This week we pick up once again with part 2 of Donna Edge’s personal CPA Exam Story and discover how she overcame the challenges and hurdles on her path to conquering the CPA Exam Continued from Donna Edge’s CPA Exam Story – Part 1Please note that this blog post chronicles Donna’s personal story and may not necessarily reflect your personal experience.

…. In planning my schedule, I counted how many sections were in each part of the exam. Then, I figured out how much time I had to prepare. I’d take the number of days I had and divide it by the number of sections to determine how many sections I needed to complete each day. Of course, adjust for the weekends…

I mentioned above that I would go back through the text with a red pen…I would circle the words ‘not/except/unless/if/and/must/but etc…’ because they usually meant there was ‘something different’ or an ‘exception’ that I needed to be aware of. It keeps you from just reading it to read it. You HAVE to understand the concepts!!!! You cannot just try to memorize the questions. A lot of people mention going over MCQ 3, 4, 5 times and then say they found themselves memorizing them. I only did the MCQ 2 times and read my notes on the ones I missed so I would grasp the concept and not just memorize it.

Most people say you ‘only need to aim for a 75’. My philosophy was always that you should aim for a 100, that way you have a 25 point cushion-if you only aim for a 75, you have NO cushion!

Knowing your learning style is a big part of this exam (i.e.: do you learn better in a classroom type setting where you listen and take notes, or by reading and taking notes). Also, most review programs give you a free sample, so try a few out. One thing about CPAexcel is that its interface is just like the real exam, so when you take the actual exam, your already comfortable with that aspect.

Budget your time on the exam!!!! Many people get hung up on problems and end up running out of time. Here’s how I budgeted mine:

•    BEC-2.5 hours-3 testlets=50 minutes per a testlet. Only give yourself 50 minutes – answer all you can and if the 50 minutes are up and you’re not done, guess-always put an answer!
•    FAR-4 hours-3 mcq testlests and 2 sims. You want to always give yourself at least 45 minutes for each simulation. That leaves 150 minutes for the 3 mcq testlets-handle same way as BEC
•    REG-3 hours-3 mcq testlets and 2 sims. This only gives you 30 minutes per a mcq testlet, allowing the 45 minutes per a sim. You can maybe adjust to 33 minutes per mcq testlet and 40 minutes per sim.
•    AUD-4.5 hours-this one is kinda crazy since you basically have no calculations and are given the most amount of time. I allowed myself 2.5 hours to complete the 3 mcq testlets and 2 hours to complete the sims. I finished the first mcq testlet in 22 minutes. Going into the sims I had 3 hours! I used it to my advantage by taking my time. You CAN use the research data to help you find answers (but you cannot cut and paste-you have to jot the notes on your scratch paper), so if you’re unsure of something, you should have enough time to look it up. For the other sections of the exam, this applies as well, but watch your time b/c you don’t have nearly as much of it in those sections.

On the Sims, always answer the research tab and communication tab before the rest of the tabs. DON’T forget to run spell check!!!!! Only one of the communication tabs is graded, but you have no idea which one. It is worth 10% of your grade.

I may have mentioned this before – if you don’t feel ready for the exam then just reschedule it. Having confidence when you walk into the exam is half the battle…I think one of the reasons the pass rate is so low is because people set a test date and then feel like they ‘have’ to take it since it’s scheduled, whether they are ready or not. People will tell you, oh, just take it and get it over with, but it’s NOT like any other test. You will fail if you take it just to get it over with. I doubted myself both times I rescheduled FAR (I was worried about what everyone would think) but in the end, I’m glad I did because I passed it on my first time. My husband (who was one of the ones that said to just get it over with, because to him, it seemed like I’d studied plenty of time) said after I got my passing score, ‘I guess it was a good thing you rescheduled it!’ Don’t EVER worry about what anyone else thinks-only YOU know what is best for you in that particular situation, or any other situation regarding this exam.

When you go in to take the exam, DON’T stress/psyche yourself out! Find some way to relax before you go in.

If you have a bad day of studying, i.e.: you don’t study as much as you’d hope to, don’t beat yourself up, always remember, tomorrow is a NEW day.

Score Release information:

•    The AICPA grades the exams and then sends them to your state board, or if you’re a NASBA state, to NASBA Wave 1 usually covers the first day of the testing window to the 7th or 8th day of the second month of the testing window.
•    Wave 2 covers till the end of the 2nd month.
•    Scores from wave 1 usually start trickling out the 3rd week of the 2nd month of the testing window. Unless you get a new SIM, then you are bumped to wave 2 score release.
•    Scores from wave 2 start trickling out usually the 3rd week after the close of the testing window.
•    BEC always comes out first. The rest vary in order.
•    If you’re a NASBA state, they usually post the evening of the day after the AICPA releases, although sometimes it is two nights.
•    If you’re a non NASBA state, it depends on your state board. Since I’m in TX, I know TX only updates between 12am-4am two days after AICPA releases and never on the weekends.

As for waiting for your final passing grade…no one warned me how it makes you feel-You get real excited about it at first, then you get kinda blah because everything is on hold till you find out…and the waiting is torture, but it is what it is…you will experience quite a range of emotions. (When I was waiting on my AUD grade, AUD was the LAST section to be released and then on top of that, they did NOT release all of the AUD grades on that day, and we did not know this, and mine was in the second release of the AUD scores…talk about torture!)

Even though the pass rate is approximately 50/50, YOU CAN be the 50% that passes! Go get ’em!

Donna Edge
New Braunfels, Texas
AUD – 83, BEC – 79,
FAR – 83, REG – 83