21 'Essential' Facts About Passing The CPA Exam & Beyond

Learn How To Sign Up, Study and Pass The CPA Exam in Six Months Or Less, Why The CPA Exam Is So Hard And More

By Bryan Kesler, CPA on 10/6/2017

Welcome to CPA Exam Guide! My name is Bryan Kesler, CPA and if you are brand new (or struggling) with the CPA exam process this is going to be your go to resource as you start, study and PASS the CPA exam.

An important fact to note is that these steps are not just "guessing" or "what I think," these are the exact steps I took (and have taught to thousands of CPA Candidates around the world) to pass the CPA exam.

If you want the proven blueprint to passing the CPA exam in the next 6 months, you are in the right place.

Best of luck and leave a comment below if you have any questions!

Click Below To Learn The 21 Steps To Signing Up, Studying And Passing The CPA Exam:


1: Learn About The CPA Exam And What It Can Do For Your Career
2: Get Mentally Prepared For Taking The CPA Exam (Important Step!)
3: Learn CPA Exam Requirements In Your State


4: Learn How to Sign Up for the CPA Exam the Right Way (Yes. There is a Wrong Way!)
5: Plan For Your Journey To The Prometric Center (They Don't Mess Around)
6: Understand How The CPA Exam Is Graded? (And Why You Shouldn't Stress!)


7: Find A CPA Review Course Based on How You Learn Best
8: Craft a Killer CPA Exam Study Plan & Routine
9: Learn How to Study for CPA Exam Multiple Choice (Everyone's Favorite!)


10: Learn How to Tackle CPA Exam Simulations
11: Understand How to Make Time to Study For CPA Exam (That Doesn't Included Becoming a Grouchy Jerk Face)
12: Create A CPA Exam Final Review Study Funnel To DOMINATE On Exam Day


13: Ensure You Understand How To Mentally Recover From Exam Day (That Doesn't Include Drugs or Alcohol!)
14: Create a Plan For Staying Motivated Whether You Pass or Fail (Follow This to Stay Focused and Motivated)
15: Create A Plan For Managing Your Relationships While Studying For The CPA Exam


16: Create A Plan For Managing Your Day Job Workload And Study Time While Sitting For The CPA Exam
17: Understand the Signs of CPA Exam Depression So You Can Ward It Off
18: Prepare For Life After Passing The CPA Exam (Tips For Leveraging Your CPA license)


19: What is the Difference Between a CPA Certificate and CPA License and Why it Matters to You.
20: Understand Your Post-CPA CPE requirements and other fun stuff!
21: Identify Other Certificates / Licenses That Can Benefit Your Career



Step 1: Learn What About The CPA Exam And What It Do For Your Career?

According to the AICPA:

"The Uniform CPA Examination protects the public interest by helping to ensure that only qualified individuals become licensed as U.S. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Individuals seeking to qualify as CPAs – the only licensed qualification in accounting – are required to pass the CPA Examination."

To ensure that only the most qualified individuals are able to take and pass the exam, the AICPA has strict education, age, and residency requirements that must be met prior to sitting for the exam. (Refer to Step #3 for specific requirements)

Why Become A Certified Public Accountant (CPA)?

I share 5 benefits of becoming a CPA in this CPAguide.TV Episode:

What Is Tested On The CPA Exam?

To test the knowledge of every candidate, the CPA exam is split into four different sections that cover the following topics:

Section #1: Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)

Financial Accounting and Reporting is the largest section of the CPA exam and comprehensively covers many different areas of general accounting and reporting.

FAR is made up of the following primary topics:

Conceptual Framework and Financial Reporting (25-35%)
Select Financial Statements Accounts (30-40%)
Select Transactions (20%-30%)
State and Local Governments (5%-15%)


Within each of these primary topics, you will be expected to know the following:

Conceptual Framework and Financial Reporting (25-35%)

1) Conceptual framework and standard-setting
2) General-purpose financial statements: for-profit business entities 3) General-purpose financial statements: nongovernmental, not-for-profit entities
4) Public company reporting topics 5) Financial statements of employee benefit plans 6) Special purpose frameworks


Select Financial Statements Accounts (30-40%)

Cash and cash equivalents Trade receivables Inventory
Property, plant and equipment Investments Intangible assets
Payables and accrued liabilities Long-term debt Equity
Revenue recognition Compensation and benefits Income taxes


Select Transactions (20%-30%)


Accounting changes and error corrections Business combinations Contingencies and commitments
Derivatives and hedge accounting Foreign currency transactions and translation Leases
Nonreciprocal transfers Research and development costs Software costs
Subsequent events Fair value measurements Differences between IFRS and U.S. GAAP

 

State and Local Governments (5%-15%)

State and local government concepts Format and content of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)
Deriving government-wide financial statements and reconciliation requirements Typical items and specific types of transactions and events in governmental entity financial statements


What Is The Exam Structure For Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)?

For FAR there will be 2 testlets of 33 multiple choice questions each for a total of 66 multiple choice questions

In addition there are 3 Testlets with 8 total Task Based Simulation questions and these will be split 2, 3, 3 by testlet


How Much Time Do You Have To Complete FAR and How Is It Weighted?

You are given 4 hours to complete the exam. When being graded your exam will be weighted as follows:

Section #2: Regulation (REG)

Regulation is the 2nd largest section of the CPA exam and comprehensively covers many different areas of taxes and business law.

Regulation is made up of the following topics:

1) (10-20%) Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and Federal Tax Procedures
2) (10-20%) Business law,
3) (60-80%) Federal Taxation


Within each of these primary topics, you will be expected to know the following:


(10-20%) Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and Federal Tax Procedures

Ethics and responsibilities in tax practice Licensing and disciplinary systems
Federal tax procedures Legal duties and responsibilities


(10-20%) Business law

Contracts Agency
Business structure Debtor-creditor relationships
Government regulation of business  


(60-80%) Federal Taxation

Federal taxation of individuals Federal taxation of entities
Federal taxation of property transactions  


What Is The Exam Structure For REG?

