The C.P.A. Exam Truth

The Certified Public Accounting certification exam is four sections long: Regulation (REG), Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). As of last year, each section is four hours long with multiple choice questions, simulations, and BEC has a writing portion. Once you pass the first section, you have eighteen months to pass the other three. That’s right- passing is timed and conditional. You have to get a 75 to pass, and that is not a %. The questions are weighted, and then your score is weighted against the other people taking the test. There is a reason why the exam has a less than 50% pass rate. It’s not a walk in the park.

Everyone has a different idea of which is the easiest section. It really depends on the individual. If you are a tax person, REG is going to be easier. If you are an auditor, AUD is going to be your strength. It all just depends on where you are in the accounting field. For me, REG and BEC was the easiest. I work in a tax department, so I live by those rules. I am also good at writing, which made BEC less intimidating.

When I first starting my now three year long journey of taking this exam, everyone told me to use the Becker study materials. Becker is one of the most widely known CPA exam prep guides, and they do work for a lot of people. Not me. I failed all but REG my first time around. It took me a little while to figure out the best way for me to study, and Becker’s videos and books were not it for me.

Now, a lot of my coworkers used Becker and passed. Some of them did the same self study path while a couple did the whole “I’m going to sit in an eight hour long class every Saturday and do multiple choice questions at home during the week” thing. I was working full time and going to Georgia State for my master’s. I did not take that route.

Also, do not overload yourself like I did. Between work and my classes, I did not give myself time to study for the exam. That hurt. A lot.

I had to teach myself how to study. I never really had to in high school, and college required a lesser amount of studying than what you really need for the CPA exam. I am talking about locking yourself in your room, ignoring everyone and everything for a few hours a day. Become a hermit. Your friends and family will eventually forgive you after you pass the exam.

Do some research on the different study programs that are available. There is no such thing as a “One size fits all” when it comes to this stuff. A friend used Wiley and liked it. I am using the NINJA program from and that really works for me. But it is a personal choice. You know how you study. Some people I know use more than one. NINJA was actually set up to be a supplemental to the other programs. I just found that the materials they have work for my learning style.

Misery loves company. If you have friends or coworkers also taking the exam, study together. Share your notes. Two heads are better than one, and someone may be better at creating ways to remember stuff. I am sure there is a song about governmental fund types out there somewhere. I should probably go find it, because that is one of my weakest areas. FAR is terrible. They’re all terrible, but FAR is all the random stuff that did not fit into the other three sections. Someone please make a FAR album with catchy tunes to memorize.

I am a week away from finding out a score, and two months from taking FAR. If all goes well, I will be a CPA by the end of September. Just know, you are not alone. There are hundreds of us suffering through this exam. We got this. We are accountants.

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