I was not born a genius like Nikola Tesla or Jimmy Neutron – pardon me, but I had to add the last bit to get your undivided attention. Now that you are here, let’s talk business – so I was telling you I wasn’t born a child prodigy, instead I worked hard upon myself to be where I am today i.e. a certified public accountant who is helping aspiring candidates to ace their CPA exams.
Even though I want to say ‘if I can do it, so can you’, but I won’t undermine your struggle by mentioning mine because your success story too will come with a million hurdles, sleepless nights ,multiple mental breakdowns and God knows what – it is bound to happen. All I can say for now is hold on tight because this is going to be one bumpy roller coaster ride – that is going to make you challenge your mental and physical ability.
Without stretching it into a motivational monologue, read ahead as I reveal my secret recipe to ace CPA exams.
CPA stands for certified public accountant. It is a licensed accountant designation that allows an accountant OR non accountant scholar who fulfills the prerequisites of certified public education (CPE), and passes CPA examination becomes eligible for offering his services to public.
- You must be above the age of 18 to apply for a CPA exam
- You must either have a baccalaureate degree in accounting along with a master’s degree in accounting Or
- You can have any other degree along with a master’s degree in accounting/taxation or an MBA with accounting majors
- Or you can have a bachelor’s degree followed by 30 semester hours of graduate level education in accounting
(The extra 30 hours of education is required for license purpose, which has been mandatory recently. Even if you clear all the exams and don’t have these extra hours of education or equivalent hours of experience you will be barred from getting a CPA license – and your scores will expire after 3 years.)
- Make sure you register for CPA at a time when your educational requirements are completed.
- When you register you are showing your readiness to sit for all four CPA exams. You can register separately for each exam or all at once; that’s your choice. But you have to pass all exams within 18 months after you have received NTS.
- After registration you are issued NTS that is Notice to Schedule, after receiving NTS you can select which ever testing window you want to appear in. Testing windows are basically time slots during an year when these tests are given. In total there are 4 testing windows.
There are four times in an year when you can appear for CPA. Testing time periods are referred to as ‘testing windows’, so you will have four testing windows that you can opt for:
- Q1: January 1 – March 10
- Q2: April 1 – June 10
- Q3: July 1 – September 10
- Q4: October 1 – December 10
However, you must receive NTS before you can select a single window.
If you feel you are not really prepared for the exam (which you almost always will) you can reschedule an appointment by contacting the Prometric (the exam center). However, to save yourself from paying the penalty you must reschedule your appointment at least 30 days in advance. If you are going to cancel or reschedule your appointment between 5 and 30 days before your exam date you will have to pay a fee directly to Prometric.
- The four exams that you will be appearing in are:
- AUD (Auditing and Attestation)
- BEC (Business Environment and Concepts)
- FAR (Financial Accounting And Reporting)
- REG (Regulation)
- Each exam is 4 hours long; you can decide whether you want to give them all in one testing window or different testing windows.
- You need a score of 75 at least to pass each course.
- You can attempt model questions such as MCQs that are available on the AICPA.ORG website.
- You can also find model CPA courses that can help you a lot with your preparations
- Mock exams are also available online that you can time yourself while answering.
Results will be available at NASBA that National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. Targeted result dates are mentioned on the Notice To Schedule (NTS) that applicants receive when they register for CPA exam windows, however according to the AICPA there may be a delay of a day or two in compiling results – which according to them is normal.
Usually at midnight eastern standard time of the target score release date according to one’s NTS scores are released. Here is how you should expect your score release date:
CPA Exam Score Release Dates For Q4
|If you take your Exam on/before||And the AICPA receives your examination data files from Prometric by 11:59 pm (EST) on||Target score release date|
|October 20||October 20||November 5|
|November 14||November 14||November 22|
|November 30||November 30||December 10|
|December 10||December 11||December 19|
So on average if you are going to register for all your sections or subjects together it is going to cost you a $1000, but if you are going to opt for different sections almost all of them are priced at $193.45 according to this website.
Your registration charges will vary according to the number of sections you are applying for:
|Section||First Quarter||Second Quarter||Third Quarter||Fourth Quarter||Cumulative|
I started preparing for my CPA exam when I had only 47 days left till the actual exam day. It was a crucial time for me, either I could wing it or live with the utter feeling of disgust that I was never able to achieve what I wanted to. I followed what is known as the UCEG method of studying for CPA. UCEG stands for ultimate CPA guide method.
UCEG method is comprised of 3 core things that you have to work around:
- Optimizing Time
- Selecting The Appropriate CPA Review Course
- Finding a CPA Exam Mentor
Time is a valuable resource that you need to learn to use efficiently if you want to pass your exam with flying colors. You need to make time for yourself, your family and for your studies of course.
When I had to appear for my CPA exam, I had to change the course of my life which means I had to cut down on all the useless activities that I was engaged with. I started my day with workout so that I would have enough energy for studying by night.
No, it didn’t come easy if you are wondering that. I had to drag myself from my bedroom to work every morning initially. It was a tiresome process but I persisted. And today I can happily say that I was in the best shape of my life at that time. I was constantly learning and reviewing the work I had studied the night before, it was vicious cycle that I had put myself in and came out with a 77 band score. Of course academic writing or studying does not come off as easy, and you need to persevere to make it through.
How can you optimize your time?
- Make studying a priority: Until or unless you make studying a priority you are never going to push yourself to work towards it. So, say to yourself that studying for CPA is a priority. You will have to spend 8 to 12 weeks per session to cover the course work.
