How to Study for the CPA Exam (and Stay Married in the Process)

    familyThis is an excerpt from the CPA Exam Survival Guide, which is a free download.

    One of the most difficult aspects of taking the CPA Exam is the toll it takes on personal relationships.

    Your family misses you and your friends don’t understand why you’re always “studying.”

    Here are some strategies to help keep it all together.

    The CPA Exam is rough on a marriage.

    You work, come home, and then escape to the spare bedroom or coffee shop to knock out three hours of studying after grabbing a quick bite to eat.

    When I was studying, my wife and I had three kids.

    A spouse can only take so much loneliness, so you need to make sure that you do your part.

    If you’re married and studying, you absolutely cannot put your marriage (or kids) on hold.

    If you do that, you’ll come home to an empty house. I hope the certificate was worth it.


    Through the years, I’ve had to put my counseling hat on numerous times because a couple was headed to a divorce due to CPA Exam-related issues.

    It isn’t the CPA Exam that caused the marital problems.

    It was one person thinking that they could ignore their spouse and focus on just working in public accounting and studying.

    They thought they could still maintain some semblance of a marriage.

    Three couples specifically come to mind as I write this.

    In one instance, the wife left the husband as he was studying for REG—the weekend before his exam—and took the kids to live at her mother’s house.

    I am happy to say that they worked things out and are still married. I get Christmas cards from them every year.

    Another couple had the reverse situation: the husband moved out because the wife was studying.

    She wasn’t making him a priority, and I told her as much.

    When a marriage is on the line, there’s no need to be anything but blunt. I told her to stop studying and take a break to restore her marriage.

    They got divorced.

    The third couple put the exam on hold, got right with each other, moved back in together, and are still married.

    If you’re married and studying – and want to stay married while you study – you have to make your spouse feel like they are still #1.

    Even if it means you forgo that extra study session on bonds and cut a three-hour study session short by an hour, spend time with your significant other.

    You also have to embrace the reality that the CPA Exam is now your “me time” activity.

    Whatever activity you’re into—golfing, hunting, tailgating, girls’ nights out—it all gets put on the shelf while you’re studying.

    Your “me time” activity is now your spouse. Period.

    If you’re not working, studying, eating, or sleeping, then you should be spending quality time with your spouse. Just embrace this new reality.

    Sound extreme? So is ruining your marriage.

    With that said, there is still a place for a guys’ night out and stuff like that, but it has to become the exception rather than the rule.

    Taking Saturday night off from studying? Schedule a date with your spouse and go do something fun together.

    This may sound “preachy” – and it may be, but I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I and many others have made.

    When I was studying, my wife would see me come home from a long day of public accounting and plop down in front of the TV after the kids were in bed to play video games instead of studying.

    After two years of going through the motions with the exam (study for a week ahead of the exam…fail with a 71…repeat), my wife finally came to me and said (paraphrasing),

    “Listen. I support you, but if you’re going to do this and if the kids and I are going to sacrifice, then I want to see you sacrificing too. Either do it right or hang it up.”

    She was right!

    I had been such a lazy jerk-bag (my words, not hers).

    That was when I got serious and PASSED – including a 92 on REG.

    In retrospect, I wanted to be a CPA, but I didn’t really want to be a CPA in the sense that I was willing to do whatever it took.

    My wife helped me to realize that and fix it.

    Some parting thoughts…

    1. When you study – study.

    Shut down all other distractions. The time you save is better spent on your significant other.

    2. Tell your spouse weekly – if not daily how much you appreciate their support.

    Let them know that you value and appreciate their sacrifice in this venture as well.

    3. Keep them in the loop – even if you don’t think they’ll “get it”.

    Hate Bonds and Leases?

    Tell them about it.

    Scored a 58 on your Corporate Tax MCQ session?

    Vent to them.

    Praying that you don’t get any Variance questions on your BEC exam this week?

    Confide in them (they won’t tell the AICPA about your secret weakness).

    Jeff Elliott another71Jeff Elliott is a licensed CPA (KS) who had a saint for a wife while he was studying for the CPA Exam. They live in fly-over country with 6 (soon to be 7) children.

    You can download his CPA Exam Survival Guide free.

    February 10, 2015 CPA Exam Survival Guide

    Featured: How to Study for the CPA Exam During Busy Season


    It starts out so quiet, so innocent.

    It’s Monday January 6th and you settle into your chair. Tax season eh?

    Maybe this year won’t be so bad after all.

    But you’re wrong.

    It’s worse.

    January … then February … then March … 6 days a week … and then 7 days a week …

    … and then finally 8 days a week as it crescendos into a three-hole-punched-sign-here-sticker-zombie-utopia where you’re willing to slam day-old Folgers just to stay awake.

    Every Day is the Same.

    Every Day Sucks.

    At least you’re getting overtime.

    But wait – there’s more.

    You wanted to start the year off with a bang, so you back in December, you scheduled Financial Accounting and Reporting for April 21.

    No Rest for the Weary.

    How to Study for the CPA Exam 20 Hours a Week During Busy Season.

    To fit it in work, family/friends, sanity, and studying 20 hours a week, you’re going to have to plan.

    Plan or Die.

    The first thing you need is the NINJA CPA Exam Study Planner (Just click the link and I’ll send it to you right away).

