CPA Exam Preparation Blog

Sign up for the latest CPA Exam news

Monday, May 4, 2015

Brushing up on Professional Development: Resume Tips

The process of resume building can sometimes be a long, drawn out one. There’s so much information out there with tons of advice on how long it should be, what it should say, the kind of template you should use, and so on and so forth. But, the truth of the matter is, so much information wouldn’t exist if resumes weren’t such an important tool that employers use for a first impression of their candidates.

So, we figured that no Professional Development series would be complete without some great resume advice that you can use in 2015. We’ve gathered some top tips here for you to peruse to revamp your old resumes or to help you get started if you haven’t created one yet. 


Format is everything
Before you begin creating your resume, think about what you want your resume to achieve. Obviously, finding a job or catching a screener’s eye. So just as you would create a blueprint for building a house, make a blueprint for your resume. Think about which sections you should list first for the best effect. Is it your objective or education? What about your skills and abilities? Where would you see inputting your experience to be the best fit? Whatever your decision is, think about the sequence of events in which you’d like the screener to view your background and makes the most sense in bringing out your best qualities. In a way, you can imagine the format of your resume to be a story about you with a beginning, middle, and end.


Input some style
Humans have been on earth for a pretty long time. So for 2015, think about freshening your resume a little bit by adding some style into your overall formatting. Bolding and italics are very well and fine, but consider playing with subtle color changes or font styles as well. Your resume can stand out a lot more if there are pops of color or font that highlight different sections or important areas that you want to bring attention to. Of course, use your discretion and apply these stylistic changes tastefully. We’re not talking about printing on pink paper and spraying it with perfume like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blond (unless, of course, you really think that’s going to seal the deal!).


Make it technology friendly
Most people rarely are looking for jobs in their daily newspaper. Since almost everything is online today, a majority of job descriptions will ask you to send your resume through email or through their online application process. You want to make sure that your resume is saved in a format that is technologically friendly. Some job descriptions will ask you to save it as a PDF, a Word document, to copy and paste it directly in the email body, or will have no specifications whatsoever. By all means, send it the way they ask you to if they are specific; but for those who do not specify, our advice is to always save it as a PDF. PDFs were made for this: to ensure that anyone can open it and that the formatting is kept exactly the same despite what platform the user has.


Use the situation à task à result formula
When describing your duties underneath each of your experiences, don’t just make a list. Use the situation à task à result formula for as many of them as you possibly can. You can talk about what you’ve done at your previous or current job:

  •  Wrote copy for email marketing campaig
  •  Maintained social media accounts
Or, you can talk about what you’ve done at your previous or current job that speaks to your skills and abilities and how you made an impact at the company:
  • Wrote witty and original copy for email marketing campaigns, boosting the opening rates by 30% and increasing traffic to the company’s website by 25% in the first quarter
  • Maintained social media accounts, obtaining an increase of over 1,500 fan followers by posting content relevant information based on creation of buyer personas

As you can see, the second example is much more effective than the first. It not only tells the employer about the situation you were presented with, but the awesome things you did that influenced the overall result. Use numbers whenever possible because that speaks to real evidence of what you’ve done rather than a vague reference.


The relationship between length and relevancy
How long should your resume be? Ah, the ever pertinent question of resume creation. So, here’s the thing. Many of you have probably heard to keep it resume to 1 page, otherwise employers won’t look at it. That may be true for some employers, but that’s not the case for everyone. The truth is, you want your resume to be as relevant to the position as possible, and sometimes 1 page won’t be enough. If you have a master resume copy which basically archives all of your past jobs and experiences (and if you don’t, we highly recommend you create one!), pick and choose the ones that will correlate best with the job you’re applying to. Then alter the language to use key words and phrases from the job description to sprinkle throughout in order to gain the best chance of having a resume screener take a second glance and choose you as a possible candidate. In this day and age, some large companies don’t even use humans to screen resumes due to the large amount they receive; that’s right—sometimes a machine is the one scanning your resume for key words and phrases, so make sure you put those in there!

So, back to the question of length. If you have a lot of great experience that each offer something relevant to the table, put them down. If it goes over a page, that’s okay—you’re showing the employer how qualified you are for the position. If you can fit all of your relevant experience onto a page, that’s fine too. It’s all about quality—not quantity! You can judge best for yourself what to include; just remember that length and relevancy are tied together.


We hope you find this helpful and that you use these tips in the next resume you send out. Good luck! 
»»  READ MORE
Friday, May 1, 2015

Dealing with the Difficulties of Ordinary Life

The past few weeks have been quite the struggle for me personally.  I’ve received bad news in regards to family member’s health and my own personal injuries.  Top those two off with having to complete the first Accelerated Period Close at work, and it has led to a drastic decrease in study hours.

