KPMG Canada has surveyed a bunch of Canadian students over the age of 18 about […]
We’ve been through this particular problem before but since this question is sort of unique, we’ll bite. How does an O.G. coming back to accounting after 30 years prepare for the CPA exam?
Doug in Milwaukee asks:
I’m a 50-something MBA and have just completed the extra six (advanced) accounting courses needed to qualify to sit for the Wisconsin CPA exam. Since it’s been 30 years since I’ve taken the basic accounting courses, I’m feeling weak in the areas that may be most heavily stressed on the exam. I’m interested in one of the “higher-quality” reviews that you mentioned, that will give me all the information I need.
Can you recommend a CPA review course for me?
First of all, I have to disclaim for those who don’t know that I came to accounting through the CPA review industry so while I am wholly independent, it doesn’t matter as I may appear biased were I to actually recommend a review course. Perceived bias aside, it is always best for candidate to do their own research and instead of only listening to bitter writers who don’t actually have to take the exam themselves. But we’re sure Doug already knows that and would simply like a professional opinion to supplement his extensive research on the matter.
Besides, everyone is different. Some candidates do well with a self study program while others need the structure of a classroom-style review. So the first thing you should figure out is what you need and how much you are willing (or can afford) to pay for it.
Once you have that part figured out, hit the CPAnet forums and check out their entire section on study materials and review programs. Actual candidates who have used the various review programs are generally more than happy to leave extensive information regarding each program but remember – people are more likely to rant about a negative experience than they are to glow about a positive one. The CPA exam is a difficult process and, unfortunately, my professional experience has been that many candidates are happy to blame everyone (college professor, boss, CPA review course, Father Time, some jerk on Facebook, etc etc) but reluctant to accept their own shortcomings in the event of failure. So keep that in mind.
CPA review is a pretty small industry and there are really only three or four courses that are considered “top of the line” – the others are either supplements or CPA review products offered by companies that also do a variety of other programs.
If you are able to, get as many free resources as you can from your prospective CPA review provider before you actually hand over your credit card. Visit their classroom location or watch samples of their lectures online (if they are reputable, they’ll have these readily available on their website) and call them to ask what is covered in their courses.
Remember too that CPA review is a business and, since I used to be a part of it, I can tell you it’s more cut-throat than this sweet online media gig. At the end of the day, the company exists not to help you pass the exam but to make money (like all companies, duh). So keep your eyes peeled for too good to be true marketing tactics, suspicious blog posts that read like ad copy and always read the fine print.
Follow these few rules and I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out the review that’s right for you in no time. Good luck!
Allow me to blast right by the fluff and get straight to the meat: you know who you are and you know exactly what you’re doing so put down the apps and get back to the books, this is the CPA exam you’re studying for!
I humbly present, in no particular order of distractionness, the six biggest time wasters for CPA exam candidates.
Twitter This one is huge and I was reminded of this yesterday when I got an email from someone I know exclusively through Twitter who has been studying (on and off, I presume) for the CPA exam for almost as long as I’ve known him. He made the decision to cut his account with a promise of “I’ll be back”, something you may want to consider if you’re blowing up Twitter with status updates when you shoul ong>Facebook True story: I once got a call from a CPA exam student who gave me a huge sob story about not having enough time to study begging me to give him more time on his course as he promised up and down that he would not let unforeseen events (death in the family, car accident, job loss; you name the excuse) interfere in his studying going forward. That might have worked (oh, who are we kidding, it wouldn’t have worked on me) except for one small problem: he’d forgotten we were also Facebook friends. So while he was updating with pictures of his drunken nights out and “Which Serial Killer Are You?” quizzes, I was watching an entire year of studying (and a few thousand bucks) swirl down the drain. Stay away from Facebook and please, for the love of all that is sacred and holy, enough with the FarmVille when you should be studying.
