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Monday, March 2, 2015

Women's History Month: Celebrating Women in Accounting

Not too long ago in the accounting news, Deloitte was a major headliner across the industry when they announced Cathy Engelbert as the next CEO of Deloitte LLP. This wasn’t just a huge update in the transitions to come for one of the Big 4, but it was also a historical event as Engelbert became the first female CEO in Big 4 history. And, by extension, Engelbert also became the first woman to lead any of the country’s big professional service firms.

We know. It’s pretty neat stuff. We couldn't think of a better way to transition into March and National Women’s History Month than with this news.

Back in 1980, the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) was founded by five women in Santa Rosa, California looking to bring recognition to women’s historical achievements and its effectiveness today. While they began by lobbying to congress to designate March as National Women’s History Month (and with success), they are known today as an organization that helps perpetuate information and education regarding the significance of women’s contributions to the United States and to rewrite women back into history.

And so, we’d like to take a few moments to do the same. Here are some of the accounting industry’s best and brightest women who paved the road for many others while delivering great influence in an otherwise male dominated profession.

Christine Ross

The first woman to attain CPA licensure in the United States, Christine Ross passed the CPA exam in June of 1898. However, it took a year and a half to receive her certificate when the New York Board of Regents finally decided to allow women to be granted one on December 21, 1899. She practiced from her New York City office early in the 20th century; her clients included people working in the business and fashion industries, as well as wealthy women.

Mary Harris Smith

Established in England and Wales in 1800, the Institute of Chartered Accountants is a prestigious organization that provides its members with the utmost knowledge and guidance based on ethical standards delivered to businesses and the public interest. Female membership a hundred years ago was laughable; however, Smith eventually forced her way in, opening the door for many other women to follow her and break down the barriers deterring female applicants. She was the first female chartered accountant in the world.

Mary T. Washington 

You may already be familiar with Mary T. Washington from our “Salute to African American CPAs” post, but she bears mentioning again. The first female African American to earn her CPA, Washington is also most known for founding one of the largest African American-owned accounting firms in the United States: Washington, Pittman & McKeever. Starting out as an assistant at Binga State Bank, Washington would gain mentor-ship from her employer and strive on to not only gain CPA licensure, but also spend the rest of her life dedicated to working at her firm and further influencing the profession.

Dorothy G. Willard

Having been an active member of NASBA for several years including serving as treasurer, Dorothy G. Willard made history when she became the first female President of the organization in 1967. During a time when women were rare in public accounting, Willard was also a partner in the Boston firm of Charles F. Rittenhouse & Company.

Mary E. Murphy

From teaching abroad to publishing and collaborating on more than 20 books and 100 journal articles, Murphy was truly a force of nature for her time. Being only the second woman in the United States to earn her doctorate in accountancy, Murphy also became the first woman to earn her CPA in the state of Iowa in 1930. Earning numerous opportunities to become chair, director, and assistant professor in many prestigious universities and organizations, Murphy paved the way for many women to prosper in the accounting industry and beyond.

Where women accountants in the early 20th century were few, women now account for more than 50% of accounting graduates entering the profession in the last 20 years. While this is a great indication of how times have certainly changed, the percentage in which women make up the partners in accounting firms nationwide is still quite small: 19%. Recognizing this type of discrepancy is the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee (WIEC) which aids in various activities and programs to help women in the accounting industry succeed. Focusing on higher levels of leadership in their careers and helping organizations engage men and women equally, the WIEC hopes to continue to increase the visibility and advancement of women in the profession, influence cultures of firms and organizations to support the advancement of women, and provide credible statistics regarding the issues that impact women in the profession.

With the help of predecessors that came before as well as the current leaders rallying for continued progress of leadership advancement for women in the accounting industry, we hope you take some time this month to pay homage to the great women in your life and the amazing feats they have accomplished for themselves and others!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tips for the BEC Written Communication Section of the CPA Exam

If you were ever daunted by your high school English teacher whose midterms and finals consisted of analyzing a piece of poetry or literature in which you had to find all the symbolism, double entendre's, and various literary devices you could barely name—then breathe a sigh of relief. Because the BEC Written Communication section of the CPA Exam is not that.

There will be 3 Written Communication questions that you will encounter on the BEC which basically tests your ability to write and construct professional, business documents in the event that you need to communicate any issues or concerns you may have with your potential clients in writing. This portion of the BEC exam is not meant to measure how flowery or fluffy you can make your writing; let’s save that for those of us who are looking to do creative writing on the side or want to publish our own short novel someday. In actuality, the Written Communication portion of the BEC not only tests your proficiency in articulating a problem and solution in well-thought-out content, but also your technical use of standard English and professional documentation creation.