No one wants to receive bad news regarding the health of those we care for but the reality is that it happens.  Growing up, I watched my mother successfully battle cancer and the main reason I was able to get through it was due to seeing how strong my mother was and through the help of family and friends.  Seeing my significant other break down emotionally after receiving news that someone in her family has cancer is heartbreaking.  Seeing her pain can cause one to drop anything of significance to care for that individual.  There is nothing we can do but simply be there for those we love and help them get through the tough time that is in front of them.  You’ll find that studying for the CPA exam will no longer be priority number one since all you want to do is be there and comfort him or her.

In addition, I injured myself, preventing me from competing in the Spartan Beast, which took place in NJ.  Two weeks prior to the race, I received information saying that I have bursitis of the heel and have a chipped bone in my right ankle.  This news caused me to withdraw from the race as my ankle would not be able to handle the pressure of a 13 mile obstacle course.  After training for 5 months for the race and then withdrawing just 1 week prior is a real killer.  Thinking of all the free time I gave away to train instead of going out, in the midst of studying for the CPA exam, can really drain one’s motivation.

My FAR exam is in just 17 days and I still have to go through 2 more sections and begin my review.  But putting things into perspective and seeing how life can change in a matter of days, or even hours, has really given me that additional push to study hard in the remaining few weeks I have before my exam.  Each and every one us will go through some form of hardship during our CPA Journey; it is what we take from these hardships that will help us grow and allow us to see things in a different perspective.  Here’s to pushing through the final two and half weeks of studying!

Cheers,

Christopher Boate - guest blogger for Roger CPA Review

Other articles by Christopher:
Tips to Avoid Falling Asleep During a CPA Exam Study Session
The Question About the CPA Exam I Fear the Most
The CPA Exam Struggle is Getting Real!
Studying for the CPA Exam Using Micro-Structured Lessons Means Success! 
Studying for the CPA Exam? Be Sure to Take a Day Off!



»»  READ MORE
Thursday, April 30, 2015

8 Foods that are Good for your Brain

As you’re studying for the CPA Exam, it’s no doubt that your brain and body need to work in tandem with one another for you to perform your best. Especially if you’re combining studying with school, work, taking care of a family, or all of the above! So in order to make sure you’re staying healthy both brain and body wise, we’ve gathered 10 foods for you to eat that are good for you mentally and physically! Indulge in these goodies that can help boost your brain power while simultaneously keeping you energized in a good way.

1. Wholegrains 
Wholegrains provide a fantastic source of glucose which you need for energy. These good sugars found in wholegrains makes your brain work consistently when given a steady, adequate supply. Choose low-GI wholegrains that slowly release glucose into your bloodstream which will keep you alert all day. Options include anything light brown, such as cereals, pasta, etc.


2. Fish oil 
Fish oil isn’t just good for your skin, hair, and cuticles! Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, these bad boys aid in plenty of mental health benefits, such as improving focus, retention of memory, and protection from vision loss. Take it in pill form of indulge in a fatty fish such as mackerel, kippers, salmon, or trout.



3. Tomatoes
Studies have shown that cerebral ageing may be connected to a shortage of carotenoids in the brain, particularly lycopene and zeaxanthin, which are two antioxidants found abundantly in fruit, vegetables, and tomatoes in particular. Low levels of these two carotenoids can lead to lower cognitive performance, so eat your tomatoes which provide a good dosage of lycopene and zeaxanthin to give your noggin the star treatment it deserves!



4. Blueberries
Otherwise known as brainberries, researchers have found that blueberries help protect your noggin from oxidative stress, which can reduce age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies with rats rich in blueberries have also shown improvement in the rats’ learning capacity and motor skills. So, in addition to those antioxidants that blueberries have, they’re also good for keeping your brain and bodily movements sharp.


5. Pumpkin Seeds
Don’t let their size fool you; pumpkin seeds are actually packed a powerhouse of great nutrients and benefits for you. In addition to containing plant-based Omega-3 fats (sound familiar? They’re from our fish oil!) it’s also a rich source of tryptophan, the same chemicals found in turkey that your body converts into serotonin, which is in turn converted into melatonin, the “sleep hormone.” Eat a few before bed and you’ll get a nice, restful sleep which is crucial in regenerating healthy brain cells ready to tackle the next day!


