Monday, October 10, 2011

Tips for Hopeful CPA's

1.  Make sure you have the right motivation.

We need to start with an important disclaimer- I'm not a CPA.  This it not because I didn't/couldn't pass the CPA exam (that has yet to be determined) but because I realized I pursued the CPA for the wrong reasons.  Want the details?  Go here.

More important than my wrong reasoning is for you guarantee that your motivation is the right one.  The hard part is that you are the only one that can determine if your reasonsing is correct.  The process  I can guarantee that!  So you have to make sure that the reason you want to be a CPA is enough to get you through long hours of studying, missing quality time with family, not seeing your friends, always being sleep deprived, and staring at the most uninteresting side of accounting you've ever seen. 

2. Schedule, schedule and schedule again.

As I said before the process is going to be horrible.  And despite all of the preparing I did, it was more horrendous than I expected.  So prepare ahead of time.

Make a study schedule before you actually start studying so you have a game plan for how many hours a week you will be studying.  And don't just make it in your head, write it down.  Or be true to your accountant roots and put it in Excel.   

Track your progress.  You can see from my posts here, here, here, and here that it really helps to see how you are doing.

Don't be afraid to schedule again if things just aren't working out.  It is always a work in progress that is continuously refined.  My schedule changed quite a bit, as evident here, here and here.

However, I strongly caution you to not reschedule you test date too many times.  I gave myself too much time to catch up on studying and I ended up not being at my prime due to the extra time.  I probably would have been better off to stick with my original date and just take the test.  You will NEVER feel fully prepared, so definitely don't wait for that feeling.

3.  Have a dedicated study space. 

Your couch does not count!  Trust me from experience.  I completely my entire MBA sitting on my living room couch- literally!  Yes, I was even there for class since they were all online.  Studying for the CPA requires a CPA zone.  This sounds corny, but you will thank me if you have created this zone prior to being your CPA adventure.  I realized this too late and therefore creating my space became MUCH more exciting that actually studying resulting in lost hours of studying when I really needed it.

4.  Indulge in items that will make your life easier.

This is not a sprint, but a marathon.  So allow yourself to pick a few items to help you along the way.  For me, I bought a larger purse so I could have my laptop, study books and flash cards on me at all times.  I did flip through flash cards at the doctor's office, pull out my books at a restaurant waiting for a friends, and power up the laptop when I had an unexpected 45 minutes to kill.  This was well worth it!  And I did the extra research to find a cute purse so I enjoyed carrying it around instead of feeling like a complete dork wearing my book bag everywhere I went. 

5.  Have the CPA be your primary focus.

As you can see from my CPA posts, I was also working out with a trainer to try to lose weight.  While working out provided stress relief, the lack of weight loss added back in more unneeded stress.  Do not try to conquer the world while getting your CPA.  You can always do that afterward.  Focus on the CPA so you can pass the first time and be able to conquer the world sooner.

6.  Don't shortcut yourself by getting sub-par study materials.

I was lucky that my employer paid 100% of all of my study materials, but I would have gladly spent my money on the Becker program.  Their program works.  Period.  If you do want they tell you, you will pass.  It is that simple.  And it is guaranteed, which shows you that they mean what they say when they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. 

If you are short on money, you can volunteer to take attendance for your class and receive a discount.  Or give them a call to see if any discounts are available.  But if neither of these options work for you, a little extra money is worth passing the first time.

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