How Much Time Do You Have To Complete FAR and How Is It Weighted?

You are given 3 hours to complete the exam. When being graded your exam will be weighted as follows:


Section #3: Auditing & Attestation (AUD)

AUD Auditing and Attestation is considered by many to be the most difficult section of the CPA exam. It comprehensively covers many different areas of auditing and attestation.

Auditing and Attestation is made up of the following topics:

1) (15-25%) Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and General Principles
2) (20-30%) Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response
3) (30-40%) Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence
4) (15-25%) Forming Conclusions and Reporting


And of these four primary topics you will be expected to understand the following sub-topics within each section:

(15-25%) Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and General Principles

Nature and Scope of Audit and Non-Audit Engagements Ethics, Independence and Professional Conduct Terms of Engagement for Audit and Non-Audit Engagements
Requirements for Engagements Documentation Communication with Management and Those Charged with Governance Communication with Component Auditors and Parties Other Than Management and Those Charge with Governance
A Firm’s System of Quality Control, Including Quality Control at the Engagement Level    


(20-30%) Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response

Planning an Engagement Understanding an Entity and Its Environment Understanding an Entity’s Internal Control
Assessing Risks Due to Fraud Identifying and Assessing the Risk of Material Misstatement and Planning Further Procedures Responsive to Identified Risks Materiality
Planning for and using the Work of Others, Including Group Audits, the Internal Audit Function and the Work of a Specialist Specific Areas of Audit Risk  


(30-40%) Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence

Understanding Sufficient Appropriate Audit Evidence Sampling Techniques Performing Specific Procedures to Obtain Evidence
Specific Matters that Require Individual Attention Misstatements and Internal Control Deficiencies Written Representations
Subsequent Events and Subsequently Discovered Facts    


(15-25%) Forming Conclusions and Reporting

Reports On Auditing Engagements Reports On Attestation Engagements Accounting and Review Service Engagements
Reporting On Compliance Other Reporting Considerations  

What Is The Exam Structure For AUD?

The actual exam is in the following format:

How Much Time Do You Have To Complete AUD and How Is It Weighted?

You are given 4 hours to complete the exam. When being graded your exam will be weighted as follows:

Section #4: Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

Business Environment and Concepts is the shortest of the CPA exam sections and comprehensively covers several different general business areas outside of general accounting.

BEC is made up of the following topics:

1) 17-27% Corporate Governance
2) 17-27% Economic Concepts and Analysis
3) 11-21% Financial Management
4) 15-25% Information Systems and Communications
5) 15-25% Operations Management


And of these four primary topics you will be expected to understand the following sub-topics within each section:

17-27% Corporate Governance

Internal control and enterprise risk management frameworks Other regulatory frameworks and provisions


17-27% Economic Concepts and Analysis

Financial risk management Economic and business cycles Market influences on business


11-21% Financial Management

Capital structure Working capital Financial valuation methods and decision models


15-25% Information Systems and Communications

IT governance Role of IT in business
Processing integrity (input/processing/output controls) Systems development and maintenance
Information security/availability  


15-25% Operations Management

Cost measurement concepts, methods and techniques Variance analysis Process management
Planning techniques    

What Is The Exam Structure For BEC?

The actual exam is in the following format:

How Much Time Do You Have To Complete BEC and How Is It Weighted?

You are given 4 hours to complete the exam. When being graded your exam will be weighted as follows:

Ethics

Depending on your state, you may be required to complete Ethics training in order to become a licensed CPA. The most popular Ethics Course is the AICPA's Professional Ethics: The AICPA's Comprehensive Course. It is an open book self study CPE program that can be completed at any point in your exam.

NOTE: Not all states require you to take the CPA exam, and some require specific Ethics exams other than the exam mentioned above. In general, you are required to pass your ethics exam within two years preceding initially applying for your CPA certificate.

Before you get overwhelmed by the massive amount of information tested on the CPA exam, let's discuss what the CPA exam can do for your career.

By passing the CPA exam you automatically set yourself apart from all other accountants.

There are approximately 646,000 active CPA in the United States, so by passing the CPA exam you are part of an elite group of accountants.

The CPA exam is also a universally recognized certificate which will make transitioning to a different career or industry much easier than if you were not a CPA.

There are other non-tangible benefits to becoming a CPA but the biggest tangible result is the monetary advantage you will have over your peers.

It has been shown that CPA's typically make $1,000,000+ over their careers than their non-CPA counterpart.

If you want to be the best accountant you can be, then passing the CPA exam is a no brainer.

In chapter 2 we are going to discuss exactly what sacrifices you will need to make in order to become a CPA.



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Step 2: Get Mentally Prepared For Taking The CPA Exam (Important Step!)

If you are serious about starting, studying and passing the CPA exam on your first try then it is imperative you go all in.

If you are not 100% mentally prepared to pass the CPA exam then you will procrastinate, lose focus and fail.

How Long Should I Study for the CPA exam?

It is recommended that you study for the CPA exam between 300-400 hours total for the CPA exam based on the suggestion of the CPA review courses.

When you add this to your full time job it can be difficult to imagine finding the time to study.

But here is the thing, right now you are probably thinking about spreading those hours out over 3-4 months per section so that you don't have to drastically change your lifestyle.

This is the wrong attitude.

Passing the CPA exam is all about maximizing your short term memory so the quicker you can sit for the exam the better.

This may sound counter intuitive but the less time you give yourself to study the more pressure you are going to feel to get things done and the faster you will get through the material and the more fresh it will be on exam day.

Think of it this way.

If you give yourself 16 weeks to study you will find it difficult to motivate yourself to be is all out study mode because you have tons of time to get to it.

You will also have a much harder time remembering what you taught yourself in the early weeks because it will be stale by exam day and out of your short term memory.

