CPA Exam Preparation – Choosing a CPA Exam Review Course

On June 5th, 2011 by dave bryant | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

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Many accountants studying for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam use a CPA review course to help them prepare. A good review course will minimize study time as well as maximize the chances of successfully passing the CPA exam. With so many different courses on the market today, it can be difficult to pick the one that best fits both criteria above. Below are some of the factors to be considered when choosing a CPA exam review course.

1) Course Materials

Although all courses cover similar accounting concepts, every instructor explains things differently. Good review courses are only taught by engaging instructors that are capable of explaining difficult concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. Also, a good instructor will spend more time on tricky concepts and just touch on the more self-explanatory ones to make lectures more efficient. The best CPA review courses have available free lecture samples that you can evaluate before deciding to buy. Another way to evaluate the quality of a review course is by visiting CPA exam preparation forums as well as product review sites to see what people are saying about the lecture quality of individual review courses.

As well, the lectures can be available through a variety of media, such as live or recorded webcasts, CDs, DVDs, or USB. The portability and accessibility of the media the course materials are available in should be taken into consideration when evaluating a review course.

Also, when shopping around for a review course, be sure to note any expiry dates for the course materials. Some questions and simulations software will become disabled at a certain time after activation. As well, some courses have lectures that are only made available to a student for a certain duration before the access expires. The best type of course materials and software is the kind that does not require access to the internet to view or use, and therefore does not expire. If you must purchase the type that does expire, make sure that you will have ample time to digest the materials before it expires on you.

2) Practice Questions

Having studied the course materials, the student is usually provided with practice questions to drill the knowledge into their memory as well as apply the concepts they have learned to actual case scenarios.

When it comes to practice questions, some CPA review courses take the exhaustive approach by making the student do every question that has the slightest chance of appearing on the CPA exam. While this may be a safe route to take, it can also be extremely time-consuming. Many students simply run out of either time or patience, or both, and never get around to finishing many of the practice questions, leaving them ill-prepared for the exam.

On the other hand, there are those review courses that do not provide enough practice questions to adequately prepare the student for the exam. Obviously, this situation is far from ideal also.

The ideal CPA review course will contain only questions that are most likely to appear on the exam. This can be done by analyzing past exams to identify questions that appear the most frequently. This will ensure the highest rate of return for the student’s study time by allowing the student to focus on areas that will probably matter the most.

3) Student Support

Different CPA review courses provide different levels of customer support. If you tend to be a question-asker and prefer to talk to instructors over the phone, then be sure to choose a review course that has that kind of service. On the other end of the spectrum are courses that have minimal support, and in the middle are courses that allow students to email questions to the instructors. Some review courses provide message boards and forums to allow students to interact with instructors and with one another. Before buying a review course, make sure that it will provide the level of support you need.

4) Frequency of Updates

Due to changes in accounting-related legislature amongst other things, CPA exam study materials need to be updated correspondingly on a regular basis. Some review courses update their course materials and practice questions more often than others, so be sure to take this into consideration when choosing a course.

One factor that many people take into account, that has not been discussed, is price. However, considering the typical substantial pay-raise that is experienced by many accountants after they become CPA-certified, it is advised that you choose a CPA review course based on its quality and level of support from the instructors, rather than on price. Considering that the average pass rate for the CPA exam is only 47.49-49.10% (pass rate for Uniform CPA Examination in 2008), failing one or more sections is not unlikely. You will not want to re-study for and re-sit sections of the exam just because you decided to save a few bucks by purchasing a lesser quality review course. The only exception is when the course fees will be reimbursed by your employer, in which case you may want to take advantage of this, even if it would mean having fewer options to choose from.

CPA Exam Preparation – Some Study Tips

On September 17th, 2010 by dave bryant | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

1)Have the Right Mindset 

The CPA exam is notorius for being difficult to pass.  It is a big deal and will require a lot of persistent studying to pass.  Many have failed one or more sections before successfully passing in the end.  Get ready for a long battle ahead, but at the same time commend yourself for being willing to tackle such an undertaking to improve yourself.  Also, remind yourself of past achievements, such as having earned your college degree, to give your self-confidence a boost.  Remember, no matter how difficult the exam is, many others have passed it, and so will you.

2)Buy a Good CPA Exam Review Course

Many of the CPA review courses on the market include lectures in DVD format, that can made difficult concepts easier to understand than textbooks ever could.  The top CPA exam courses will analyze past CPA exams to see which questions actually came up more often than others, and focus your study efforts in areas you’re more likely to get tested on, which will greatly increase your study efficiency.  If you feel that you’ll be needing extra guidance from instructors, be sure to choose a CPA exam review course that will allow to call up live instructors to ask questions you have regarding the CPA study materials.  I cannot overstress the importance of investing in a good CPA exam course.  It could mean the different between passing with flying colors and not passing at all, and can help you to save a lot of time by helping you to focus on areas that have higher chances of appearing on the actual exam.

