NINJA CPA Review Framework
How to Pass the CPA Exam Faster and Finally Become a CPA
Table of Contents
Part I: 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 with Another71 and NINJA CPA Review 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. 🙂
My CPA Exam Journey began in late 2005.
When it was all said and done, I passed, got licensed, and even scored a 92 on REG along the way.
It wasn't all Sunshine & Rainbows, however.
I wanted to be a CPA, but I didn't really want to be a CPA.
So…I failed. Multiple times.
Ready to Finally Be a CPA? Choose Your NINJA Study Path.
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, later called “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”
Did you catch that I scored back-to-back 74s on REG? It was brutal. It also cost me my FAR credit.
(On a side note, I am the only Top-5 CPA Review course instructor that will publicly list their scores) 😀
Today, All I do is help people pass the CPA Exam. Every single day. For 12+ years.
And…people have noticed.
Investopedia has ranked NINJA CPA Review a Top-5 CPA Review course since they started ranking courses.
* NINJA CPA Review ($67 monthly) is the only course on the list that doesn't retail for $2,000+
Between email, phone coaching, podcasts, the Another71 Forum, and social media…
I've personally interacted with more CPA Candidates over the last 12 years than all of the top 5 CPA Review course instructors combined.
A bold, but true statement.
I know the bitterness of failure.
I know the heartbreak of 74s (I had two of them).
I know the misery of losing an exam credit (FAR).
I know the exhilarating feeling of scoring 90+ (92 on REG).
I know what you're going through as a CPA candidate right this very second.
I've either been there myself or have coached someone through it.
I'm here to help.
Let's get started.
Stephanie Ng (Becker + NINJA)
I Pass the CPA Exam
“For just $67 a month, you really can’t go wrong with NINJA.”
Part II: 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 also know some.
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, 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 the NINJA Framework, and this is tried and true path to follow.
It's About To Get Real
First things first. If you don't have the NINJA Study Framework, be sure to download it.
Downloading the NINJA CPA Review Framework is the easy part.
It's about to get real from here on out.
That's ok, because if you're reading this, it means one thing:
You're neck-deep into the CPA Exam (or are about to be), and you're committed.
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.
Olga Timirgalieva – Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner (Roger + NINJA)
“NINJA MCQ – A must! With the NINJA Notes, I printed out the notes and used as a knowledge check closer to the exam. NINJA Audio is nice to use during the commute or if you are an auditory learner.”
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 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 four 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'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 two years. TWO YEARS.
Once I got my 150 hours…
I piddled 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 (N.I.N.J.A.), which is completely different than what everyone teaches, and finally beat the AICPA.
I've been there. I get it.
Here is the candid truth…
All your extra efforts (accounting degree, 150 hours, paying for an NTS, buying a stupidly-expensive CPA Review course) to get here are a moot point if you don't embrace the fact that the grind starts now.
Do you have to be a CPA to be a successful accountant?
No, but it will forever haunt you.
It will be the career gauntlet you couldn't overcome.
You will be asked about it in every accounting-related job interview for the rest of your life.
Always. Every interview. Every job application.
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.
So…you might as well pass it.
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, 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.
Part III: NINJA Only vs. NINJA as a Supplement
Before we dive in, we need to cover the two NINJA Study Paths quickly.
NINJA as a Supplement Path: (most common): If you already have a CPA Review Course (Like Becker CPA Review, 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 the NINJA CPA Review course as your main CPA Review 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 run over their study materials with a tank, they would. They're burning the ships and are studying on N.I.N.J.A. Island, come hell or high water.
Part IV: How to Pass the CPA Exam Faster & Become a CPA
Best Way to Study for the CPA Exam?
It's a simple acronym: N.I.N.J.A.
The NINJA CPA Review 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 (2.5 weeks)
- Intense Notes
- Non-Stop MCQ (2.5 weeks)
- Just Rewrite Your Notes (1 week)
- All Comes Together (1 week)
By starting MCQs in Step 3 instead of Step 1 like all of the “big courses” mindlessly recommend, you're saving yourself a minimum of 102 hours of study time as a CPA candidate.
Here's the math:
If you study 20 hours per week, and spend 2.5 weeks on Step 3 doing MCQ, that's 50 hours.
During those 50 hours of Non-Stop MCQ, if you spend 2 minutes per question on average (a reasonable pace), then that's 30 questions per hour (60/2).
