Conquering the U.S. CPA Examinations

conqueringUSCPAWe all have our own taste of being obsessed with something. “Obsession”, as defined in the dictionary, is the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, desire, etc.

It is “an unwelcome, uncontrollable, and persistent idea, thought, image, or emotion that a person cannot help thinking even though it creates significant distress or anxiety”. I liked this last one better, and you’ll soon find out why.

My obsession to earn the illustrious U.S. CPA title started when my elder sister migrated after she earned her Philippine CPA title and got married to a fellow Filipino who grew up in the U.S.  She now lives happily in LA (the City of Angels), where she works as a Finance Controller.

My first attempt at realizing this dream dates back to 1996 when I worked in Jeddah as a Financial Accountant. My preparation then for the paper-and-pencil all-4-part exams seemed panning out according to plan, but due to unreasonably stringent visa procedures I was not able to fly to the U.S. to take the exams. It seemed that the battle is already lost even as war has not even begun.

After several long years, news broke out in early 2011 that the Uniform CPA examinations would be offered internationally in selected countries, including the UAE where I previously worked up until late 2011. Where there is life there is, indeed, hope.

There are several issues and requirements that an international CPA candidate like me need to contend with before being able to secure one’s Notice to Schedule, or examination permit in layman’s term, from State selection to foreign education credentials evaluation, from selecting CPA review course material to choosing which of the four exam parts to take first.

Loads of thanks go to Ms. Leslie-Ann Rogers of CPAexcel who helped a lot in ridding my mind of the worries of complying with exam registration formalities, and allowed me to concentrate on my exam preparation.

Candidates are given free hand on how they want to tackle the Uniform CPA exams. They can take all parts simultaneously, one part at a time, or in any combination they so desire.

Of the four parts, I chose to sit for Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) simultaneous with Business Environment and Concepts. The FAR part earned the alias “The Beast” among CPA candidates around the world because it is the most difficult of the four parts, and covers the broadest in terms of diversity of the body of knowledge included in the syllabus. To my mind, I thought I should start my journey by tackling the subject(s) I felt more confident of passing on my first take.

Though I considered my preparation to be rigid and thorough, I soon realized that there was absolutely no other way of doing it if you intend to pass each part on your first take.

I took Auditing afterwards, and Regulation last 19 Feb to cap my rough roller-coaster ride toward completing all four parts of the Uniform CPA Exams.

As I ran my course, the emancipating thought of giving up has constantly visited my mind. But it just does not seem right to raise the white flag simply because we experience rough sail. After all, it might surprise you that beyond these walls of adversity lie either a better situation or a better you.

After getting a taste of all four, I can now say that Regulation (consisting of Ethics, Business Law, and U.S. Taxation) was the toughest of all. The federal tax system had given me heaps of worries which made me decide to reschedule my Regulation exam three times in three testing windows. It just didn’t “click” despite investing precious time into trying to understand the dynamics of the U.S. tax rules.

What is even worse is that candidates are required to know the frequent changes in the tax law. This means that some of what you have previously studied in 2012 may no longer be applicable when you take your exam in 2013.

If you don’t want to be discouraged in pursuing your dream to become a U.S. CPA stay away from Regulation ‘til it’s the last part that you have to take.

Never underestimate your resilience and your willpower when your back is against the wall. Faced with losing my FAR and Business Environment and Concepts credits if I didn’t finally take (and pass) Regulation, it surprised me how much material I was able to cover at the homestretch.

For a non-US candidate who had no previous formal studies in Federal Taxation, immeasurable amount of credit goes to CPAexcel’s tax mentor, Dr. Gregory Carnes, for making me understand the extremely intricate U.S. tax system. Though my Regulation exam was tough I believe that CPAexcel prepared me well enough to pass the exam.

Also, the NINJA Audio was very effective; it turned those idle moments spent commuting two hours from home to my workplace in Muscat into valuable study time! It was a wonderful supplement to my CPAexcel and Wiley testbank.

After more than 15 years of nurturing my obsession of becoming a U.S. Certified Public Accountant, the light at the end of the tunnel has finally revealed its awesome radiance. I have now reached “home”, and achieved the pinnacle of my professional qualification as an accountant. With God’s abiding provision, the title “U.S. CPA” has ultimately become mine.

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