    From there, follow the ELL (Early Lunch Late) Plan.

    The plan is simple.

    The sacrifice is not.

    Most people will not implement it, but the payoff is huge if your family (and your sanity) suffers less from you being missing in action because of it.

    How it works:


    Get up 1.5 hours earlier than normal. If you are already getting up at 4, don?t shake your head in disgust. This plan isn?t for you. For those who normally get up at 6 or 6:30am, start getting up at 4:30 or 5. Stumble to the coffee pot (which you loaded the night before) and hit the ?go? button.

    While the coffee is brewing, go take a quick shower and wake up. Head back to the coffee, grab a cup and sit down at your computer and books (which you also set up the night before).

    Study for an hour.

    Notice that checking your e-mail, Facebook, sports sites, or news was nowhere in this sequence.

    Did you really sacrifice an hour and a half of sleep to check celebrity gossip? No you didn?t.

    Don?t even fire up the Internet browser. Not even once.


    Say “no” to the co-workers heading down the street to grab lunch and talk about how dumb their boss is for an hour. While that sounds fun, you?re here to study so that instead of hanging out with people that you otherwise wouldn?t outside of work, you can spend more time with loved ones.

    You take your lunch to your desk (which you also packed the night before). Start eating and hit “play” on your CPA Review course.

    Your legal pad and pen will get food smears on it while you take notes, as will your mouse, but who cares. Same rule applies as the morning: no e-mail or Internet.

    Study for an hour.

    If your boss frowns on one-hour lunch breaks, consider asking for permission because you are trying to study. Unless there are pressing deadlines or they are just a jerk, they will likely have no problem with it.


    This is where it will differ greatly based on your home situation. If you are single with no children, married with no children, or married with children but your spouse is at home, then this could possibly work for you.

    If none of these apply to you and you need to get home after work, then you will need to defer your study time until later in the evening from 9-11pm.


    At 7pm – or as soon as culturally-permitted in the workplace during Tax Season, either start studying at your desk or bolt the office and head to a coffee shop or library.

    Study 2 hours.

    Do this four days a week, staying late 2 of those days.

    Take Friday night off.

    Sample schedule:

    Monday: ELL – 4 hours (Study late @ work)
    Tuesday: EL – 2 hours
    Wednesday: ELL (Study late @ work) – 4 hours
    Thursday: EL – 2 hours
    Friday: EL – 2hours
    Saturday: None
    Sunday: All Day – 6 hours

    Total: 20 hours

    If your family is feeling left in the dark from you studying all of the time mark this schedule on the calendar and let everyone know your plans.

    When you study – study.

    When you?re with your family, leave the laptop and study books put away.

    If you’re reading this and shaking your head because you struggle just to find 5 hours to sleep and eat during busy season, then this plan isn’t for you and you probably shouldn’t study for the CPA Exam during this time.

    I realize that this isn’t a perfect system that will fit everyone’s schedule exactly, but if you want to make a “go” of it during Tax Season, then hopefully this will give you some sort of game plan to follow.

    Adjust accordingly to your life circumstances.

    Jeff Elliott another71Jeff Elliott is a Licensed CPA (KS), who worked two tax seasons before he escaped through the emergency exit door and then got lost and couldn’t find the building again.

    You can download his CPA Exam Survival Guide free.

    January 09, 2015 The Best of...

    2015 CPA Exam Changes: FAR AUD REG BEC


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    December 30, 2014 NINJA CPA Review

    [Video + MP3] Death and Taxes (Individual Taxation)

    MP3 Download (Right-click and Save): Death and Taxes

    VERSE 1:
    IRS, the taxes amounting
    Let’s go through cash basis accounting
    Allowed for individuals owning a business
    But corporations, they can’t get with this

    Carryovers, passive activity loss
    No carryback, no not at all
    Investment interest expense
    Is greater than investment income, yes, yea

    Installment sales
    Gross profit divided by contract price, that’s right
    Home Mortgage Interest, we doin’ it real
    Deductible on loans up to $1 mil

    Business Gifts, Schedule C
    $25 dollars per person, don’t ya see?
    Service awards up to 400 bucks
    Are deductible, yea that’s what’s up

    Death and Taxes, both unavoidable
    Death and Taxes, both unenjoyable
    You got Death, You got Taxes
    The IRS always coming after

    VERSE 2:
    Business losses are no fun
    But they only offset active business income
    Like W2, yea that’s true
    But Passive Losses, nah they don’t do it

    Conventions, personal property
    Equals mid-year divided by mid-quarter
    Honestly business start-up costs can ruin my day
    But at least I can deduct up to 5k

    Medical expense, paid on behalf of another
    Like a mother, father, or brother
    Then they don’t gotta live with you
    But if they more distant than a cousin, then yes they do

    Foreign income and real estate tax, schedule A
    They are deductible on tax day
    Investment expense doesn’t include interest expense
    So that I hope don’t forget

    VERSE 3:
    Tax audits, no statute of limitations for fraud
    Or failure to file, you did wrong
    Non-business bad debt, well
    It’s treated as short-term capital loss, STCL

    Tax refund claims
    3 years of return due date or 2 years of tax being paid
    Scholarships are not taxable if you took
    The money and used for tuition and books

    Need more NINJA Tunes? (of course you do).