Here is what I recommend and know to work best:

If you limit yourself to a hard deadline of 7-9 weeks you are going to feel immediate pressure to get things done, cut everything that is a distraction out of your life and you will eat, sleep and breathe the CPA exam.

Remember the CPA exam is designed to mirror what you will experience during busy season so treat it the exact same way.

Plus a positive side effect is that your studying won't drag on for an eternity!



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Step 3: Learn About CPA Exam Requirements In Your State

Are you as confused as I was when trying to sign up for the CPA exam?

There are 50+ states and countries you can take the CPA exam in so how do I pick one and how do I know if I have hit all of the education requirements?

5 Simple Steps to Signing Up For The CPA Exam:

Signing up for the CPA exam doesn't have to be painful, follow these 5 steps and you will be set

1) Review Your Exam Requirements - refer below for specific state requirements
2) Submit your exam application and find a CPA review course that maximizes how you learn best
3) Request and forward your transcripts to your state board of accountancy
4) Pay your CPA Exam fees to receive your notice to schedule (NTS)
5) Schedule your exam at your local Prometric center


If you would like a more detailed checklist to make this process even easier, please download your Free CPA Exam Application Checklist PDF below:


What Are The CPA Exam Education Requirements?

Let’s start with the different requirements for education

NOTE:These are just a summary of the different types of requirements, scroll to the end of this chapter to find your specific state's requirements.

There are the 4 major education requirements to know before signing up for the CPA exam


EDUCATION REQUIREMENT #1
All states require that you obtain at a minimum a Bachelor's degree in accounting - the majority will require a masters in accounting or equivalent upper level degree.

EDUCATION REQUIREMENT #2

The biggest requirement to consider is whether your state requires 150 credit hours or 120 credit hours to actually sit for the exam

This does not mean that you do not need to complete 150 hours because you are required to complete all 150 hours in order to become licensed (except in the Virgin Islands).

EDUCATION REQUIREMENT #3

Be sure to check that you have completed the appropriate # of accounting course credits, business law credits, and other required classes

Again these will vary by state

EDUCATION REQUIREMENT #4

Whatever state you decide to sit for the CPA exam you will need to send the following to your State Board Of Accountancy

    1. College Transcripts”

    2. Your CPA Exam Application

    3. Allow 4-6 Weeks for this process to be completed for 1st time candidates

What Are CPA Exam Residency Requirements?

Did you know that you can sit for the CPA exam in a state where you don’t currently live?

Understanding CPA Exam residency requirements is a crucial requirement if you are planning on working in a different state than you currently live.


It is possible to sit in a different state and then transfer your CPA credits once you have established residency and want to become licensed in that state.


I did this when I was sitting for the exam, I sat in Illinois and then transferred my credits to Missouri when I became licensed at PwC in downtown St Louis.

I did this because I could start sitting for the exam sooner in IL than in MO even though I knew I would be working in MO.

The more you know right!

CPA Exam Age Requirements

Did you know some states don’t have an age requirement to sit for the exam!! Doesn’t that make all you teenagers out there excited!

Some states require you to be a certain age - but don’t worry the majority of states don’t have an age requirement and if they do the youngest allowed is 21 so unless you are trying to be like Belicia, the 17 year old who passed the CPA exam (yes that is correct she is only 17 and passed the CPA exam!) I wouldn’t worry about the age requirement.


What Are The CPA Exam Citizenship Requirements?

Alright all of you aspiring international CPA candidates this is going to be a big one for you guys!

Certain states allow you to sit for the CPA exam as a Non-US citizen but some states do not. So be aware that you need to identify which states have these requirements.

Refer below for a table with all of the states without CPA exam Citizenship requirements.

For additional details about what you need to know to apply for the CPA exam as an international candidate, please watch this video:


Find The State You Would Like To Sit For The CPA Exam Below:

Disclosure: Please note that I do my best to keep these requirements up to date but seeing as there are more than 50 states and nations with individual requirements it is difficult for me to keep up with them all. Please verify each requirement with your state board of accountancy to ensure 100% accuracy and then post any errors in the comment box below to assist your fellow CPA'ers and I can update!


AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

Find Your State Here!

Alabama Alaska Arizona
Arkansas California Colorado
Connecticut Delaware Washington DC
Florida Georgia Guam
Hawaii Idaho Illinois
Indiana Iowa Kansas
Kentucky Louisiana Maine
Maryland Massachusetts Michigan
Minnesota Mississippi Missouri
Montana Nebraska Nevada
New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico
New York North Carolina North Dakota
Ohio Oklahoma Oregon
Pennsylvania Puerto Rico Rhode Island
South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee
Texas Utah Vermont
Virgin Islands Virginia Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming


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Step 4: Learn How to Sign Up for the CPA Exam the Right Way (Yes. There is a Wrong Way!)


Question of the day - do you want to save hundred of hours and potentially thousands of dollars while taking the CPA exam?

Then this chapter is a MUST read for you.

We will cover:
1) How many sections of the CPA exam to sign up for at once,
2) What order to take the CPA exam, and
3) How much to expect to spend when you do finally sign up for the CPA exam.


Biggest CPA Exam Scheduling Mistake You Can Make

When I first signed up for the CPA exam I made the biggest mistake of my entire CPA exam experience.

I signed up for all 4 sections in a row.

I was over-confident, I saw all my friends passing on their first try and I had better grades than some of them even!

I was so sure that I would pass the 1st time through that I didn’t even consider what would happen if I ended up failing a section.

So lets dig into the details for why this was the biggest mistake I could have made when signing up for the CPA exam.

Once your transcripts and application have been approved, your state board will send you a notice to schedule (NTS).

Sample Notice To Schedule For Reference:



Depending on which state you are in you will likely be given six to nine months to sit for all the parts you signed up for.

If you sign up for all 4 parts, you will be given a deadline of 6 months to schedule and sit for each section in that time period or you will lose your CPA exam fees.