What are the graders looking for?

In order to do well on the BEC Written Communications questions, it’s important to know what the graders are looking for in a well written response:

1. Clear
2. Concise
3. On topic
4. Proper grammar
5. Complete sentences
6. Organization
7. Supporting details
8. Proper formatting
9. Introductions and conclusions

So to make sure that you’re answering the questions in a way that encompasses all the above components, follow our tips below to get the most out of your written responses and earn a high score. Remember, 1 out of the 3 Written Communications questions is a pretest, meaning you have to put your best foot forward in answering all 3 questions since only 2 of them will account for 15% of your total BEC score.

BEC Written Communications Tips

1. Manage your time - You want to make sure you have enough time to answer all 3 of the questions in full and that you spend an adequate amount of time on each to fully develop the content and understand what is being asked of you. You don’t want to spend an exuberant amount of time on one question you’re unsure of and only a few minutes for the ones you are sure of, and vice versa.

2. Brainstorm - Sometimes you’ll get a question that you automatically know the answer to; other times you may have to think a little bit in order to guide yourself in the right direction to find the answer. In either case, brainstorming is a very helpful way to do that. You don’t have to take a ton of time on this part; maybe a minute or two sorting out the different approaches you can take to answer the question and narrow it down even further thereafter. During your brainstorm, take into consideration:

a. The format of the document (is it a letter, proposal, etc.)
b. The question that’s being asked of you
c. The steps (or methods) you plan on taking/using to answer the question
d. The audience you’re writing for
e. Keywords you can use related to your objective (this is an important one since it will open up many doors for you in terms of adding more technical words/phrases that relate more closely to your topic)

3. Organize by Creating an Outline
Your response should always have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Make sure your reader understands how you got from point A to point B. The best way to do that is to use your brainstorm and break down your response into 3-4 pertinent paragraphs explaining each step or methodology you’re using in order to answer the question. Creating an outline in order to assemble the organization of your response is a great way to ensure that you know exactly what to write and where to write it in logical order. Write bullets and include keywords for each of the areas. The organization/outline of your response should look something like this:

a. Thesis (otherwise known as the introductory paragraph): Your first sentence should be a nice rewording or restatement of the question at hand. You should provide a couple of sentences that maybe provides some background information about the topic, and then your last sentence should tell the reader how you’re going to solve the problem or what they can do to solve the problem.

b. Body: Use 2-4 paragraphs to explain the steps you’re going to use to address/solve the problem. Each paragraph should explain one step and should have the following structure:

1. Topic sentence: Your first sentence should be the step you’re going to take that talk about how you are going to address/solve the problem (Paragraph 1 would be step 1,Paragraph 2 would be step 2, etc.)

2. Supporting details: These are sentences that explain and support your topic sentence. Give examples, provide background information, or simply go into detail about how to execute the step, how it’s beneficial to the overall plan, and how it best relates to your given scenario. Include those key words you brainstormed and implement them here.

3. Concluding sentence: Use the last sentence in your first paragraph as a transition into your next paragraph and as a way to wrap up your current point.

c. Conclusion: After all your body paragraphs are written, summarize your thesis and the steps you used to solve the problem. Afterward, give the reader your two cents. This is a chance for you to give some valuable advice from a professional opinion as a CPA. It’s always great to end the response with the main point you want your reader to walk away with; mainly that your answer is the best one for x, y, and z reasons.

4. Write: Now it’s time to actually write the thing…which is going to be ten times easier now that you've brainstormed, organized, and outlined the entire response. It’s practically already written for you! All you have to do is turn your bullets into coherent sentences. Remember to avoid fragments, run-on sentences, and straying from the topic. Here are a few pointers you can use to keep your writing lively and varied:

a. Tone: Speak in a friendly but professional tone. You don’t want your reader to feel encumbered with a fire and brimstone exposition. You want to sound informative, approachable, and knowledgeable. Keep your audience in mind.

b. Syntax: Arrange your words and phrases to create well-formed sentences that don’t always have the same structure. Use short and long sentences to play up the rhythm of your writing so it doesn’t sound monotonous. Use compound and complex sentences and/or a mixture of both.

c. Diction: Be mindful of your word choice. If you can use technical accounting/CPA terminology, great! But only use them in areas that make sense and not as fluff to cover an area that you might not otherwise have a lot of expertise in. Avoid being repetitious when possible.