3)Set a Study Schedule and Stick to It

There is a lot of material to cover before you are ready to sit for each section of the CPA exam, so a few all-nighters right before the exam will definitely not cut it.  The general consensus is that you need to devote as least 3 months of regular studying to each section of the exam.  When planning a study schedule, be sure to schedule in some leisure time in order to keep it realistic.  It’s better to consistently study for fewer hours every day, as opposed to trying to fit so much study time into the schedule that you soon get discouraged and exhausted and start to deviate from it.

4)Enlist Aid From Loved Ones

Preparing for the CPA exam is not an easy job.  Yet you don’t have to accomplish it on your own.  This would be a good time to ask for help from your family and friends.  Have a heart to heart with them, tell them what it will mean for you to pass the CPA exam and how hard the exam is to pass, and they will do what they can to make your life easier during this very trying period.  Aside from possibly helping you run errands or do household chores (such as cleaning and cooking), they will let you off the hook when you can’t find the time to socialize or attend gatherings.

5)Stay in Great Health
Unless you are healthy, you will have trouble concentrating when you’re studying.  Exercise regularly, eat a nutritious diet, and get enough sleep every night whatever you do.  Get some naps in too if you need to.  Moreover, be sure to fit in some study breaks, as they will help you to study more efficiently and to avoid feeling drained.  Keep your body in good health so your brain can function in high gear to help you understand difficult concepts and retain what you need to know to pass the exam.

6)Find People to Study With
Studying with other people who are also trying to pass the CPA exam can keep you motivated and focused.  It’s also good to have someone to discuss difficult concepts with when you’re confused, and someone to lift you up when you’re feeling discouraged.  If you’re working for an accounting firm, ask around to see if any of your colleagues or their schoolmates are also preparing for the CPA exam.  If you can’t find study buddies offline, seek out online forums where accounting professionals gather and make a request there.  There are actually forums that are created for CPA candidates, where you can communicate with other people that are in the same boat.  Look for posts by people living in your area who are also looking for study buddies, or post a request yourself if you can’t find any.

7)Only Take On One Section At a Time
Some people underestimate the difficulty of the CPA exam, schedule all 4 sections almost back to back, and study for all sections at the same time.  Although this may work for some people, a more sensible arrangement may be to study for only one section at a time to maximize your chances of passing.  Each section already covers a lot of material that you need to understand and remember in order to pass, so attempting to retain 4 times as much information would be asking for a mental breakdown, not to mention running the risk of failing one or more of the sections.  Aside from attacking one section at a time, another good piece of advice would be to schedule the hardest section first (that is, the section that YOU feel is the hardest, and this will vary from person to person).  After you pass the first section, you’ll only have 18 months to pass the other 3 sections before the first section will expire, so that by putting the hardest section first you minimize the risks of having passed sections expire on you.

8)Focus on Problem Areas
It is true that reviewing materials you’re familiar with will leave you feeling confident, but this false sense of security can sabotage your performance at the actual exam.  To maximize the effectiveness of your study time, you should really isolate your problem areas and give them the bulk of your attention and effort.  Browse through all your study materials, isolate your problem areas, and conquer them one by one until you’re confident enough.

9)Take Good Notes
Your short term memory can only hold so much stuff.  Materials you review during the short period right before you take the exam will be what you remember best.  Therefore, it is crucial that you take concise but clear notes that you can review and commit to memory during the last couple days before the exam.

10)Time Yourself
When you are doing practice questions that are part of the study materials, be sure to time  yourself by pretending that you’re doing the actual exam.  This will allow you to get used to working with time constraints so that you won’t start panicking when you’re doing the real exam.

11)The More Practice the Better
Practice makes perfect, so do as many practice questions as you can find time for.  This will serve two purposes.  First of all, you will understand concepts better and learn to apply them better.  Secondly, more practice will give you more confidence that you will pass the exam.

CPA Exam Preparation

On September 16th, 2010 by dave bryant | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

So, you’ve been deemed by the state board in your jurisdiction to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam, and have received the NTS (Notice to Schedule). What to do next?

1)Get a good CPA exam review course – I’ve summarized the pros and cons of the most popular courses on my other website, http://www.CPAReviewCourse.org.

2)Lay out a study plan – please see this post on my other blog: CPA Exam Schedule – Setting Up a CPA Exam Study Schedule

3)Schedule your exam date(s) – please see this post on my other blog: CPA Exam Schedule – How to Schedule Exam Dates

Stay tuned to future posts where I’ll be giving more tips on how to prepare for the CPA exam.