So are you starting to see how this could cause issues if you fail a section?

Depending on how many sections you sign up for, they will be listed on your NTS with the earliest and latest date you can take the exam.

You will also need your section ID and Launch Code Password for when you are at the Prometric Center (refer to Step 5 for more details), so obviously don’t forget your NTS when you head to sit for your first exam.

Also make sure all of your personal information matches your forms of identification that you plan to bring.

Game Changing CPA Exam Scheduling Tip

Now that you understand what happens after your CPA exam application has been approved, here is my game changing tip.

Sign up for 2 sections at a time.

That way you take your 1st section, start studying for your 2nd section and then after about a month  you will find out the scores for your 1st exam. Pass or fail you go all out for your second section and take it and depending on whether you passed or failed your first exam you either resign up or sign up for section 3 ASAP.

Does that make sense?

What happened to me was that I signed up for all 4 sections and after I failed the 1st I was locked in to take the 2nd, then when I failed the 2nd I was locked into the 3rd and then when I failed the 3rd I was locked into the 4th so by the time I had failed all 4 sections I had to literally start all over!

Talk about a waste of time and a waste of $1,000.

And did I mention that my scores ranged from 67 to 72, complete heart break.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did and just sign up for 2 at a time!

And if you don't believe me that this is what you should do, check out what Roger Phillip, CPA of Roger CPA Review recommends all their students do.


What Order To Take The CPA Exam?

Has anyone ever tried to tell you the best order to drink alcohol?

I have always heard the anecdote that “Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker.”

Bottom line is that either way you go, you will end up regretting your decisions the next day!

The same applies to the CPA exam, no matter what order you take the exam it’s going to be painful and will stress you out to the max!

All your friends may have their theories as to which order to take the CPA exam, but it is really up to you to figure it out.

What CPA Exam Order Works Best For YOU?

In college I always heard about three different theories on the order you should take the CPA exam. I have listed them below and given reasons why the theories are flawed.

1) Start with what you think is hardest or easiest first.
The problem is that until you start studying you won’t know what section is actually hardest/easiest for you.

2) Start with FAR and end with BEC.
This is probably one of the more popular orders to go with. Again you just never know if BEC is going to be the hardest part for you to pass, but if you can handle the massive amount of material from FAR then hypothetically you shouldn’t have any trouble with BEC.

3) Start with BEC first just to get one section under your belt.
The problem with this is that once you pass your first section the 18 month countdown begins before you lose your first section.

My Advice

As someone who struggled to pass the CPA exam, I had no idea at first what order to take the CPA exam.

I started with BEC because I thought it was the “easiest” because it was so short.

Unfortunately due to the random mishmash of information it turned into one of the most difficult sections for me. So do not gauge your order based on whether a test is shorter.

I would recommend starting with a topic that you are most familiar.

If your major is tax then take REG first and so forth.

If you are fresh out of college, a section will truly be “easier” for you if you are able to take what you learned in college and translate it to the CPA exam material.

Another piece of advice is to treat all exam sections as equals and don’t change up how much you study just because you THINK a certain section will be easier.

It never hurts to over-study but ALWAYS hurts to understudy.

How Much Does It Cost To Take The CPA Exam? (On Average)

CPA Exam Fees CPA Exam Cost
CPA Review Course $1,750
Application Fee $100
Exam Fees (All 4 Sections) $775
Registration Fee $250
Ethics Exam Fee $150
Licencing Fee $250
Total CPA Exam Cost $3,275

 

CPA Exam Avgerage Fee Breakdown

CPA Review Course

We recommend that after you have been officially authorized to sit for the CPA exam to invest in a CPA Review Course.

The reason being that some of the major CPA Review Courses only give you a limited time frame to use their software so you want to maximize the use of your CPA review course and not risk losing access before you can pass.

Now you could also try taking the CPA exam without a CPA review course and attempt to use your college textbooks or your existing knowledge but considering the fact that the average pass rate of any given section of the CPA exam is only 48% it's probably not a good idea.

To help you in your purchasing decision I put together a detailed breakdown of all the available CPA review courses so you can pick the best one for your study personality and budget.

Check it out here before you buy one

Application Fee

Your first expense when signing up for the CPA exam is going to be your CPA exam application fee.

This typically ranges from $50-$200 depending on your state and will cover processing your CPA exam application and college transcripts.

There may be additional fees if your initial application is rejected so ensure you have all the requested information in order.

Examination Fees (All 4 Sections)

Examination Fees are exactly what they sound like, the fee for actually sitting for a section of the CPA exam.

This fee can vary from $175 to $200 between states.

Unfortunately if you fail a section you will be required to pay this examination fee again for your retake.

In order to ensure you pass on your first try, I absolutely recommend you take our free CPA exam study personality quiz.

Take The CPA Exam Study Personality Quiz

Registration Fee

For section of the CPA exam you take you will also have to pay a registration fee that will vary by state.

Typically they will give you a bulk discount that is as follows:

Now before you automatically pay for all 4 sections at the same time, remember that your NTS is only good for 6 months which means you would have to sit for all four sections within that period or you would lose your examination fee + registration fee.

Trust me. Don't sign up for all four at once. If you end up failing even one section it will cause you a whole lot of headaches.

I always recommend signing up for one section at a time and paying just a bit more for ease of mind.

Ethics Exam Fee

Most states require you to complete their Ethics Exam which is essentially just an open book CPE course.

You should expect to spend anywhere from $125 to $200 for this exam and I would wait until after you have passed the other four sections first.

Licencing Fee

This is the best fee of all!!

Once you have passed all four sections of the CPA exam, have completed your ethics requirement and hit your work experience hours you can officially become a Licensed CPA.

Again depending on your state you should expect this fee to be paid annually as long as you have completed your CPE requirements.

The total fee will vary between $50-$500 depending on your state as long as you want to continue to promote yourself as a CPA and practice public accounting.

