How to Study For the CPA Exam (with NINJA)


Scenario I: How to Supplement with NINJA

You want your main CPA Review Course to do the heavy lifting, but give it a NINJA Boost. This is how you do it.

(Want to use NINJA as a standalone CPA Review Course? Skip to Scenario II on How to Study with NINJA Only)

N.

Nail the Concepts with your course lectures.

If something is confusing in your course materials, look it up in the NINJA Book or NINJA Notes.

Start listening to your NINJA Audio. Never drive to work without it on. You can listen to fun things when you're a CPA. Let that motivate you. 🙂

If your commute is 1 hour round trip, then that's 1 hour of NINJA Audio per day (and that's for the commute alone … if you can work and listen to the NINJA Audio: even better.)

Start reading the NINJA Notes in your downtime, especially at work. It's ok if you haven't studied the section before. It will all start clicking the third time through, regardless of where you are in your prep.

I.

Take Intense Notes over your lectures.

First Time? Retake? 15th Retake? It doesn't matter. Take Intense Notes.

N.

Non-Stop MCQ.

If this is your first time taking this exam, then do Non-Stop MCQ with your Course Test Bank and then in the review phase (A – All Comes Together), then you switch to NINJA and work backward, beginning with your weakest topic.

If this is a retake OR you've found yourself memorizing your Course MCQ, then switch 100% over to NINJA MCQ for this phase. When it comes time to do the SIMS, switch back and forth, according to which software you like better.

Again … if this is your first time taking this exam, use your main course MCQ for N (Non-Stop MCQ) and use NINJA MCQ for A (All Comes Together) as you review.

If this is your first time taking this exam and you're memorizing the test bank questions (which is really bad because it causes false confidence … you're scoring in the 90s, but on exam day, you score a 65 and can't figure out why), then switch over to NINJA MCQ 100% for both (N) and (A).

SIMS – First time or retake alike: switch back and forth between the two platforms.

J.

Just Re-Write Your Notes.

This phase is pretty much universal, no matter if you're going #fullNINJA or supplementing. If you took killer notes, re-write those. If taking notes just wasn't in the cards this time around and you did the best you could do, then re-write the NINJA Notes.

Make sure you start the process at least two weeks out from exam day and take no longer than a week.

A.

It All Comes Together.

If you're using your Course MCQ in the Non-Stop MCQ phase, this is where you switch over to NINJA MCQ (if you've already switched, then keep using it here as well).

Start with your weakest topics first and work backward. You can let the software feed you questions, but since you're in a final review phase, I recommend doing topic-specific mini testlets and really drill-down.

Do a set of 20 over your weakest area. If you're weak in several areas, then choose the one that keeps you awake at night first.

The one you DREAD seeing on exam day.

If you are hitting in the low-70s (70-75), then move on to your next weakest area.

The reason why you don't go for mastery here is that you have a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time for your review. It's better to get all of the topics into the 70s and then come back and hit them again vs get a few into the 80s/90s and run out of time before you can get to the rest.

For instance, if you're taking Financial Accounting and Reporting and your weak area is Bonds, then do 20 question mini-testlets until you're scoring in the 70s (which may take 3 or 4 sets) and then moe onto your next-weakest area, which might be Leases. Repeat this with Leases, and then move onto the next one – which might be Governmental Accounting etc.

As you head into your exam – hammer MCQ, and read the NINJA Notes every spare millisecond you have.

(Note – if you have 5 minutes to spare – DON'T spend it on Facebook…knock out two pages of NINJA Notes instead).

Everywhere you go – car, gym, sitting at your desk at work, it's NINJA Audio, NINJA Audio, and … you guessed it NINJA Audio.

(I get it – the content is boring, and my voice won't be confused with Morgan Freeman anytime soon, but hit Play anyway. You can listen to your Spotify Playlist of 90s Pop Hits AFTER your exam).

NINJA MCQNINJA NotesNINJA Audio on repeat…even up to the minute you leave your vehicle and head into Prometric (what if the extra 3 minutes of some nuance of Corporate Taxation was the difference between a 74 and a 75 on exam day?).

THEN … walk through those Prometric doors with confidence, barf out all of that knowledge in your head, and go sleep for 3 days.

You've earned it.

Here's what a few NINJAs had to say…

elijah-watt-sells-award
Olga Timirgalieva, Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner
Supplemented all Four Exams with NINJA CPA

NINJA MCQ – A must! Solving through all of the MCQ, understanding solutions, and adding new information nuggets to your notes — absolutely critical.
With the NINJA Notes, I printed out the notes and used as a knowledge check closer to the exam. Information is high-level, so you can quickly run through and get a comfort level on what you should go back to review in detail.
NINJA Audio is nice to use during the commute or if you are an auditory learner. The Audio MCQ are nice to keep you engaged.”
 
