cpasuccess (10)

Taking the CPA Exam with Kids

Hi. I need some advice. I am using Wiley and I am getting good scores on the software, but am not passing the exam. I watch the lectures and do the MC questions and SIMS. I am pressed for time as I have 2 young kids and work FT. Any study tips you have that you can share would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! - Kris H.


They say if you can teach it then you truly understand it. It's possible you've started to remember at least some of the answers but aren't completely grasping the why or how. I know how you feel, 3 kids, 1 FT and 1 side business but they only way I've passed and have gotten past that 75 was to review the answer keys and jot down VERY short notes, as if you were only able to glance at them for a presentation. Then act it out as if you're teaching it. I know it sounds silly but if you catch yourself unable to take a small tidbit of information and explain it to someone who doesn't understand, even if that person is fictional, then you haven't fully grasped it. I passed REG after 2 attempts bc I like taxes lol, but AUD took me 3 tries and I just passed BEC on my 4th, 4th attempt at FAR next week and I can tell you that, for me, I didn't pass until I wrote down small notes and pretended to teach someone. Also a BIG difference is I've taken off the day before each exam and spent the whole day doing this. It's made a tremendous difference. Then on test day I get there by 9 after dropping the kids off, grab breakfast and a snack (to eliminate unnecessary breaks) and review those notes in my car until my test at 1. But when I review, I briefly explain it, I do NOT reread the notes like a zombie. That won't help. Doing this is hard, add kids and jobs and you'll think you were crazy lol! - Tara C.

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Free Access to Professional Literature

Did you know CPA Exam candidates can receive access to professional literature via the AICPA?

CPA Exam Candidates: Free On-line Access to Professional Literature Package

CPA exam candidates can get a free six-month subscription to professional literature used in the computerized CPA Examination. This online package includes AICPA Professional Standards, FASB Original Pronouncements and FASB Accounting Standards Codification.

Only candidates who have applied to take the CPA exam, and have been deemed eligible by state boards of accountancy, will receive access to this package of professional literature.

NASBA: Subscribe here to request your free professional literature

Access to Professional Literature (AICPA)

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Choosing the Best Study Materials

As you can imagine, this is a big, BIG question at the study groups.  I'll be dropping member's feedback here ... check out the comments and feel free to contribute!

(via Amanda W.) Honestly, I think any of the major providers work, the more important thing is your study strategy and the time dedicated. Practicing MCQs and Sims more than anything else, vs. focusing on reading and memorization, etc.

I think practicing MCQs and Sims is a better use of your time than reading and memorizing, at least for FAR because of how much material you have to go through. Best, then, to get self-study material that will allow you to use something like a Study mode (where, after finishing a single Sim or MCQ, even if not done with the set, you will see an answer and explanation). Any that don't allow that are fine if you can take 1 question MCQ or sim with them. The important thing is immediate feedback, which fosters immediate/faster learning.

But, again, it depends on what you want to be your main method of tackling the material. How soon do you want to feel like you're "getting" somewhere. How you want your study objectives organized. What "extra" stuff you want the package to have to help you with your method.

As you can see... it's complicated. I know where you're coming from, though. But honestly, you can succeed with any major CPA package... it's how you use the resources that matter, more or less.

(speaking so big and confidently even though she hasn't even taken the exam yet and is totally not ready for this, haha) - Amanda W.

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The Uniform CPA Examination® consists of several question types that test the knowledge and skills required of entry-level CPAs. You can familiarize yourself with the format and functionality of the exam by practicing with the sample tests for each section and reviewing the tutorial topics, which are found under the “Help” button within each sample test. - AICPA

You can find the sample tests and tutorial topics here: 

CPA Exam Sample Tests and Tutorial Topics


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Which Section of the CPA Exam To Take First

The CPA exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Many people say to take the most difficult section first because once you get that one over with it will be smooth sailing from there. This strategy may work for some but there are a few things you should know before jumping on that bandwagon that are very important. Below I will explain why this logic is flawed and tell you which section you should take first and why.