Additional CPA Exam Fees

If you didn't already think the CPA exam was a bottomless money pit, you weren't lying to yourself!

Here's some additional fees that folks forget about (but are totally worth it in the big scheme of things!)

Continuing Education (CPE)

In order to maintain your license you will be expected to complete 120 hours of CPE per year.

There are hundreds of CPE providers and most offer a years worth of CPE credits for $150-$600 depending on how specialized you want to be.

There are self-study, live webinars and live classes that you can attend as well as firm sponsored training that can count towards your CPE credits.

Final Review Test Banks & Other CPA Exam Supplements

Sometimes your primary CPA Review Course isn't enough.

If you fail a section of the CPA exam you will need to invest in some fresh multiple choice questions that you have never seen before.

You may also want to invest in pre-made flashcards or a cram course to get you over the 75 bump.

CPA Review Course renewal fees can also sneak up on you if it takes longer than expected.

Typically a CPA review course will charge anywhere from $500 to $1,500 to renew their course or you can do what I did and just invest in some fresh multiple choice and spend anywhere from $100-$600.

Check out the most relevant CPA exam supplements here on our comprehensive list

 

I breakdown all the relevant CPA exam cost information even further in the video walkthrough below:



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Step 5: Plan For Your Journey To The Prometric Center (They Don't Mess Around)

Have you ever been to Fort Knox?

If not, you will have a somewhat similar experience visiting your local Prometric Testing center.

They take cheating that seriously (No Joke!).

Prometric is a national standardized test taking center that works with NASBA to proctor your exams.

Here is a quick list of everything you need to know before entering a Prometric Center:
1) No calculators
2) No pen, paper or any other material
3) No electronic device whatsoever
4) No watches (no covert spying device)
5) Expect TSA style ID check and scan (includes security wand check)

Additional Information Specific to CPA Candidates (SOURCE)
1) Bring two forms of ID that match your NTS (ID = Drivers License, valid credit card passport, etc...)
2) Arrive at least 30 minutes early to ensure you have time to sign in and go through the security process.
3) A locker will be provided for you to place all personal belongings.

What To Do Once You Start Your Exam (SOURCE)
1) Your exam will have a countdown timer for you to track your total time remaining
2) After each test-let you will be given the option to take a short break, but remember that the clock keeps ticking! Choose your time wisely.

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Step 6: Understand How The CPA Exam Is Graded? (And Why You Shouldn't Stress!)

It is not easy to understand how the CPA exam is graded. The best resource for understanding how the CPA exam is scored is at the following link provided by the AICPA.

The CPA exam is an extremely complex exam that has many different variables that can affect your score. Getting a 75 does not mean you got 75% of the questions correct! It is more of the percentile of where you scored compared to everyone else who took the exam. The following is my understanding of the factors that go into your exam:

  1. When taking your exam there will be some "pre-test" questions which are essential questions that are being given a test run to see how test candidates score to them. These questions are not included in your score and are not graded.

  2. Don't forget that the CPA exam is an adaptive test that will change in difficulty based on the questions you are answering correctly. So if you are answering the difficult questions correctly the next multiple choice section will contain increasingly difficult questions.

  3. Points are given to multiple choice questions based on difficulty. So even though you are maybe getting several wrong in a difficult multiple choice section you still may receive more points than those test takers who did not advance to the more difficult multiple choice section but were still in a medium level. So don't feel discourage if you feel like the questions are insanely hard.

Key Takeaway

The reason I provided you with this information is to prove to you that there is absolutely no way you can know how well you scored on the exam (even if you walk out 100% sure you failed).

There are to many variables to take into account and if you start to try to calculate them in your head, you will lose valuable focus and motivation.

Just take your exam and immediately begin thinking about starting your next exam.

Easy enough right??

FYI - Be sure to check out CPA Exam Score Release Schedule frequently to know when your next score will be released.

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Step 7: Find A CPA Review Course Based on How You Learn Best

Without a doubt the most important step in passing the CPA exam is picking a CPA review course that maximizes how you learn best.

If your course isn't designed based on how you actually learn it will lead to busy work and inefficiency.

To avoid this please follow my 7 Steps To Picking The Best CPA Review Course For You:

Step 1: How Do You Learn Best?

Think back to college and write down at least three of your study strengths and three weaknesses.

PRO TIP: Focus on identifying study activities that were efficient and helped you actually understand materials.

Example: I preferred to read the text and solve the problems on my own (class was NOT a learning experience for me) and I discovered that making in-depth outlines of my textbook was actually busy work and not productive studying.

Step 2: Are You A Visual Learner or Self-Studier?

Based on how you determined you studied best would you say that you prefer to study on your own and teach yourself the material OR do did you do your best learning in the classroom?

Step 3a: If You Are A Self-Studier...

If you determined you are more of a self-studier then you need to focus on finding a CPA review course that focuses on providing a solid textbook, pre-made flashcards, and tons of multiple choice and minimal video lectures.

I personally recommend the following CPA Review Courses if this describes you:

Gleim CPA Review

Wiley CPAexcel Review

Surgent CPA Review

Step 3b: If You Are A Visual Learner

If you determined that you did your best learning in the classroom then you need to focus on finding a CPA review course that provides you with the BEST video lectures or possibly find a live/virtual class to attend, a program that links the multiple choice very well with the lectures, and a course that has an in-depth study planner to keep you structured.

If you fit this description best, then here are the CPA courses I recommend most:

Roger CPA Review

Yaeger CPA Review

Wiley CPAexcel

Step 4: Complete Your CPA Review Course Research

Head to my Top 10 Best CPA Review Courses Comparison Page and filter by Self-Studier or by Video Lectures and read my assessments of each course.