– Olga Timirgalieva, Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner
(Passed the CPA Exam on the first try with an average score of 95.5*)

* Disclaimer – Not a typical result … Only 1 out of every 1,000 CPA Candidates win the EWS Award each year.
 
 

Rachel (Wiley + NINJA):

“I Passed BEC with an 84 first time! Combined Wiley and Ninja; Ninja non–stop MCQ really hammered home the content! Thanks Ninja…on to AUD.”

Kairra (Becker + NINJA):

“I passed AUD with an 88! Took about 3 1/2 weeks. Working full time while studying. I would say what helped was listening to the Becker lectures, do a few of those multiple-choice questions and then completing the ninja MCQs by topic. This method helped me identify the areas I needed help on. Thank you Ninja.

Kayla (Wiley + NINJA):

“I just found out that I passed BEC with an 81! I used Wiley and the Ninja monthly subscription! I think the NINJA notes, audio, flashcards, and MCQs helped me a lot. I took BEC before and used only Wiley and got a 58 so I definitely believe in the NINJA method and will be using it for REG and FAR!! I’m soo happy 2 down and 2 to go!!! This feels very doable now!!

Jarod (Becker + NINJA):

“Just found out I passed FAR, which was my last exam! I am DONE!

Thank you NINJA and thank you Jeff for the hard work that you and your team do. I wouldn’t have passed all 4 without you guys.

For those curious, here’s how I did it:

1st exam: REG.
Did everything in Becker, used NINJA to supplement: 81

2nd Exam: BEC
Did everything in NINJA, used Becker to supplement: 80. I really think NINJA MCQ alone would have been good enough for this.

3rd Exam: AUD
Studied NINJA MCQ, and notes, and used Becker MCQ as a supplement. 77. I also tubing NINJA MCQ alone would have been good enough for this.

4th exam: FAR. 61
Tried to rush through only NINJA MCQ and it didn’t work. I was also super stressed and had CPA senioritis.

2nd attempt: 79

Studied Ninja MCQ in depth. Studied Ninja book and notes. Used Becker MCQ and SIMS to supplement.

Again, thank you Jeff and the Ninja team. I would have never been able to do this without you guys!

Brittany (Wiley + NINJA):

“I passed BEC with an 88! I left the exam feeling so defeated because the test seemed completely different than what I studied. I have passed AUD (81) and FAR (91) as well. I have taken all 3 within 4 months while working a very demanding public accounting job. I don’t say this to brag. I say this to motivate anyone reading this that if you want this, you can do this. It is not for the weak. You have to put in the time and make those sacrifices. I used Wiley but have always supplemented with Ninja Notes and Audio (sometimes MCQ’s). I would definitely recommend doing Ninja MCQ’s for BEC as I think they cover it better than the Wiley test bank did. Study every minute that you get (before work, lunch, after work, etc.) Anytime I am in my car I play the Ninja audio and listen to the sections multiple times. I am rooting for all of you!!”

Scenario II: How to Study (and Pass) with Only NINJA

Ready to take the plunge and go with Only NINJA?

You're in Good Hands.

Let's break this down step-by-step.

Step 1: (N)INJA – Nail the Concepts

Read your NINJA Book for two weeks max. Create a per-day study budget according to how many days out of the week you're going to study.

Are you going to study five days a week for those two weeks?

Great. That's ten study days.

Just using a nice round number, assume a book has 500 pages. That's 50 pages per day.

By 50 pages per day, I mean reading … skimming … going over examples … skimming some more … application questions.

Make sure you hit your daily budget!

This is where you deploy two other NINJA weapons: NINJA Notes and NINJA Audio.

You want to consume each of these as many times as possible between now and exam day.

Have a 30-minute commute each way? That's 5 hours of NINJA Audio per week, which is at least one listen all the way through, depending on the section.

Load it onto your phone and listen as much as possible.

At the grocery store? Earbuds (Airpods) + NINJA Audio.

Doing laundry? NINJA Audio.

At the gym? NINJA Audio.

Going to sleep at night? NINJA Audio (a side benefit is that you'll fall asleep faster than ever before).

NINJA Audio.

NINJA Audio.

NINJA Audio.

People tell me all of the time, “I kept hearing your voice on exam day.”

(They also tell me that their kids hate the NINJA Audio because it's always on. #winning)

Similarly, load the NINJA Notes onto your tablet, phone, and if you want to – print them out.

Read them constantly.

Some people don't like the fact that sometimes they are listening/reading material in the notes or audio that they haven't yet covered in the book.

Two things here:

1) When you do cover it, it will make more sense.

2) The repetition over time will pay big dividends, I promise.

Notes Notes Notes.