6. Broccoli
High in a phytoestrogen compound called lignans, broccoli increases cognitive skills such as thinking, reasoning, remembering, learning words, and imagining. The potassium it contains aids the nervous system, and in turn the brain, enabling such a connection to possibly help the brain heal itself in the event of an injury. Is there anything broccoli isn’t good for? If you’re not a fan, try any of its familial brands such as cauliflower or brussel sprouts.



7. Nuts
Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios have studies that show how these unsaturated fats have aided in the reduction of age-related brain deterioration, lowering cholesterol, and prevention of inflammation in the brain. For instance, almonds show a strong correlation between memory restoration and cognitive functioning while macadamias have a fatty acid known as oleic acid which can lower blood pressure and prevent stroke.



8. Sage 
A study published in Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior discovered that young adults who ingested sage-oil extract did better on cognitive tests than those who did not. That’s because sage has compounds that prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that partakes in learning and memory. So don’t skip the sage! Sprinkle some on your recipes or grab some sage-oil extract.


So the next time you’re cooking something up or just need a quick snack, be sure to incorporate all of these foods into your diet in order to maximize brain capacity and improve overall physical health! They'll definitely aid in your months of early and late night studying in your already very busy life.

Happy studying!

»»  READ MORE
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Practice Makes Passing: How Study Habits Influence Your Exam Score

As I study for the FAR exam (comprised of 31 sections), I think back to “the plan” I had in preparing for my first exam, the BEC. I watched the lectures, made a few notes here and there, and watched them all again. While I was watching the lectures, everything made complete sense. “I got this” I thought to myself as I began to work through the practice problems.

I was actually quite surprised when the scores on the practice problems did not reflect the level of knowledge I believed I obtained during my studies. I continued working through the practice questions and the Task Based Simulations until my scores consistently stayed at or above 80%. I remember him saying on one of the TBS's, “I made this one harder than you will see on the test, so if you saw a problem like it, you would know how to work it.” I told myself, “Oh, he probably makes all the questions harder than the exam for that very reason.” Foolishly thinking that the exam would be easier than the practice questions, I reasoned with myself that if I were making 80% to 85% on my practice questions, I could score a mid to high 90's on the actual exam.

disappointingly made a 67 on that first exam. I heard stories of individuals who had to take an exam two, three, or even four times before passing but I did not think I would be one of those people. But I heard many success stories of those who have passed the exams on their first try. Everyone responds differently to test taking. Not passing was not a failure for me, but a chance to learn and be better prepared for the next exam. I knew I had to do better, near perfect, on my practice questions to be able to successfully answer the exam questions. I decided to change up my way of studying.

To make sure I understood the concepts, I would watch the lecture for one subsection of the section, and immediately following, do all the practice questions for that part. I did not get all the answers right the first time, but the information was fresh on my mind and made it easier to recall. Roger says, “It's not just about getting the right answer; it's about knowing why the other answers are wrong.” The key, as is repeated throughout...is practice, practice, practice. Repetition of the questions truly helps the concepts become easier to understand.

When you get to a question you know the answer to, continue to read all the answers, maybe even state why each answer isn't the correct one, and why the one you chose is the best answer. When you come across a question you don't know the answer to, instead of clicking on the Explain Answer, click on the link that takes you to that section of the textbook and re-watch the lecture, or re-read the textbook on your own...sometimes you can make better sense of concepts when you read it yourself.

Whatever works for you, keep doing it...again and again and again...

You’ll find that recognizing the way you learn best and changing your mode of studying to correlate to that will definitely improve not only your exam score, but your overall understanding of the material.


Good luck! 

Other articles by Donna:
Great Things in Life Require Hard Work
Get Moving While Studying for the CPA Exam!
New Roger CPA Review Guest Blogger - Donna Elish!
»»  READ MORE
Tuesday, April 28, 2015

PCAOB to Reshuffle Auditing Standards

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) has decided to reorganize its auditing standards by topic in a manner that will reflect the flow of an audit.  The standard will be reorganized into the following groups:

General Auditing Standards
Audit Procedures
Auditor Reporting
Matters Relating to Findings Under Federal Securities Laws
Other Matters Associated with Audits

The reorganization is not intended to change the substance of existing standards nor to impose any additional requirements on the auditor.

Subject to SEC approval, the revised standards are scheduled to go into effect as of December 31, 2016.

Approximately 6-12 months after going into effect, the revised standards will start showing up in the Authoritative Literature tab for Task-Based Simulations on the Auditing and Attestation CPA exam.

»»  READ MORE
Monday, April 27, 2015

Brushing up on Professional Development: Follow-up Etiquette

You’ll often get mixed reviews of what a follow-up should look like after you’ve met with someone for a professional opportunity. Whether this was an informational interview, an actual interview, or simply making a new connection with someone for professional reasons, the follow-up is an important part of the process. Here are some simple tips and guidelines for when you should send a follow-up, what it should say, and how it may get you ahead of the game.

