December 28, 2017 at 9:23 am #1686739
Does anyone have advice for someone over 50, who have been out of school for 30 years?
I have been working in Finance for 30 years and have resin to the level where not having a CPA is hindering my advancement to an Executive Leadership level. I am planning on sitting for the CPA exam starting in February. It has been 30 years since I took most of my accounting classes. I work full time, but I am an empty nester. So I now have time to devote to this life goal.
Does anyone have advice on what is the best way to tackle this exam?
Which combination of review classes is best for someone needing a refresher on foundation principals?
I am finding that industry application so widely different then CPA principals tested. Any advice how to unlearn on the job principals?
Since I am not getting any younger, time is a factor. My goal is to go hard core, and plow through it fast.
I am doing FAR first (I feel the foundation will help me in the other tests)
Then BEC (should be the easy one for me, taking next because I might need motivation if a bomb FAR),
Then AUD (because it is fresher on my mind)
Then REG (most worried about, need the most time)
Any advice on study aids and methods for older learners would be appreciated.
I do have an hour commute to work, so podcasts would help. Has anyone found great audio lessons for long drives?December 28, 2017 at 9:53 am #1686763
I'm approaching 50 and just passed the last of the 4 exams. I too did it for professional reasons.
As someone who tried to do this 20 years ago before the govt took over, it has gotten much much much harder. You are in for a long haul.
Let me bulletpoint reply to you.
(#1) It might help to share your state. Be absolutely sure you have the education requirements. If an NASBA state, undergo an education review. My wife did. Even with her double Ivy League degrees, MBA from another Ivy, and having worked for two of the big NYC investment banks, they still wanted her to take 3.5 courses more. Yep, I'm serious about the .5 as they discounted half a course or otherwise managed to come up with that odd number.
Even with my Masters of Science in Accountancy and two other Certs in Accounting (former UPenn Wharton Program), they still had to review it twice to make sure I met all the education requirements. Though very American, one of my universities in New England followed a more traditionally English system. There was a sticking point about one course from that university meeting the state's requirements, due to the somewhat stuffy name the university had used for the course at that time- and not modernized on transcripts.
BE 100% SURE YOU MEET THE EDUCATION requirement per your state boards
. I think I had close to 220+ hours and they still felt I didn't quite make the 150hrs until they processed the one transcript they were missing. Even then, it was about 177? They'd shaved over 40 hours of various courses off my hours count.
(#2) You said, “I am finding that industry application so widely different then CPA principals tested. Any advice how to unlearn on the job principals?”
–Uhm…No. You will run into it a fair bit. I recently ran into it again on one of the exams. I knew what CPA / AICPA textbooks say, and I also knew the way it is really done >95% of the time on the Street. I was in such a rush, I did it the professional way. ON the way to the car after the exam, I cursed myself as I mentally remembered how they teach it and that it had been the answer under the one I chose- but was too cute and also violated their own rule of conservancy in accounting.
You are just going to have to have a switch in your brain for the way the CPA exams say do certain things. Their way vs the practical way differ now and then and can hurt you a little bit.
(#3) Budget more like 750 to 1000 study hours for the exams. Ignore whatever guidelines below that which you hear.
You will need a CPA exam course. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. I personally used Wiley. I found it too much information, too poorly organized, but it had huge test banks of questions. Part of why I needed so many study hours was because of the sheer quantity of information to chew through. <
strong>I highly advise cross training
. Have a primary, but mix it up with secondaries. I used Becker books and Ninja Testbanks as my secondaries. The Ninja testbanks differ a good bit from the Wiley ones, so a very good mix between the two.
For the FAR section of GOVT and NPOs, definitely don't use Wiley. Use Becker or something else, and the NINJA FAR testbank. I hated the Ninja FAR testbank because I believed it disproportionately weighs the weight of GOVT and NPO questions, but it was a perfect Wing-chun cross training for someone more accustomed to juijitsu.
You cannot PM on this board, but I will try and stay with this thread since I am very sympathetic to those of us who started this in midlife.