    CPA Review

    November 26, 2014 NINJA Tunes

    [Video + MP3] Unmodified (Audit Reports)

    MP3 Download (Right-click and Save): Unmodified

    Unmodified, no longer unqualified
    These standards are clarified
    Financial Statements verified
    Yea, unmodifed, I gotta say welcome to the other side

    VERSE 1:
    Audit Reports must be in writing, must be signed and
    The location, city and state, where to find ‘em
    And the Unmodified Opinion
    The title must include “Independent”

    Who, what and when, management’s responsibility
    Fair presentation of financials, you feeling me?
    Internal control, design and maintenance
    Don’t forget the implementation

    Auditor’s Responsibility, GAAS
    Audit in accordance in the US
    Plan and perform the audit
    Obtain reasonable assurance, you better be on it

    Performing procedures to obtain evidence
    About amounts and disclosures, now you gettin’ it
    The info is appropriately presented
    But the auditor wants to bring something to attention

    VERSE 2:
    The modified opinion, the financial statements
    Is when they are materially misstated
    Unable to obtain sufficient appropriate evidence
    Just listen, yea here’s the mission

    Title, introduction, you see
    Management and Auditor’s responsibility
    Basis for modified opinion, audit opinion
    Modified opinion, we winnin’

    Referencing component auditor
    If group engagement partner assumes responsibility for their work
    Additional audit procedures, let’s do it, yes
    And performing risk assessments

    If group engagement partner doesn’t assume responsibility
    Gotta reference the auditor’s work, see
    Requirements for referencing that
    It’s gotta be in accordance with PCAOB

    Need more NINJA Rap Videos? (of course you do).

    CPA Review

    November 13, 2014 NINJA Tunes

    [Video + MP3] Economic Cycles (Supply vs Demand)

    MP3 Download (Right-click and Save): Economic Cycles

    It’s the E-C-O to the N – O – M – I- C -S
    Better do good on your test
    Supply & Demand, that’s the plan
    Economic cycles all across the land

    VERSE 1:
    Yo, let’s talk about supply curve
    When an item price increases, supply does for sure
    Positive Supply Curve Shift, shift right
    The market’s flooded with companies sellin’ all night

    Shift left for a negative supply curve shift
    Cost of producing an item increases
    If gold goes up, less gold watches are made, see
    Lower equilibrium GDP

    On the demand curve, when the price goes up
    Demand goes down, they don’t want that stuff
    If demand changes due to somethin’ other than price
    A demand shift occurs, ain’t that nice? Yea

    VERSE 2:
    Equilibrium price
    Quantity supplied = quantity demanded, yea that’s right
    Optimal production
    Marginal revenue = marginal cost, am I gettin’ through?

    When we’re talkin’ ‘bout the GDP
    Remember, that’s goods & services produced domestically
    Even a foreign company with a U.S. factory
    But a U.S. company abroad, that don’t get added on

    The consumer price index
    Gives prices relative to an earlier time, like when you chewed on Chicklets
    The GDP deflator
    Converts GDP to Real GDP, gettin’ that green, yea

    VERSE 3:
    The discount rate is the rate the bank gets
    When they borrow money from the Fed
    The prime rate, well that’s the rate that you’re gonna get
    If you’re a customer and they love you the best

    If the real interest rate is what you wanted
    Remember that’s inflation-adjusted
    The risk-free rate
    Takes into account certainty of payback on a certain date

    Currency, coins, and deposits, M1
    Highly liquid assets be M2, we havin’ fun
    A tariff is the imported goods tax
    The quota is the limit that they got you at, yea

    Need more NINJA Rap Videos? (of course you do).

    CPA Review

    November 06, 2014 NINJA Tunes

    [Video + MP3] IFRS: King on this Street (IFRS vs GAAP)

    MP3 Download (Right-click and Save): IFRS: King on this Street

    Get out your 10-key, Excel Spreadsheet
    Ninja CPA, we gonna beat
    Any exam, we achieve that feat
    IFRS be the king on this street

    VERSE 1:
    International Account Standards Board issues IFRS
    They do that and more
    The most authoritative place you can see
    That management looks for guidance accounting policies
    IASB Framework
    Yea, it helps to develop standards that work
    But it’s not a standard itself, no it ain’t
    Can’t supersede any standard’s authority
    Different people would reach the same conclusion, are you feelin’ me?
    Easy to use and understand, that’s the plan, let’s keep goin’ and
    Timeliness, uh
    I need that info on time so I can decide how to do things right
    IFRS don’t allow Extraordinary Items
    IFRS don’t allow LIFO, it don’t like ‘em

    Get out your 10-key, Excel Spreadsheet
    Ninja CPA, we gonna beat
    Any exam, we achieve that feat
    IFRS be the king on this street

    VERSE 2:
    Current Assets & Liabilities
    GAAP only requires intent, not execution
    Contingent liability
    Uncertain future events, those are contingencies
    IFRS, if “probable” and “measurable”
    Classified as a provision, please listen
    When it comes to timing or amount
    Payment is uncertain, and that’s for certain
    GAAP – probable, reasonably possible, or remote
    Yea, now you know
    Bonds can be recorded using one or two methods
    Fair Value through profit or loss, or amortized cost
    Deferred taxes
    Uses the liability method to do the taxing
    Only “probable” deferred tax assets get reported
    All others, yea it’s best to ignore ‘em

    Get out your 10-key, Excel Spreadsheet
    Ninja CPA, we gonna beat
    Any exam, we achieve that feat
    IFRS be the king on this street

    VERSE 3:
    The income statement
    Income, finance costs, profit/loss
    Discontinued ops and tax expense
    Non-controlling interest is what you get
    PP&E Valuation
    Valued using one of two options, let’s state them
    Cost model and revaluation model
    You can remember this if my lyrics you follow
    Pensions, defined benefit plans
    It calculates the PV
    Of the defined benefit obligation

    Need more NINJA Rap Videos? (of course you do).

