Warning: really long post ahead about how to study and approach FAR.
– 12 weeks overall; 1 week/chapter and 2 weeks of final review
– Take notes in the AM, watch every lecture, pound MCQ
– Every weekend do a cumulative review of the material you’ve covered so far
So… I wanted to write this post because I’ve received so much meaningful insight from this subreddit that I wanted to give back to some and answer some questions that others might have.
I’m almost 30-years-old and had been out of college for six years by the time I started studying for the CPA. I am NOT an accounting undergrad; I earned my accounting credits by taking accounting classes online from a community college (to save money). This leads me to my first takeaway for you all: Your educational foundation isn’t really all that important. Will having a good accounting education pedigree serve you better? Probably. Are you at a distinct disadvantage with a tougher road with an inferior education? No, not at all. My online community college accounting education was so crap; full stop.
I can’t speak for any study material provider besides Becker, but I would imagine, like Becker, they all provide adequate instruction for everybody to pass the exam. That’s the entire purpose of the study materials is that they are self-contained and completely sufficient to ensure you pass all four parts of the exam.
About the study materials:
I chose Becker for two reasons that I think most people can relate to. First, I had read and spoken with multiple CPA’s; common consensus was that Becker is the best provider (ignoring the cost). Second, my company is providing reimbursement when I pass all four parts. Now, something I want to note is that I would still pay for Becker even if I wasn’t getting reimbursed. Why? Basically, reason number one above, I feel like Becker is the best provider and I want to give myself the best chance to succeed. Something just to consider is that while Becker is the most expensive option, it’s not out of this world expensive. Becker is always doing promotions and I got the “Pro” level for $2,400, which is Becker’s most expensive option. IIRC, the Premium was $2,300; if I could do it again, I’d get the Premium level without hesitation. I’m wasting money on the Pro level in my personal opinion. Anyhow, my point is this:
Roger Elite Unlimited – $1,699
Wiley Platinum – $1,799
Becker Premium – $2,299
In short, is the extra $600 worth it to you? That’s a personal value play, but I think it’s something everybody should at least consider.
I chose to take FAR first and it’s the only exam I’ve taken/passed so far. I plan to do the follow order of exam – FABR
I chose this order because of the feedback that FAR is the most difficult exam and it carries many foundations to the other exams. I can’t speak to the first assertion yet, but I can say with confidence that the foundation does help in other exams. I’m halfway done studying for AUD and there’s a significant amount of material in AUD that is somewhat assumed you already know from FAR. For example, Chapter 1 of AUD glosses over contingent liabilities (don’t worry about what this means) and if you hadn’t taken FAR first or have good recollection from your accounting classes, you’d be lost in this instance. Now, it doesn’t seem like you need to know these FAR subjects in depth like you did for FAR. However, it’s less time I had to spend learning additional material.
Anyhow, my next exam I plan to take is BEC simply because it’s shorter and it supposedly contains some FAR material as well. I’ve decided to reserve REG for last because I’ve seen people state that REG is kind of “on an island” in terms of material. Essentially, REG is business law and tax to my understanding, which is more or less not covered on the other three parts.
Becker’s FAR study program is broken into 10 chapters. The Becker program recommends that if you’re not studying full-time (you have a full-time job and study part-time), you cover one (1) chapter each week. In addition, after covering all chapters, you dedicate two (2) weeks to a full review. This study plan will essentially extend across 12 weeks, which is probably close to the maximum amount of time you want to study for this exam. Any longer, and you probably begin forgetting the things you learned in the earlier chapters. As an example, by the time you finish studying F10, it will have been two full months (eight weeks) since you studied F2. So, just keep that in mind that half the battle is retention.
So, I started studying F1 (FAR Chapter 1) on Monday, September 13. I wrapped up F10 (FAR Chapter 10) on Saturday, November 21. I took practice exam #1 on Sunday, November 22. I took practice exam #2 on Saturday, November 28 (6 days later). I took practice exam #3 on Saturday, December 6 (7 days later). Finally, I took my official exam on Monday, December 8.
The way I studied was pretty much like what you see people recommend on this subreddit. I focused the majority of my efforts on “pounding” Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ). What I would do is wake up early for work and go through the material that I was planning on studying that day. I wouldn’t pre-read it or watch any lectures, but I would go through the annotated textbook and do all of my notations and highlights in advance. In my opinion, this was the best part of my strategy because it would allow me to focus on the actual lecture in the evening. So basically, my textbook was completely marked up before I even watched the lecture.
I’d watch the lecture at 2x speed and never pause it unless I didn’t understand something. By having done the notes/highlighting in the morning, it allowed me to focus on the actual material itself. You’ll hear the Becker instructors recommend that you take notes during the lecture like a traditional class, but I personally don’t think it’s effective simply because of the volume of lectures. There’s just too much writing/highlighting involved to also effectively watch these 45-60-minute lectures at the same time.
