Using Six Sigma to Master the CPA Exam


Hi. My name is Rob Kinney. I’m a licensed CPA originally from suburban Philadelphia, but most of my career has been spent working in central NJ. When I’m not working I enjoy spending time with my family, biking, hiking, skiing, and playing tennis. This is my CPA Exam success story.

My career and accounting education began in my mid 20’s when I landed an entry level office clerk job at a local university. 

I quickly took full advantage of the tuition reimbursement benefit from my employer and embarked on a business degree.  While working full time and taking evening courses, it became apparent that practical tools and study techniques spoke to me.  My spare time was minimal and any time spent studying had to be highly productive as time was in short supply.  Squeezing in CPA studies while working full time and earning an MBA part time was difficult.  I was a 3.0 student in my undergraduate studies and had to work very hard for those grades.  I was not the type of student to read something once and simply “get it”.

My approach to choosing a CPA review course was very deliberate. 

I needed a course that had a proven success record and allowed the flexibility I needed as I was working full time and working towards my MBA degree.  Since CPA review courses are a significant financial investment, I did my homework on all the courses available.  I used online information, local libraries, and spoke to any accounting professionals that would give me their opinions on studying for the CPA Exam.  The result of my research identified Roger Phillip as the one CPA review supplier that met all my study needs. 

Studying for the exam required a significant amount of rigor which was complicated by a job change.

My new job provided an opportunity to learn Six Sigma.  I eventually became a corporate Six Sigma trainer.  Six Sigma is a process efficiency approach to business operations.  It was developed in Japan and brought to the US in the 1980s.  This proven technique is a core part of operations for Motorola, GE, United Health, and many other organizations.  

The approach utilizes facts, data, logic, and statistics to streamline any process.  I was studying for the most difficult exams in my career while spending 8-10 hours per day as a process efficiency expert as an employee of the world’s premier organization in standardized testing.  I ultimately became an expert in process efficiency, standardized tests, and CPA studies.  

Along my study journey I developed the most efficient study processes that worked for me as my daily professional life was centered on process efficiency.  I developed specific study techniques and applied them to get passing grades on the CPA Exams. My intent was to gain maximum knowledge and productivity in passing the CPA Exam.

The most effective tool that I developed I call The Big Page. 

I found that studying and practicing the multiple choice questions often required me to flip through hundreds of text pages searching for answers.  So I decided to buy a large 2’ x 3′ easel sized drawing pad from my local office supply store and I outlined an entire chapter on one page. 

The act of outlining the chapter allowed me to read the book, summarize the key points, and have an entire chapter all on one page.  I was able to outline an entire book on 6 or 7 large pages.  I then hung the pages on my dining room wall for reference as I studied, which virtually eliminated the need for me to flip through a large textbook as I continued to study.  Imagine having an entire book outlined and right in front of you for reference.

In addition, the act of writing notes on the big page was an incredible learning exercise as I was documenting and considering all points offered in Roger’s books. The experience reminded me of the exercises used in elementary school.  The act of writing translates into to a highly effective cognitive experience which you don’t get from simply reading or typing out notes. 

With the outlined notes all in one space and not having to flip through pages, I found this to be amazingly efficient and the most productive learning experience I ever had as an adult.

Another key study technique I used in passing the exams I call the Study Break. 

After hours of studying each evening following a long workday, I would simply feel burned out from studying.  Taking a night off from studying was a necessity.  But skipping a night of studying had a negative impact on time as the CPA Exam must be completed within an 18 month window.  So I had to figure out a way to study without burning myself out or at least making studying not feel so arduous.

I developed the Study Break.  When I could not study anymore and I felt like I absolutely needed a break from studying, I would get comfy, put down my notepad and pencil, and simply re-watch one of Roger’s lessons that I had recently seen.  I had always been amazed at how I unintentionally learned songs, sayings, and movie lines without even realizing I was digesting and memorizing these things.  Repeated exposure to the same sights and sounds ultimately result in learning or memorizing without much effort.  Imagine hearing the same story five times in one month. You would eventually absorb some of that information. 

So I thought that I could simply watch and listen to Roger’s lecture videos when I wasn’t actually actively studying. 

I’d relax in a comfy, quiet spot and just watch a video without taking notes or practicing multiple choice questions.  Exposing my eyes and ears to the content without “studying” definitely gave me at least a few critical points that I needed to pass the exam. 

There were days where I took the entire day off from studying, but there were many days that I took a Study Break and absorbed some of the material passively when I traveled, exercised, and simply needed a night off.  The average commute time to work is 26 minutes.  So the average person can passively listen to 52 minutes of familiar CPA study audio to reinforce material multiple times without taking any notes or working multiple choice questions while commuting. 

These study tools were so important to me that I decided to document them as well as many other techniques in a book.

Pass the CPA Exam, Effective and Efficient Study Tools is the culmination of the tools that I developed as a result of my process efficiency background, CPA testing experience, and intimate knowledge of standardized testing with 6 years in the industry. 

Combining Roger’s expert content and practical study techniques I now enjoy the benefits of those three precious letters – CPA.  

–Rob Kinney

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