Audio Audio Audio.

Your kids and significant other will be sick of my voice, which will cause them to celebrate even more once you pass and they chant, “no more ninja!”

Step 2: N(I)NJA – Intense Notes

If you've already plunked down a few thousand on a CPA Review course, you likely had study videos, and you probably took notes.

When the instructor said something interesting, you wrote it down.

Same thing here.

As you see things in bold, or something in an example that catches your eye – write it down.

I recommend buying a big stack of legal pads and going to town on them.

Keep in mind that taking notes is still part of your daily budget. Using 50 pages as an example – you still have to hit it even though you're taking notes in addition to reading.

Very Important: If you find yourself getting bogged down and can't quite get through the book at the budgeted pace: That's ok. It's normal actually.

Keep going.

After your two weeks are up, punt the book and move on to the MCQ. You can make up lost ground there.

Step 3: NI(N)JA – Non-Stop MCQ

MCQ. MCQ is the most critical step in your CPA Exam prep. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either confused or has another agenda.

You can read the NINJA Book all day long. You can watch XYZ review course videos about ABC topic, but one thing is for sure:

The multiple-choice questions in NINJA MCQ are from past exams.

Yes, they are theoretically retired questions (but come on, you can only ask a question about Bonds or Leases so many different ways), but these are actual concepts that the AICPA has tested on in the past.

Concepts are wonderful.

Concepts that have been tested are wonderful-er. That's a word.

What I mean is this:

NINJA MCQ is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. You must know the concepts in your software.

I recommend camping out in this middle stage 2-3 weeks.

If you miss a question: write it down.

If you get it right but think you'll forget it in 3 weeks: write it down.

You can make up for a lot of lost time by cranking on the MCQ.

What about the Simulations?

Good question. Let's talk about that.

I have never been a huge proponent of spending a lot of time on the Simulations.

I know some people disagree, and that's fine.

Here is why.

You can study 20 SIM topics and get none of them on exam day.

You are guaranteed to see your MCQ topics on exam day, and those same topics will be tested in the SIMS.

Consequently, I believe that if you are conceptually-sound enough to master the MCQ, then you can apply that knowledge to the SIMS.

Let's face it: The SIMS are simply MCQ concepts tested another way.

Sure, they have a different look and feel, but that's why it's important to do the AICPA Sample Test.

In the past, I recommended people do an 80/20 split between MCQ/SIMS. That was when SIMS were 40%. They're 50% now … So, I can see someone doing 70/30.

(Although, I'm still a fan of 80/20 … 75/25? Sure. I'll give some ground there.)

Step 4: NIN(J)A – Just Re-Write Your Notes

It's boring.

It's tedious.

It's horrible.

(hmmm…sounds vaguely like the CPA Exam itself…)

It works.

Two weeks out from your exam, re-write your notes.

What if taking notes along the way wasn't for you, or you didn't have time, or whatever?

No worries. Re-write the NINJA Notes.

In the decade-plus that I've been recommending this, I can count on zero fingers the number of emails from people who were upset that they spent all of that time re-writing their notes.

I have received many emails over time from people thanking me for recommending that they do it.

There's nothing magical about it. It's simply this:

Taking your furious note scribbles and re-writing them into little fact nuggets causes you to think about the material and let it marinate in your brain.

It's why highlighting is terrible and taking notes is good. Your brain absorbs the information better.

Again, only do this if you're two weeks out…because it will take a week to do this step.

Step 5: NINJ(A) – All Comes Together

You made it! Review time. It's your final week of exam prep.

Your Notice to Schedule is printed out (multiple copies – including one in your glove box), and it's t-minus seven days.

Start doing 20 question mini testlets in the MCQ, starting with your weakest topic first.

Picking your weakest topic is easy.

Sure, you have the analytics showing your deficiencies, but think about which topics you HOPE they don't test you on.

The ones that scare you to death keep you up and night and paralyze you with anxiety and fear to the point that you can't even utter their names.

Those are your weakest topics. Start there.

Do 20 question sets until you're scoring in the mid-70s and move on to your next-weakest topic.

If you're especially weak in an area, it might be a good idea to watch a NINJA PLUS or Hot Spot video over that area before continuing.

As you review during this final week, you only have time for three things:

Eat.
Sleep.
NINJA.

When you're not cranking on NINJA MCQ, you're reading NINJA Notes.

When you make a quick run to the grocery store to grab cat food for Fluffy, you listen to the NINJA Audio.

When you're walking through the store to the cat food aisle, you're listening to the NINJA Audio on your phone.

When you're in the waiting room at the dentist: NINJA Notes.

When you're at work, staring at spreadsheets: NINJA Audio.

Utilize every last study second and cram as much info as you can.

