“You can get to do a million things that people will never get to do, but to do that, you have to sacrifice the 3 or 4 things that everybody gets to do” – Drake

My exam journey is not only an individual, personal journey but it was also a family journey of 10 months. There were a lot of ups and downs, but through it all my wife, Myra, and my son, Stephen, inspired me and supported me every step of the way.

The Beginning of the CPA Journey – Getting Momentum & Managing Challenges

In 2008, after doing my research regarding CPA Exam review courses I found CPAexcel to be both reasonably priced and a good quality review course. But with the ups and downs in my professional career, I only had the courage and motivation to pursue the CPA exam in mid-2012. I thought that my review materials with CPAexcel would have expired, but true to their word, the review course did not expire. I immediately arranged an evaluation of my foreign degree to be able to sit for the exams and received the confirmation in July of 2012. I applied to sit for 2 exam sections of the CPA Exam (FAR & BEC). I scheduled FAR in late October 2012, but did not review until mid-September 2012. Since this was my first exam, I found it difficult to gain momentum in my review work because I had a full-time job in a managerial capacity and was obviously very tired from work.

Despite these challenges, I was able to start gaining momentum after reading the material and viewing some video lectures and answering some MCQs. I guess anyone would get a boost of confident after absorbing the concepts and doing well on a quiz. The unique part about CPAexcel’s strategy is the way the topics are structured and broken down into manageable pieces. I would compare it to cutting down a big tree. You can’t do it in one quick swoop of the axe, but you can work your way one chop at a time until it goes down. The CPA exam sections are like that; they set fear to the candidate because it feels like there are a lot of topics to cover. Although this is true, anyone can conquer it by finding a way to cut it down into manageable pieces.

Live & Breathe CPA

After spending 2-3 hours each weeknight and 6-8 hours during the weekends until late-October 2012 studying for the exam, I started feeling confident about FAR. My MCQ & TBS quizzes were not 100%, but very acceptable. There were video lectures that I would skip and then go straight to Exam Questions (EQs) and TBS. This only applied to topics where I had a good conceptual foundation. I also supplemented my review time by taking and reading light materials or review notes with me when waiting in line at the bank, the barbershop, shopping mall, during lunch time at work, while sitting in traffic and during any imaginable free time. I was surprised that several 5-minute readings could actually add up and contribute to additional review time. There were even occasions where my wife told me that I talked in my sleep and stated excerpts from the review materials. That was proof that the CPA review was undeniably in my system.

In early November 2012, a week before my actual exam date, I started feeling the jitters and began to question my preparation. I guess it’s all but normal, however I decided to change my exam date to another week and requested a 2-day leave from work prior to the exam date. I tried my best do all the EQs and TBS in the Tutor modules to ensure that I covered the weak areas of my review. I took the simulated exam provided in the software 2-days before the exam date and scored an 86. After that, I told myself that I could pass, but I didn’t let that distract me in any way from covering the areas I had missed in the simulated exam. One day before the exam, I spent 8 hours browsing through the materials, reviewing flashcards and my personal notes and doing more MCQs and TBSs.

Exam Day

November 15, 2012 – Exam Day 12:30pm

After having a good breakfast, I prepared the necessary documents I needed to take to the exam. I also took some review materials and personal review notes with me so that I could do quick browsing before I checked into the testing center. I prayed before leaving the house and prayed before inputting my exam password. After reading through the instruction screen, I started with the first testlet and felt really good because most of the questions were from areas I had covered. I probably had around 2-3 unsure answers but I chose the best educated guess and with all of them, I was able to eliminate 2 of the choices. Doing this gave me a 50/50 chance to answer correctly. It was quite obvious to me that the second testlet was more difficult than the first so I told myself I must have done really well in the first. I had 4 unsure answers and I applied the same approach as I did in the first testlet. The third testlet was also a difficult set and I had 4-5 unsure answers. Overall I spent around 2 hours for the MCQ testlets, so I had enough time to finish the TBS questions.

My strategy for the TBS was to browse and identify the easiest questions, answer them first and then deal with the more difficult TBS with the remaining time I had. I identified 3, which I felt were easy, and quickly answered them. In dealing with the TBS testlet, I believed that the best preparation was to be really familiar with how to answer them. In my opinion, you can only be familiar with TBS questions by doing at least 80%, if not all, of the the TBSs in TBS Tutor in CPAexcel. Some were a challenge, but the Authoritative Literature was there to save the day. After answering the TBS, I still had a good 20 minutes to review my answers. During this time, I found some answers that needed to be corrected.

I was confident going out of the test center, but of course like any candidate after an exam, I went straight to my review materials to see if I had answered those unsure items correctly. Overall, however, I knew I had passed.

– Cris S. Ortiz from Guam

Tune in next week for Part II of Cris’ CPA Exam success story!