Link: https://www.cpaexamguide.com/best-cpa-review-courses

Step 5: Try The CPA Review Courses You Have Identified

After identifying 2-3 CPA review courses that match how you learn best, give each course a trial run either by finding the free trials in my review or by using the free trial links of my 4 most recommended courses below:

Wiley CPAexcel Trial
Roger CPA Trial
Gleim CPA Trial
Surgent CPA Trial
Yaeger CPA Trial

You can also compare some of the most popular courses individually at the links below:

Wiley CPAexcel vs Becker CPA Review

Step 6: Find The Largest Discount Available For Your CPA Review Course

Once you find the CPA review course for you then head to my CPA Exam Guide Review Course Discounts Page and ensure you are getting the best deal possible!

Link: https://www.cpaexamguide.com/best-cpa-review-discounts

Step 7: Sign Up For My Free CPA Exam Coaching Course To Learn How To Maximize Your CPA Review Course

Join my free Ultimate CPA Exam Guide and I will give you a PDF copy of my 7 Step Process to picking the Best CPA Review Course for you AND I will send you 100 multiple choice questions and answers from Roger CPA Review and my free CPA Exam Coaching Video Series. See you on the inside.

Link: Join Ultimate CPA Exam Guide

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Step 8: Craft a Killer CPA Exam Study Plan & Routine


As many of you know from my Ultimate CPA Exam Guide and iTunes Podcast, I failed the first 4 sections of the CPA exam in a row by a range of a mere 2-6 points. So what was I doing wrong?

I treated the CPA exam like a college test! This meant I was going through the lectures + highlighting like a robot. Then I would read through the text and make any notes on the important concepts I saw, and then make my own flashcards on top of that.

I tried to memorize the entire textbook for every section! For most of us, this was no problem in college, because the tests were much MUCH less broad.

The CPA exam is a beast of an exam, unlike anything you have ever done before, and requires study tactics unlike anything you have had to perform.

The moment of clarity happened for me when I found out I had failed the 4th part of the CPA exam. I decided that this test was no joke, and if I was going to succeed I was going to have to drastically change my study method.

Read on below to find out about the changes I made that reduced my CPA exam study time by 225 hours! Or listen on iTunes here or the web player above!

#1 – Skip Watching Lectures

As always, you need to determine how you learn best. I am not an auditory learner, I prefer to visually learn by reading and teaching myself, so I decided that it would be in my best interest to cut out the video lectures. I had also just graduated from college, so the materials were still fresh in my mind.

That being said, if for any reason you come across a topic that is too complex to teach yourself, or you find yourself spinning your wheels, then you NEED to go to the video lectures and see if their explanation helps you.

If that still doesn’t work then it is time to contact customer service or visit the forums for help.

Just remember that the CPA exam is so broad that it is not the most effective way of studying if you end up spending several hours on one topic, so pick your battles wisely.

RESULT: Saved me 15-20 hours per section (70 hours total from my review course)

#2 – Does Writing Out Your Own Flashcards Make Economical Sense?

Remember that as you study for the CPA exam that your MOST valuable resource is time.

I decided that I did not have enough time to make my own flashcards or have time to go through the text and make outlines of the important concepts. While I agree that I lost some of the benefits of making my own study materials, it did not outweigh the time I would save by buying pre-made flashcards.

The top review course companies know what the most important concepts are, so I think that the time they save you and the concepts they test you on made my decision totally worth it.

Wiley CPAexcel and Roger CPA have some of the best flashcards available on the market. I highly recommend using them.

Take me to Wiley CPAexcel Flashcards: Link

Take me to Roger CPA Flashcards: Link

RESULTS: Saved me around 1 hour per week for each section X 24 weeks (based on studying for 6 weeks per section) = approximately 25 hours

#3 – Don’t Spin Your Wheels on Practice Questions

Spend no more than 3-5 minutes on a multiple choice question. Use the analytics provided by your review course to measure how long on average you are spending on each multiple choice question and if it is longer than 5 minutes you need to find ways to speed up your test taking.

The goal being that you need to prepare yourself for the real CPA exam. The CPA exam is so incredibly broad that if you spend 15 minutes on one multiple choice question it just isn’t efficient in the broad scheme of things. Just keep moving and flag the question and save it for later so you can address it if you have time later on.

Spinning your wheels also makes you indecisive which can be very dangerous as well. The worst part of the CPA exam multiple choice questions are that there always seems to be 2 right answers. It is up to you to determine which one is most correct, because unfortunately there is no partial credit! I always found that going with my gut was always better than just sitting there for an extra 2-3 minutes second guessing myself. Don’t let this be you.

RESULT: Before I changed my study tactics, I typically answered 1,200 practice questions for each section at an average of 4-5 minutes per question. By making a concerted effort, I successfully shaved 30 seconds off the average time of each question which equates to 40 total hours saved (or 10 hours per section). This allowed me to spend that time researching why I got certain questions wrong and strengthening my knowledge of that section.

Total Time Saved Breakdown

Skipped Lectures and highlighting: Saved 70 hours
Skipped making my own flashcards and outlines: Saved 25 hours
Cut AVG time spent per question by 30 seconds: Saved 40 hours
Total time saved: 135 hours!

Key Takeaway

Once I implemented these changes to my study schedule, my scores jumped 5-15 points per section! It is not because I was studying less, but because I was studying the way that works best for me. By cutting out all of the excess fat in my study schedule, I was studying more efficiently and the rate of my learning and retention skyrocketed!

Please understand that these tips worked for me, but they may not work for everyone. You know yourself better than anyone else, so please do yourself a favor and step back for a minute and look at how you are studying.

Do you see any inefficiencies or ineffective study activities that you are performing?

If so cut them out immediately and spend that time doing more productive studying that is actually going to help you learn the material. The review courses today try to cater to as many different types of people as possible, but you are unique. So don’t be afraid to do think outside the box like I did. The results can be amazing!

If you are afraid you are using the wrong CPA review course or just not happy with it, then you can always use my CPA Review Course Comparison Tool here to see if the way you learn best matches with your current review course.