I would completely ensure that I finished at least one module (e.g. F1 M1) every evening. If the module was on the shorter side or didn’t have many MCQ, I would try to do two of them. Here was my weekly schedule below:
Three things I want to note about the above strategy. First, when studying I would basically approach it like this: notes in the AM, watch full lecture at 2x speed, and then do the MCQ’s following the module. In my opinion, try to do at least ¾ of the MCQ, but be aware that as you go through the questions, they get more difficult and go far beyond the difficulty of the exam. Once you’re done with ¾ of those MCQ for that module, either go to the next module or call it a night. Second, I took every Friday off as a treat and mental health recovery. Personally, I think most people find that once they start studying and get in the groove, it’s not as awful as it sounds. But of paramount importance is to not burn yourself out. Third and finally, I would finish whatever modules I had left for the chapter on Saturday. I’d also try to do practice tests on that chapter alone just to do a brief review. I’d say at most do 100 practice MCQ for each chapter on a Saturday; break these MCQ into shorter practice exams. I chose to do them in groups of 33 MCQ to match the actual CPA exam. In addition, I would take every Sunday to do a cumulative review of all of the material I’d studied so far. I would do more 33 MCQ practice tests, but of every chapter I’d covered so far. So just as an example, let’s say I was on F5, this is what my weekend would look like:
Saturday: Finish F5 modules & do F5 review practice tests (~100 MCQ total)
Sunday: Do Practice Tests of F1 – F5 (or F1 – F4 because you did F5 on Saturday).*
* to be clear, I don’t mean to do a practice exam for F1, a practice exam for F2, and so on. I mean to do a 33 MCQ practice exam (multiple times) that covers F1-F5. By doing this, you’d essentially get 6 or 7 questions from each chapter.
In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not doing a cumulative review every week. When people get through F10 and begin their review, they’ve just forgotten far too much material. Even if you only do like 50 MCQ once/week, it’s better than nothing.
My Practice Exam Scores:
Practice Exam 1: 63%*
Practice Exam 2: 77%
Practice Exam 3: 68%
Average Score: 69%
*There’s a practice exam question (and one on the real exam) where they will give you a scenario with some facts and ask you to provide the proper guidance for the scenario. The objective is that you have to look up an accounting reg in the ASC and then provide the correct citation based on the scenario. I didn’t realize the ASC was built into the exam, so like an idiot, I just left it blank. This certainly brought my score down unnecessarily because these questions should be among the easiest you’ll get on the exam IMO. So, the way I look at this is that my average score was really more like a 70%.
I averaged almost exactly 1 MCQ per minute. So, I finished testlets 1 & 2 with about 66 minutes elapsed on the test. That left me with a total of ~174 minutes for the remaining three remaining testlets with 8 Task-Based Simulations (TBS), or sim for short. That is, I had about ~22 minutes for each sim. You’re entitled to a 15-minute untimed break (it doesn’t count against you) between testlet 3 and testlet 4, I highly recommend you take the break. Even if you don’t use the entire time, just get away from the computer and go take a break. I got up, drank water, used eye drops, went to the bathroom, and sat down with my eyes closed for like 5 straight minutes. I felt that this was very effective.
Ultimately, I finished the exam with 90 minutes remaining and scored an 86. This means my “Becker Bump” was worth about 16/17 points.
I averaged about 7 minutes on each sim except for the last one that I was doing wrong and took me like 20 minutes to figure it out. The AICPA says that MCQ testlet #2 should get more difficult if you did well on testlet #1. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference and thought they were pretty much the same.
Final thoughts on the exam subject matter:
– I didn’t review partnerships beyond my initial studying of it during F2. It’s no longer in the AICPA blueprint.
– I didn’t spend more time than necessary on Government Accounting. The blueprint says that Government Accounting will make up between 5-15% of your exam. I felt this was pretty representative on my exam. I only got MCQ’s on Government; I did not have any sims on it.
Last thing, this exam is pretty mental in that it covers a lot of material. Something to keep in mind is that people refer to the CPA Exam as “a mile wide and an inch deep”. Keep that in mind when you’re studying because I think it puts certain things in perspective. Some people ask themselves how the hell do I study and memorize all of this. It’s simple, you literally don’t because it’s impossible. You basically do a “risk assessment” and do you best to cover what you can.
I know this is a novel, but I hope it helped some people. I felt like I owed it to the subreddit because of how much knowledge I’ve gained from this sub. Feel free to shoot me any questions you might have and I’ll answer anything posted here.
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Author Of this post: /u/SmokShak