NINJA CPA Review
How To Overcome CPA Exam Disaster,
Regain Study Motivation, & Finally, Become a CPA in 5 Simple Steps
“Ninja CPA Review works nicely as an inexpensive supplement to an online course. This is an efficient studying tool that can be used as your main course but serves best as an auxiliary study aid with an excellent online support community.” – Investopedia, The 5 Best CPA Prep Courses of 2022
- How To Overcome CPA Exam Disaster,
- Regain Study Motivation, & Finally, Become a CPA in 5 Simple Steps
- Introduction: Who is this “NINJA CPA” guy, anyway?
- How to Smash the CPA Exam in 5 Easy Steps & Finally Become a CPA
Introduction: Who is this “NINJA CPA” guy, anyway?
My name is Jeff Elliott, and I'm a normal 40-something dude with ten kids (ok, that's
insane totally not normal), but I am unique for one reason:
For the last 12 years, I have done nothing but eat, sleep, and breathe the CPA Exam.
I'm a licensed CPA (KS), a member of the AICPA, and have been 100% self-employed and helping people pass the CPA Exam full-time since 2010.
Prior to flying solo, I worked in public accounting, private accounting, and for two SEC companies, so I've also spent plenty of time in a cubicle. 🙂
It wasn't all Sunshine & Rainbows, however.
I began my long (too long) journey toward the CPA designation in late 2005.
I wanted to be a CPA, but I didn't really want to be a CPA enough to study like I needed to.
I wasn't fully committed to studying (who wants to go home and study after a full day of public accounting?), and I would try to “cram” for two weeks before my exam and was coming up short.
Maybe you can relate?
Everything changed, however, in February 2008.
I said “enough is enough” and created a new study approach, which I would later dub “N.I.N.J.A.”. Then I passed all four sections of the CPA Exam by the end of the year – each exam on my next attempt.
In 2008, I was a desperate CPA Candidate on the verge of throwing in the towel.
My CPA Exam Scores:
FAR 4x (70,71,76*,76)
BEC 4x (71,71,71,80)
REG 4x (69,74,74, 92)
AUD 2x (69,79)
AICPA Ethics (89,92)
* = I lost my credit due to the “18-month rule”
(By the way, did you catch that I scored back-to-back 74s on REG? It was brutal. It also cost me my FAR credit.)
Today, All I do is help people pass the CPA Exam. Every single day. For 12+ years.
And…people have noticed.
Investopedia has ranked my company (NINJA) a Top-5 CPA Review course since they started the list in 2021.
I've personally interacted with more CPA Candidates over the last 12 years than anyone else in the CPA Exam Review industry.
- The NINJA CPA Review Course has been the most-popular CPA Study Supplement for a decade.
- Multiple Elijah Watt Sells Award Winners have studied with NINJA.
- I've done 100+ CPA Exam podcasts and answered thousands of study tips questions.
- The Another71 Forum has over 600,000+ posts.
- I've answered thousands (and thousands) of emails from CPA Candidates struggling and looking for a lifeline.
- As an AICPA-licensed CPA Review provider, I have direct access to the AICPA Examinations team and know what will be on the CPA Exam both now and in the future.
I've been doing CPA Exam prep full-time since …
- Wiley (New Jersey) and CPAexcel (Arizona) were competitors
- Devry still owned Becker
- Prometric gave you two actual pieces of paper on Exam Day
- NASBA released scores in two monthly “waves” (it was as awful as it sounds)
- The CPA Exam added IFRS
- The CPA Exam removed IFRS
In short, I've seen it all (including hundreds of score releases) and have been through it myself.
Enough about me. This site is about getting you over the finish line, passing the CPA Exam, and finally becoming a CPA.
To Your Success,
Jeff Elliott, CPA (KS)
“Few people are more familiar with the stresses of exam prep than Jeff Elliott, licensed CPA and the face behind Another71.com.” – Wiley CPA
It's Time To Finally Become A CPA
Everyone Fails. Well, most everyone 🙂
I know some crazies who passed the first time, and you may know some as well.
For us mere mortals…
70-75% of CPA Candidates fail at least one exam.
1 in 2 people taking any given CPA Exam section will walk out having failed it.