If not and you are struggling to pass just like I did, then it might be time to make a change…

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Step 9: Learn How to Study for CPA Exam Multiple Choice (Everyone's Favorite!)

Coming Soon!

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Step 10: Learn How to Tackle CPA Exam Simulations

Coming Soon!

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Step 11: Understand How to Make Time to Study For The CPA Exam (That Doesn't Included Becoming a Grouchy Jerk-Face)

Coming Soon!

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Step 12: Create A CPA Exam Final Review Study Funnel To DOMINATE On Exam Day [Most Crucial Step]

Without a doubt, the MOST crucial period of your journey to passing any exam is the final 14 days prior to your exam.
This is also known as your “Final Review Period.”

You need to have a plan of attack for how you are going to ensure you remember what you need to know on exam day.

Feeling overwhelmed about this process?

I’ve got your back!

Introducing the Final Review Study Funnel

I want to share with you a study tactic that helped me pass the CPA exam (and more importantly has helped hundreds of my students recall what they need to on exam day).

It’s called a Final Review Study Funnel which is part of my CPA exam coaching course Ultimate CPA Exam Guide or “UCEG”.

The entire concept behind this Final Review Study Funnel is for you to funnel out everything you already understand so that you can focus on topics you don’t understand that you will need to know for exam day.

This is a simple 14-day process that any accountant can implement.

Let’s get started!

Phase 1: 14-4 Days Before Exam

Your Final Review Study Funnel starts when you are 14 days out from your exam day.
At this point you should be through all your study materials and have a decent grasp on the material (assuming you have made time to review the topics as you progress).

Your goal in Phase 1 is NOT to learn new material, but to start reviewing everything you have learned.
There are four steps you need to follow in this process:

Step 1: Day 14 & 13 Before Exam

Take two comprehensive practice exams over EVERYTHING on days 14 & 13.

Pro Tip of The Day: For your practice exams, I’d take at least 100-120 multiple choice questions. Simulations or Essays aren’t an efficient way to study at this point in your Final Review Study Funnel.

Pro Tip #2: If you feel like you are starting to see the same multiple-choice questions over and over it might also be time to invest in some fresh multiple-choice questions.

I highly recommend the Gleim Megabank, it’s what I personally used to pass the CPA exam and will absolutely give you more than enough fresh questions to test your knowledge.

Quick Link:
Gleim CPA Megabank

Step 2: Days 12-4 Before Exam

Once you complete your practice exam(s), look at your results in your analytics looking for trends in the areas that you scored weaker.

Any area you do not feel confident, record it and set aside an hour or two each day to deep dive into all those topics.

Step 3: Days 12-4 Before Exam

What does a Deep Dive look like?

I recommend that depending on your learning style, you find those topics in your text book, find the video lectures, or even utilize your flashcards or notes and use these resources to ensure you UNDERSTAND the material and not just MEMORIZE it.

When you understand the material, you will be able to find the right answer no matter what question is asked of you.

After you have reviewed these struggle topics then I would create another practice exam specifically over those struggle topics to ensure you helped your understanding.

Step 4: Days 12-4 Exam

Repeat steps 1-3 over and over until 3 days prior to your exam.

 

Phase 2: 3-2 Days Before Exam

By this point you will have taken close to a dozen multiple choice practice exams with an overall focus of identifying your weaker areas and you should be feeling confident.

Now it’s time to recreate the Prometric Center “Holy Cow This Is Actually Happening” Type Test Taking Experience.

Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1:

Lock yourself in your room for the allotted time for your exam.

Turn off your Cell Phone and close out of your social media on your computer and use this opportunity to do your best to create a truly simulated exam experience.

A great way to help you with this experience is to utilize the built in Exam Rehearsal feature that Gleim offers within each of their review courses.

It’s the closest thing to the real exam that I have found after reviewing close to a dozen CPA review courses.

I highly recommend it.

Step 2:

Be sure to follow the rules for your exam.

If there’s a mandatory break, take it.

If you are allowed scratch paper, use it.

If your test is broken into testlets, go through each testlet, double check your answers and then move onto the next testlet and don’t go back to the previous testlet and make changes just like you wouldn’t be able to do on your exam.

For essays and simulations follow exactly what you would be expected to do during the real exam as well.

Step 3:

Put pressure on yourself!

Taking professional exams is more than just about understanding the material it’s about being MENTALLY prepared as well.

Take these exams seriously.

Step 4:

Don’t get discouraged if during these practice exams you don’t receive a passing score.

Remember, there are so many variables going into the grading of your real exam and even some questions that aren’t graded at all!

Your grade on these practice exams is NOT an accurate representation of what your grade would be if it was the real thing.

Just focus on time management and mental prep during these Exam Rehearsals and forget the rest!

 

Phase 3: 1 Day Before Exam

The day of reckoning is upon us!

What should the final day before your exam look like?

Well here’s what I did.

NOTHING

I relaxed and took it easy.

I had a ritual of watching one of my favorite movies Wall Street to help pump me up.

I’d prepare a pre-exam playlist for my car ride over – mostly the original Rocky Soundtrack.

Then I would do some very light studying that involved reviewing some flashcards and re-reading my priority notes.

But that was it.

No practice exams no multiple choice or simulations.

At this point give your brain a well-deserved rest before exam day!

And most importantly you can rest easy knowing you just completed your Final Review Study Funnel and will be able to walk confidently into your Prometric Center and dominate your exam!

Wrapping It Up

The key to having a successful Final Review Study Funnel is understanding your study personality.

It will dictate which CPA exam resources you utilize and how you study.

If you have plans to take the CPA exam, I put together a free CPA Exam Study Personality Quiz for CPA candidates at any stage in their journey.

It’s going to help you determine your learning style which is going to dictate HOW you study and how you utilize your CPA Review Course.

This not only applies to your Final Review Study Funnel but also during your day to day study routine.

