Currently the tax manager of a CPA firm, Amanda Bristol takes pride in making it look easy. She initially signed up for the Wiley CPAexcel course back in the spring of 2016, fully expecting an arduous grind. The timing was right for her though. She buckled down and committed to the challenge.
Before committing to the Wiley brand, Amanda had done some comparison shopping. She admitted giving other courses the sniff test. In the end, though, settling on Wiley was a no-brainer for her. “It seemed like the best option, because if I failed any tests,” she explained, “my access to the Wiley software remained until I achieved my goal. Wiley was the only major company that offered that feature and, working full time, I had a feeling I might have to take advantage of that.”
Well, Amanda was wrong about one thing. She actually didn’t need the continued access to the software at all. She passed all four exams on the very first try. Apparently, Amanda doesn’t kid around. “I only had to take each exam once!” she said. “I know that’s because of the Wiley software. The lesson format was easy to focus on, even when I had very little time, and the choices of video and text were perfect.”
Amanda might be too generous with her praise. After all, it takes a great deal of discipline, as well as effective study techniques to get through each exam on the first pass. We thought it might be helpful, given her tremendous achievement, to pick her brain; see what worked and didn’t, so that others following in her footsteps, certainly those opting for the Wiley software, might benefit as well.
“The ‘Focus Notes’ were probably the most useful tool for me,” she said. “I made sure to read through those books after I finished each review course to refresh my memory of the main topics covered at the beginning of each course. They were perfect to help me focus my efforts on areas I didn’t remember well or didn’t feel confident about.
“Also, the sample questions—both multiple choice and task-based simulations—helped me become familiar with the CPA Exam software and made test days less stressful.”
Finally, one of her more memorable pointers came from a sagacious video instructor. “He said that I just need to commit to getting through at least one lesson on the days I had no motivation. Thinking of that phrase helped me realize that if I could just knock one lesson out for the day, I’d be one step closer to being done. Then, once I got through one, I almost always felt like I had the energy and motivation to do another. Before I knew it, I got through three or four lessons in one sitting, at a time I didn’t want to get through any!”
In addition to specific tips, we asked Amanda about the big picture.
How did she mentally prepare? What was her mindset when attempting to tackle the curriculum?
“I feel the most important step is to make a commitment to yourself to achieve your goal,” she says. “For me, I had been putting it off for way too long and I needed to get moving. Once I filled out the application with my state board, I felt committed to the journey, since I was financially invested. From there, it was easier to get moving so I could see a pay off at the end.”
For Amanda, the payoff involved rewarding employment at a reputable firm. She certainly hopes to be climbing the ladder, and perhaps even becoming a partner, shortly down the line. Destined for success, we thought she might want to share her best piece of advice as a parting gift: “Focus on why you decided to start this journey in the first place and stick with that to get you through it. But perhaps more importantly, make sure you have a strong support team behind you. You need people to help pick you up and encourage you to keep going in case you fall. It’s worth it in the end!”
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