CPA Exam Diary 2012 Archives

Fall 2012

Taking the Plunge
By Ableen Tai
You’re out of school. You’re working at an accounting firm. It’s not busy season and you actually have some free time. Life is great! Then it hits you: You have to pass the CPA Exam and get licensed. You feel your walls closing in. A tight feeling builds in your throat. Not only to you have to work now, but also you have to study for four parts of one of the most challenging licenses in the professional world.

Take a deep breath. You can do this. It’ll take some dedication and some weekends staying in, but you got this. I started the process long ago. Oh, I’ve passed REG! Then BEC! Oh dear, busy season is coming. CPA Exam? What? I have to take care of my clients and make sure my returns get out on time. This exam can wait.

Months pass and busy season is winding down. Phew! I got those returns out on time. I’ll just take a quick break and start studying again later. Nope. Never happened. Months pass by and the CPA Exam is a lingering thought in the back of my mind. Another busy season comes and I start to think: I was supposed to start studying! And now my exams have expired. Sigh.

After two busy seasons I decide it’s time to make it happen and start studying again. I had to repurchase my review materials, as the old stuff is out of date. This new material isn’t that bad. I listen to the lectures and take notes. After each lecture, I answer questions and review at the end. I passed REG and BEC again and now have scheduled the last two exams.

If you keep focused after work, you can easily pass all four parts in less than a year. Think how great life will be once you are a Certified Public Accountant. I encourage you to keep at it and if at first you don’t succeed, definitely try again. Good luck to all test takers and remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Ableen Tai is a tax senior at Armanino McKenna LLP.

Summer 2012

One Down, Three to Go!
By Marc Kurose
I’ve been working as a tax accountant for four years, with the CPA Exam hanging over my head the entire time. I’ve tried videos, questions, study guides—and crossing my fingers and hoping really, really hard—in varying combinations and never had success. Regardless of the study method, the one constant that any exam candidate can agree on is that, at some point, everyone has to put the rest of their life on hold and pay the required dues in time and effort.
I’ve taken each section multiple times, always trying to convince myself that it was possible to continue working and enjoying life, while trying to chip away at the exam (and failing). Finally, my career has reached the point where—with increasing responsibility and demands on my time—I understand that there’s really no other option: I need to pass.

When I retook and passed FAR in May, I took two weeks off from work. I was originally hoping to study at least eight hours a day during the week, aiming for about 80-plus hours of total study time by the exam. However, this time around I used Kaplan flash cards and, though my actual study time was probably closer to 50-60 hours over two weeks, I was able to cover all the material. I only went through the practice exam twice, and I also had time to make it to the gym and feel somewhat relaxed leading up to the exam.

The lesson is that everyone retains material differently. Focusing on lectures, reading material or endlessly repeating practice problems just was not working for me. Instead, the flashcards let me break the material down into tiny, manageable sections while letting me take advantage of the fact that I do wonderfully with more randomly presented trivia.

The keys for me boiled down to committing the time, which meant locking down my schedule so that studying was the only thing on the task list—and finding an efficient (for me) study method. Each section is difficult, but not impossible. Good luck to everyone else taking the test!
Marc Kurose is a senior associate at Frank, Rimerman + Co., LLP.

Spring 2012

Here We Go Again …
By Rob Campbell
Well, here it is. Time to take the CPA Exam—and actually pass. Having taken the exam once I feel better prepared. I have a good feel for how my preparation materials compare to the actual test; and—more important to me—I have a sense of confidence I did not have the first time around. If I learned one thing last year, it was that I can never do too many practice questions. My biggest issue last year was I allowed time I had allotted to study to be consumed by other things. Now that I understand the Exam tests you on how well you know the material—not simply whether you are familiar with it—I realize that these study sessions must be written on my calendar in pen, not pencil.

This test has been looming over my career for six years, and I cannot wait to get it completed. If I could go back in time and do it straight out of school, I would in a heartbeat. Normally, I take a vacation after tax season to celebrate another year survived, but this April will be when the real time commitment begins. I have cancelled my cable subscription, purchased the latest preparation books and set up a well-lit, comfortable desk in my apartment to get the work done with no distractions. I plan to tackle BEC first to get since I felt fairly comfortable with that material. I will then move on to REG and save FAR and AUD for last.

I am mailing off my Application Remittance Form this week, a far easier process since I have already jumped through all the qualification hoops of sending transcripts and work experience to the California Board of Accountancy. I will say that the CBA website is fairly easy to use once you are registered. Now I just need to survive tax season and dive into the material. I will keep you up to date on my progress and study habits.
Rob Campbell is an employment tax credits manager at KBKG, Inc.

Winter 2012

BEC Section Conquered!
By Beth Attebery
I did it. I took the BEC Section of the CPA Exam—and I passed! The overall exam experience turned out to be significantly less intimidating than I had imagined.

The check-in process at the testing center was … interesting. At my location, lockers were provided, as you are not allowed to bring anything—as in, not even a tissue for a runny nose—into the exam area. I was required to empty out all of my pockets, be scanned by a metal detector, have my fingerprint taken and smile for the camera. The testing center itself was quiet, and I found it easy to concentrate and focus. I would definitely recommend wearing layers; my center ranged from freezing to comfortable.

As you know, I cannot provide details about the exam itself, but I will say this: if you put in the time to study, you will find that the test is manageable. I’m not saying the exam is easy. It isn’t. However, if you study, practice and prepare, you’ll find that you can pass.

The worst part of the exam for me was the waiting. It takes about four weeks to learn your test results. I took the AUD Section in early January and will not know my score until early February. Websites like keep you up to date about score release dates. Also, be warned, the California Board of Accountancy posts scores 24/7; I received my score on Thanksgiving—“thankfully” it was good news.
Beth Attebery is a tax manager at Henry C. Levy & Co., CPAs & Consultants.