He who seeketh, findeth

June 27, 2009

CPA exam myths, questions, and my experiences

Filed under: AUD,BEC,CPA,FAR,REG — Steve (Chessiq) @ 11:42 pm

I have taken two exams so far, Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Business Economics and Concepts (BEC) and I have been blessed to have passed both of them. I had a lot of questions before taking the exams, and also after taking the exams (while waiting for the results to come out). Here are some of the questions that I had and the answers I have got from experience.

(Disclaimer: As everything else on this blog, whatever is on this site is for my personal use. It is my personal thoughts and reflections, experiences, wishes, etc – it is not advice for the way you should live your life, conduct your business, or approach life. For advice, help, whatever, consult an appropriate professional.)

Short answer, as much as possible, more than you have ever studied before. Study, in my experience, includes studying the review book, going over multiple choice questions, listening to audio CDs, and watching DVDs. Some of these may not be available to you depending on the review course that you have. You need to use the most current study materials. You need to start studying early. Finish your first “pass-through” a couple of weeks early. Do all the multiple choice questions, hopefully, go over them at least twice. Make sure you are getting the passing score plus a nice safety margin. All this will be in the introduction to the review material. It is a good idea to study the introduction to the book which tells you how to approach the exam, etc. People are different, but I found it best to study continuously, well-spaced out, and then do intensive (almost cram-like) study a week or so before the exam. Even though I was not using Becker, I found this to be helpful. Everything else that is coming after this will not matter much to you if you have studied as much, as smart, as hard, as you could have. You will not have to worry about whether the exam is curved or not; whether you should be worried or not if your results do not come in the first wave; whether if you don’t finish a small part of some simulation, you will still pass or not; whether you failed or passed just because one of the testlets was tougher and then the next one was really easy; whether you passed or failed depending on how fast or slow you completed the whole exam or parts of it. If you have studied well and you have done well on the exam, everything else matters less. Okay, since the most important aspect is taken care of, we can now move on to the other things.

From my experience, it appears that one should not be worried. People worry because they think that either they have outright failed or they are borderline. This may be true, but it was not the case for me. I was worried, just because exam candidates worry, and I didn’t think my preparation, especially towards the end was good enough. Like I have said in another post, I overstudied, burned out, stopped studying, and then got back to it 2-3 days before the exam and crammed until a few minutes before the exam. I found the first testlet pretty easy even though I missed a couple of questions that I should have got right. Anyway, I am digressing. I will explain this later. You may want to read this, for further information on the grading of the exam and how the exams are released. I believe that if you are using Gleim or Yaeger, the introduction to the section you are taking will explain enough to tell you that there is no need to worry.
For me, the thing that gave me the most peace of mind was the knowledge that if it was true that if your results did not come out in the first wave then you failed… You would have all passing scores in the first wave – which is not the case, and you would have all marginal passes and/or failures in the second wave – which is also not the case. If you go to sites like Another71 or CPANET.com, you will find that people’s scores are all over the place in both wave 1 and wave 2, so I would not read too much into it unless something changes. My FAR result came out in wave 2, on 6/19/09,  even though I took the exam on 4/20/09 and “should have come out in wave 1”.