This leads to needless frustration, embarrassment, and thoughts of quitting altogether.
If you want to be different and pass, you must do something different.
Maybe you're sick of your CPA Review Course and want to ditch it completely.
Maybe you like your CPA Review videos but want to switch to the NINJA Study Plan and swap out your course's Test Bank for NINJA MCQ and add NINJA Notes, and NINJA Audio for some more firepower.
Either way, it's time to switch to NINJA, and this is tried and true path to follow.
It's Time to Be Fun Again
If you're reading this, it means one thing: you're neck-deep into the CPA Exam – or about to be.
If that's the case, this is also likely true: the “CPA Study” version of you is not much fun to be around.
You stay up late studying.
You get up early to study.
You study over lunch.
Your friends have stopped asking you to go out on Friday night because you're studying.
Your significant other knows it's another lonely night binge-watching Netflix while you sit at the table and study.
Your kids know the answer to “can we go do (fill in the blank) today?” is a firm “no” because mommy or daddy has to study.
“But it's Saturday!” Yes – which means you'll be studying even more.
You're living on questionably-fresh coffee, snack bars, and whatever else you can find because – who has time to go to the store?
The “CPA Study” you isn't fun.
It's time to get a study plan.
It's time to upgrade your study materials.
It's time to pass the CPA Exam.
It's time to be a CPA.
It's time to smile again.
It's time to be fun again.
It's time to get your LIFE back.
Starting is the Hardest Part (Maybe)
Before we begin – let's talk about the elephant in the room: Starting.
“Starting” is the hardest part – both from a CPA Journey perspective as well as on a daily basis.
It's much more fun not to get up in the morning and study.
It's much more fun not to start studying for the CPA Exam at all.
If you're new to the game, then the fact that you've purchased CPA Review materials likely makes you feel like you've accomplished something.
That's like saying you've started training for the Boston Marathon because you shopped for running shoes on amazon.
If you're a jaded CPA Exam veteran, then you know that these review materials won't study themselves.
(Although, if it makes you feel any better, when you are knocking out continuing professional education (CPE) someday, you can just watch a live webinar and not actually have to answer any questions (other than the “I'm still here” button that chimes every 15 minutes) and you get credit for it. Something to look forward to!)
The real progress begins now and the accomplishment is complete when you've scored a 75 on all 4 exams within the 18-month window.
Until then, the only difference between you and other staff accountants at the office who aren't pursuing the CPA designation is the fact that they are spending their money on fun things, unlike you, who is spending hundreds/thousands of dollars studying for a 14-hour accounting test.
Don't let perpetual “I'm studying for the CPA” talk trick you into thinking you've accomplished anything other than spending a lot of money.
The first thanksgiving that your relatives heard about your CPA Exam prep made for an interesting and intriguing update.
The 2nd and 3rd Thanksgivings of you talking about the CPA Exam, well, they're tired of hearing about it.
I'm not judging – I was you. I piddled (I like that word) around with the CPA Exam for two years until my wife lovingly said “hey – I support you, but let's either finish this thing or move on.”
I got to work, developed my own study framework (The N.I.N.J.A. Framework), and finally beat the AICPA – and the CPA Exam.
As proof that God has a sense of humor, NINJA has been the #1 CPA Review supplement for the last decade and is now the #4 overall course in terms of students and market share.
(Despite our affordable price and industry-best satisfaction guarantee, you won't read nice things about NINJA on these “rankings” sites. The reason? We refu$e to pay for ranking$. They really, really, hate us for that. Sorry guys. 😀 )
Thankfully, word has gotten around that NINJA works, which I'm grateful for.
Sorry for the soapbox. Back to you…
Don't get me wrong – it took you a lot of time, money, and sacrifice to get here.
I've been in your shoes.
I worked in public accounting and left the office each evening at 5 pm to take more college classes to get my 150 hours.
I did this for 2 years. TWO YEARS.
We won't even get into how stupid that GMAT was. Total waste of time.
I've been there. I get it. All of your extra efforts to get here are a moot point if you don't embrace the fact that the grind starts now.
Yes, you can have a solid career as a staff accountant, but you will never know the fruits of passing the CPA Exam.
It will forever be the gauntlet that you couldn't overcome – and it will literally haunt you until you die. That's not hyperbole.