    CPA Review

    October 30, 2014 NINJA Tunes

    How to Pass a Section of the CPA Exam in 20 Days

    Jeff-A71-2014Disclaimer: This is not a best practice, but if you’re under the gun, it can save your butt – and your 18 month credit that is expiring. I personally used this strategy to pass Auditing in less than three weeks.

    You wake up one sleepy Monday in August. June is a distant memory. July was a blur. In your groggy state, something begins to nag at you.



    What happens in August?

    Mental inventory: Car tag renewal … kids go back to school …

    … and then it hits you.

    “AHHHHHHHH – I have FAR in 20 days!!!”

    Your significant other pauses while brushing their teeth; tossing a weird look at you.

    You’re slightly embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as the time you thought you could sprint to the end of the driveway in your underwear to grab the newspaper, only to find your retired neighbors from three doors down are walking their poodles at 6:15am and they’re in your yard.

    “Why are they letting their dogs drop bombs in my yard?”

    “Why is this moron in his boxers? Kids these days…”



    How to Pass a Section of the CPA Exam in 20 days:

    1. Ditch your CPA Review videos. I understand that you dropped a small fortune on your video course, but hey – you procrastinated (we’ve all been there) and you have a lot riding on this next exam, so we’re down to only the absolute essentials over the next two weeks or so.
    2. MCQs, MCQs … and More MCQs. Set aside those long CPA Review videos and instead hammer out multiple choice questions until you abhor NINJA MCQ. Then, do some more.
    3. Take Notes. As you work a ridiculous amount of MCQs, know that each question presents four learning opportunities – why one option is correct and why the other three are wrong. If you get the question wrong, or if you think you’ll forget it over the next fortnight, write it down. Your grueling MCQ sessions should last 7-10 days.
    4. Re-Write your Notes. You are now approx. ten days out from your exam. Take the next three days and re-write the notes you took during your marathon MCQ sessions. Some people like to take the NINJA Notes and re-write them because they don’t like the set of notes that they created for themselves. Granted, this is tedious, but here’s the deal: you will absorb the material much better if you re-package it and re-consume it mentally that if you just glance over the material.
    5. More MCQs. You’re now approx. a week out from your exam and it’s time for some MCQ sprints. Think about what topics you hate their worst and pray you don’t see them on exam day and start with those. Do a random set of 20 of these questions to start. Let’s say that you are absolutely lost on Not-For-Profit Accounting (FAR), then do that first set of 20 and just click around on the answer explanations. Then, do another set of 20. Rinse & Repeat until you’re scoring 70-80% and then move on to the next topic you hate.
    6. Notes, Notes, Notes. You are now carrying your study notes or the NINJA Notes with you everywhere you go. Every spare second is spent studying. Driving somewhere? You’re cranking your NINJA Audio so loud the Cops will pull you over (this actually happened to one candidate).
      You also continue to do problem-spot MCQs leading up to the morning (I’m a big fan of the 1pm time slot at Prometric, btw) of your exam.
    7. PASS. You’re rolling into the exam center and instead of throwing a Hail Mary – you’re prepared. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t fun – it was 3 weeks of study hell, actually. As you sit there and dominate on exam day – it was worth it.
    8. Do a better job of scheduling your study time so that your next section of the CPA Exam isn’t this stressful.


    CPA Review

    August 03, 2014 Featured, The Best of...

    It’s Tough. It’s Worth it. It’s Good.

    another71I blasted this out to my email list late Saturday night when I was still working. So many people responded to it via email and on the Another71 Forum that I turned it into a blog post and I hope it helps motivate you as well – whatever obstacle you’re currently facing. – Jeff


    It’s Saturday night – straight up 10pm Central time.

    I’m not really where I want to be right now.

    I’m at my office about 20 minutes from my house.

    What am I doing?

    I’m working on the new NINJA Book.

    BEC to be exact.

    Performance Measures to be even more exact-er.

    (That’s a word, I promise.)

    In a moment of weakness a minute ago, I sighed and thought “yeesh, this hard work.”

    And then I immediately thought…

    well yeah it is, anyone can do something easy…it’s tough, but it will be worth it.”

    Most things in life worth doing … are hard.

    (Breaking News, I know.)

    However, we all need a reminder of that now and then.

    It’s tough, but it’s worth it – and it’s good.

    I wrote out a Proverb on an index card awhile back and put in on the kitchen sink one day for my wife.

    “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean…”

    We have six kids and as you can imagine…they make messes….they have fights.

    A lot of them.

    Being a parent is tough, but it’s worth it – and it’s good.