5. Proofread, proofread, proofread: This last one’s so important we had to say it thrice! We can’t stress this point enough. Often times when you’re in the groove of writing, you’ll feel like Superman, soaring through the page, your words and unbelievably clever mind being an impenetrable force of brilliance! But before you turn in that great response, re-read it from beginning to end because chances are that in your moments of genius madness, you may have misspelled a word or two or combined two sentences together that make absolutely no sense. Check for spelling, grammar, complete sentences, fragments, punctuation, and overall flow of your writing. We know it can sometimes be a pain to re-read what you just wrote, but trust us—this extra step will make all the difference between a great response and a mediocre one, no matter how on-point or on-topic you were.

Right on? Write on! Happy studying!
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Relieve Anxiety Before the CPA Exam

It’s 6:00pm. You just got home from work or school not too long ago, fed your cat, pet the dog, and ate a dinner you could barely keep down. At about 7:00pm, you unwind a little bit by watching some “Survivor” on the ‘ol telly while sipping on some Chamomile tea that, despite its suggestive calming properties, doesn’t seem to stop your leg from involuntarily kicking the side of the couch every two seconds. At 8:00pm, you open the books for one last review session, going over the major topics covered in the AUD or BEC section that you’re scheduled to test for tomorrow. Before going to bed at 9:00pm, you take one last look at your digital flashcards and attempt to fall asleep.

At least—that’s how you imagine things to go. But in reality, during the night before a big event, anything goes—especially when it’s something you’ve been preparing for for hours on end and the fate of which mankind depends upon for its continued survival! Or so it seems.

It’s the last few days of the testing window to take the CPA Exam. We realize that anxiety levels may be high while sleep hours are running low, but don’t worry—we’re here to help! So put down your highlighters and IPQs and partake in these top tips to whittle away your jitters and get you confident and ready for Exam day!

1. Prepare materials to bring: Put the materials you need to bring in a backpack, purse, Ziploc, or whatever you use to carry your belongings. Place it by the door or alongside your car keys to make sure that you don’t forget them. Or, better yet, place all the necessary material into the trunk of your car the night before so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning. Remember: you cannot take the test if you do not bring the following materials!
         a. Notice to Schedule
         b. 2 forms of personal identification, non-expired, one of which must contain a recent              
                photograph (you can find which forms of ID qualify through the Candidate Bulletin on

2. Do one final review: Grab the review materials for whichever section(s) you’re testing for. You’ve heard this during your time in high school and college: don’t over cram. Instead, spend an hour or so testing yourself on the topics that will be covered and hit on important subtopics. Skim through the text once to get a more thorough overview so that you have more recent memories of things you tackled in the beginning of your study period. You can also look into areas that you think would help if you had a quick refresh.

3. Read through all of the Exam Day prepping material: This is one of the best things that you can do to help yourself for Exam Day. The biggest mistake candidates make is not reading material that’s designed to help them understand what to expect. Carefully read the Candidate Bulletin, Notice to Schedule, and Test Center Regulation Form. This will keep you in the loop of what you can and cannot bring into the test center as well as what will be provided for you. This will also give you a chance to become familiarized with what to do on the introductory exam screens, break policy, and more.

4. Relax: Don’t go to sleep stress ridden! After you’ve prepped materials, reviewed, and read through all the information on what to expect on exam day, take some time to relax in whatever way you’d like. Take a hot bath, play some video games, spend time with loved ones, play with your dog, or do some meditative activities such as yoga or breathing exercises. Essentially, do something that you enjoy with a calming effect.

5. Get enough sleep: We know this is probably easier said than done, but we can’t stress this one enough. It’s recommended that you get to the test center at least 40 minutes before your scheduled test time. Calculate how long it will take you to get there and leave ample time for unpredictable traffic. In addition, see how long it usually takes you to get ready. Once you take those factors into account, set multiple alarms to ensure that you wake up at the right time!

You don’t want to wake up the next morning feeling tired, groggy, or completely bent out of shape. Even if you’re normally nocturnal, try your best to at least lay in bed early and eventually allow yourself to drift off to sleep. If you don’t get enough rest the night before the exam, your brain and body will suffer for it and you may not perform at the top of your game.

And…last, but not least—here’s a bonus tip that you should take with you wherever you go.

6. Don’t forget that you are awesome: Remember, the CPA Exam is not an IQ test and certainly will not determine whether or not your grandparents still love you. You’ve spent ample time studying, you’re well-prepared, and you’re one smart and amazing individual. You wouldn’t be here doing this without the help and support of your own ambitions. So be confident, stay strong, and most importantly always know that success isn’t free. It comes from hard work, dedication, and unbreakable spirit.

