My CPA Exam Story: Daniel from New Jersey

28 Feb 2009

Club 75 Candidate Bloggers


This post is from a series called “My CPA Exam Story” and is a chance for candidates to pass on their experience to others in hope of encouraging them and to share insights learned along the way. If you have a story to share, e-mail it to Submissions with pictures will get posted first. Don't forget to tell me what state you're from. I will only post your first name.


“I think it is very important to share my experience with this exam. I have just completed it, luckily all in one attempt, and looking back at the last seven months bring a lot of emotions. Never have I been on such an emotional roller coaster.

At the end of the journey I realized one thing: it doesn't matter what this ends up doing for my career, the fact that I put in my entire heart, soul, and sanity into this and coming out successful means the world to me.

It doesn't matter what age you are, we all have different commitments that make getting this exam done difficult. But if you want the secret to passing the exam it is very very simple: you have to make sacrifices. There are people who take the exam 10 times because they don't have the discipline to say ‘no I won't go to the club tonight or movies with my friends, or the next sporting event.' It isn't the fact that you can't pass the exam, everyone has the capability.

For some it will be a little easier and for some it will be harder. I would say I probably studied between 50-75 hours per section. One of the biggest problems I see from the forums is studying improperly. I never studied one word that wasn't highlighted in Becker. I never read one homework reading. I didn't do one supplemental question or simulation. It is all about studying smart.

People obsess over every word in every CPA book. That is the problem. This is not a test to determine if you could stuff a 900 page book into your brain. If you take everyone from my level – an entry level auditor, the people who passed dedicated themselves to the exam completely. The ones who were out on the weekends absolutely did not pass. I know most of you are like me, checking scores 100 times a day when you know they are only released at certain times, obsessing over your grade every second, and thinking about every question you got wrong on the exam for the whole time before you get your score back.

If you are new to starting this journey, I hope you take away that this exam is completely achievable. Do it ‘piecemeal'. Take each section as its own independent entity. Don't worry about what is next. Don't fall behind in your study schedule. Treat yourself to some relaxing time away from studying, but not too much. Most importantly though is have pride and confidence in yourself because you are doing something that most people don't have the capability or dedication to accomplish. To those who have gone through the process and struggled, don't give up.

Jeff, who is a huge inspiration, didn't give in because he knew that he was capable of it. Don't let the exam demoralize you. It is just as impressive to take the exam 15 times and pass as someone who took it four times… As someone who thought he failed every time he walked out of and exam and never scored less than an 87, don't obsess every minute once you leave the exam. If you prepared properly you should be more than fine.

Another major aspect of this exam to realize is the impact it has on the people close to you. You are going to be married to your books for awhile. You will deal with family members who don't believe you need to study that much and friends who will pressure you and say you ?don't need? to study all the time. But you are doing this exam for yourself – no one else. Anyone who doesn't appreciate that probably is a person I don't want around me. In the end I am going to give you some tips that I have picked up through the exam experience.

-On test day, never let a question trip you up. If you don't know the answer – move on.
-Dedicate 6 months now so that this exam doesn't haunt you for years (Limited enjoyment time)
-Study for the multiple choice, if you know them, you are as ready as you ever will be for the Simulations.
-Don't ask others what is on the exam, it will NOT help you.
-Be positive, if you beat yourself up mentally, you are at a disadvantage on test day.
-Study in places where no distractions are present. You will find excuses not to study.
-Every minute counts. Even if you can't study 4 straight hours, ever 15 minutes counts.
-Don't compare yourself to others, only worry about what you can accomplish.

My Study Plan (Becker, No supplements)
I believe if you follow this study plan you will be 100% ready:
Monday: Watch a lecture in full
Tuesday: Go through the book and read it while making your own note cards. I used to make a note card for almost all the highlighted material.
Wednesday: This step I believe is key: I wrote all of the highlighted material into note form in a notebook. Once this step was completed, I never opened the Becker book again. I studied from those notes to avoid ?over studying? After this I completed the homework.
Thus-Sat I did the same for another chapter.
Sunday- Reviewed anything I had a major issue with.

I studied two chapters a week until the book was completed. Than I would take a 2 week final review to read my notes, note cards, and do additional homework.

*I never bought a note card, worked a supplemental, practice simulation, or Becker final exam.

Do the basics I laid out and you will be F I N E!! Be efficient…trust me, I am no genius.

Good luck and remember you aren't the only one going through this We all HAVE all the support in the world for you because we all know the struggle. I will always be around to help anyone who needs advice.”

-Daniel from NJ

Leave a Reply


Anonymous 15 years ago

Wow! Daniel, thanks for the detailed post. Very rarely do we read from people who pass in the first attempt.
Your studying tips are appreciated and will be implemented.
Thank you for taking time for this post and thanks to another71 too.

Rob in TX 15 years ago

good information come September I hope to be sending my words of wisdom

I totally agree with Daniel except for distractions I gotta study with my kid b/c they do not like being alone everynight

but yes sacrifice commit and get this saga over with it feels good just passing 2 and can not wait to be done I have set a timeline as well and that is truely crucial to the whole time management thing

I suggest Yeager crams though I found them to give me another view on material and another way to practicing my skills

I like Daniel use another review software but I do not make notes and supplement with Yeager

Congratulations to Daniel for passing and for the great write

Anonymous 15 years ago

get anothers notes is a good pointer but it is like playing a sport the more you practice the better you get

so if you did all the practice I do not think your notes could help very much to someone who is serious about passing

Anonymous 15 years ago

wow dan.. you are the one of smarts.. I passed aud, far, and bec on first attempt. But I spend more time than Dan.(almost 250hrs for far, 150hrs for each aud and bec)..
I only have read Becker once thru the lectures. But I did all the Becker passmaster questions over and over. And I read over specific pages which I got wrong on the passmater. This was my way of studying. Each of you has different style of studying. Finding which way is best for you is very important..For instance I know someone can concentrate better at starbucks, and it is the best place for him. For my case, I always being sleepy when I study at home.