From my experience, if you have done well in all other testlets, and for some reason you don’t finish or something does not work out in another testlet, you should not despair. Well, I should probably explain myself. Itimed myself pretty strictly during the exams. For FAR, I planned to spend 45 minutes a testlet, maximum an hour if the testlet was tough. I told myself that I was willing to spend 1 hour on each of the multiple choice questions and then 30 minutes on the simulations if need be. I finished the first testlet in 42 minutes, and I reviewed for another 5-7 minutes. It was an okay (almost easy) testlet, but I missed a couple of questions that I should have got right if I had studied properly. I was not worried because I had a treshold of how many questions I could fail, and I was within that treshold. (Of course, if you fail 7 questions with the highest points then you may fail the testlet. I think I am able to tell when a question is objectively difficult and when it is not. Well, I would like to think so.) Anyway, the second testlet was pretty tough… I think I spent 1 hour 15 minutes on it. I was not too worried about it because I had about 10 minutes or so from the time budgeted for the first testlet. Overall, I was putting myself in a bind or time crunch, but I was calm. The third testlet was almost as tough as the second one, and I spent about an hour or a little over. In each case, I went back through the questions just to make sure that I had answered all questions, and I revisited the questions that I had marked for review, (and I had written down what I thought the correct response should be or why I could not decide.) Anyway, time for simulations, fourth testlet, I went through all the tabs, just to see the questions. I was just following the things I had read or heard or seen about handling the simulations. I had actually written down the steps I would follow at each stage of the exam and I read them each day as I started or finished studying. Anyway, I could not find the correct research solution, and I did not sweat it. I had done well or okay on the other parts of the simulation. Last simulation, I had 25 minutes or so. Obviously, I started with the written part, per advice from other DVDs or CDs or Books, and I quickly found the research part,… but when it came to the part that I needed to enter my figures, the spreadsheet was not working properly or I was doing something wrong. I tried double-clicking, I tried typing in my figures, I tried entering numbers in places I knew were not correct… I cannot remember what happened or how it all ended up working okay, but somehow I was able to enter some numbers (solutions) in a couple of places and the solutions were what I expected. Anyway, 3 minutes to go and I start reviewing the tabs, I find that there are numbers in a bunch of places I didn’t want them to be, i.e. when I was double-clicking in all the weird places and just trying things out and it didn’t seem like things were working out, the numbers I keyed in were being captured. UURRGGGHH! I started changing things, but then I told myself that I should not worry about it. I had put in a lot of effort, it was not good to try to change something that I spent minutes (or hours or days) working on in the remaining few seconds. I trusted the AICPA and their program… that if there were places that were not supposed to be touched or edited, then things will be okay… I sat there and watched as the clock ticked away. Time up. I was not sure whether to include this in my evaluation of how the computer worked, how satisfied I was with this or that, what improvements could be made, etc. I just wanted to go home and rest and start preparing for BEC. If I tell you that I did not worry about the simulations, and the questions that I knew I was supposed to know the correct answers to, I would be lying. I worried a little, but found ways to comfort myself quickly.

I wrote about my preparation for BEC, especially the last couple of days before the exam, in another post. I will link to it later. But, I did not have as much of a rough time with BEC… the only thing is, I was chilling and reviewing everything in my third testlet, and I saw that I had now answered the first or second question. I had may be 30 seconds or less. It was a wordy unclear question, and I just had to choose something because you “NEVER LEAVE A QUESTION UNANSWERED!” – that had been drilled in my head – and “NEVER CHOOSE (A) UNLESS YOU ARE SURE” etc. I had written those things down and went over them as frequently as I could, especially when I was practicing MCQs. So, I chose something and time run out. I felt relieved after the exam, just as I did after FAR. Was that good or bad? If I failed FAR and I had this same feeling, then may be I failed BEC as well? As we now know… I passed both. You cannot stop living just because you didn’t finish a simulation or some part of a testlet. I guessed quite a few times, because I just wasn’t sure or I didn’t have the timeto spend on a particular question or questions, but it appears I had studied enough to make the right guesses, or if I got things wrong, I had gotten enough correct to pass.


Honestly, I do not know the answer to this. I was preparing for BEC when FAR wave 1 came out. I checked and checked and checked even though I knew that both failure and passing could affect my preparation for the BEC. Neither was better for me as far as preparing for BEC was concerned. If I passed, I could relax a little bit and study better or relax too much and not study well enough. If I failed, I could study harder to at least pass one, or I could be devastated and not study well enough and fail two in a row. I thank God that I did not get my FAR score in wave 1. I lost a day that I could have studied BEC because I was checking NASBA, another71, the state board site, my email… I even wrote NASBA! Ha Ha! I read a hundreds of discussions and rants about the exams… so this one is a toughie. If you can manage to not worry or think about the exam you took and focus on the one at hand, that would be the best thing to do. However, spending time checking exams that have not come out, worrying and not studying, is one of the most unproductive things one can do while preparing for the CPA exam. It is not easy to block distractions out.