Ne'ODecember 28, 2017 at 10:06 am #1686778
If I were you, I would start with NINJA Assault- I think it is on sale for half price at the moment (16 more hours). Use the NINJA framework, and see where you are- the analytical software in the MCQs will show you your weak spots. There have been non-traditional people on this forum who nailed the CPA exams with just NINJA, but many of them worked in the field, so I think they had a good grasp of accounting in general. If you feel you need something more comprehensive after doing the NINJA framework, I would go with Becker or Roger. Gleim has excellent sims, but the lectures are so boring, and it is difficult to get through it all, especially for FAR. Roger has fantastic lectures and customer support. Becker has a great book, lectures are so-so, their customer service is crap and it comes with a hefty price tag. Most all of these study programs are based on test questions released by the AICPA every year, and there is a blueprint of topics for the exams on the AICPA website. Always be familiar with the authoritative literature before sitting for the exam- that helps tremendously with sims.
My situation was different than yours- I graduated school in 2015 and got my license this year at 45. I did great in school (3.86 GPA), but I will be blunt with you- it is difficult to retain the sheer amount of information you need in your brain to pass FAR in a 4.5 hour exam when you are older. With that being said, stay with it and don’t give up. I remember a couple of people on this forum who were over 50 and passed with just NINJA on their first go-around, however, I was NOT one of those people. I took a total of 11 exams. I passed REG easily because I had a lot of small business tax experience, took BEC twice, took AUD three times, and took FAR five times before I passed. My situation was influenced by some deaths in my family, but it was just difficult to retain everything needed for test day. Toward the end, I realized I needed to refresh everything right before walking into the exam, so I used the NINJA notes. They seemed trivial compared to what I was studying, but for some reason that helped tremendously. I guess keeping the details straight was more of a problem than I realized in the beginning.
One thing to remember is that everyone is different, and you need to figure out your best learning style in order to be successful. I tried a lot of different approaches, so don’t be afraid to change it up if something is not working for you. The last time I took FAR, I bought Roger Cram, and it was great to have a different perspective. I had started with Gleim and CPAExcel in school, Becker after school, supplemented with NINJA every time after I found it, and ended with Roger Cram. I also exercised and tried to eat right throughout my journey. Hopefully, you will be more successful than I was at passing, but again, don’t give up and it will happen.
Good Luck!!!!December 28, 2017 at 4:11 pm #1687303
I am proof that this exam can be passed (eventually) despite studying only 1-2 hours a day without a review course. I'd just try a section first to get an idea of what you're up against. You'll find that it's both easier and harder than expected.
But be prepared to fail at first, and fail hard – unless you're of course one of the blessed ones. Good luck!December 28, 2017 at 5:13 pm #1687354December 28, 2017 at 9:51 pm #1687579
AnonymousDecember 28, 2017 at 10:58 pm #1687640
@ponyup – always nice to see a post like this – a refreshing change from the usual topics that get discussed on here. I'm 41 this year. At present, I am on a hiatus from studying due to life in general. I finished school a few years ago, and (unwisely) did not do the exams right after finishing. Accounting is my second career and second BS degree; I got my first BS degree about 18 years ago. I'm a staff accountant at a big real estate company that has a lot of upward mobility (although I'd need the CPA if I wanted most of those jobs sometime.)
Anyhoo – sounds like you're on the right track. I hope you work as long as you possibly can…if you get the license within a year or two, and still show up for work at age 70+, you'll have had a good 20 years of higher earnings and the “glory” that comes with CPA licensure.
You're wise to start with FAR. I'd recommend that to anyone. I'd do AUD or REG next, and BEC last. Some people say to do BEC first. But, I would say that's not real wise nowadays. BEC was a much easier test until 2017. It's gotten harder this past year, with the exam format changes. But, it's a better one to end with because it wraps up everything business-related, and is generally not the powerhouse that the other three tests are…or, at least it was like that earlier.
Yes, you will have to work hard on FAR and REG especially. Absolutely. Not impossible, but very difficult. Even at my age, memorizing everything for FAR – all of which I'd learned in school but a lot of the finer points were forgotten – was monumentally difficult and I have not yet passed FAR. I was never one for flash cards or mnemonics. I took lots of notes, but sadly, I found that I took so many that I had no time to review them again (I'm talking at least 1 ream of paper!)
As far as a review course – I'd say just pick one. I looked at Roger, Gleim, and Becker. I chose Roger. There are things I like about it and things I don't. I won't recommend any of them. Just pick one that seems good to you. Beware though, Becker is horrendously overpriced. I think Gleim is $999 for access-until-you-pass whereas Becker is $3,300 and I don't even think they offer packages for more than 18 months, unless you purchase an extension for even more money.
Best of wishes to you. I don't post here nearly as much as I did at one time but you may find some good advice. I wouldn't rely too heavily on the suggestions of others, with all due respect.