Take the free quiz here:

https://www.ultimateCPAexamguide.com

 

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Step 13: Ensure You Understand How To Mentally Recover From CPA Exam Day (That Doesn't Include Drugs or Alcohol!)

Coming Soon!

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Step 14: Create a Plan For Staying Motivated Whether You Pass or Fail The CPA Exam (Follow This to Stay Focused and Motivated)

I put together a separate resource for recovering from CPA exam failure - feel free to check it out here

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Step 15: Create A Plan For Managing Your Relationships While Studying For The CPA Exam

It's not easy to describe exactly what you are experiencing while studying for the CPA exam.

To help you manage your relationships I want to share two conversations I had with folks who have lots of experience with this situation!





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Step 16: Create A Plan For Managing Your Day Job Workload And Study Time While Sitting For The CPA Exam

I interviewed a friend of mine Lucas Cherry who was working full time and we delve into how he managed studying and working a new job full time.

Enjoy!



Case Study #1:


Case Study #2


Case Study #3

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Step 17: Understand the Signs of CPA Exam Depression So You Can Ward It Off

CPA Exam depression and lack of productivity is no joke...

Use this episode to overcome what's holding you back!

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Step 18: Prepare For Life After Passing The CPA Exam (Tips For Leveraging Your CPA license)

It’s no secret.

Passing the CPA exam all but guarantees that if you play your cards right you will make well over $1 million dollars more during your entire career than if you never passed the CPA exam. Imagine what you could do with an extra million dollars!

Would that change your life?

Of course it would, but thinking of it in such a big number seems distant and unattainable right now.

So let’s look at some realistic numbers.

My Results After Passing The CPA Exam

I passed the CPA exam in 2010 and I was making $40K per year at the time.2010-w2  

Within a couple months of passing I was offered a position at PwC as an experienced associate making $54K
2012-w2

After putting in my 2 years at PwC I was able to quit and receive an offer for $65K per year as an assistant VP in the financial reporting department at CitiGroup in their mortgage business.

2013-w2

In just 2 years I increased my annual salary by $25K! Do the math and over the next 30 years that $25K is going to turn into $750K and that doesn’t include any additional raises or promotions that I will likely earn.

If I had not passed the CPA exam I can assure you that I would not even be making $50K per year today.

Want To Pass The CPA Exam Fast?

BONUS: If you are interested in learning the step by step system I used to pass the CPA exam feel free to join my Ultimate CPA Exam Guide for FREE and I will send you my CPA Exam Success Blueprint, 100 multiple choice and my CPA exam coaching video series!

Join for free here by taking our CPA exam study personality quiz: Ultimate CPA Exam Guide

What You Need To Do To Get The Same CPA Exam Results

Now obviously I cannot guarantee these results for you (angry men in suits would come knocking on my door if I did…)

But if you do pass the CPA exam, I guarantee that if you want these results, you will find a way to accomplish them.

Passing the CPA exam will open doors for you that you didn’t even know existed.

Best part is that these doors don’t have to be in accounting.

I have friends who passed the CPA exam and now work for the FBI, are school teachers, and are now pursuing their PHDs.

Every industry at least recognizes that CPAs are determined people who are a cut above the rest.

Isn’t that cool!

I always disliked this clique as a kid, but it is actually true if you can pass the CPA exam! “You CAN do anything you want when you grow up (and by grow up I mean become a CPA :D)”

What is the next step?

Now obviously I have you all jazzed up about the thoughts of becoming a future millionaire.

In the meantime you still have to pass the CPA exam!

So how do you do that?

Well unfortunately it will require a significant investment on your part.

There are no “cheap” shortcuts to passing the CPA exam.

Passing the CPA exam is all about which CPA review course you are using.

The number 1 mistake I see candidates all around the world doing is trying to cheap out on a review course.

And I totally understand why…

The majority of candidates (like yourself) are probably recently graduated or are still young in your careers.

So money IS an issue for many of you.

Now the good news is that based on how you study and learn best you should only have to spend $1,200-$2,000 at the most on a fully featured review course that will give you everything you need to pass.

You can also always check out my discount code page to ensure you are getting the most affordable price on the review course that works for you.

Link: Best CPA Exam Review Course Discounts

Now while I never ordinarily recommend going into debt, you should NOT look at buying a review course as an expense but an investment.

If I was too scared to buy a 2nd review course because it would cost me $1,200 after already spending over $1,000 on CPA exam fees + my primary review course…

I would have regretted it for the rest of my life and my bank account would have never forgiven me!

Would you spend $2,000 on a review course if all it did was help you earn $25,000 more per year every year for the rest of your career?

HECK YES you would!

Investing in yourself to pass the CPA exam is one of the MOST profitable investments any accountant can make.

Best part is that you are totally in control of your destiny and not at the whim of Wall Street.

Regardless of whether you are brand new to the CPA exam process or are struggling to pass, you need to make sure that you are using the BEST CPA review course for you.

I recommend starting your research with my comparison of the top 14 CPA review courses currently available.

Link: Compare Best CPA Review Courses Here

I reveal the inner workings of each course and provide you with my opinion on the pros and cons of each course.

Based on the features each course has I recommend that you look at how you study and learn best and ensure the review course is going to amplify that strength.

What I mean by that is if you prefer to self-study and teach yourself the material don’t look at a course that has long lectures but focuses more on text and questions.

Or if you have a bit of ADHD make sure that the course is going to help keep you focused by keeping you constantly moving between lectures, reading and questions so that you don’t give yourself a chance to lose focus.

Does that make sense? If not email me at bryan@cpaexamguide.com and I would love to assist you in finding the best CPA review course for you.

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Step 19: What is the Difference Between a CPA Certificate and CPA License and Why it Matters to You.

Coming Soon!

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Step 20: Understand Your Post-CPA CPE requirements and other fun stuff!

Coming Soon!

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Step 21: Identify Other Certificates / Licenses That Can Benefit Your Career

Coming Soon!