As I was preparing for the exam, the one thing that I frequently did was to visit sites like another71 (link above), CPAnet, and read up on people’s experiences. I will admit that sometimes I overdid it, because it was much easier than studying, but I learned a lot just by seeing the mistakes that other people made, or the good things that people who passed the exam did. One of the mistakes that I made was to overstudy and overprepare for FAR way before the exam… (I am not sure if it was a mistake – but I regard it as such) – and then burned out a month before the exam… and I didn’t touch a book or a DVD or a CD until the week of the exam. I had 4 days or so to review for the exam and it was a little stressful. For BEC, I did the opposite, I didn’t study until it was too late – almost too late. Lucky enough, I realized this weeks ahead of time, and I rescheduled my exam date. I had read various people’s writings about why the rescheduled and how the additional week or weeks made the difference between passing and failing. In my case, I can surely say that if Ihad not rescheduled, I could have barely passed or failed. I had rescheduled the exam to a week later. That allowed the cramming that I did during the week of Memorial Day weekend(?) to settle in – and it was almost like I had two cramming review sessions. If you look at the postings I made during that time, you will see that I was not exactly a happy camper, but I was positive about my progress.

So, to answer the question, you know yourself best. Do you think that waiting another week or two (if there is time in the testing window) is going to make a difference? If so, is it worth the cost? For me, the $35 was worth it. I will buy an extra week of study for the CPA exam at $35 any day if I think it will make a difference. Actually, it is not just a week I bought… I bought/saved future time that I could have spent re-applying, re-studying, re-taking the exam, re-worrying, re-checking various sites for results information etc. What a deal I got! However, not studying just because there is an option to reschedule is not smart at all. It is a waste of time and money. I don’t think I will ever reschedule again. I think I have got a good hang/handle of how much studying I need to do and when I can start without burning out or underpreparing.

Here is a helpful link  for other AICPA or CPA exam-related questionsfrom an interview Jeff (another71.com) conducted with the AICPA.

I guess I should stop here for now. It is almost midnight. I will add to this or do another post when/if I remember something else. I will read my mission statement and then do a couple of Auditing MCQs before I sleep.

It is a wonderful life.


June 13, 2009

Passed BEC

Filed under: BEC,CPA — Steve (Chessiq) @ 10:02 pm

Waiting for the results of the CPA exam, Business Economics and Concepts (BEC) section, made today one of the longest days of the week. I just found a few minutes ago, (this is 9:57pm), that I passed BEC. I got 87; you need a 75 to pass.

Thanks to God for all that I am. Thanks for my life, my energy, my health, my family, my girlfriend, my friends, my acquaintances, the resources, and all that has enabled me get to this point.

So, one section of the CPA down, three more to go.

It is a wonderful life!

June 1, 2009

Waiting for CPA exam results while preparing for AUD

Filed under: AUD,BEC,CPA,FAR — Steve (Chessiq) @ 9:24 pm

After my exam last Friday, I decided to start studying Auditing and Attestation (AUD) as soon as possible. Saturday morning, I decided to give Wiley testprep CD 14.0 a chance. For the past two exams I didn’t use it at all because I just didn’t like the “design”. One of the things I didn’t like was that I had to scroll up down to see a short answer – this really irritated me when I got a question wrong! In addition, the pop-up answer covered the partially covered the multiple choice options and you cannot move it to the side. How … smart is that!? The other reason is that (I think) I read that it only keep track of the last 3 sessions… So, I went ended up buying Gleim’s testprep CDs (I paid about $55 each for FAR and BEC and downloaded the software). Anyway, I re-read the Wiley “manual” or contents section and played around with it and I thought, since I am trying to save money, I could force myself to make do with it and see how I like it. I found that there was a text link… that gave you excerpts from the book relevant to the question being asked. I really liked (and still like) that idea. I guess you can read almost half of the book – the important stuff by reading the excerpts as you go! (You = me!)
The past couple of days I have done several things… I have finished watching the first DVD of the Yaeger lectures which covered Engagement Planning and Risk Assessment, and Internal Controls; I have finished Engagement Planning and Assessing Risks (Wiley AUD book – first module or chapter), and I have gone through all the multiple choice questions related to the first module – 125 questions. I didn’t do great, something like 67%. As always, I don’t worry about my first pass through. When I read the book or review my notes I should be okay.
My goal is to be at least half-way done when the exams start coming out in the next 3 weeks! My thoughts are alternating between… “I passed both FAR and BEC”, “I passed BEC but barely failed FAR”, and “I barely failed both FAR and BEC”! With that, what my reaction will be… how I will communicate the news to my family, bosses, workmates, and friends. I would like to think I passed both parts.