Anonymous 15 years ago

Hey it is dan from the post. I wanted to let people know every review program will leave things out. Don't let that scare you. I got two simulations I had no idea about. Jeff can attest to the fact that I was punished by Reg. I feel like if you prepared hard you should be in good shape no matter what happens test day. Whatever your method is stick to it if it works and good luck. I am always around for tips

alexbmn 15 years ago

no need to practice sims for FARE? Thats a relief since the Wiley book has like 40 of them. :-) If 1800 Gleim questions will do the trick combined with Yaeger lectures then its not too bad at all. 15 years ago

I don't recommend practicing sims...only be familiar with the research feature.

I have always found that if I know the MCQs...I know the sims. Instead, spend time on the could practice 10 sim types and not even get that topic on the actual exam. Cast a wider net by studying the MCQs...

Rich in CA 15 years ago

Nice post Dan. A few thoughts to add.

I want to reiterate one of Dan's key points. Whatever tool you used (Becker, Yaeger, Wiley books) remember that you are studying the exam - not accounting. Keep a copy of the content specification nearby ( ) and use it to guide your prep. Spend your time where the points are. From my experience the spec is spot on to the actual test.

I concur with Jeff about not studying for Sims. At least in the Wiley book the sims were nothing like the real ones. Learn the material by working LOTS of MC questions then apply your knowledge at test time.

While taking the test be ruthless with your time. Before you enter develop your strategy (x minutes per sim leaves me y minutes for each mc testlet) and stick with it. I finished right on the last minute for two of the tests. It was stressful, but I got to put every minute to productive use.

Finally, after you finish celebrating passing the CPA exam you need to budget some time for the ethics test. At least in California it is quite tough.

All for now. Good luck all!

Anonymous 15 years ago

I recently passed the exam on my first attempt and used many of the techniques Dan listed in his post. I studied and sat for all 4 parts of the exam within 6 months. It's important to put the time in for preparing. The exam is not the hardest part, the time management both in studying for the exam and when sitting for it are. It's hard to commit that kind of time and attention to studying but it pays dividends in the end. I spent all of my study time doing MC's and reading the Becker chapters with very little attention to the sims. Good Luck to all!

Anonymous 15 years ago

I have a similar experience and opinions as Daniel. Passing has little to do with intelligence and a lot to do with committment. I set aside 7 months, took an exam every 6 weeks and invested about 20 hours a week into it. I sacrified all leisure time, some work time and some family time. You have to sell yourself out to studying for a 7-8 months - no excuses if you want to pass. Just about everyone on this blog has the intelligence though. I also have a CMA and actually thought that test was harder.

Anonymous 15 years ago

Those are some nice words of inspiration. However, his advice for studying and preparing for the exam is not ideal for everyone. There is no "one size fits all" method. For myself, I literally studied for around 8 hours a day for two weeks before the exam. I just read and highlighted what I thought was important and reviewed the highlighted material on or two times before the exam. I also did the multiple choice questions once. I also NEVER watched any of the lectures. I study and learn by reading, not by listening. That's just me, and I passed all four parts within a 4 month period.

The only advice that I can give is don't study for more than 2-3 weeks. Anymore, you might be using your time inefficiently.

Anonymous 15 years ago

Anonymous 3/2 @ 10:08pm, studying 8 hours a day for 2 weeks straight sounds nice, but not exactly practical when you have a full time job and a family to juggle. I agree, different methods work for different people. I've taken each part 3 times and no pass yet, but I am going to keep trying till I do. Good luck to everyone out there.

Captain Fancypants 15 years ago

Everybody: To those that have passed AUD, did you memorize the Unqualified Opinion? Send me a quick email with "Yes" or "No" in the subject line.

Thank you.

Baba 15 years ago

@ Captain Fancypants,

I memorized the Intro and Opinion paragraphs as they were only about 3 to 4 sentences each.

For the Scope paragraph, I just made sure to fully understand what it contained.

In general, just cover and comprehend as much material as you can and you'll be fine.

Anonymous 15 years ago

I memorized the unqualified opinion but I do not think it was necessary. Understand it, yes, but I don't think you will have to spit it out word for word...and if you do on a sim, use the research tab :)

Daniela 15 years ago

Awesme post! Thank you Daniel, your study plan is great. I am sitting for AUD end of August, wish me good luck :-)

Daniela 15 years ago

Awesme post! Thank you Daniel, your study plan is great. I am sitting for AUD end of August, wish me good luck :-)

Kalifa 14 years ago

Thanks Daniel and others, I am so glad people were thoughtful enough to give pointers on how to pass these damn exams. I surely needed them. I studied so much the first time around for each section, yet I did not pass. So, its back to the old drawing board and I will definitely use much of your advice.

Dharmesh 13 years ago

Hi Daniel, Is there any good material that I can refer to? Waiting for your reply.