Studying For The Uniform CPA Exam

studying for an examNo matter how old you are or how much you’ve achieved in your career, the prospect of sitting for an exam continues to be a nervewracking idea. Can you remember how nervous you used to get every time your teacher would announce a pop quiz, or when you were about to take final exams? How about the times when you took entrance exams for college?

Every test you ever took in your life was a challenge because it signified whether or not you would be able to move on to the next level.

So imagine just how important the CPA exam is. Whether you pass or not determines whether you are a certified accountant and are therefore able to work as one. It also signifies that you have a thorough understanding of the relevant concepts that will allow you to do your job properly.

The CPA exam consists of four sections, namely, FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting), AUD (Auditing), REG (Regulation), and BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). You can take these sections in any order; the important thing is that you finish all four within 18 months from the time you receive your first passing mark. Make sure to use your time wisely and try some useful tips to help you while studying for the CPA exam.

1. Organize. Get your study materials in order, and establish a sound schedule which you will follow as you study for the CPA exam. You also need to have a separate notebook because you will want to take notes as you review. Keep those notes handy for when you’re elsewhere, say, waiting to meet someone or standing in a long line at a coffee shop, and read them–much better than lugging around countless books to peruse.

2. Prioritize. You need to start reading a certain chapter. But there’s also that cool new movie you’ve been wanting to catch. At this point, the important question is whether watching the movie is more important to you or if acing the CPA exam is your priority.

3. Take practice tests. Practice tests can help you determine your weak points and which topics you still need to focus on.

4. Be flexible. Sometimes you get to stick to your study schedule, sometimes you don’t. If you’re a very busy person with a lot of responsibilities, emergencies might pop up every now and then. Handle those emergencies if no one else can, and then go right back to studying. There will always be important things that could derail your study schedule. Acknowledge that they could happen, and when they do, remember that all you need to do is to get right back in the saddle and continue reviewing.

5. Enjoy a change of scenery. If you’ve been studying in the same place for months, it might feel like it’s torture every time you have to go there. Get fresh air and a new perspective by studying in different places every now and then.

6. Taking time out to rest is important throughout the entire review process. If you give yourself a few hours each day to study, you should also give yourself regular breaks. You won’t be able to retain any information if you’re already exhausted, and you certainly won’t get any studying done if you wear yourself out to the point of getting sick.

Finally, while you’re studying for the CPA exam, don’t focus your mind on the possibility that you will fail. Yes, that possibility may still exist no matter how hard you prepare. But keep in mind that you always have the option to take it again–and do better!

In The Face Of Strong Adversity

Businessman in front of a huge mazeThere are times when we believe we have on hand a good plan to achieve our aspirations in life. Just for the sake of hitting the mark, we prepare ourselves physically and emotionally, willing to do everything humanly possible, and apply every thinkable strategy to mitigate, if not obliterate, the possibility of failure. After all, who would like to fail?

Sometimes, though, what we dread most ends up happening anyway. Defeat stares upon us despite following our master plan with utmost diligence. Things go awry as we execute our plan. We’re left to wonder where we had gone wrong; what we could have done better that could have averted the negative result.

Indeed, earning the prestigious CPA title means confronting a worthy adversary. But if, in the face of strong adversity, we decide to surrender our position, feel daunted at the fear of failing once again, if we continue to focus our mind at the fear of receiving another failing score, years from now we will find ourselves being more disappointed by the things that we didn’t do than by the ones we did.

Setbacks happen every now and then in our personal lives, even in our quest for professional and career development. It’s part of every human’s very existence. Not being able to achieve our goals can tend to bring us down and lead us to think that everything we did was just a colossal waste of time.

If you’ve reached this point, there are but two ways your life could go, and it all depends on your attitude and how you accept this “hump”. You could view it as a total failure or as a sign that you shouldn’t have pursued your dream to become a CPA in the first place, which then make you give up on your goal altogether and train your sight somewhere else.

Otherwise, you could view it as an opportunity to learn and do better. As daunting as it may sound, the latter requires uncommon valor, and makes you summon every ounce of courage from inside of you. After all, it’s never easy to pick yourself up, and give it one more again.

Most people will just choose to withdraw, brood about their mistakes, and then stop trying again. Well, it’s the easy way out anyway. But if you’re truly set on achieving your goal, come strong wind and high waters, you will push forth, sail on, ‘til you cross the finish line.

Being able to handle temporary defeat is the key to becoming triumphant in this journey. Many candidates tend to feel utterly discouraged when they encounter setbacks, and allow a failed exam to consume all their energy and will to go forward. Of course, when we don’t achieve our goals, we tend to be plagued with self-doubt, thinking that we’re not good enough, that maybe we should stop our obsession to earn the CPA title.

