From Joe: I get a lot of questions by email as you might imagine. However, probably the question I get the most often reads something like this: “Hi Joe! I read your emails all the time and I have a question for you. I’m trying to pass part X of the CPA Exam and I seem to be stuck on 71-74. I’ve already taken the (big name) CPA Review course 3 times and it got me to 74 but now I seem to be going in reverse. I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours and just can’t seem to get any further. I’ve spent so much money now that I cannot afford to spend much more. What should I do?”
These folks are terribly frustrated as you can well imagine. They’ve invested both a lot of money and a lot of time. They’ve come close but they have not passed. This is not like the game horseshoes—getting close doesn’t count.
My advice to this query is usually fairly standard.
“First, based on where your scores are right now, I’d recommend about 50 hours of studying. At some point, once you are close, studying too many hours can be counterproductive because you stop being efficient. You can start filling your brain too full. Okay, if you want to study 51 hours, I can live with that but I'm serious about setting a reasonable goal for hours once you’ve hit about 65-68 points.
“If you have never taken the exam before or if you are scoring below 60-65, you’ll need more like 100 hours. But if you are up to 65 or so, then 50 hours should get you the points you need.
“Second, realize that you do need to study 50 hours. A lot of people get close and think any amount of study will be enough. No. Even for a 74, I would recommend 50 hours of study just to make sure you are ready for whatever questions they throw at you.
“Third, immediately start working the questions for the part of the CPA Exam that you are trying to pass. Start with the topic and move on through. There are roughly 500-600 FREE questions available for each of the four sections. For the section, you are trying to pass, WORK THEM ALL. Don’t skim or jump around. WORK THEM ALL. Be serious about it.
“In working these questions, you can answer them for free on our website. Or, for a small fee, you can purchase a phone app and work them that way. Or, you can purchase a download version. Be a smart student: Use the way that is the most convenient for YOU. You need to work a lot of questions and you’d like to make this project as smooth and easy as you can. Pick a way that works best for you.
“Fourth, as you work these questions, try to average about 2 - 3 minutes each. It is important to get used to working questions as quickly as you would on the exam itself. Too many people study at a pace that is too leisurely. Watch a clock, set your timer on your phone, and try your best to average under three minutes per question.
“Fifth, as you work each question, never guess while you are practicing. On the actual CPAExam, you’ll very likely have to make some guesses. But guessing doesn’t do you one bit of good when you are studying. If you need to guess, just assume you got the question wrong.
“Sixth, if you get a question right, move on. Don’t sit and pat yourself on the back for too long. If you can't get a question right, read the answer very carefully. We pride ourselves on our answers. You can learn more by missing a question and then carefully reading the answer than you can at any other point in the study process. Always, always, always keep that in mind.
“Seventh, for each question that you don't get right, write down a clue in 10 WORDS OR LESS on a 3 by 5 card that will help you get it right the next time. You are trying to get enough questions correct so that you’ll get to 75 points. Remember, though, that you are NOT trying to get to perfection. If it takes more than 10 words to write the clue, it might not be worth the time.
“Eighth, carry those ‘clue cards/notes’ with you absolutely everywhere. At any moment when you have ten free seconds, start reading through the cards/notes to get those clues into your head. You should be doing two things during any and all available time: answering questions or reading clue cards/notes. Anything else is a waste of time.
“Ninth, when you've worked all 500-600 questions, consider buying our simulation package for that particular part of the CPA Exam (I think each part is $9.99). This might not be necessary if you do extremely well on the multiple-choice questions but it is never a bad idea to see the material in a simulation format. Work all those simulations. But, again, work them quickly.
“Tenth, with the time you have left, quickly run back through the multiple-choice questions. This time, though, do not work them by topic but rather work them using the random question setting. You want to get used to adjusting from one topic to the next very quickly. One of the tricky parts of the actual exam is moving from topic to topic. You want to get used to that before you take the exam. So, the last study days are spent working questions in the random setting.
“Finally, make sure you are well rested and focused on the exam day. It is dumb to go into something as important and challenging as the CPA Exam if you are tired or distracted.
“Finally (Part II), remember you are not trying to be perfect, you just want to get enough questions right to pass. Too many people get hung up on perfection and that keeps them from getting the 75 points they need to pass.”
Truthfully, this routine ought to add 15 points to your score. I obviously can't guarantee points but if you are in the 60-65 point range, these ten steps in 50 hours should get you the points you need. If you need more than 15 points, there are other ways to add in more hours and more points (our Essentials program, for example). It all depends on where you are presently in your quest to pass the next part of the CPAExam.