Friday, May 1, 2020

CPA Exam Sections: What's the Best Order to Take Them?

Usually, some of the first and most frequently asked questions CPA Exam candidates ask include:
  • In what order should I take the sections of the CPA Exam?
  • Which section should I start with?
  • Which section is the easiest (hardest)?

This is all relative and depends on how comfortable you are with the materials, when you last learned the subjects in school, and if you encounter these subjects at work regularly (such as tax or audit). You can start with your toughest subjects to get them over with and to not let your credits expire. Or, you can build confidence and momentum by taking and passing your easiest part first.

One of the most popular recommended orders used to be: BEC-AUD-REG-FAR or B-A-R-F (get it, barf?). The idea behind this sequence is that your knowledge of the subject matter for each section builds and leads into the next section. You are more likely to remember what you studied on the last part and it would reduce your study time for the next parts.

It looks like that theory is less popular these days, as both Wiley and Becker recommend the order: FAR-AUD-REG-BEC or F-A-R-B. According to them, the research shows that FAR is the hardest part because it covers the most material. They also feel that the subject matter of BEC is the easiest to handle for most candidates.

My original plan this go-round was to take what I THOUGHT would be my hardest to easiest sections in the order: BEC-REG-FAR-AUD. After taking the Exam, I found the ACTUAL order of hardest to easiest sections for me was: REG-FAR-BEC-AUD. Surprisingly, I had to study an excessive amount to pass REG (and I failed it once). And funny enough, I ended up passing them in the order of B-A-R-F.

Here is how I studied for each part, and the reasons why I took them in this order:

BEC: Passed.
I took BEC first since that is the section I always seemed to have a hard time with. I watched all the Wiley videos and did all the knowledge check questions (true/false) at the end and the multiple-choice questions for each part. Then, I did the Task-Based Simulations (TBSs) when I got to the end of each section. I used the app's flashcards and flashcard quiz, and the paper flashcards. Even though I had work experience with budgets and cost accounting, I still looked up any concepts that I needed to reinforce or could not remember from school. I used Wiley’s Focus Notes to review the concepts throughout my studying and as a final review the day before the Exam.

REG: Failed.
I took REG next because I wanted to get it done before the TCJA (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017) went into effect. I usually like the Law sections but found studying it this time to be tedious. The result was not great.

AUD: Passed.
I took AUD next because I needed a confidence boost. I have always loved Audit, worked as an auditor, and understood the concepts (maybe there is something wrong with me??). I took a similar approach to BEC (above) but with much less studying. I was glad I did not need to study that much.

REG: Passed.
Studying for REG was like studying for BEC (above), but with even more study effort. This time, to make sure I passed, I also used Wiley's Mentoring feature (where the professors explain the answers to student questions) and their Virtual Class Sessions. And I went through the flashcards to try to memorize many of the concepts. I think these study aids helped a lot and made a huge difference.

FAR: Passed.
Like BEC (above), but I did not have as much time to study. I was forced to take this part before I lost credit for BEC, and this was while Covid-19 was getting started here in NY. Like REG (above), I used the Mentoring feature, but I did not have enough time to watch the Virtual Classes. I used the app a lot to do questions and review flashcards. I even purchased a new GAAP textbook and referred to it for many of the modules. I highly recommend reviewing the GAAP hierarchy, so you are familiar with the layout (either in your CPA Review software, review text, online or in a reference book).  

Which CPA Exam section did you start with or hope to start with? Hopefully, my experience can help you with your studying for the CPA Exam. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I Passed the CPA Exam... and that's why the world is ending

I Passed the CPA Exam...
If you’ve been a long-time reader of my blog, you’ll remember I started writing in 2009 when I was looking for a new job and taking the CPA Exam. I first started taking the Exam in 2000 (20 years ago!), back when it was a pencil and paper exam. In these 20 years, the Exam has changed to become computerized, and many areas of Accounting and Tax have changed as well.

In 2018, I started studying again using the Wiley Platinum CPA Review course (link), which I highly recommend (Note: this is NOT an affiliated post at the time of publishing). The videos were very helpful for someone like me who hasn’t taken accounting classes in a long time. The professors explain the differences between old and new concepts. With REG, they compare TCJA changes to the old tax laws. For FAR, they explain changes in GASB and FASB pronouncements. They also offer an app that includes flashcards and a test bank to quiz yourself. I can’t say enough about how great this course has been for me.

The order I took the parts of the CPA Exam was: BEC, REG (failed), AUD, REG (retake), FAR. I found out that I passed FAR just days before my BEC credit expired and days before our state went into lockdown. Talk about down to the wire!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Online Order Frustration: My Review of Thrive Market

In my effort to move to an anti-inflammation lifestyle and anti-inflammation diet, I am trying to locate stores near me and online who sell organic and healthy groceries. Thrive Market is an online retailer that sells organic grocery items at a wholesale price, with an annual membership ($59.95, at the time of this post). It’s like an online Costco for organic food! I am really hoping that Amazon will come up with something like this now that they have purchased Whole Foods.