50 hours of Non-Stop MCQ x 30 questions per hour = 1,500 questions.
Instead of doing 1,500 questions twice (like everyone else), you do them once the NINJA Way.
That's 50 hours saved per exam and 200 hours saved in total.
“But Jeff – that's not really fair … I'm using (insert course), and yes, they have us do questions with each chapter, but it's not 1,500. C'mon, man.”
I agree. I always want to err on the side of fairness and conservatism (like any good accountant would).
Let's assume that your video lectures have 10 modules with 50 questions assigned per module.
A reasonable assumption? Some exams or modules may have more or less, but 10 modules with 50 questions is fair.
That's 500 questions worked during “concepts” mode per exam x 4 exams = 2,000 questions.
(Yes, you'll do 800-1,000 during MCQ and review mode, but we'll set that aside for now).
500 questions using the assumed pace of 2 minutes per question as described above = 1,000 minutes.
1,000 minutes is 16.6 hours…round up to 17 hours.
That's 17 hours of wasted time.
Why? You will need to do those questions again because, in some cases, those questions were done 6 weeks ago.
17 hours saved per exam x 4 exams = 68 hours.
Except, according to NASBA, the average CPA candidate takes 6 exams.
Remember that the first-time pass rate for the CPA Exam is historically 25%. Unless you're in that 25%, you should plan on 6 exams.
17 hours saved per exam x 6 exams = 102 hours
At a minimum, the NINJA Method will save you 102 hours of study time.
This single fact alone should cause you to download the NINJA Study Planners, which are free.
If I still haven't convinced you, then either
A. My assumptions are wrong
B. My math is wrong
C. You would rather study for the CPA Exam for an extra 102 hours than hang out with friends and family
D. You are convinced. You just don't want to buy anything.
The correct answer is, of course, D.
Enter your email below, and I'll send you the study planner and frameworks for free.
Get Your NINJA Study Framework
- 4-Week Study Plan
- 7-Week Study Plan
- NINJA Study Framework
- ELL Plan
- Enter Your Best Email & Get Started
Step 1. Nail the CPA Exam Concepts
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.
Get the concepts out of the way before you begin MCQ.
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.”
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 will 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.
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.
Use the proven method provided in the NINJA Study Framework.
Don't want to take notes? Print out the NINJA Notes instead and take notes in the margins instead, as needed.
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 for simulations, 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 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.
Note: NINJA MCQ has unlimited Practice Exams, but I do not like mock exams. Instead, I recommend doing targeted sessions in a blueprint area with immediate feedback. That's a more efficient (and effective) use of your study time.
Step 3 is also where you start utilizing your NINJA Flashcards.
NINJA Only Path: All NINJA. All the time.
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 wasn't in the cards this time, and you did your best, we suggested re-writing the NINJA Notes.
NINJA Only Path: Same as above. Re-writing the NINJA Notes is just as effective.
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.
The one you DREAD seeing on exam day.
If you hit in the low-70s (70-75), move on to your next weakest area.
You don't go for mastery here because 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. getting a few into the 80s/90s and running 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 on to 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 confidently, bar out all of that knowledge in your head, and sleep for three days.
You've earned it.
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.”
Part V: NINJA CPA Review FAQs
Is NINJA CPA Review good?
NINJA CPA Review is a highly-regarded course in the CPA Review industry (Investopedia, a non-biased publication, rated us a top-5 CPA prep course), and tens of thousands of CPA candidates have used NINJA to Pass the CPA Exam. If you search ‘ninja cpa worth it‘ in your online CPA study groups and communities, you will likely see many posts about people passing with NINJA CPA. One benefit that NINJA has that most other CPA Review courses don't is a 30-day, no questions asked refund policy, so each person can see if NINJA CPA Review will work for them.
Can you Pass the CPA Exam with NINJA Only?
Absolutely. NINJA CPA Review has everything that you need to pass the CPA Exam (lectures, book, notes, audio, flashcards, test bank with 7,000+ questions, and 300+ simulations). NINJA CPA has everything that the “big” courses have, except the high price. In many cases, NINJA has more than the big courses (audio lectures, tutoring, a larger test bank, etc.).
What is NINJA CPA Review's Pass Rate?