In the mean time, Auditing and Attestation rules!

It is a wonderful life.

May 29, 2009

BEC – exam taken

Filed under: BEC,CPA — Steve (Chessiq) @ 11:59 pm

My appointment for the exam was at 8pm. I think I started the exam around 8:15pm and got done around 10:45pm.
It was okay. The first testlet was.. okay. In some ways I thought it was easier than I expected. The second, as was the case with FARe, was pretty tough, and the last one, surprised me – it was not tough, just very tricky. I think there were 5 to 7 questions total that I had no idea and I had to guess. There were a few that I was not sure about. I came out feeling… relieved. I am not sure whether it was because it was not as bad as I feared, or it is because the exam is done and there is not much I can do but wait for the results.

So CPA exam – BEC is done – at least for now. Tomorrow, I start studying Auditing and Attestation (AUD). No more wasting time.

This is 11:59pm. Time to sleep.

It is a wonderful life.

May 25, 2009

BEC – 4 days to go

Filed under: BEC,CPA — Steve (Chessiq) @ 9:16 pm

I am a little tired. Lots more work to do. I won’t go into the details of how I have done on various study units. I am a little bit behind schedule. A little bit. I will change the way I will study what’s remaining. Instead of going through all the multiple questions in a study unit like I have been doing so far, I will do sets of 20 questions and spend an hour on each study unit. I would like to think that I will be okay. I finished Information Technology yesterday, and today, I did most of Planning and Budgeting.

Speaking with my uncle earlier, he asked me how Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) was, and I told him it was tough. Sometimes you have to lower expectations that way the result doesn’t kill anybody. I think I passed, but I didn’t wanna say that. Anyway, he mentioned something about my cousin who is doing 2 Masters degrees and usually scores over 95% in his tests… It was meant to encourage me to work harder… that I have the potential to do that. Only if I could not cram! Or if I was that interested. May be I should prepare for the CPA the way I prepare for Chess when I really want to win. I cram, but not this bad. May be because I am good at Chess, and I enjoy it more than I enjoy Accounting? Anyway, change of course going forward. I will do go through this the best way I can, but AUD and REG should be ready for a monster me!

Let’s see what the next 3 hours will bring. Shooting to sleep by midnight. CPA – BEC, here I come 😉

I am not sure if I will make any posts between tomorrow and Friday, 5/29. I will make some notes on my preparation and progress to be posted after the exam. Til then!

It is a wonderful life!

May 24, 2009

BEC – 5 days to go

Filed under: BEC,CPA — Steve (Chessiq) @ 4:18 pm

I went to the library at around 1pm. The next Study Unit was International Trade. This has 90 multiple choice questions! Ouch! I think I was at the library til 3:30pm when the private study room was needed. I was tired, so I came home to grab a can of soup and drove off to work. I read some magazine for about an hour – just relaxing for a little bit, and then I finished off Study Unit 7. Got an average of 74: Advantages of International Trade 66; Trade Barriers 86; Foreign Currency Rates and Markets 76; and Balance of Payments 71. I didn’t think it was a bad first pass through. I took another break to catch up on soccer, basketball, and politics.

I think I went back to the books around 7:35pm. I had decided that I had seen enough numbers, economics and/or finance-related subject matter, so I decided to switch and jump around and go to Information Technology. So, I did Information Technology I from 7:35pm – 9:41pm, 66 questions, and got a horrible average 62%. It got me wondering if my I.S. background is any good. I told myself that it has been a while since I studied or looked at anything IT-related in the minute-detail that these questions were asking. Most of it was rote… enough of the excuses! Let’s see the breakdown: Role of Business Information Systems 54; Risks Associated w/ B.I.S. 68; Roles and Responsibilities w/n the IT function 69; Systems Development and Design 61. Well, that was Study Unit 11. Another break.