I have a Whole Foods 12 miles away from me, but it’s in a very congested area that I like to avoid. Years ago, I used to drive through that area daily to go to school and later on to one of my jobs, but the traffic has gotten insane over the last 15 years or so and the mere thought of driving through there gives me a headache. Also, the last few times I shopped at Whole Foods, people reached over me like I wasn’t there and took the food I was trying to pick up! It happened multiple times and I am not a slow shopper. Such a sharp contrast to where I shop where people move their carts over for people to pass and will move over to let people reach things when they say “excuse me” (Whole Foods customers don’t speak).

In order to avoid the traffic and annoying people, would a cheapo accountant like me pay $59.95 a year (which is like $5 a month)? Sure! So, I signed up for Thrive Market right away and placed my first order. I bought some coconut oil, almond flour, organic vinegar, nuts, cleaning products, and feminine care products. I was so impressed with their offerings that I added items to my shopping list for next time: organic peanut butter, organic vanilla extract, deodorant, etc. They even have a category called Whole30 Picks where I found a number of items I wanted to try! I was so excited about this new service!  

After so much anticipation, I received my order the other day and guess what?

A huge FAIL!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Anti-Inflammation Start

As I declared last time, I wanted to start living an anti-inflammation lifestyle, starting with my eating habits. I went through a few of those books and websites I mentioned and I am not sure if I want to start with a detox or elimination in the first phase of my diet change. It makes a lot of sense; to cut out common food allergens and then add them back to see if they are the cause of a food allergy or sensitivity. 

While I research that further, I plan to track what I eat as I make the changes that follow. [Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or any kind of health professional so anything written here is probably wrong and should not be taken as medical advice of any kind. I am just an out-of-work accountant trying to get healthy and talking about it here.]
  • Tracking my weekly menu and daily food choices
    • I already plan my weekly menu in a regular bound notebook. There, I also keep track of the groceries I need to use up for the week (great for remembering to use up produce). 
    • I will start tracking my daily meals and snacks in another smaller journal I can carry around with me. There are some great apps available for phones, but I like flipping through notebooks. I plan to review it at the end of the day and end of the week to make notes for the following week. 
  • Eating organic or pastured eggs, and organic and/or grass-fed lean meats instead of farmed 
    • I already eat lean meats like lean beef and chicken/turkey. I have a food sensitivity to pork so I avoid it. I also avoid processed meat like spam and deli meats (although I used to love them when I was younger). 
    • I have added the word “organic” next to these items in my Out of Milk shopping list app (eggs, beef, chicken/turkey) and am happy with the organic eggs and chicken I bought this week.
    • I plan to look in my local circulars for deals/availability of organic meats and to try other markets 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Let’s Go on an Anti-Inflammation Journey

So, last time I told you guys that I am dealing with chronic pain and wanted to start living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. According to all the research out there, inflammation causes a lot of health issues and many things we use and eat daily create an inflammatory response in the body (a “flight or fright” stress response). I made a few of the easier changes years ago that I have stuck with such as changing out most of my hair and beauty products, throwing out all my BPA plastic food storage containers, avoiding coffee, and limiting alcohol. While I have been able to sustain these changes, I haven’t been as strict as I would want to with the food I eat. It is seriously difficult to maintain a super-clean diet while working long hours. You will always opt for convenience – takeout and processed foods.

I have been hearing from my doctors and reading books and websites that eating an anti-inflammation diet and reducing stress is the way to go. [Disclaimer: What my doctors say is for me only and not for you to follow. I am not a doctor or any kind of health professional so anything written here is probably wrong and should not be taken as medical advice of any kind. I am just an out-of-work accountant trying to get healthy and talking about it here.]

OK, that’s great. I know it would help me improve my health, but how do I implement an anti-inflammation diet? I have so many questions about it. It also doesn't help that many of the resources online contradict each other. So, which one is right (or right for me)? 

“Eggs are bad because they are a common food allergen!” “Eggs are good because they are a source of inflammation-fighting omega-3s!” What?! Which is it??

Can you really have a smoothie for breakfast and stay full until lunch? 

What do I do if the other people I live with don’t want to eat this way? I am not cooking 2 dinners every day.

How do I do this without spending a whole day on Sunday meal-prepping? My back can’t handle standing there chopping veggies for 5 hours straight. 

Do I really need to try weird-to-me things like protein powder and kefir? What will they do to my digestive system? I am not in the mood for experiments. 

Again, so many questions. 
And so much resistance (from me).