    Wherever you are right now

    … Taking the CPA Exam

    … battling drama at work

    … going crazy as a parent

    … trying to figure out what is next

    … I’ve been there in many cases.


    It’s tough, but it’s worth it, and it’s good – you just have to find the good and focus on it.

    Making this BEC book is tough, but it will be good when it’s finished – just like making the NINJA Audio was tough – but was glad when I was able to release it.

    Taking the CPA Exam is tough.

    (again, Breaking News)

    … it’s expensive

    … it’s boring

    … no one understands how horrible it is

    … getting up early to study is the worst

    … studying at lunch is the last thing you want to be doing (that’s supposed to be break time, remember???)

    … speaking of the NINJA Audio, you would rather listen to music again in the car, but you feel guilty (and you should)


    … oh, and studying on the weekends?


    …but it’s good because you have your sights set on bigger and better things and it is a vehicle to get you there.

    … Work drama

    … co-worker issues


    … boss troubles

    …. all are tough, but they’re good because:

    1. You will learn a lot from it if you approach it as a valuable learning experience and

    2. You have a job! A lot of people would kill for that right now.

    Whatever you’re currently facing that is tough … it’s worth it … make it good.

    Jeff Elliott, CPA [KS]

    Have a question about the CPA Exam (or how to survive taking 6 kids into Olive Garden)?

    You can Ask Jeff.

    February 08, 2014 The Best of...

    CPA Exam Failure: How to Recover and Retake

    Jeff Elliott another71This is from the CPA Exam Survival Guide, which is a free download to all Another71 readers.

    I know that right now is a miserable time and it is easy to start believing thoughts that simply are not true.

    Thoughts like youʼre not smart enough to pass, accounting isnʼt for you, the AICPA hates you and does not want you in the profession, etc.

    I personally felt all those emotions and had those thoughts going through my head as well. A few years removed from the exam process, I can tell you that being on the other side truly is worth it.

    My problem was always commitment to the exam. I wanted to be a CPA, but I didnʼt really want to be a CPA. (I had better things to do after a long day of public accounting like play Madden.)

    Picture yourself three years from now.

    Will this momentarily failure – be it a 55, a 71, or a 74, mean anything?

    No. It will be a distant memory and like most things, you look back at tough times with a fondness that wasn’t there when you were in the middle of it.

    This very well could be one of the toughest times you encounter in your career outside of getting downsized or laid off.

    Stay with it.

    It will pay off in the end. Just the sheer fact that you got this far tells me you are more than smart enough to pass this exam.

    Get up and dust yourself off. You’re tough. Youʼll be fine. Anyone can quit this thing. Quitting is simply not an option for you. It just isn’t.

    You scored a 60 or less:

    Is it hopeless? No way! It happens all of the time. It may seem like you’re the only one scoring this low, but I promise you that it happens more than you would think because I get the e-mails. They can’t talk to their spouse (who isn’t taking the exam). They can’t talk to their co-workers or boss (too ashamed). They e-mail me.

    They work through it. They pass.

    You scored a 71-ish:

    Are you 4 “points” away? No. There is a significant hole in your conceptual understanding of a few topics. You know what they are if you’re honest with yourself. They are those sections of your exam that you pray you don’t see on Exam Day.

    Start your study prep over and don’t cut any corners whatsoever.

    The same goes for a 74:

    Many people start looking for information on how to appeal an exam score when they score a 74 (or even a 73). Forget it.

    It’s fruitless.

    You could take another exam and get your score back by the time you get your appeal results.

    Let’s face it: there is a next-to-nothing chance the AICPA is going to overturn your score.

    I’ve certainly never heard of it happening, and if it did happen, I would have heard about it in the Another71 Forum.

    fail the cpa exam

    As you re-study, remember this:

    You’re not one “point” from passing.

    You’re 75 “points” away.

    You scored that 74 more than a month ago.

    Start over and hit it hard. Figure out what your weak area is and own it.

    Destroy it.

    As the late Zig Ziglar said, “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

    Never forget that.

    Final point: If you fail an exam, aside from a spouse or loved one, it’s no one else’s business unless you decide to make it their business.

    Tell your nosy co-worker to pound sand.

    (I have an attorney friend who says that a lot and I like it.)

    You lost an exam credit:

    My story…

    Losing credit for a passed exam is terrible. I know this first hand.

    I was so elated over passing FAR that I literally took a year off from the exam to celebrate.

    Not a smart move.

    After I started rolling and passed BEC and AUD, I came to my nemesis: Regulation.

    I had previously scored a 74 on REG and I was back for vengeance. My FAR credit was also on the line.

    Pass REG and I was done with the CPA Exam.

    Fail REG and I was back to having passed only two sections.

    Stakes were high.

    I fired up my laptop.

    Hit refresh on the NASBA Score page.



    Held my breath …


    I stared in disbelief. I wanted to throw my computer across the room.

    Not just across the room—I wanted to throw it through the wall.

    Is this a mistake?

    It wasn’t a mistake. I missed the mark.

    It took me several days, but I eventually owned my failure.

    I pretended like I didn’t have to pass FAR again because I dreaded re-studying for that thing so much.

    Given a choice between being water boarded and taking FAR, I would have taken the former.

    I hated FAR. I blocked it out of my mind.