I doubt that any CPA Review Course objectively knows the answer to that question. Why? CPA candidates don't use one “source” to study. Everyone supplements to one degree or another. They get help from online study groups, forums, and other supplements. Most CPA candidates use a handful of courses, and the first-time CPA Exam pass rate is extremely low (25-30%) and around 50% per section per the AICPA. I wonder how many courses are taking credit in their pass rates for customers that are also NINJAs. 🙂
What is the NINJA CPA Study Method?
The NINJA Study Method is the most efficient and effective study method for the CPA Exam. It strips out the unnecessary redundancy that most CPA Review courses prescribe and cuts CPA study time significantly. The steps to the NINJA Study Method are Nail the Concepts, Intense Notes, Non-Stop MCQ, Rewrite Notes, and All Comes Together.
Is NINJA CPA Review the best course?
There isn't a Best CPA Review course. Period. Don't let any other silly affiliate website or blog tell you otherwise. There is only the “Best” CPA Review course for you. It comes down to 1) Budget – What can you afford? 2) Learning Style – Lectures vs. Book vs. MCQ-Driven courses 3) The “5 a.m. Test” – Will you get up and study with this course at 5 a.m., or will you hate it so much that you stay in bed, never study, and never become a CPA? Choose wisely. Do free trials before investing thousands on a course you'll hate. Or, just become a NINJA for $67 and get a refund if you don't like it. You can always spend thousands later if you really want.
Do I need a NINJA subscription for each CPA Exam section?
No! That's the beautiful thing about NINJA Monthly – you never have to shop for CPA Study Materials again. Once you subscribe to a section and take that exam – email us and tell us which section you want next, and we'll switch you.
How often can I “switch” my NINJA CPA section?
You may switch once every 30 days, but we're flexible, as each situation is different. Rare is the candidate who studies for three exam sections in less than two months. Again – we are flexible, so you may have a situation that warrants more than one switch (NTS issues, etc.).
Is NINJA Monthly like a financing plan?
No – not at all. This is more like a ‘budgeting' plan or a ‘so your family doesn't have to skip summer vacation because you bought study materials plan.' With a financing plan – you're paying a large lump sum, but it's broken into monthly payments. With NINJA Monthly – there is no “lump sum” … it's simply a monthly fee you can cancel at any time without any further financial impact whatsoever. You can walk away at any time (for any reason).
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.”
What's my commitment with NINJA CPA Monthly?
Your $67 subscription will renew automatically each month, but you may cancel it at any time. No commitment beyond the month you’ve paid for.
What if I don't need all of those NINJA study weapons?
People who have successfully used NINJA as a supplement typically cite three products: NINJA MCQ, NINJA Notes & NINJA Audio. People who have been successful with NINJA as their primary review typically cite all seven products. For only $67, all options are on the table. All the NINJA CPA study weapons are there for your choosing.
Can I buy one month of NINJA CPA, download everything, and cancel?
The short answer is ‘Yes.' However, as you will see in our NINJA Study Framework, you want to use things in conjunction with the MCQ, which you'll lose access to after your subscription expires.
Can I download all of the NINJA CPA materials?
Many of the NINJA materials are downloadable with no weird access restrictions. This includes NINJA Notes, NINJA Audio, and NINJA Book. NINJA MCQ, NINJA CRAM, and NINJA Sparring are not downloadable due to the nature of test bank and streaming video lectures being online applications.
So…I can start with NINJA FAR, take my exam, and then start studying for REG?
Exactly. It's like Netflix for the CPA Exam – once you're done with one section, you can study for the next – all under the same subscription.
What about NINJA CPA updates?
Another big perk about the NINJA Monthly plan – you never have to email or wait for updates again … if you're an active subscriber, login and download the most current version of the Notes, Audio, Book, etc.
Why would NINJA CPA do this? What's the Catch?
No catch. Our goal is to offer Effective and Affordable CPA study materials. There wasn't a monthly plan that didn't chain you to thousands of dollars in debt, so we made one. It's our job to earn your business each and every month and to help you pass the CPA Exam. Imagine if each CPA Review course had to earn your business each month. Pass rates might be higher 🙂
If this is all true, then I'm Sold! How do I get started with NINJA CPA Review?
The next step is to choose your NINJA Study Path. NINJA Only? NINJA as a Supplement? It's up to you.
To Your Success,
Jeff Elliott, CPA (KS)