Whether you pass or not, you will have dreams about the CPA Exam. I still have them to this day, and I've been licensed for 12+ years.
My dreams are typically that I can't pass FAR and lose all my credits. Thankfully, I woke up, and it was just a dumb dream.
If you don't pass – you will have the same dream, except yours will be a real nightmare.
There is GOOD NEWS, however.
If you start, and if you grind, you WILL Pass.
I know of someone who took 23 exams.
Today that person is a licensed CPA.
Resist the temptation to pass judgment.
If they work tax returns 24/7 – then who cares that they struggled in Governmental Accounting, Business Law, COSO, or Audit Risk.
It doesn't matter to their clients.
You can absolutely suck at the topics in the CPA Exam, as long as you're an expert in your specific field.
No one will ever ask about your scores or how many times you took the CPA Exam. I promise.
This is how you grind.
This is how you pass the CPA Exam.
This is how you become a CPA.
Let's get started.
How to Smash the CPA Exam in 5 Easy Steps & Finally Become a CPA
Best Way to Study for the CPA Exam?
It's a simple acronym: N.I.N.J.A.
The NINJA CPA Framework (or NINJA Method) isn't the only study method that works, but after doing this for a decade+, I believe it's the best.
Why? Because it strips out the redundancy that everyone else prescribes.
- Watch Chapter 1 Video
- Do Chapter 1 Questions
- Watch Chapter 2 Video
- Do Chapter 2 Questions
Guess what you'll do in Week 7 when you've forgotten the Chapter 1 questions?
Chapter 1 questions. Again.
The N.I.N.J.A. Method removes that redundancy and gives you precious hours of your life back so that you can … have a life.
- Nail the Concepts
- Intense Notes
- Non-Stop MCQ
- Just Rewrite Your Notes
- All Comes Together
Tens of thousands of CPA Candidates have used the NINJA Method, and I believe it will work for you.
“We're happy to once again partner with Jeff Elliott and NINJA CPA Review to help you pass the CPA Exam even faster.” – Roger CPA Review
Breaking Down the Two NINJA Paths
Before we dive in, we need to quickly cover the Two NINJA Paths:
- NINJA as a Supplement
- NINJA Only
Supplement Path: If you already have a CPA Review Course (Like Becker, etc.) and want to continue using parts of that course, then you want the Supplement Path. This can range from continuing to use the majority of your main course but adding in the NINJA Notes, NINJA Audio, and NINJA MCQ (and probably NINJA CRAM) to ditching most of your course, aside from the test bank or the cram and using NINJA as your main course.
How much or how little NINJA you want to use with this path is up to you. If you love your course, keep it and use it. NINJA plays nice with other courses. If you hate your course, salvage what you can (simulations?) and let NINJA pick up the slack.
NINJA Only Path: CPA Candidates who go the NINJA Only route primarily come from three camps:
1) They don't have a course yet, but have heard good things about NINJA from study groups and other places and want to try passing the CPA Exam with a reputable $67 monthly course vs. a $3,000 course (seems like a wise move for a future CPA/CFO, right?).
2) Their course has expired, and they have a few exams left and are rolling with NINJA Only to close out the CPA Exam.
3) They hate their course; they're over it. If they could slowly run over their study materials with a tank, they could. They're burning the ships and are studying on N.I.N.J.A. Island, come hell or high water.
With either path, the NINJA CPA Review cost is an always-affordable $67 monthly with no commitment.
For simplicity, we will cover the NINJA as a Supplement Path here.
You can also get details on implementing the NINJA Only Path.
Matt Durette (Becker + NINJA)
Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner
“I used NINJA MCQ for each of the exams as a supplement to Becker, which was provided by my work. I asked advice from my brother, who had passed the exams a few years prior, and he suggested to work through as many MCQs as I could, so I did just that. I worked through all the Becker MCQs, then did about 50-60% of the NINJA MCQs. I thought the NINJA ones were more difficult than the Becker questions, which was a good thing. I was trending about 7-10 points below my actual exam scores for each of the sections. The NINJA product was great because it showed me where I was weakest, and I was able to focus on that section until I felt really comfortable with it. I would say the NINJA MCQ were essential to my success.”