You have to find what works for you personally. I used to find that I'd ask a question and get diametrically-opposing answers. What's good for the crocodiles ain't always as good for the alligators.December 29, 2017 at 12:13 am #1687681
I would take the hardest exams first, you don't want to be towards the end of your 18 month period having to pass a section that you would find difficult, good luck.December 29, 2017 at 1:36 pm #1687870
@Ne'O – Congratulations on Passing!!!!!
I have done extensive research on the best state to sit for the exam. Passing the four exams is my first priority. After that I will fulfill the license transfer requirements to Texas. Since I do not plan on doing taxes or attestation services, I am less concerned with a particular state. I have been surprised at how many VP’s and CFO’s in Corporate America are actually licensed in other states. My boss is licensed in New York, my VP is licensed in Ohio, and my CFO is licensed in California.
My end goal is to transition from corporate finance to either consulting or college academia as an instructor. Age discrimination in corporate America is rampant, so I am looking at a second career that is more age friendly environment. I have applied to sit in Colorado; they have friendlier criteria to sit while still completing the education requirements.
For the review classes, I have discovered that a lot of them have 2 week trial offers. I have been working my way down the list utilizing the trail periods. This has helped me to discover how my learning style has changed over the years.
Wiley definitely has the best lectures. I have appreciated the small bit size format. However, they constantly have server issues. Nothing is more frustrating than having time set aside to study; only to find out the information is not available. I have appreciated the ability to download multiple choice questions.
It’s been frustrating that most of the companies force you to buy the big package instead of selecting the optional add-on features. It has been hard to find only recorded lectures.
One benefit to leaving in Dallas is Half-Price-Books. They always have a great selection of Textbooks. I am really careful to watch the copy date. But this has given me a chance to have great resource materials for areas where I am lacking knowledge.
The best advice I have seen is to create a large bulletin board or dry erase board. This way I can post visual images as I work through the problems.
I also started to create my own flash cards. I found color coding and drawing diagrams has helped.
PonyUPDecember 30, 2017 at 6:45 pm #1688177
It is good you have CPAs around you. That will help.
I'm surprised Wiley lectures and servers are failing you. Over 18 months of studying, there were a number of annoying issues- but I only think I ran into “down server” once.
Color coding did help me. Usually the first pass through the books, I stuck to yellow highlighter and black finepoint pen for notes.
After doing some quizzes and short exams, the second pass through books would have me using different red or blue inks to add to the layer of notes.
Items I discovered from the quizzes to be particularly important might get further highlighted with pink. I tabbed up my Wiley FAR book, and photocopied some of the better Becker parts to tape into the Wiley.
Do whatever works for your learning style. Both my Audit and Far books are someone dog-earred and marked up fiercely.
Just early on try to develop a hierarchy as to how you mark up the books. Yellow highlighting 1/3rd of every page defeats the purpose. Also using 5 or 6 highlighters just turns your book into a bowl of Fruit Loops between 2 covers.January 1, 2018 at 8:57 am #1688446
Thanks Ne'O that really helps.
I am surprised at how our learning styles change as we get older. I have found that I am needing to round out my learning with multiple styles. When I was younger I could read and memorize faster. It definitely doubles the time it takes to prepare for this exam.January 1, 2018 at 10:12 am #1688459
You’re not alone. I’m not over 50 yet, but will be in just 2 years. Eek! 😄
Anyway, I’m with you regarding the learning style. I also have trouble retaining what I’m reading/studying. It takes me 2-3 times to read each topic to get what I’m reading and even then the retention is too short. I can’t remember everything that I have studied last month. To help me “remember”, I practically write post-it notes of those important topics and post them around the house where I can see them constantly. In the kitchen counter, in the fridge, in the mirror, everywhere. They’re the first thing I see when I woke up and the last thing when I go to sleep. These were unnecessary when I was young. I could have memorized the entire book by now were I’m 30 years younger.
You can do it, the fact that you can study full time is to your advantage. I work full time and am a single mother of 3, but managed to get through AUD. I’m tackling BEC next. I found it really challenging because of the vast topics involve – by the time I’m studying Financial Management I already forgotten most of what I studied in Economics. Plus the IT part is very foreign to me. It is very frustrating.
Hammering Ninja MCQs helped me a lot with AUD, I’m hoping it will help me with BEC as well. I will find out next month.January 2, 2019 at 9:20 am #2141776
Ponyup – Just saw this post and I am very much in the same boat. Turned 50 this year and have just passed my first section (BEC) last month. Now working on FAR. Just wanted to touch base with you and see how it is going a year later.January 3, 2019 at 11:41 pm #2147107
Hey Pony Up
I commend you for taking up the CPA challenge later in life.
