Create a Solid Foundation to Pass the Exam

Joel Weldon is a motivational speaker. I have never heard him speak personally but I have read some of his words. I read something recently that he had said that caught my attention:

“When I used to work in construction, my supervisor told me, ‘If we put our foundation in right, the rest of the building is easy.’ That philosophy has really guided us. If we pay our dues, take our time, do our homework, and do it right and with quality, whatever we put on top of this will have something to support it.”

Just to repeat: “If we pay our dues, take our time, do our homework, and do it right and with quality, whatever we put on top of this will have something to support it.”

As you can imagine, I talk with college students virtually every single day. I also talk with a lot of CPA Exam candidates. I am often struck by their attitude. Many do not want to pay their dues or take their time. Many look for shortcuts so they don’t have to do any real homework. They are not terribly interested in doing their work the right way and with quality.

And, then they are stunned when things don’t work out so well. They are upset when they get to the CPA Exam (or an intermediate accounting test) and they don’t have a strong enough understanding so they can answer the questions. They have not created a firm foundation of understanding that will support the level of knowledge they need to be successful.

If it is important enough to do, if success on the CPA Exam truly means something to you, then it is important enough to do the preparation the right way.

Okay, what is the right way to prepare for the CPA Exam? Here is some solid advice that WILL prepare you for success:

--Understand that you are going to need at least 60-100 hours per part. There is no reason to get started on this adventure if you cannot put in the time necessary.

--Schedule out when you are going to put in those hours each week. Are you going to study from 6 until 9each Thursday evening or from 8 to 10 each Saturday morning? Create a reasonable schedule that will push you without overwhelming you. Figure out how many weeks you will need to study in order to get in your first 60-100 hours. That will tell you when you can schedule your first exam. For example, if you can get in sufficient time by April 9, then you can schedule the exam for that date.

--Pick the part of the exam that you like the best (or the part that you feel most confident in passing). I always believe that you should start the exam by trying to maximize your chance of success at the very beginning. That makes it easier to study and more likely to achieve success. Starting with a part that you dislike or a part that you think will be hard to pass can increase the chance of quitting.

--Go to the topics under the section you are studying. Make two quick lists. First, list all of the topics according to how important you think they will be. Under FAR, for example, governmental accounting is usually considered a much more important topic than intangible assets. Then, make a second list where you put the topics that you know the least about at the top and the ones you know a lot about last. There is no reason to spend much time on topics where you have a good understanding. Combine these two lists so that you have important topics where your knowledge is weak at the top and lesser topics where your knowledge is strong at the bottom. Plan to spend 50-60 percent of your study time on the first third of the topics in this combined list. Plan to spend 20-40 percent of your time on the second third and 10-25 percent of your time on the final third. Go where you have the most chance of adding points. That only makes sense.

--Go to the first topic on your list and answer every one of the free multiple-choice questions. Never guess while you are preparing (although you should guess on the actual exam). If you get the question right, move on – there is no benefit available from that question. If you get the question wrong, then read the answer very carefully. Try to write 10 words on a 3 by 5 card that will help you get that question right the next time. You cannot guarantee that you’ll get the question right when you see it again but you want to improve the odds. This exam is not about perfection; it is about answering more questions correctly.

--Keep in mind that it may be more convenient to obtain either our IPhone app or our IPad app so that you can easily work these questions wherever you go.

--As you work through the multiple-choice questions, periodically go back and read your 3 by 5 notes. You want to keep this vital information fresh in your head.

--Work to answer the questions quickly. Most candidates practice at a slow pace and then have trouble on the actual exam adapting to the speed required. That is a fundamental error that you want to avoid at all costs.

--If you feel like you need more help on specific areas, go to our “Premium Resources” area. We have a number of products at a very reasonable cost to help you add points where you need more assistance.

A --- Essential content study material lays out pages and pages of study guide material to help you get stronger in those areas where you feel more work is needed.

B --- Downloadable multiple-choice questions. Some candidates simply prefer to have the questions in a paper form that they can carry around with them. This link provides that ability.

C --- Points to Pass – This is a great product available just for FAR. A number of essential questions are provided and you can work them over and over (WITH NEW NUMBERS EACH TIME) for as long as you need just to allow yourself unlimited practice.

D --- Sims and written communication questions. We provide you with questions so that you can practice on task-based simulations and written communication questions.

“If we pay our dues, take our time, do our homework, and do it right and with quality, whatever we put on top of this will have something to support it.”

Let’s get that work started so you can have this exam passed by the time you have set as your goal! 

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