N.I.N.J.A. Step 1: Nail the CPA Exam Concepts
Get the concepts out of the way before you begin MCQ.
Start by printing out your NINJA Study Framework.
Nail the Concepts first and get them out of the way before you begin your CPA Test Bank. Yes, we realize that this isn't how the ‘big courses' do it, but their way wastes at least a week per exam, which at a minimum is a month of study time if you pass on the first try.
Even if you never become a NINJA, the NINJA Framework and save you weeks of needless misery.
(I mean – unless you like sitting in a spare bedroom by yourself and watching Dollar Value LIFO breakdowns.)
There is a 4-week plan and a 7-week plan.
If you're studying full-time – use the 4-week plan. If you procrastinated and are in “oh crap” mode – use the 4-week plan. 😀
Most people will use the 7-week planner. This is the perfect study plan for working full-time and having a “life” while studying.
Aim for 20 hours a week.
If you're not studying 20 hours a week, you're not studying.
If something is confusing in your CPA Review 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.
The NINJA Only Path is the same as above, except Nail the Concepts with the NINJA Book or NINJA Sparring videos. If you like Sparring – stick with it and supplement any weak points with the NINJA Book. If you prefer the NINJA Book, supplement with NINJA Sparring videos on your weak topics.
N.I.N.J.A. Step 2: Intense Notes
Take Intense Notes over your CPA Review course lectures.
First Time? Retake? 15th Retake? It doesn't matter. Take Intense Notes while watching your lecture videos.
Used the proven method provided in the NINJA Study Framework.
The NINJA Only Path is the same as above – take Intense Notes over your NINJA Sparring videos or the NINJA Book.
Olga Timirgalieva (Roger + NINJA)
Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner
“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 them 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 is nice to keep you engaged.”
N.I.N.J.A. Step 3: Non-Stop MCQ
Hammer Non-Stop MCQ (from your “main” course CPA Test Bank or NINJA MCQ).
If this is your first time taking this exam, do Non-Stop MCQ with your CPA Test Bank, and then in the review phase (A – All Comes Together), switch to NINJA and work backward, beginning with your weakest topic.
If this is a retake OR you've found yourself memorizing your course questions, 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 course CPA questions for N (Non-Stop MCQ) and use NINJA MCQ for A (All Comes Together) as you review. You can also mix in any CPA supplemental multiple-choice questions.
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.
NINJA Only Path: All NINJA. All the time.
N.I.N.J.A. Step 4: Just Rewrite
Just Rewrite Your Intense Notes.
We know you took killer notes over your course lectures … re-write those 😀
If taking notes just wasn't in the cards this time around, and you did the best you could do, then we suggested re-write the NINJA Notes.
NINJA Only Path: Same as above. Re-writing the NINJA Notes is just as effective.
Shulem Rosenbaum (Wiley + NINJA)
Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner
“I used the NINJA Notes to summarize my notes and eliminate topics that aren’t tested heavily. I owe it to the NINJA Community. You have been my rock, and I hope to contribute the way you contributed to my success.”
N.I.N.J.A. Step 5: All Comes Together
It All Comes Together in a Final Review.
Step 5 is the same for both the NINJA Only and NINJA as a Supplement Path.
If you're using your Course Questions in the Non-Stop MCQ phase (NINJA Supplement), 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, 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, do 20-question mini-testlets until you're scoring in the 70s (which may take 3 or 4 sets) and then move onto your next-weakest area, which might be Leases. Repeat this with Leases, and then move on to the next one – Governmental Accounting, etc.
As you head into your exam – hammer MCQ, and read the NINJA Notes every spare millisecond you have.
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 MCQ … NINJA Notes … NINJA 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?).
3 Days out from your Exam – Watch the NINJA CRAM.
THEN … walk through those Prometric doors with confidence, barf out all of that knowledge in your head, and go sleep for three days.
You've earned it.
Brian Wright (Becker + NINJA)
Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner
“The questions and practice tests were extremely useful, they helped me find some weak spots I didn’t even know I had and gave me the extra practice I needed to get my best score of any of the exams.”
Taking the CPA Exam? Get Your NINJA Study Framework:
To Your Success,
Jeff Elliott, CPA (KS)