My advice would be to tackle your weak area first (REG and FAR seems to trip up many people but BEC and AUD trip up others). The last thing you want is to have all tests passed except for your Achilles (and then start losing the others due to expiration).
I purposely strategized in that manner and gave it my all to pass my weak area first (REG). I view it as smoother sailing for the remaining exams.
REG And FAR both have the disadvantage of info overload as compared to the other exams.
Plan accordingly and good luck!January 4, 2019 at 9:12 am #2147470
Very familiar story to me. I am 51, in Finance and saw the need to update my background with the CPA for advancement. Fortunately, the hedge fund I was Controller at folded which prompted me to start CPA study and take a hiatus – which included traveling the world – over the past 2 years. I am finally on my last section (REG)! I do have 2 young kids, wife, house, yard work, and a life which only adds to the “work”load.
What helped me was using Roger and working with a tutor. I've also purchased Ninja notes to augment my studies. I can honestly say that all 3 have been very beneficial. It can be done.
Good Luck!January 4, 2019 at 10:12 am #2147566
I passed my last section at age 46 and it was totally worth it. Got a better job with great benefits and fewer hours making roughly 50% more money. Getting my CPA was the best investment I've ever made in myself, much better use of my time and money than the MBA.
Specifically, I used Becker with Ninja MCQ's for a couple sections. I can't stress enough how important the support I got from my wife was. I had a 5-year-old daddy;s girl at the time and my wife went above and beyond to keep her occupied while I studied.January 7, 2019 at 10:08 am #2152579
I am older CPA exam taker while working full time – I took REG first, BEC, AUD, then FAR. I scheduled REG and BEC a month apart. I took my time studying for REG, 6 weeks, because I didn't want to fail and got an 86. I planned on studying for both at once, but ended up all REG. I gave myself 3 weeks to pass BEC and that was a brutal few weeks of studying, but I passed with 80. I almost stopped the CPA exam (different story), but ended up scheduling my last two, AUD and FAR in month 18. So a lot was riding on these exams. I spent 4 weeks on FAR leading up to the exam, 88. And only 11 days on AUD leading up to the exam, 82. REG and AUD were the easiest exams for me.
REG is very predictable, but lots of material.
BEC is very unpredictable, but good ‘test takers' can get through this exam. Take more time on this if you are not good at MCQs.
FAR is challenging and requires confidence and a clear mind. This is actually the only place where my college education was practical.
AUD is a skill. If you know how to audit, then this exam material is easy to retain.
During this time, I worked 9 to 5, studied from like 6 till midnight, everyday, and then studied for 10 hours on the weekend. I basically locked myself in CPA Exam jail for weeks at a time, but that was my method of preparing.January 9, 2019 at 1:53 pm #2156632
I'm not 50 but I'm in my 40's-I am just starting the CPA journey and I am overwhelmed already!
How did you find a CPA review to fit your needs?
I am paying for this myself so Becker is out. I need something “cheap” and will do the trick-
I plan on taking REG first as I work in Trust Tax and feel like this will help.
I don't even know where to begin in terms of study plan…no I do not know any CPA's so I'm all alone
Any advice ???January 11, 2019 at 4:46 pm #2160184
Hi, I just recently passed all four parts at 39 and being out of school for 17 years, so kind of the same situation. I would recommend taking FAR and then AUD or REG and BEC last. BEC took more time than anticipated to study for but the other parts all are kind of intertwined and build upon each other so you will find you know some things on AUD or REG from FAR. Also, I used NINJA monthly for all four parts and passed the first time in about 9 months.
The method that worked for me was just doing as many MCQ's as possible and making sure I knew why I missed the problem and then making sure I could apply the concepts in different problems. For FAR I read all the books, but truthfully I didn't get a lot out of that and found by taking lots of notes while working out the problems really helped. Another thing I think was so helpful was doing the AICPA practice exams and really understanding how to get the answers, not just regurgitating information. Also, I planned for one test a quarter and told myself there was no changing dates or second guessing the time line, I think that really helped when nerves started setting in.
Good luck with your studying!January 14, 2019 at 8:47 am #2163760
Thanks for the advice-I was going to do REG first then FAR-which review did you use?
I'm thinking Gleim but may do Wiley-
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