    I realized a harsh truth about failing REG: I was failing because there were a few areas that I flat-out refused to study.

    I knew which ones they were, too: AMT, Like-Kind Exchanges, and 1231, 1245, and 1250 Assets. They were boring. I didn’t want to study them.

    I forced myself to study them and re-studied everything else again.


    I also re-passed FAR on my next attempt.

    Back to you…

    If you lost an exam credit, it only seems like it’s the end of the world.

    Mentally, you have to take inventory of what exams you’ve passed, not what you just lost.

    You lost credit for one, but you still have two exams passed.

    A lot of people would give their left pinky to be in your shoes.

    CPA Exam Fail: Recovery and Retake Recap:

    If you just failed an exam, it’s no one’s fault except your own.

    I don’t care what happened at the exam center that day.

    I don’t care how crazy work got the week prior to your exam.

    I don’t care how insane the simulation topics were.

    It’s your fault.

    Be accountable. There are no bailouts.

    Study Hard.

    If you fail … Study harder.

    If you fail again … Study even harder.

    I too struggled with the blame game but the faster I got over it, the faster I got back on the road to a 75 .

    (or a 92).

    Jeff Elliott is a licensed CPA (KS) and author of the CPA Exam Survival Guide, which is available for 3 easy payments of free.

    CPA Review

    February 07, 2014 Featured, The Best of...

    A Working Mother’s Guide to Surviving the CPA Exam: Part 1

    CPA Review

    Working mothers are in a category all their own when it comes to passing the CPA exam. We not only strive to balance work and family, but when you throw the CPA exam in the mix, you’re going down a road only few can fathom.

    We are the rock of the family. We provide financial support, comfort, nutrition, stability, refereeing, homework checks, matching socks, boo-boo kisses, clean toilets, chauffeur service, etc.

    We give everything our absolute all and no one notices when we skip a beat because we are that good. That’s why it was so difficult for me to accept I could not reach my unattainable level of perfection while I tried to pass the CPA exam.

    Something had to give. For instance, I had a semi-decorated house at Christmas and at another time, I was 3 points shy of passing this exam. Being successful at it all is not realistic, but rejoice in the small triumphs. Your children are absorbing your every reaction.

    Jeff’s site has wonderful tips for studying the material but here are some things I’’ve learned in the last 2 years to help along the way:

    1. This exam is a temporary situation.

    It may be miserable now but suck it up, study, and get it done as quickly as possible. Prioritize studying. My house is not as spotless as I like, but it’s livable.

    2. Make a study schedule and stick to it.

    Keep in mind you will need extra days for emergencies. If you think AUD will take you 5 weeks to prepare, schedule 6. When Junior gets head lice and can’t go to school, you know YOU are the one who will stay home with him collecting those lice eggs and sterilizing the bed sheets. Jeff has a free study planner here.

    3. Learn to say, “No”.

    When you are asked to be the Cub Scout treasurer, or tutor some college kid in accounting, or your in-laws want to visit the weekend before your exam, say “No. I’d love to, but I have to study for a very important exam”. I’ll miss the excuse when I’m done. Unfortunately, I’ve had to decline fun stuff too. Remember #1 – this is not forever.

    4. Take full advantage of kid-free time.

    Study when they are at school or asleep. If someone offers to keep your kids, let them. Make deals. For example, offer up an agreement to take your sister’s kids to the zoo after your exam if she’ll take yours right now.

    5. Flashcards or portable notes are a must.

    Those unexpected times when you are stuck at the pediatrician’s office, car line or some lame birthday party. For BEC and AUD, I had cheat sheets that I made copies of and left in the car, my purse, and on the mantle so I could always look at the topics that were pure memorization. Just looking at it a few minutes a day helps.

    6. If you love to shop like me, use the Internet.

    Nothing beats a study break where I can go online and buy tiger-printed, platform wedge heels and then go right back to my review. Now where will I wear them? To Prometric, of course.

    7. Don’t stress about dark roots and/or gray hair.

    Embrace a ponytail. Focus on comfort and convenience and not so much appearance. Put the People StyleWatch down for now.

    8. Find support from someone who knows what it is like to take the CPA exam.

    I don’t know anyone I can talk to about the exam except my cyber friends at Another71. If it weren’’t for all of you, I’d be alone in this and would have given up a long time ago. There is an incredible amount of support here.

    I’m halfway through the REG material and staying on top of my study schedule. Going back to the books now. More mama advice coming next week. Happy studying!


    See also:

    A Working Mother’s Guide to Surviving the CPA Exam: Part 2

    CPA Review

    January 19, 2014 The Best of...

    An Open Letter to all of my Friends and Family while I take the CPA Exam

    Dear Friends and Family,

    By now, you have probably noticed that there is something different about me. I’m conspicuously absent from family get-togethers, tailgating, happy hour, and sadly enough – even some of my kids’ school or sports events. If I haven’t seen you for awhile and we start talking, my mind probably drifts off into somewhere else, only to zone back in 20 seconds later as I nod and I try to fake like I know what you just said.

    Forgive me, it’s not intentional – it’s really not. If I had my choice, the two of us could sit down for coffee and chat for hours on end and you would have my complete undivided attention.

    You see, I am trying to accomplish something for my career and my future that is extremely draining on just about every level – emotionally, financially, physically, and even spiritually at times, I suppose. This thing is a monster. It’s the CPA Exam.

