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Four Tips to Pass the CPA Exam the First Time

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After experiencing two non-passing scores with FAR, I learned incredibly well what not to do while studying for the CPA exam. Those experiences have helped me revamp my study routine so that I can now study with a sigh of relief, knowing that I’m doing what it takes to pass. In this blog article, I’ll share what I learned along the way so that you can pass the first time!

1. Pick the right CPA review software for you. I spent hours looking for the perfect CPA review course. I ended up purchasing a premium package because it was on multiple comparative lists of being the top two CPA review programs. Unfortunately, that first choice didn’t work out for me. I paid well over $2,000 and was overwhelmed with the amount of material and never-ending amount of questions that I needed to get through. With a full-time work schedule and plenty of responsibilities outside of work, I needed something more efficient. When I decided to try UWorld Roger CPA Review, it was a relief to see better quality CPA Exam questions; it gave me more time to learn the material and understand it. Just know that if you’re not jiving with a particular CPA review program, it may be much easier to switch to something that aligns with your specific learning style, than to continue to struggle.

2. Set up your study schedule and let everyone know about it. I’m a person who values family time and always makes my family a priority. Every phone call, the requests for me to drive over for a quick visit, all the family dinners, I’m your gal. Unfortunately, this gal had to learn the hard way on how to set boundaries. Having to tell my family plus my in-laws that I’m not available over and over again felt like pulling off a band-aid slowly. When I decided to set a firm study schedule, things became much easier. Setting a study plan is the best way for you to set boundaries with your family, friends, work, and protect your precious study time. I leave my phone in my bedroom while studying, so I don’t look at it or respond to a text/email while I’m in the middle of learning something valuable. Once everyone becomes familiar with your schedule, they’ll soon learn to respect it, too, especially when they know you aren’t available. I currently put aside approximately 22 hours a week for studying, this is on top of my work schedule. I first was worried that seeing my family and friends less would hurt our relationship, but to the contrary, it has made the time that we do spend together more precious and enjoyable.

3. Give yourself plenty of time to review old material. If it’s been a month and I haven’t reviewed a topic, I tend to only retain about 35% of the content at best at that point. That’s not good enough and not a good use of my time. For me, what has been effective is to use Fridays through Sundays to move forward in the material and use Monday through Thursday to review old material. I set up a spreadsheet to see everything important to me all at once; I use this spreadsheet to keep track of the last time I reviewed each chapter and record my scores (I know, typical accountant). If I haven’t looked at it in 2 weeks, it’s time to review my notes and take another full set of questions from that particular chapter. I use the UWorld Roger CPA Review performance reports to record my score per chapter onto my spreadsheet with the intention to raise my performance score to 85% to 90% before I sit for the exam. Is this necessary? It’s a bit aggressive, but it keeps me wondering if I did enough to prepare before going into to sit on exam day.

4. Seek an understanding of the questions, not memorization. More than likely, you will not see an identical question on the CPA exam, but you may see something similar. Ask yourself, do I understand this question, and why is this the correct answer? Do I know why the other responses are not right? You may see a question on the exam that pertains to one of the incorrect responses, so I have found it helpful to carefully read the UWorld Roger CPA Review answer explanations in “tutor mode” to understand what other material could potentially be tested on in relation to this particular question/chapter.

I hope you find these tips helpful, and I hope you can get through these challenging exams the first time! As Roger Philipp, CPA, CGMA, likes to say, “If you study, you will pass!”

– Laura D., guest blogger for UWorld Roger CPA Review