I am a frugal person by nature, so when I set out to pursue the CPA designation back in the Fall of 2011, I intended to devise an exam preparation strategy that would allow me to pass each section of the CPA Exam on the first attempt and do so at the lowest cost possible. At the time, I was two years removed from obtaining my college degree and like many of you reading this, I had no idea where to start.
Since I never got rid of my business and accounting textbooks, I thought it made sense to make good use of some of them (i.e., Business Law, Cost Accounting, etc.) as part of the process of preparing for the CPA Exam (after all, they were already paid for), but it quickly became clear that relying solely on my college textbooks wouldn’t have been enough to vanquish the CPA Exam. I needed to identify an up-to-date yet affordable CPA Exam review book containing either actual questions or adapted from retired testlets. After much research I zeroed in on the Wiley CPAexcel Exam Review Study Guide, which now costs, on average, $60 per exam section guide. Identifying and securing the resources to study for the exam was just the first step. I now had to execute my exam preparation strategy which went as follows.
Allow exactly three months to prepare for each CPA exam section
I made a concerted effort to give myself three months to prepare for each section of the exam. Being a full time employee, I thought three months would be sufficient enough to be well prepared for each section of the exam. The first month of each of the three month exam review periods would be a blackout month. I viewed the blackout months as bonus time for studying since no exam is administered during those periods. Furthermore, I made it a point to wait until an exam preparation appeared well under control before registering to take a section of the exam. That often meant waiting until week 8 of the exam review period to register to take an exam section. In my mind, there was no point in registering to take a section of the exam if there was any uncertainty with regard to my level of familiarity with all study units covered in the CPAexcel Exam Review Study Guide. Provided everything went as planned, I would schedule my exam on a day falling in the last week of the twelve week review period.
Weeks 1 through 7
Now allow me to walk you through the exam review routine I used throughout most of the twelve week review period. The first seven weeks were usually spent on reading the lecture portion of each exam study unit of the relevant Wiley CPAexcel Exam Review Study Guide all while actively taking careful note of anything that appeared worth understanding and/or fixing to memory. Please allow me to point out that there were times when the authors of the Wiley CPAexcel Exam Review Study Guide did not do as good of a job discussing or illustrating a key concept. And that’s when I would fall back on the relevant college textbook or on Google to help fill in the gaps. Once I was through with that, I would study my notes then proceed with working every other sample exam question (beginning with either the first or the second question and onwards) related to the study unit under review.
When time came to validate the accuracy of my answers, I would carefully read and strive to understand the authors’ explanations to the answer to each question whether I got it right or not. Going through the preceding exercise provided various opportunities for additional note taking that, looking back, significantly helped strengthened my preparation. To round up this aspect of the exam review process, I would conduct an inventory of the questions I missed to identify any topic that required further studying.
Weeks 8 through 11
Weeks eight through eleven were spent reinforcing the mastery of topics I struggled with, re-reading my notes, and working the remainder of questions. I would then use the same process discussed earlier to check on the accuracy of my answers.
The last six days preceding the day of the exam were spent reviewing my notes as many times as possible. It is often said that serious preparation fosters confidence in one’s abilities. Having reviewed each study unit of the exam review guide, having worked all sample exam questions, having taken copious notes before and after working questions, and having studied the notes many times over, I was confident that I would do well enough to secure at the very least the minimum exam passing score. Because preparing for the Uniform CPA Exam is a grueling process for most people, I humbly suggest that prospective exam candidates take the four exam sections in the following order: Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), Audit (AUD), and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). FAR covers the most material then is followed by REG. Beginning your exam taking journey with the most time consuming exam sections will likely make the process of crossing the finish line less laborious than it will be otherwise. I don’t have any particular explanation for ranking AUD and BEC third and fourth, respectively. In my humble opinion, reversing the positions between these two sections will not likely have much impact on how strong one finishes.
This pretty much sums up the strategy I employed to obtain passing scores on each section of the Uniform CPA Exam. There was only one exam section (BEC) I had to take a second time. If you made it this far, I hope you found utility in reading the CPA Exam review strategy outlined herein. I wish you much success on what I hope is your quest to secure the CPA designation.