- Manage Your Time Through Life Audit Method: Life audit method is a fancy name for clearing out the time you spend on miscellaneous tasks, so that you can have more time for studying. By performing a life audit you can clear out tasks that are less important. All you have to do is to ask yourself whether or not a task is more important than CPA or less important than CPA; if it is less important then you simply have to dump it aside.
- Steer Clear Of Distractions & Relationships: Whether it is a family event or a meet up with friend, you have to decide for yourself which one is more important. At all times, you have to remember that you and only you can create a balance between the two.
- Create Study Goals: Create SMART goals, as I mentioned earlier it is important for you set specific, measurable, achievable, reliable and timely goals.
But having enough time does not guarantee success. Have a look at the part 2 of UCEG Method.
Once you have studied you might think you are ready to break hell loose on the CPA exam, if only it was this easy everybody would have been acing exams. Hence, I have got the perfect idea for you to clear away your revision blues by selecting the best review course for yourself; here is how you would do it
In order to select a review course for yourself you must understand your study personality. Your study personality determines how you learn best. It can be anything that can set you off to your road to success.
Here are a few types to guide you:
Visual aided learning: This one refers to the learning style where a person learns best through pictures, videos and any kind of tangible visual aid that is present – this can include flash cards as well.
Audio learning: Learning through audio aid like podcasts and lectures.
Self-study: Making your own notes, explaining concepts to yourself through your own crooked methods – kidding through your own legitimate methods.
Group study: learning by studying in a group where you can explain and learn concepts.
The best way to find out your style of learning is by introspecting. You can even opt for trial and error method but considering you only have 6 months to prepare and appear for a CPA exam it is advised that you take a walk down the memory lane you Sherlock your way through CPA exam by finding that one method that suits you best.
Upon finding that method you can easily select your review course. But the goal should be nothing other than increasing your understanding. If you are unable to understand the concepts that are given in the course there is no point scouring through the course.
It is always advised that you take time out when nothing is coming together; sometimes you might find yourself completing one topic after another in a matter of minutes while at others you might find it difficult even to get through one topic in 24 hours. It is all dependent on how you feel inside out, so it is better to keep a check on your emotional health while you are burning the midnight oil.
Reviewing your topics is necessary as I mentioned earlier. I put up sticky notes, and flashcards around my house (even in bathroom) so I couldn’t escape the shadow of knowledge that would open the gateways to success.
If you don’t review the material you have already studied then there is only one method left for you to pass the exam and I call it the study and pray method.
Since you are studying on your own, and isolating yourself from the ‘distractions’ it might get lonely from time to time, which is why I advise that you get yourself a hype team – a group of people who always hype you up and motivate you when you are down and falling behind your deadlines.
However, a hype team or a support team may not always be there for you because these people have their own lives to live as well, and you may not feel asking so much of them. What you can do instead is get yourself a mentor.
Mentor is someone who has had the experience of appearing in CPA exam and has a related job or is someone who has been looking after aspirants that have been appearing for the CPA year after year under his mentorship, passing exams with flying colors through his help. While some people might confuse a mentor with a tutor, the latter is a person who is assigned the job of teaching students in class and there is no after class interaction between the student and teacher (unless there is something fishy going on).
So what does a mentor really do?
A mentor bucks you up when you are low; he picks you up when you are down and helps you get back on your feet. You pay him to be your companion throughout your journey of becoming a certified public accountant.
No he is not a motivational speaker or a replacement for your ex – he is just there to help you stay on the right track as you prepare. A mentor can:
- Help you set a timetable for your studying routine
- Help you with sections of the exam
- Help you decide how to divide your section exams upon testing windows
- Help you stay calm and in charge of your emotions
- Help you revise the course
- Help you achieve what you have been wanting to achieve
How do you find yourself a mentor?
All the places you shouldn’t look for mentor in:
- Amongst your peers
Forums are full of negative energy that you don’t want to let in your aura. Peers are not always available, and most certainly won’t always know everything about CPA exams.
Where you should look for mentors?
Seek out third party individuals who are ready to provide you assistance in return for the incentive you are paying them such as the ones available at EazyResearch.
When looking for a mentor make sure that they have a positive attitude – when you are supposed to spend time with people, their energies and attitudes rub on to you, if you select a mentor whose outlook towards life is negative there is a great chance he’d give up on you easily, and you don’t want that for sure. You want someone who would stick by your side through thick and thin.
Other than a positive attitude your mentor should push you beyond your limits, because if there is a hurdle between you and success that is YOU. Unless your mentor goes hard on you there is a heightened possibility that you would lay back and relax and not challenge your potential! Find someone who would be as hard on you as you would be on yourself.
Last but not the least, your mentor should provide you with best study methods that suit your study personality. This is as important as getting a shoe that fits right. If your mentor cannot help you with studies there is no reason for having a mentor at all.
It took me five tries to finally pass my exam with a score of 77. Five tries, five attempts to make it through the CPA exam. It was my dream to become a CPA licensed accountant and no one was going to take that away from me until I tried and tried again. On the sixth try I passed.
Through persistence and sacrifice came this day when I could finally say that yes I took the pain, yes I took the kick in the back, and yes, I did lie to my parents to save myself the embarrassment for failing five times but in the end I came out victorious – and that is all that matters.
If you follow this regime, I can guarantee your success. Wishing you luck and the best of this world! May the odds forever be in your favor.
Joshua Bronx has MA Linguistics from College of Liberal Arts-University of Illinois. He is an expert in matters related to education, and emerging new courses. Currently working as a professional writer at EazyResearch.