Rather than seeing it as a failure or as something that puts an end to your hopes and dreams, look at it for what it truly is:  A mere temporary setback that should not hinder you from reaching for your goal. Run a self-check and do the following:

1. Recap what you did. This is a good way for you to see where you went wrong and what you should do better next time.

2. Accept that things didn’t go as expected, and move on. You could dwell on your problems and your mistakes, but that won’t change your situation or bring you any step closer to your goal.

3. Prepare better. This is an offshoot of #1. Once you know where you went wrong, you will be able to take appropriate measures to prevent foreseeable problems in the future.

4. Give yourself time to recover. You don’t have to go for your goals right away. You need time to gather your wits together, as you plan your next move.

Make no mistake. The CPA title is something not to be missed. When things don’t go according to plan, always remember that missed goals are not missed opportunities. Instead, they are opportunities to do things better on your next try.

Allow me to leave you with this inspiring quote:

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi

Life After Conquest

LifeAgainStudying for the CPA examinations is kind of addictive. You may find yourself crawling in the first two weeks in to exam preparation, but as soon as you get your groove going you soon feel something’s lacking each time you do not open your FAR book in a rest day, or knock off a few Wiley exercises on AUD, or listen to your Ninja Audio on REG.

It’s been almost a month since I learned I passed REG, the final leg of my CPA journey. I want to share with you how more meaningful life has become after winning it back.

I had gone for a short stop to Manila in March 2013 to celebrate my victory with my mom, siblings, friends, and employees of our small public transport business, Pamana Transport Services. The feeling is just so consuming when you look back and think about how you had successfully overcome a worthy adversary. Every ounce of sacrifice that I have invested in this journey is truly gratified, with hefty dividend paid in full.

One of my immediate plans is to start writing a book on Financial and Management Accounting and, hopefully, to release it toward the middle of next year. Indeed, life’s opportunities just become too manifest after a professional’s conquest of the CPA title. I have earned my Philippine CPA license more than two decades ago, but having the U.S. CPA title tucked under my belt just takes everything to a whole new level.

From the time I first joined as a Ninja candidate way back in 2011 I have seen several Ninja posts shouting at the top of their lungs how jubilant they were upon completing their own CPA journeys, yet oddly asking how they’d now spend loads of their spare time previously allotted to studying. To be honest, my first impression was that these Ninjas were just being plain “arrogant”. Surely, they could always go back to doing what they used to be doing previously was what I thought was just pure logic. They could go back to being the loving, caring dad that they used to, or the wife or mom who consistently takes good care of her husband and kids on a full time scale.

If you’re not among the extraordinary CPA candidates who breezed past the CPA journey in just less than 6 months, chances are you will be able to relate to what I’ll be talking about.

CPA candidates on the average take about 12-24 months to complete the CPA journey. Yes, the often rocky road to success requires you to focus your whole being to studying that long to be able to reach your destination. Deviate from this even for a little and you expose yourself to receiving some heart-breaking 74s and discouraging 60s. And so, all for the sake of conquering this monster we learn how to say no when our kids ask us to play chess or badminton with them.

For a long while I thought I had fallen in love once again, not to a woman thank goodness, but to something known in this community as “CPA”. I knew I was “in the groove” when all I thought about then was studying for my next exam; when nothing else mattered anymore but passing.

When even in deep slumber you could hear Ninja Audios reverberating like a cool sound of morning dew, you are definitely on your way to your CPA.

Then, come the day of emancipation. Freedom. Sheer radiance at the end of the tunnel. Just as any CPA candidate had always looked forward to. Yet you suddenly find yourself disconcerted, confused with mixed feelings.

So, what is life after conquest? Without sounding negative, things will never be the same again. The things that you do and had grown living during your journey will linger on. Whatever it is that you continue doing afterwards is a matter of preference. I chose to continue listening to my REG audio because I didn’t want to lose this precious knowledge about federal taxation that I have already acquired. I still try to knock off about 20 MCQs twice a week for, honestly, how many of you REG passers do still remember the intricate rules on “basis of partner’s interest”?

On the personal aspect of things I am so thankful because my CPA journey has taught me how to reflect on the real value of spending time with the true VIPs of my life: My wife and my children. I missed a lot of quality play time with my kids for almost two years, but now can enjoy life to the fullest by redirecting all my spared energy to the very same people who supported and inspired me in each battle.

After CPA, life is truly no longer the same, because this journey do not only teach us become better accountants but, more importantly, make us become better persons.

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.