March 8, 2019 at 7:02 pm #2256357
Yesterday when I received my latest score and posted about it in various study groups on facebook and there was an overwhelming response. In addition to the many congratulations (which were much appreciated), I received dozens of comments and messages asking me how I achieved the scores I did. In addition to posting this in those groups, I decided to make a post here sharing tips I’ve learned so far in this process and the strategy that is working for me. I hope it helps someone else somewhere along the way.
First, I believe there are two key factors to succeeding in the journey that is passing the CPA exam. The first is to figure out how you learn best. For some people, this means reading and taking extensive notes. For others, this means watching the videos over and over and not taking any notes at all. This part is different for every person and requires some trial and error. This also ties directly in to which review programs may be best suited for you so if you have not started a particular program yet, try the free trials of all the main options to see which one suits you best. I learn best by listening to audio and watching videos, because of this I quickly realized that Becker (the option offered on discount with my university) was not an option for me. Their video style just doesn’t work with how I learn. I ended up choosing to go with Roger instead (luckily I was able to receive a scholarship for part of it) but I also use NINJA as well.
The second most important factor, in my opinion, is to make a plan and stick to it. I don’t like Roger’s excel planner so I made my own for each section when I first started them. To make my plan I first determine my test date and how long I want to review so I know how many days I have to cover the material. I then take the amount of video (in minutes) available in my whole course and divide that by 100 to determine how many minutes of video make up 1% of my course (since Roger tracks your overall percentage complete). For example, in REG every 17 minutes of video is 1 percent of the REG course. I divide this out over my study period to determine how much I plan to do each day, taking into consideration holidays and stuff where I will have more study time available. Similarly, I divide the available MCQ and TBS up over the available days so that I cover them all once before the review period. I don’t actually schedule days off in my plan but if I decide I want a day off I just make sure I’m over a full day ahead on my videos and questions so that way taking a day off doesn’t put me behind. I will link a copy of my spreadsheet at the end of this post as an example.
So now, my story… I started with FAR and technically began studying in May of 2018 just after starting my graduate degree program. It took me a while to figure out how to study such a broad base of information effectively and I kept pushing back my test. I didn’t end up taking FAR until 11/04/2018 but by the time I did I had a much better idea of what to do next time. Because I had booked FAR and BEC on the same NTS I had to rush BEC. I studied only 29 days and sat for it on 12/05/18. This helped me realize that I remember information a lot better when I study over a shorter window of time. It gives me less time to forget the stuff I studied first. I took a break over the holidays and started AUD in early January. This time I had a lot better idea of the do’s and don’ts and followed the study structure I will outline below. I sat on 2/27 which I think was a pretty good timeframe for me and I’m following a similar timetable now for REG, about 7 weeks.
So here’s how I study: First I watch the Roger video for a section. Some videos I watch 2-3 times if needed to really get a good basic understanding of the material. Once I feel like I have that, I read the accompanying section of the book to help fill in details that might not be mentioned in the video. Also, I think just seeing the words on paper after I understand them helps with cementing the concepts in my head. Once I’ve covered a whole section I start doing questions on that section (at least as many my schedule says I need to do that day). I also try to throw in a MCQ set or two every few days that covers all the topics I’ve seen so far to help keep the older stuff fresh in my mind. I just do this over and over every day until I have covered all the material.
I never take notes on the lectures or book chapters because I don’t take in information when I write so it wastes too much time for me. If I get a question wrong my first time through I just wait and come back to it in a few days to a week and try it again. If I get it wrong a second time that’s when I will write the question down along with the answers and then why the wrong answers are wrong and why the right answer is correct. I don’t usually end up writing down many questions because most that I miss the first time, I get right the second time. I think I only had about 20 throughout all of AUD. However, the ones that do make that list I go over daily until I really understand whatever was tripping me up.
When I hit my review phase I start by watching sections of the Roger cram course and reading the cram textbook sections that go with it (though sometimes I skip the book sections here if I’m low on time) and mixing in random MCQ sets and TBS problems. Once I have gone through the whole cram course I just keep doing questions and if I don’t feel strong on a topic I’ll rewatch the regular course video or the cram video again. Sometimes if it still isn’t clicking I will search for another source of explanation for the same topic, like the NINJA book or videos.
Outside of my main study plan I also regularly look over the NINJA notes if I only have a few minutes to study or listen to the audio if I’m cleaning or driving or something. I also sometimes make my own flashcards on Quizlet (a free site) because I feel like the process of making them for the mnemonics and for anything else I feel like making them for helps me remember the stuff better than using premade ones. Then I also have them to look at while waiting between classes (I’m a full-time grad student in addition to working part-time) or other times when I can’t commit to a video or MCQ set.
That’s really all I can think of at the moment. Please remember that the study plan above is just what works for me and you will likely have to modify it to fit how you learn best. If you have questions feel free to ask. I will answer as best I can when I have time.
Here is the link to the copy of my REG schedule planner that I mentioned above:
P.S. Sorry if this comes out a giant wall of text, I don't know how to add breaks between paragraphs on these forums.March 11, 2019 at 6:18 am #2259747
Thanks for the awesome post @Rose Marie and congrats on the wonderful scores so far! Always nice to see someone's plan of attack who has done well. Did you feel Rogers videos prepared you enough, or was reading the book necessary for you as well? Also, do you use the Smart Path feature?March 11, 2019 at 2:16 pm #2260593
Cool post, I'm working on something similar. Your scores are awesome, much respect! Hope you get a 99 on REG 🙂March 11, 2019 at 9:50 pm #2261460
@jjjgolf500, You're welcome 🙂 I think the videos would have been enough to pass but I like seeing the information in print too as sometimes with the way my memory works I'll “see” charts or passages from the text in my head when doing questions and it will help me get the answers right. I only kind of use the smartpath feature. I do try to get every category to green before going into an exam but I pick my quizzes manually since I don't like how if you do 2 smartpath quizzes for the same section it will instantly give you the ones you got wrong the first time again so of course you remember the answer. I like being able to choose to only see new questions normally then every few days to a week I go back and do a quiz of just missed questions to see if I learn the stuff since.
@Jimmy Dugan, thanks! Your scores are great as well! Unfortunately, you need to average ABOVE a 95.5 for Elijah and even with a 99 I would only average exactly a 95.5 at this point but I'm still happy with how I've done and hoping REG is a pass on the first try in April so I can be done with this mess before I start work full time lol
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