Know that just because you think a section will be the most “difficult” does not mean it will actually be. I remember being nervous when I signed up for FAR because everyone told me it is the most difficult section but in reality it turned out to be my highest score.

Another fallacy I must point out is that there is not going to be any smooth sailing after that first exam. Each section is going to be challenging and require you to be disciplined. In contrast to my example above, I remember signing up for the BEC exam and thinking that it would be a piece of cake. After I took the test I felt like I failed for sure and remember feeling foolish for underestimating it just because of my preconceived notions.

Crush the CPA Exam

I promise you that no single section of the CPA exam is going to be immensely harder or easier than the others. Even though you may have a particular skill in one area, that test will still require the same dedication and hard work as the others.

My biggest problem with this strategy is it defies common sense. If you choose the most difficult section first then you are giving yourself the greatest chance to fail! I respect the fact that you want to conquer the world on your first voyage but this logic is flawed and can be detrimental to your success, I'll explain why below.

Play To Your Strengths

Your first exam should be the section that you feel most confident about passing. I chose Audit because I had just finished an audit class in my last semester and I still had all the terminology fresh in my memory.

If you have been out of college for a while then you should choose the area that is most relevant to your work. If you are a bookkeeper then FAR would probably be your best bet, if you’ve been doing tax returns for the last 6 months then REG would most likely be your strong suit, and if you been working in the finance sector then BEC would likely be a good fit.

If you are coming straight out of college I would suggest taking a section that relates to a class that you did very well in or have a strong interest and desire to learn about. If no subject clearly stands out then you can always do what I did and choose a class that you just recently took because the information will still be fresh and easily retrievable.

Another option is to take one of the shorter exams first. BEC and REG are only 3 hours long and the study materials for these sections is smaller. This will allow you to digest the information much better and serves as a good stepping stone to prepare for one of the longer sections. This is particularly true for anyone that has been out of school for a while and is not accustomed to taking longer more comprehensive tests like AUDIT and FAR which are both 4 hour tests.

Confidence Is Crucial

Passing your first CPA exam will boost your confidence through the roof and that excitement and momentum will motivate you immensely for the tests to come. I remember how much easier it was to stick to my study schedule after I found out I passed my first exam. The light at the end of the tunnel becomes much brighter as the reality of becoming a CPA starts to set in.

Turning down offers to go to parties and other fun activities that I was “missing out” on became much easier after that first exam because I was overwhelmed with a new energy, motivation, and focus that I previously didn’t have. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely indulged in my fair share of fun I just saved it for the weekends : )

Please, don’t make this test harder than it has to be and let that first exam overwhelm and drown you in frustration. Play to your strengths and ease into it by taking the section you feel most confident about. The wave of energy you get from passing your first CPA exam will give you the motivation you need to CRUSH them all!

Crush the CPA Exam


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Here's some feedback to help you answer this age-old question ... how do your practice / mock exams measure up to the actual exam?  I'll include some general information here in the post and as I run into review provider specific information, I'll post in the comments.  Feel free to contribute to this set of "data".  

Remember, the best a preparation software can do is a raw score. The CPA exam is not a raw score test. So while doing “really bad” is not a good indicator of material knowledge or comfort, I have known people to pass while scoring high 60’s and low 70’s on practice exams. Prep material also is bad at grading SIMS. - Damon B.

The actual exam score depends on how everyone else does during the window that you take the exam - the score you get on your review doesn’t reflect how you will be graded. - Omar F.

I've heard from someone that the Becker SIMs are harder than the actual exams. This is from a student who passed all 4 parts of the exam on the first try, and one woman who had just taken an exam and she reported the same general feel.  As the chairman of my accounting department said, "We prepare you to run a marathon, even though the actual race is much shorter." ...that's probably not the exact words, but you get the idea. - Amanda W.

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