CPA review hack. But for those of you who are new to this whole CPA review thing, I figured it might be useful to revisit the topic and offer some tips for finding a review course and making it work for you since I’m far enough away from the industry as this point not to have an interest either way.

As always, picking a review course comes down to a few simple questions you have to ask yourself.

First, is someone paying for it so you don’t have to? If so, take it but let me give you a small piece of advice based on what I saw working in CPA review for four years: treat it like you paid for it. Too often I would see people who took their good fortune for granted and blew off studying only to discover a year or year and a half later that their “free” course expired, leaving them with outdated books and a set of flashcards they never opened. Don’t be that guy, use what you’ve been given or trust me, you’ll regret it later when you really need it and don’t have it or, worse, end up having to pay for Round 2 yourself. Most firms will only pay once so make it count.

Second, as many many people have pointed out here and elsewhere, which review course you take doesn’t really matter as everyone teaches based on the same bank of information made available to them by the AICPA. What does differ is the way the material is presented, therefore it’s up to you to figure out what you need. Some courses teach straight from the book while others don’t necessarily “teach” at all; if you’re the type of person who needs to be guided (and/or hand held) through huge amounts of information, you will want to go with something that breaks down concepts.

For an idea of which courses do what, the CPAnet forums are still one of the best resources as responses are written (mostly) by actual candidates without being as spammy as some of the CPA exam marketing blogs put out to steer customers into certain products. It’s also worth checking out blogs written by actual CPA exam candidates for nearly real-time comments on what’s working (or what isn’t) for them. If you’re on Twitter, check #twudygroup for candid tweets about studying, which will inevitably include comments about the review courses the kids on Twitter are using (and love tweets to Peter Olinto, natch).

It’s true that any review course (or even a set of CPA exam textbooks) can get you through this, but it doesn’t happen just because you gave a company your credit card details. Hate to break this to those of you hoping a $3000 course plus flashcards will automatically make you pass but regardless of which course you choose, you’ve got to study and sit for the exam just like every other candidate.

Now stop playing around on the Internet and get back to those books, you’ve got an exam to pass.

Desperately Seeking a CPA Exam Study Buddy?

Contributor note: with busy season winding down and such awful CPA exam performance the first quarter of this year, we suspect many of you are thrilled to cuddle up with Peter Olinto and dust the cobwebs off your CPA review books. That being the case, though you might still be mad at us from last quarter, we invite you to send in your CPA exam questions so we can do our best to answer in a way that offends the fewest candidates possible.

Being an accountant already isolates you from a large number of non-accountant people, most of whom automatically assume you do taxes for a living and will never understand why it’s funny to claim Ex-lax as “moving expenses.” Taking on the CPA exam naturally isolates you further; from your significant other, who doesn’t get why you never seem to have time for them anymore, from your friends who are still trying to get you to do their taxes and from your higher-ups who seem determined to tell you for the 40th time how much harder the CPA exam was back in their day.

Seeking a CPA exam study buddy doesn’t need to feel like having to find a partner in middle school gym class and it doesn’t matter where you are, you can find one. Here are a few tips:

Try CPAnet – You can find an entire section of the forum dedicated to study groups, ranging from Phoenix to Seattle to Dubai. Don’t see your city listed? Register for the forum and post your own.

Get on Twitter – Try the #twudygroup hashtag on Twitter to chat with other CPA exam candidates, bitch about how your review courses have let you down and talk about how messed up it is when asshole bloggers call you out on their websites. Speaking of, we’d like to send a very personal congratulations to former #twudygroup member @CStrunk for passing the CPA exam, proof that alcohol and computer cleaning in lieu of studying can help, if you’re willing to put in the work when you’re sober. Congratulations, Chris, we knew you had it in you otherwise we’d have never called you out in the first place.

Ask around your office – Unless you are in a two-man office in which one of you is the accountant and the other one the boss, someone in your office is also studying for the CPA exam. You can do a quick cube check to determine who might be studying but if you’re too shy to ask, just look for the sleep-deprived look in their eye, MCQ on their computer screen during lunch or the “kill me now” sign taped on their wall the day scores come out. Just make sure to pick someone you actually like, sharing the next year and a half with someone you can’t stand can only lead to conflict and/or increased diversity training later down the road.

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?


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.