    When I went to college and earned my accounting degree, I could have stopped there and spent the rest of my life as a staff accountant. I didn’t want that. I wanted more for myself and my family. So, I decided not to settle for “average” and I went for it. I took the plunge and tackled one of the absolute hardest professional exams out there. Did I mention that it has about a 25% first time pass rate? Ask your doctor or lawyer if their medical boards or bar exam flunk around 75% of the people who step up and take it the first time. Yes, it’s that hard.

    Consequently, I’m going for this certification all the while trying my very best to balance working, being a husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, brother/sister etc. and there’s a good chance that I’m coming up short. This wears on me, trust me. I want this thing to be over yesterday. I hate the disappointing looks from my boss or co-workers when I fail. I can’t stomach telling all of you that the last 2.5 months of evening and weekend studying was all a waste because I failed and have to start over. It really makes me sick thinking about it, honestly.

    This letter is to let you know that I am trying my very best to get through this, so please stick with me.

    To my Husband/Wife:

    Of all people in my life, you are probably getting the short end of the stick. By the end of the day, after navigating grouchy bosses, crazy co-workers, and frustrated babysitters, it’s all that I can do to help get the kids ready for school the next day, fed, bathed, and in bed and still have some semblance of sanity left. As the clock hits 9pm, I suddenly realize that I have 2 hours of studying to do tonight if I want to keep on track and pass Financial Accounting and Reporting. I would say that I can skip it – but that’s what I said last night. As I head back to the study area, leaving you on the couch to make conversation with the remote control, I feel absolutely terrible and part of me wants to throw the books in the trash and come back out and join you.

    I need your support above all people. I absolutely cannot do this without your emotional encouragement. I’m a goner if I don’t have it. Please forgive me for making it seem like you are just above “paying the electric bill” on my list of priorities, because you really aren’t. In reality – I need to be more intentional. How about a Friday date night once a week where we get out of the house and no studying? We need that.

    To my Boyfriend/Girlfriend:

    Wow – this is probably not what you signed up for. That fun, out-going person that you knew has been replaced by a busy, over-scheduled grump that has a date with an accounting book six nights a week, it probably seems. Stick with me! If I was marriage material before the exam, I still am! I’m still that same person – I’m just incredibly stressed. Get me out of the house once a week – I need a life! Drag me away from those books. I need a break. When I do need to study, please hang with me and support me. Maybe you can take up something yourself and study right along with me? Let’s do this together.

    To my Friends:

    I know that I’ve been M.I.A. from going out, shopping, football games, The Office watch parties and overall, I’ve been a bad friend. Take this note as permission to call me up to do something sometime soon, and I’ll say “yes”. I’ll even leave my laptop at home.

    To my Family:

    I’ll be honest, I kind of like being able to skip out on family reunions. OK, that was a joke. Sort of. I miss seeing you – I just don’t miss those awkward conversations with Uncle Ted who I see once every three years. You know Uncle Ted and how he can be. I know that in the past when I called you to tell you that I had passed a section of the exam, you assumed that I was finished with everything. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are actually four sections to get through. I just didn’t want you to think that I was making up excuses to not see you by studying for something I had already passed. When this thing is all over and I’m a newly minted CPA, we’re all going out to dinner. (Just don’t invite Uncle Ted, please).

    I miss you all – I need your support!


    Your Husband/Wife/Boyfriend/Girlfriend, Brother/Sister/Son/Daughter/Grandson/Granddaughter/Nephew/Niece, Friend – Future CPA

    Jeff Elliott is a Licensed CPA and passed the CPA Exam in 2008 while working full time with and having three little ones at home. He also missed more than one family reunion in the process.

    CPA Review

    November 15, 2010 The Best of...

    CPA Exam Scores Expected (late) Monday Night


    The AICPA has released the CPA Exam Score Release Timeline for the January/February and April/May 2015 Testing Windows.

    Note: Scores typically come out at 1am (EST) on the target date.

    If this trend continues, then scores will be out late (very late) Monday night – February 23.

    January/February Testing Window:
    February 4
    February 24
    March 10
    March 18

    April/May 2015 Testing Window:
    May 5
    May 27
    June 9
    June 18

    Get the latest score release news in the CPA Exam Forum.


    • Please tell us about your CPA Exam status.
    • * = Required Field
    February 09, 2015 CPA Exam Scores & Results

    AICPA Announces First Live CGMA Exam Review Course



    The AICPA is hosting its first Live CGMA Exam Review Course.

    Key topics covered:

    The CGMA Exam – this section covers the skills and competencies that the exam will assess and the nature of the assessment and grading process

    Interpreting the pre-released case study – this section identifies the managerial and strategic issues facing the organization in the case and will anticipate likely exam-day tasks

    Strategic Business Management – the application of techniques of strategic management and strategic management accounting to the organization. These include methods of strategy formulation, the conduct of the corporate appraisal, dealing with stakeholders and issues of corporate social responsibility and business ethics, generating and evaluating strategic options, and the implementation of strategic performance evaluation measures

    Strategic Financial Management – formulation of financial strategy, considerations in selecting a financing strategy for the organization, capital structure, dividend policy, corporate finance including business valuations, mergers and acquisitions and asset valuation methods

    Strategic Risk Management – identification, classification and evaluation of business risks, managerial and strategic responses to risk including the use of internal controls to manage risk, management of financial risks including cash flow and capital investment decisions

    Effective business problem solving and communication skills- throughout the program the knowledge will be introduced in the context of business problems and the emphasis will be on developing reliable and compelling advice to the Board on how to ensure the survival and development of the organization.

