February 5, 2019 at 3:18 pm #2202232
This is my first and last topic on this forum as I'm finally done with my 4 year CPA journey this past December. I lurked on this website nearly every night reading about other people's L's & W's and it gave me hope that I was not alone and more importantly that passing it is NOT impossible. It took me a total of 16 attempts to pass this exam after multiple score expirations and peaks/troughs of a life in public accounting. I’m taking this moment to finally give back to this forum from which I have gained a wealth of knowledge. I would like to share my experience and strategy with candidates that are also facing dread and defeat so that you can overcome that mindset and keep grinding.
Below is the sequence of my CPA journey which outlines what did not work for me and changes that I made in my study habits and lifestyle to finally slay this beast:
What was NOT working – Firm paid for the Becker just like majority of you and I followed the instructions on the package – watch the videos, do the questions…Practice test, etc. This method bored me to death, the lectures did not sink into my memory and I simply did not have to stamina to go through the entire course and then sit for the exam. I was experiencing burn-out and taking forever on each section, 2 – 3 months for FAR. I would begin to forget what I learned in earlier chapters and have no time to review going into the exam. This struggle repeated for almost 3 years during which I managed to pass 2 exams and then lose them as I celebrated by taking my foot off the pedal and cruising, little did I know that time flies in public accounting. I continued to sacrifice health, social-life and PTO to repeat this cycle over and over without any real progress.
What worked – I almost tapped out many times but I understood that what I really needed to do was break the cycle and eliminate what was not working. I used PTO and leave of absence to focus on the exams without any distractions. I threw away all my notes and flashcards that I created with the old method and started fresh. I finally gained Ninja access and followed Jeff’s strategy with slight modifications:
1) Did not study at home – Home was a place to chill/relax, too many distractions. I assigned a designated study spot where I meant business. I chose a quiet area in the library and also studied at the same time everyday. I would study for 1 hour and take a 5 minute break by getting up and stretching/walking. Treated it like an 8 hour workday on my days off with an hour lunch in-between. I left my cell-phone in the car and ensured my laptop only has internet access to the ninja website and Becker. I also exercised before studying everyday as it gave me mental clarity and I took Sundays off from studying.
2) Created an excel sheet – This sheet tracked my scores for each chapter progress tests and HW with a running percentage – the goal was to get an average of 80% for each chapter with a goal of completing 3000 MC’s before targeted exam day.
4) Took notes – I grabbed a blank printer paper and drew a line through the middle, on the left – title, key-words and on the right – definition and examples, etc. I followed the Becker book with the annotations already made by the instructor along with Ninja Notes to hand-write whatever I thought was important (Bolded, Pass keys, examples, formulas, JE’s with descriptions) in my own words. I did this for each section (F1 – M1, M2..). This was the most important modification that I made for memorizing and retaining information.
5) Did questions – After taking my own notes I would do questions for that section. However, I would not do all questions, only 30 Max and I would mark the ones that were wrong and move on.
6) Progress Tests – After finishing 2 chapters, I would take a progress test on the previous 2 chapters.
7) Review – After finishing all chapter notes and HW I made a plan to review by reading my notes for each chapter and completing all unanswered/incorrect questions in becker along with the Skills Practice. I only did 1-2 sims for that chapter if I thought it was likely to be tested in the Sims format on the real exam. The remaining Sims I merely read the sim questions and answers to obtain a general understanding.
8) Ninja Review – After completing all questions in Becker, Every day I would take multiple practice tests in pairs of 2 chapters within Ninja and Becker for the chapters I have a running % below 80% in my excel sheet and then smart practice tests (I forgot what ninja calls it – when it chooses to target your weak areas) including all chapters within Ninja.
9) Final Review – After I am nearing 3000 MC’s and I have read my Notes 4 times, I would read my notes for the 5th time and take all 3 of the Final Exams in Becker Software with days in-between the final exams utilized to do more practice exams targeting my weak areas by using Ninja and Brainscape flashcards via mobile app.
a.(Great time to practice time management, when doing these practice exams, use a timer and only give yourself the same amount of time you would for 30 MC’s on the real exam) I have seen many candidates say final exam is waste of time but IMO it is absolutely necessary to master time management (This was my BIGGEST struggle even on the exams that I went absolutely prepared for, I would run out of time) and for me this was the only time I got to practice simulations.
b. At this point in my review, I should not be missing too many questions, therefore If I missed a question there is something flawed in my understanding of that concept. I would take a screen shot of that particular question and paste it in excel and below I would write down why I got it wrong and what I should have done instead. Also, apply these questions to your clients/work-place to better understand its purpose.
10) Test Taking Strategy:
a. Request NASBA to allow you to use paper/pencil for scratch paper, this certificate will be active for 12 months.
b. Read the question in whisper, the stem first (identify the call of the question!) then read facts. Read all answers, in whisper and then read? again – Eliminate all wrong answers (you can easily eliminate 2 wrong answers). Use T-Accounts on your scratch paper, write down JE’s by hand.
c.Skip hard ones – mark B or C, flag & come back in the end. Do NOT spend more than 1.5 minute on one MC, if you don’t know, move on.
d. Follow similar strategy for sims in which you really have to try to understand the question and NOT get lost in the sauce. The exam overloads you with extra documents, etc. Read the question, observe all the documents, Read the question again. Solve the Sim by focusing on one question at a time. Give yourself at least 2.5 Hours for the Sims.
e. Get up and stretch after each testlet for a few seconds to sit back down fresh.
f. Take 2 exams per window if possible. One in the beginning and one in end. This method ensured efficiency and effectiveness.
Immediately after changing my strategy, I passed all my exams on my first attempt.
Do not give up, remember why you started this journey in the first place. Stay focused and disciplined. It took me 16 attempts as I was setting myself up for failure by not putting in quality time that this exam demands. Figure out what works for you by keep refining your study habits.
Thank you Jeff and all the other candidates for your wisdom and motivation – bless you all!February 5, 2019 at 3:26 pm #2202262ReckedParticipant
Excellent write up, thanks for sharing.February 5, 2019 at 6:36 pm #2202643CH89Participant
I agree, this was an excellent write up. Your story motivates me, and I appreciate the small bits of advice. Congratulations on passing!February 5, 2019 at 7:34 pm #2202718SuperCPAParticipant
Drake??February 5, 2019 at 11:38 pm #2203117February 6, 2019 at 12:48 am #2203162RaulBParticipant
Thank you Picklerick for your input! Congratulations on I want to know something and maybe someone else can help out. How can someone just study for 1 hour per day and that's it? I am curious to know of this.February 6, 2019 at 1:22 am #2203171
@RaulB Did not study for one hour, I studied in increments of one hour followed by a 5-10 minute break (Wanted to emphasize this break is important as my attention span only lasts 60 mins at a time) on days that I put in 8-10 hours. While I was working I did a practice test of 30 questions in the morning and then approx. 2 hours after work.February 6, 2019 at 6:21 pm #2204557kakooakkiParticipant
Thanks, I think I had almost the same experience as you and when I changed the to the strategy you mentioned above I passed 3 papers straight away, only REG left for me
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