Tackling the CPA Exam

M.S. in Accounting student Macy Foster has a plan to tackle the CPA Exam.

The dreaded CPA Exam – the exam we have all been thinking about for years as accounting students. The CPA Exam consists of four 4-hour sections, taken at separate times: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Each section contains multiple-choice questions and simulations and poses its own challenges for preparation.

Preparing for the CPA Exam can be overwhelming because each section contains in-depth information you need to understand, and you are studying for it as a full-time student. There’s a lot of information online on how to best approach it, so you have to find the approach that is going to work best for you. I have found that sticking to a strict study schedule and forming study groups with peers allow me to better prepare for the exam.

I began studying for the CPA Exam in January because I will be starting my job in early June and will not be able to study full time over the summer. Many accounting jobs, however, begin in the fall, so many students have study time over the summer before starting full-time work. You are able to choose the order that you want to complete the sections. I personally plan to begin with Audit because it was my favorite accounting class in undergrad and “Forensic Accounting” is offered to M.S. in Accounting students during the spring semester. Other students take FAR first because it is one of the hardest sections. Every person is different, so pick the order that makes the most sense to you.

The best resource I’ve found for preparing for the CPA Exam is an online study package. Many accounting firms, especially the “Big Four,” provide incoming employees with the option to purchase study materials directly through the firm, which alleviates the worry about affording expensive study guides. Many firms also reimburse you for testing fees.

It’s helpful to develop a plan before you begin studying. Online study materials like Becker provide a tool that allows you to create a personalized plan. The study plan keeps you on track because it tells you what you need to review each week. I have also made it a priority to dedicate time each week for CPA studying. It can be difficult to balance CPA studying and class assignments during busy weeks, but I continue to remind myself how important it is to stick to working toward my goal. I am nervous to begin taking the different sections (who isn’t?), but I do feel prepared and ready to tackle the CPA Exam after all of the hard work and accounting knowledge I’ve acquired!

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