I downloaded Audacity software from the Internet to record Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiedel — a classical music gem. I copied the recording over several times to last 8 hours, so that I can use it when I am working or studying without replaying or repeating it too many times. I think I will do that with one or two of Mozart’s pieces that I really like. Back to the computer for more studying.

From 11pm til 12:25am, I did Study Unit 12, Information Technology II, 57 questions, and got an average 71: Hardware 82; Software 70; Networks – classified by Extent and Function 70; Networks -classified by Equipment and Protocol 77; and Internet and Intranet 40! The last one makes it look so bad… I got 2 out of the 5 questions! and you know how the value/stakes go up when you have fewer “options” —- averages. Again, not excuses. I would like to think that the two questions had to do with Internet than Intranet! Anyway, I felt it was not a bad first pass through! It was a combination of studying and test-taking. Another break.

I drove home – and ate… dinner?!? around 1:15am. I think I slept after that. I don’t remember reading the simpledollar or mrsmicah – some of the blogs that I like. I woke up at 6am – sort of. Went to manutd.com to see if the last game against Hull was on. It wasn’t. I logged on mutv to turn on the live commentary, and somehow I crushed again until around 11:30am. I must have been tired from having a long day yesterday and not sleeping well the day before. Anyway, I listened to the soccer match while researching some salary information in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The computer froze a couple of times and I took it to mean God wanted me to start studing again!

From 1:53pm til 3:29pm, I did Study Unit 13, Information Technology III, 67 questions, and I got an average 77: Operating Systems 80; Security 77; Types of Data Files 60%; Nature of Binary Data Storage 100; and File Organization and Access Methods 77. The 100 is coming from getting 3 questions out of 3! As explained above, the fewer the items… However, it does not skew the average, as the system looks at the total correct questions divided by the total questions for the Study Unit. I told myself, not a bad first pass through!

That’s my progress so far on the CPA exams’ Business Economics and Concepts (BEC) so far.

I guess I should eat something and then coming back to the books and see if I can get to Study Units 14 (Information Technology IV, 82 questions), 15 (Information Technology V, 66 questions), and 16 (Planning and Budgeting, 153 questions) before the day is over.

It is a wonderful life.

May 23, 2009

BEC – 6 days to go

Filed under: BEC,CPA — Steve (Chessiq) @ 12:24 pm

After posting the intro and update, I had dinner, and then I talked to a friend for a while, and then I hit the books. (More like hit the computer!) I finished Study Unit 5 Microeconomics – didn’t do too badly – a 75. I then tackled Study Unit 6 – Macroeconomics – not great – 73. I am doing all the multiple questions in each study unit. It is my first time to go through the Study Units, so in a way, I am not feeling as bad as I would otherwise, if I had studied anything about these things and then I was not able to get to the scores I would like. I slept around midnight. Study Unit 6 took me about 2.5 hours, and I think there were 67 questions, so that’s about 2.25 min per question. I think it is a reasonable time considering I am studying as I go. My weakest area in Macroeconomics was Monetary Policy, but I think I have it down pat; the 73 was average of all various Macroeconomics sections. I think I got a 65 in Monetary Policy; Three Principal Issues in Macroeconomics 76; Domestic Output, National Income, and Price Levels 72; Business Cycles 100; and Fiscal Policy 80.

Even though I went to bed after midnight, my mind was still very active… but I also had a very bad splitting headache. I turned off all the lights except the one in the closet, and had some Gospel music going on itunes to relax me to sleep. I think I slept after an hour or so. I still have a minor headache, and I think it is due to looking at the computer for too long with focused attention and thinking non-stop. It is almost like I am playing tournament Chess again!

Anyway, my goal is to do Study Units 7 through 11 today, 12-16 tomorrow, and 17-20 on Memorial day. Then Tuesday-Thursday, I will spend 3 hours each day taking tests. I think I will do 30 questions/30 minute tests, so that’s 6 a day and that will get me up to speed. Normally when I take tests I spend about a minute a question, and if it’s tough or needed calculations, I will give it 2-3 minutes. So, time management during tests is not my worry.

I am heading out to the library. This is 12:09pm, and I will be there til 4:45pm. I hope to do two Study Units when I head out. Then I will head out to work… not to work, but to study, until I finish the other 3 units.
Cramming is not great, but flopping is worse. I think if I stick to my plan, I will do just fine.