Good luck! But we know you won’t need it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FASB Announces Accounting Standards Update

FASB ASU No. 2015-02, Consolidation (Topic 810): Amendments to the Consolidation Analysis

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an Accounting Standards Update, “intended to improve targeted areas of consolidation guidance for legal entities such as limited partnerships, limited liability corporations, and securitization structures (collateralized debt obligations, collateralized loan obligations, and mortgage-backed security transactions).”

The announcement makes a small change to deciding if consolidation is required under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Since no change has been made to the way the accounting for consolidated entities is done, we do not foresee much impact on the CPA Exam, though we anticipate having to update the FAR course slightly.

According to the FASB News Release:
“This new standard simplifies consolidation accounting by reducing the number of consolidation models, providing incremental benefits to stakeholders. For example, specialized guidance for legal entities will be eliminated by removing the indefinite deferral for certain investment funds, and certain money market funds will no longer have to apply the guidance.”
In addition to reducing the number of consolidation models from four to two, the new standard simplifies the FASB Accounting Standards Codification® and improves current Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) by:
  • Placing more emphasis on risk of loss when determining a controlling financial interest. A reporting organization may no longer have to consolidate a legal entity in certain circumstances based solely on its fee arrangement, when certain criteria are met.
  • Reducing the frequency of the application of related-party guidance when determining a controlling financial interest in a variable interest entity (VIE).
  • Changing consolidation conclusions for public and private companies in several industries that typically make use of limited partnerships or VIEs.
More information on the standard is available on the FASB website.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Celebrating the Abacus during Chinese New Year

If you walk through the streets of China Town in San Francisco during this time of year, you’ll surely be greeted with hundreds of glowing red cascading lanterns, fluttering banners with gold printing along and across the storefronts, and flowers (particularly orchids) lining the streets. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll be corralled onto the sidewalk to make room for one of the largest parades in the U.S. outside of Asia with performers doing elaborate dragon dances, adorning gorgeous floats, wearing intricate costume designs, and exploding an
abundance of firecrackers.

This is none other than the celebration of Chinese New Year: a two week Spring festival celebrated for over 5,000 years in China. Based on the lunar calendar, China and other Asian countries base the New Year on the moon’s orbit around the earth, making this celebration occur on the second new moon after the winter solstice. On this day, families get together to make merry and partake in customs and traditions to bring good luck into their lives for the entire year to come.

In light of this holiday, we’d like to explore a topic that relates more closely to accounting than one would think: the invention of the abacus. Although accounting practices (although not termed so) dates as far back as the 1400s with Venetian merchants doing double-entry bookkeeping, there was a time when counting and keeping track of numbers wasn’t as easy as it is today. The invention of the abacus changed that.

The Chinese abacus was developed about 5,000 years ago. Created from a need to keep track of more counters than human hands and fingers could provide, the abacus, made from wood and beads, was portable, easy to carry, and was so successful that it spread from China to many other countries. Contrary to popular belief, the abacus does not compute numbers the way that calculators do; rather, they help keep track of numbers as people do the computing. You could call the abacus the roots of the modern calculator. Abacuses (or abaci) also introduced the concept of positional notation that we use today.

From this invention, the Chinese and many other countries were able to keep better track of their finances such as maintaining inventory of their flock, calculating debt, and extended to multiplication and division operations. It was also used to measure land area and shapes and sizes of various objects. As abaci spread throughout the world, it made computing numbers much simpler, quicker, and convenient, revolutionizing the way people engaged in mathematics.

Today, the abacus is still alive and well. It is taught in Asian schools and some few schools in the West since it’s a great way to teach children simple math and other base numbering systems since it adapts easily to any base.

So if you’re not planning on partaking in any Chinese New Year festivities (or even if you are), pick up an abacus and give your brain a little work out if you need a break from studying for the exam. Or, at the very least, take some time to appreciate the invention of the abacus that served as inspiration for the calculator. Then try to imagine a world where accountants didn't have these amazing computing tools. Yikes!

Check out this short video that gives you a basic understanding of how to use the abacus and how it works. Happy Lunar New Year!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Roger CPA Review's Valentine's Day Giveaway Winner Announced!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our Valentine's Day Giveaway. The time has arrived to announce the winner who was randomly selected!

Congratulations to Elnaz Mahmoudi, from Great Falls, Virginia!

Elnaz won a free Premier Course that includes:

  • The Full Standard Course
  • Offline Lectures on a portable USB drive
  • 24 Months Course Access

The chosen course by top firms nationwide, the Premier Course Program combines the tried and true Roger CPA Review Standard Course with Offline Lectures and a 6 Month Extension for the optimum study experience.