As you do all of this, you'll ask yourself, “Hmmm … What if I listened to the audio non-stop during week one of my next exam as intensely as I am week seven for this one?”

This is where you take an afternoon and watch the NINJA BLITZ videos, preferably the afternoon before your exam for maximum cramming impact.

The Night Before The CPA Exam

Some people say, “Go watch a movie. What's done is done.”

I say, “Pffft” to that.

I am a big fan of 1 pm exams so that you can study late the night before and then get up the next morning and hit the weak areas one more time.

Crank. Crank. Crank.

Cram. Cram. Cram.

Notes. Notes. Notes.

Read the NINJA Notes so many times that you hate me, the word “NINJA,” and the state of Kansas in general.

(There's nothing to do here, except head West to Colorado, so we're not offended.)

Listen to the NINJA Audio up to the millisecond that you get out of the car to walk into Prometric, and give your exam a spinning back-fist to the face.

Take several days off from studying after your exam. If possible, go on that Road Trip (and send pics to your co-workers who are still studying).

 
 
 

Here's what a few “NINJA Only” NINJAs had to say…

Tyler (NINJA Only):

“Passed BEC with an 81. That was my last section and I am done. Passed all four parts the first time using Ninja only and following the ELL plan. This plan works. I passed my final test this in this window and I am done. I wanted to send you a message to say thank you for this program. My story is similar to yours. I started this journey seven years ago, failed several times, and finally decided last year to put up or shut up.

I had been using another study program that frustrated me more than it helped. I didn’t understand why I was paying a bunch of money to have someone tell me what sentences to highlight in a book and I didn’t understand why programs would go over the content that was unlikely to show up on the exam. I read through your framework and decided to give Ninja a shot and I’m glad I did. Once I switched to the Ninja framework, I passed all four parts on my first attempt using only Ninja.

Thank you for this quality, affordable program and thank you for helping me get my freedom. Now I hope to never hear your voice again ;).”

Kristin (NINJA Only):

“I passed my last 3 sections in 4 months (FAR, AUD, and BEC) using only NINJA. I passed FAR on 8/18 with an 85 and then passed AUD on 9/8 with a 76 (studying only 3 weeks) I passed BEC on 11/10 with a 95. I used Gleim previously and passed REG with an 82 because I was familiar with the material but struggled with BEC and after a 71 in the spring decided to try NINJA. NINJA worked for me listening to the audio completely and taking notes then reviewing the ninja notes before starting MCQ’s. I focused about 75%-80% of my time on MCQ’s and did some other simulations referencing back to the textbook only when I did not understand something. I did the AICPA sample test for each section a couple days before my exam and just kept hammering MCQ’s. The structure of NINJA worked so much better for me as someone who has been out of school for a while and is working full time so the traditional format for a Gleim or Becker just didn’t fit my time constraints – or my ability to lock myself away from my family and friends! Thanks for putting such an affordable and concise system together Jeff!!!”

Kendal (NINJA Only):

“I PASSED REG WITH A 90!!! Using only Ninja as study materials.. and yes I honestly surprised myself!”

Travis (NINJA Only):

I passed BEC with a 79 using only Ninja! I poured over the ninja notes, ran hundreds of MCQ’s and practiced a few SIM’s, and listened to the audio every opportunity I had. I read a lot of people criticize the ninja notes as not being encompassing enough and excluded topics they found on the exam, but I found that every topic I was tested on had been covered in some way either in the books (which I did read Jeff) or in the MCQ’s. Taking Jeff’s condensed ninja notes as the only studying material available would be a mistake if you didn’t also read the books for yourself and dive into enough MCQ’s that you start having dreams about COSO framework and my favorite mnemonic that I found on the Ninja forums PURE DADS for the cost accounting problems. Having a solid background in excel from working with it all day was also a huge help particularly in the SIMs problems, which I would strongly suggest you read carefully the first time through. I spent the majority of my time allotment on the SIMs, and I can tell you if you don’t read each document thoroughly you will absolutely miss an important detail. Thank you all for the great study resource in the forum material, and thank you Jeff & Ninja CPA review for the amazing program!

Brandy (NINJA Only):

“Woo Hoo, just found out that I passed FAR with a 94. I used Ninja exclusively and have been loving the program. Best of luck to you guys and have a great weekend! (I know a bottle of bubbly is in my plans for the weekend.)”

Cody (NINJA Only):

“I Passed BEC with a 77 using Ninja only – basically did MCQs for two months straight while bookmarking difficult problems, writing notes and learning from mistakes.”

Ajanta (NINJA Only):

“Hi, Jeff! Just wanted to say THANKS for the killer study materials and your encouragement! I used only NINJA and passed REG with an 83 on my first try and did it in 4 weeks. Onto BEC now.”

 
 
 

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