75 on REG w/o studying bLaw–don't you dare do it

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    Scores were released last night and the results shocked me.

    First-time poster here. Couple caveats before I begin:

    –I passed REG on my second try. I didn't really study extensively or in-depth for REG#1 (result 65), but I did retain a fair amount of information via osmosis in preparation for R2.

    –This strategy of only studying taxation is /not/ a strategy. It's not even a gamble. I was fully prepared to move on to R3. This was a decision I decided to make because I needed to get my act together and if paying an exam fee multiple times for basically a glorified practice run was the only thing that was going to make me step up, I was going to do it. Also because there were four days in between my BEC exam (later cancelled due to snow) and REG2. I just got super lucky.

    With that said, this is really more of a guide to studying tax in the fastest manner possible. **After compiling a solid packet of notes**, I reviewed it & ate MCQs for only 4 days prior to my exam. if you are truly scared about the tax portion of the exam, here is what you need to do. Not only does this work for REG (if you do it properly and take your time, study law, etc), I did this with all the sections I have passed so far (AUD & BEC).

    1. Rewrite your book / lecture handout into a NINJA notes form.

    This is easier to do alongside video lectures, but if you lack the time for lecture, skip videos entirely. Once you finish looking at a section, open up a word document and rewrite that section in your own words. The goal of this step is to create a reference guide/cheatsheet that is tailored specifically for you and break the info down into smaller chunks–exactly what NINJA Notes are designed to do. The “problem” with NINJA Notes–and Jeff says this explicitly–is that you need a solid foundation from your review course. Make your cheat sheet as detailed as possible; ideally so you never have to look at the lecture again. Not only should you copy formulas/tables, include problems and make sure that cheat sheet can walk you through it. My tax notes–just the basics–were 10 pages long. Yours will likely be longer.

    I said I only did 4 days of practice, right? I lied to get you interested–it took me 2+ weeks to make my taxation cheat sheet packet and to get to a point where I felt like I was ready for practice. Not only that, I had retention from R1. I constantly referenced my cheat sheet with the end goal of removing these training wheels.

    A special note for REG/tax:

    Use page breaks for each type (indiv, partner, corp, S-corp*, est/trust). My Wiley'11 combines the two types of corporations in one chapter, but you can't do that if you want to pass. Specifically for your taxation notes, you need to create your notes such that you can find exactly what treatments apply to different entities. What do you do when you encounter a p-distribution problem? What would you do for a corporate distribution? An S?

    These differences and others like it are the heart of tax–4 days of hammering tax questions might sound really short to you, but most of those four days were spent on basis problems. If you can't recall the procedures off the top of your head, your cheatsheet should guide you. For complex items like these, I have whole problems in my notes.

    2. Print those notes out, buy colored pens, and start annotating.

    Work on MCQs. For each question you get wrong, flip back to that concept on your new cheat sheet. Review and use your pens to clarify what you wrote down. Remember–you want a one-size-fits-all formula to mastering your chosen exam, and the problems that your course covered are only a few out of many different ways the AICPA will test you.

    Among my notes, for instance, includes the handwritten “Hey, dummy: Guaranteed Payments have nothing to do with basis!!” –Hey, Jeff says it over and over–and I still forgot. If a concept wasn't in your notes to begin with, don't sweat it. Write it down anyway and move on. You'll remember next time.

    2 or 3. Create your own NINJA audio.

    Jeff's audio program is nice for helping you remember itty-bitty details once you get the whole picture. But to get to that level, record yourself reading the notes that you made above. Imagine yourself being the lecturer to the “you” in the car, or the “you” of next week. Ideally, you should have some space between finishing your cheat sheet and converting that to audio.

    The purpose of this step is to help you commit things to memory. You want to make sure that you understand what you wrote down a few days later. If you catch yourself pausing as you are recording, go back to your lecture, figure out what you were trying to say in your notes, and then annotate your cheat sheet in different-coloured ink. You don't even have to listen to your finished audio–the process is more important.

    4. Do use your NINJA tools if you have them.

    Only do as much work as you need to. If you already have NINJA audio, you don't want to create an entire program–you just need certain topics in greater detail. If you find that your cheat sheet mirrors your NINJA Notes (as it might for bLaw), just rewrite those.

    My point is that while NINJA is a great way to bridge the gap between course material retention and CPA exam success, it doesn't help you if you are struggling to retain your lecture information (Jeff's Step 1: Nail the videos). This is my personal fail-proof method of bridging point zero and lecture retention: do exactly what Jeff did and make your own NINJA system..to help you use the NINJA system.

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