What is a follow-up? 
A message you send to the person you’ve contacted about a potential professional opportunity to reiterate your interest and fit for the position.

Why send follow-ups? 
Before we go any further, it’s important to touch base about why sending follow-ups are so pertinent in the working world today. More than this notion just being part of the processes you go through in order to secure a role you’re interested in, it signifies you care and is also a great way to connect further with the people who will be making the decisions about who is going to fill that role. While interviews are ways for employers to get to know the candidates, it doesn’t give them as much of a sense of who you are as a person as you’d probably like. Follow-ups are a great way to not only reiterate your passion and interest for the company and role; it’s also a good place to make connections with your interviewer that you didn’t get the chance to do while interviewing.
Additionally, follow-ups give you the space you need to really pinpoint what you’d like to get across and any afterthoughts you may have had after meeting your interviewer and learning more about the opportunity. It’s the nice bow on your entire interviewing journey that really ties your candidacy up into a neat little package. Many job seekers make the mistake of not putting in this effort. Because companies receive so many applications and resumes, you’ll make yourself stand out and leave your name fresh in their minds when they’re looking to conduct a second round of interviews or are getting closer to filling the position. Keeping the lines of communication open is important, and once you send that follow-up, that’s exactly what you do. This can lead to future job openings in the company if the current one doesn’t work out.

When to send follow-ups
This guideline is pretty straightforward. You should always send a follow-up after you’ve made contact with someone about a professional opportunity. This can include a variation of any of the following scenarios:

Personally messaging someone on social media
Having an informational interview
Having an actual interview
Introducing yourself or a connection through Linked-In
Doing a phone screening

We’ve seen many resources state that the proper time frame in which to send a follow-up should be within 48 hours of the interaction. Some tips suggest doing it within 72 hours. Some also suggest doing it no later than a week.

The truth is, there really is no proper “time” in which to send your follow-up, but we definitely believe that sooner is always better than later. So what’s our recommendation? Do it as soon as possible. Some may say that this can make you appear too eager or too forthcoming, but that isn’t at all the case. The sooner you send your follow-up, the better. It will let the person you spoke with know that you appreciated their time, are serious about the position, and have great intentions on letting them see how you fit into the role.

How should I send the follow-up? 
Our top recommendation is through email. While there’s lots of debate about how sending a handwritten letter is much more personal and unique (since handwritten notes are a dying breed), it’s still going through snail mail and may not reach them for a couple of days, defeating the purpose of sending a follow-up as soon as possible. But, act accordingly. Obviously if you’re applying to a fun company that sells arts and crafts for kids, a pop-up card handmade by you may not be a bad way to go. But, since we’re talking to you future CPAs here, email will do the trick just fine.

What should my follow-ups say? 
A good formula to follow when composing your follow-ups is…

a. Express your gratitude for meeting with you
b. Discuss some things you found interesting and exciting about the company and position
c. Reiterate how your background qualifies you and why you would be a good fit
d. Ask them to contact you if they would like any further information
Optional, but recommended:
e. Mention something more personal to connect with them

Here’s what that follow-up would look like:

Hi ________,

It was great speaking with you today about the (position) at (company). Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and for your insightful information about the (insert what you learned about here). I was especially intrigued to learn that (insert information about company’s future projects, current standings, etc.) I believe my background aligns with what you’re looking for in a (position) and know that my passion to (x, y, z) makes me a great fit for the company. Especially since we’re both owners of Black Labradors! I look forward to the next conversation. If you need any more information, please let me know and have a terrific rest of the week. 

Best,
___________

How long should I wait for a response? 
On average, you should get a response within 1-3 days. They will probably also thank you for your time, state that they enjoyed meeting you, and that they’ll keep in touch for upcoming information about filling the role.

If you don’t get a response within 1-3 days, send another follow-up. Don’t take this as a sign of neglect or negativity; a variety of things can happen. They may have just missed it, it went to their junk inbox, or maybe they forgot to reply because they’re quite busy. Whatever the case may be, give them the benefit of the doubt and send another follow-up that more or less reiterates your first email, but this time with a short introduction about how you sent one previously:

Hi ________,

I’m just reaching out to see if you received my last follow-up I sent a couple days ago. If not, I’d like to say thank you for…

And then reiterate what you said from the last email.

We hope you found these follow-up tips helpful and that you use them during your next professional opportunity meeting! Good luck and go get ‘em!

»»  READ MORE