    Date: April 20 – April 22, 2015
    Location: AICPA International Plaza – Durham, NC
    Recommended CPE Credit: 20
    Cost (Non-member): $1,520
    Cost (AICPA Member): $1,220

    More Details @ and

    February 09, 2015 CGMA

    Ask the NINJAs: California CPA Experience Requirements

    Dear NINJAs,

    I’m currently looking at a variety of jobs to fulfill the experience requirement in California.

    One job on my radar is an internal auditing position with a national construction company.

    Does internal auditing typically satisfy the attestation requirement?



    Dear Brian,

    It looks like this experience would fall under General Accounting Experience as defined by the California Board of Accountancy and not Attest Experience.

    Update: We reached out the CBA for verification and it will count for attest experience.


    Let’s look at what the CA BOA has to say about a few things:

    General Accounting Experience

    From the CBA: “For experience to count it must meet the scope of ‘providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills’ and is performed under the direct supervision and oversight of a CPA with an active license.”


    Internal Audit (we believe) would fall under this category.

    So – your direct supervisor would need to be a CPA with an active license, which might be tricky because many CPAs don’t keep their license up-to-date once they leave public accounting and really have no need to sign off on audits or tax returns (because let’s face it – CPE is a pain).

    If your direct supervisor is an active CPA and will sign off on the experience – then you should be fine ~ assuming you don’t want to be able to sign off on attest engagements, which leads us to…

    Attest Experience – 500 Hours

    From the CBA: “For attest experience, the applicant to demonstrate the ability to understand the requirements of planning and conducting a financial statement audit or perform other attest services with minimum supervision that results in an opinion on full disclosure financial statements.”

    Of course…there’s also…Pathyway 1 vs Pathway 2 to consider.

    The Bottom Line

    The CBA’s response to our tweet changes the entire scenario. Your experience would count towards the attest experience requirement.

    For anyone else who can’t make the attest experience happen, you might consider getting the general license first – and then if you really want the attest-signing abilities later on, you can add the attest experience.


    From the CBA: “…you can add the attest experience at a later date (after receiving the initial license). You will need to have your supervisor complete and submit the attest experience form to the California Board of Accountancy. The California Board of Accountancy will have to review and approve the quality of your experience before you would be able to sign an audit or review.”

    One more link:


    Each state does things their own way. It’s a Uniform CPA Examination, but it’s not uniform licensing. Ultimately, it’s up to the state to make the determination about your experience and it’s probably a subjective process, so always contact your state board first before making any sort of career move based on work experience requirements.

    -The NINJAs

    Have a question for the NINJAs?

    Send it here and Jeff will forward it to them via Carrier Pigeon.

    Get more Ask the NINJAs

    January 29, 2015 Ask the NINJAs

    Forum Spotlight: Regulation

    January 28, 2015 Another71 Forum

    Ask the NINJAs: Scheduling REG with Expiring BEC Credit

    Dear NINJAs,

    My BEC CPA Exam section that I passed previously is expiring on 01/31/2015.

    I am planning on taking Regulation on the same date 01/31/2015.

    Will I lose BEC if I take it on the same day? I called Prometric and they said I will not lose BEC if I take Regulation on the same day but I wanted to confirm with you also.

    Thanks for your help and keep up the good work!



    Dear Fyose,

    You’re in good shape (assuming you pass REG – no pressure, or anything).

    According to NASBA: “You have until the end of testing on the day your credit expires (emphasis added). Remember, when scheduling your examination, some testing centers are not open on weekends or holidays. For some jurisdictions, the expiration date for conditional credit may fall in a non-testing month.”

    You have a few days until your exam, so make the most of it.

    We NINJAs want to send you some free Individual Tax notes, which makes up approximately 16% of REG according to the AICPA’s 2015 CSO.

    In return, we ask for 16% of your celebratory REG cake (we NINJAs are partial to cheesecake, which technically isn’t a cake…we get that).

    -The NINJAs

    Have a question for the NINJAs?

    Send it here and Jeff will forward it to them via Carrier Pigeon.

    Get more Ask the NINJAs

    January 28, 2015 Ask the NINJAs

    Prometric Closings: January 28


    Prometric has closed some testing centers due to winter weather.

    January 28, 2015

    Bangor, ME 5119
    Boston, MA 5135
    Boston,MA 5235
    Brockton, MA 5194
    Brookline , MA 5332
    BROOKLINE, MA 5331
    Burlington, MA 5855
    Concord, NH 5148
    Cumberland, RI 3903
    Glastonbury CT 0048
    Glastonbury CT 5480
    LOWELL, MA 5180
    North Andover, MA 2504
    Warwick, RI 5805
    West Springfield, MA 2525
    Worcester, MA 0005

    Keep tabs on the updated list here as winter weather rolls in this week.

    January 27, 2015 News

    Forum Spotlight: AUD

    January 27, 2015 Another71 Forum
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