Studying for the CPA Exam: Back to Basics

Studying for FAR is a beast in itself.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, finding time with a busy schedule is difficult.  You have to sacrifice something, and it is usually sleep.  I am in the middle of a very busy busy season, so time is even more critical.  Making time count, is the key. 

FAR presents its own adventure.  Even if time to study was plentiful, I think I would feel the same way if I was doing what I have been doing. This week I have been getting stuck on the details, without looking at the whole picture.  For example, while working through the cost and equity methods, I have been getting so hung up on the minute details that I’ve seemingly forgot accounting basics: debits and credits.  While working problems, I found myself not asking the basic questions.  For example, if this is the cost method, what does this transaction do to the investment account? Instead of trying to think through the problem from a high-level view, I’m trying to look at the forest through the trees and memorize the transactions.  I’ve found myself applying the equity method when I should be applying the cost method. To summarize, I’m not allowing myself to see the full picture before I try to answer the question. What I’m learning this week is to relax, step-back, and don’t try to rush through the analysis.  I know this is hard to do, at least for me.  The material is miles wide, but getting hung up on the details without grasping the concepts is a path to failure.

I’ve found this concept even to be true in my work.  As aspiring CPAs, we put intense pressure on ourselves to be detailed.  Every analysis needs details to get to that number have to show to a client, but if we forget to see the whole picture, we will likely not be able to answer basic questions.  From my past CPA exam experience, this is true for the exams.  I might be able to calculate the details between the various assets of Section 1231, Sect. 1245, and Sect. 1250, but I might not be able to answer the basic questions of how an asset is defined.  A perfect calculation to the wrong interpretation of the question is the wrong answer. 

I know everyone is studying hard, but if you are like me you may get caught up in the details without really knowing the basics well.  Take a step back and look at the question from a high-level before digging in.  Truth-be-told, if you can approach any question by understanding the basic concepts and the context of the question; the more likely you will do on the exam.  Good Luck!

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