Email Emails are great. They make us feel loved and needed and important and sometimes contain all kinds of useful information that we can even apply to studying (like a subscription to our newsletter *ahem*) but they can also be a massive time-waster. You aren’t that important and neither is your email, so shut down Outlook when you’re studying if you’re in front of your computer and even go so far as to set an out of office on weekends if you’re in the last couple weeks before exam day.
Instant messenger Oh IM, how we love thee. Gchat is great for catching up and sharing news but it can be a huge time suck if you get stuck chatting with a friend (especially when you’re dying for a distraction). Don’t cheat and change your status to “Studying for the CPA exam REALLY BUSY”, just log off and hide out for awhile. Trust me, you aren’t going to miss anything that you can’t catch up on next time you log in.
Your phone From texts to apps to mobile Twitter, your phone can be the biggest distraction in your house if you don’t count your TV on Sunday. With so many different ways to keep yourself from studying, sometimes it’s best to simply unplug or, rather, plug your device in to charge somewhere out of your reach while you are studying. Turn your phone to silent and hide it under your pillow if you have to. Checking your phone might only take a second but several checks add up to minutes and next thing you know, you’re pounding out an email response with your thumbs and totally off track.
Your girlfriend (or boyfriend) Seriously. You swear (s)he didn’t need this much attention when you first started dating but now you’re a year in and since you started studying for the exam it seems like you can’t shake her (him) off your nuts long enough to do two homework modules. If a nice talking to won’t work, why don’t you try explaining to your sweetheart that this is a professional exam and, if (s)he’ll get off your jock long enough for you to study and pass, you’ll make a whole metric shit ton more money as a result. That should work. If it doesn’t, dump her (him).
Lastly, remember that our site can be a distraction too. Shock and awe, I know! It’s one thing to swing by for CPA exam tips or to get my email address so you can ask me a question (seriously, I’m nice and sort of know what I’m talking about, wtf) but if you end up here trolling comments and whining about the bonus you didn’t get, you can easily waste plenty of good study time that could have been better applied to, oh, actually studying. Subscribe by RSS so you don’t miss your favorite articles when you have some free time and ignore us until you pass.
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 accou ig 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.
Editor’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.
Reader Kyle (Louisiana CPA applicant) asks:
Passed the exam in October, start working part-time (finishing useless grad school till August) in January. Do I have to start doing CPE stuff even though I won’t be a “CPA” for at least a year? Can I start doing CPE stuff now and have it count? Does taking the CFA count as CPE stuff?
As a general rule (since each state/territory makes its own CPA exam rules), CFA, CA, MBA, STFU, whatever letters you have after your name before tackling the CPA mean shit to most state boards of accountancy. However, maybe your CFA required classes that will also meet your state’s CPA exam requirements, figure it out independently of whatever other certification you have and give up the idea that you get credit for any of that.
You can see more about the Louisiana requirements here (or find your state here). I hate the word “expert” and I don’t like having to claim that I am one just because I work with this every day in CPA Review. So when in doubt, check directly with your state board or NASBA. Be patient and make a list of questions you have for them – I don’t feel sorry for you if you go into this blind and then cry to me that you had no idea you shouldn’t pay for all four parts on your NTS. All you had to do was ask and someone who knows would have told you. /endrant, I’m just suggesting to also contact the Board or NASBA.
That being said, Louisiana doesn’t specifically define “CPE” but they don’t really have to. Generally you can speak with your state’s society of CPAs to get information on accepted CPE programs in your state. Again, there are resources available to you as a CPA candidate, it’s up to you to utilize them.
Our candidate also asked about experience requirements, which Louisiana defines as the following:
At least one year of experience must be confirmed that was within the four years preceding the date of this application; involved the use of accounting, attest, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills; and, was supervised and verified by a licensee.
It only takes 18 months (or less) to get through the exam, you can do the math, little future CPA.
Like I said, you are encouraged to send your CPA exam questions to us but do your own homework, I’m probably hungover while writing this.