What is my Marginal Propensity to Study (MPS)? How about my Multiplier? Marginal Propensity to Cram (MPC)I would like to think that my Multiplier is 1/(1-MPC). I am working towards making MPS larger. It is going to negatively affect the multiplier, but in this case, I am not worried about it since I know that when I study, I retain quite a bit. May be I should stop this and go study/cram 😉

So, that’s it for today on preparing for BEC on my way to becoming a CPA.

It is a wonderful life.

May 22, 2009

Blogging away the CPA exams!

Filed under: AUD,BEC,CPA,FAR,REG — Steve (Chessiq) @ 5:30 pm

I have decided to start blogging again. This time around, instead of blogging about Chess or God or some other things that really interest me, I will blog about … my efforts towards passing CPA exams. I will try to keep my posts short. I think it will be my way of tracking my progress and keeping myself motivated to study. To stay on the path to passing and getting certified. I have some pretty good records of how I have studied so far – good or bad – but the records are there.
So, briefly, here is what has happened so far.

I sat for Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) on 4/20/09. I felt relieved after the exam. I thought the exam was not as tough as I expected. It was tough, but mainly because I didn’t prepare the way I should have. I had studied really hard for about 2 months, and then I burnt out. I didn’t study for almost 3 weeks and then I had to cram 3-4 days before the exam. I think I slept for about 16 hours in the 4 days before the exam. Not the greatest way to study. My take from the exam… if you know the fundamentals or basics of everything, you should be okay. For example, given some information, can you work out a statement of cash flow using the direct method and/or the indirect method? Can you break down the information into operating, investing, and financing activities? Similarly, do you know the main categories of governmental funds? How about the types of funds that fall under each category? etc. The volume of material to remember is great, but it is not undoable. I thought I managed my time well: 45 min, 60min, 75min, 35min, and 25min for the 5 testlets. Did I pass? I don’t know. I would like to think so. Some results came out over the past couple of days, in wave 1, but mine was not part of it. I think it is a good thing, that way I can focus on preparing for Business Economics and Concepts (BEC). How is that? Well, if I passed, then may be I would relax a little bit and waste a day or two along the way. On the other hand, may be it would give great motivation to pass BEC and then pass the other two (Auditing and Attestation (AUD), and Regulation (REG)) next quarter. May be. If I failed, may be I would be disturbed and not be able to study for a day or two. May be failure would give me the drive I need to focus on BEC so that I don’t go 0 in 2! I don’t know.
What I can tell you is that I have spent the past 3 days checking result-related information at the State Board of Accountancy website, at NASBA, at CPAnet, at another71.com, and a few other places. Today, I have come to the conclusion that, as I had originally hoped, my result for FAR will come out around June 21st.
How has my prep for BEC been? Not great. I should say there has not been much preparation at except the past 3 days. What is my explanation or excuse? I have been pretty busy with work. I have been stressed out about work – will I have a job tomorrow, next week, next month? I am not as stressed this week week as I was about 2-4 weeks ago. I will not go into the details. The other explanation/fact, but not an excuse, is that I have just been avoiding studying. No motivation, no drive. I would not look at this explanation separately from the first one. They may be linked. Anyway, so what am I doing going forward?

Well, first off, I was supposed to take the exam tomorrow – 5/23, but I moved it (two weeks ago) to next Friday, 5/29 after I saw that I was so busy at work with month end close, and even after that, I could see a hellish week or weeks preparing for Auditors. I am not moving the exam again. I have been off work since Wednesday and I have done some decent studying. I think I will be prepared to take the exam by the time 5/29 rolls around even though I am working every day next week. I will try to get out of work by 6 pm so that I can have at least 4-5 hours of study before I sleep.

This week I will be using Gleim’s test prep software to go through the study units. Today I have finished unit 4 and I am half way through unit 5. I have only 15 to go! I have been averaging about 71. The recommended is 80 and above so that you can feel “assured” that you will get a 75 on the actual exam.

I have written more than I intended to, but it was a quick summary of what I have done so far and where I am headed.

It is a wonderful life.

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