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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Does VITA Program Count towards CPA Exam Work Experience?

November's “Dear Roger” question comes from Cassandra B. of Phoenix, Arizona:

Cassandra: I participate in the VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) program though my university. Does this volunteer work count towards my work experience requirement for the CPA Exam?


Hi Cassandra,

Great question!

VITA is a great IRS program that helps taxpayers from low income families, persons with disabilities, elderly people and military families receive free help on their tax return preparation.  It's a great way to get some hands-on experience while helping others.

If you are in the VITA program through your school and are receiving academic credits for your work with VITA, it does not count towards your work experience. However, if you are not using the experience for academic credits, then it can be applied towards work experience as long as it is signed off by a verifiable licensed CPA.

Thanks for the question!

Do you want to be part of our new "Dear Roger" blog series that features your questions answered by Roger? Submit your question here and be featured in our blog and newsletter next month!

Past "Dear Roger" Questions:
October 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Best Public Accounting Firms for 2014

Inside Public Accounting published their 2014 edition of The "Best of the Best Firms."

IPA awarded their "Best of the Best" Class for 2014 based on more than 70 different criteria as well as conversations with MPs, consultants and firm administrators.  Many of the firms chosen were also named “Best Places to Work” across the country.

See who is on the list. Download the September Issue here.
Friday, October 24, 2014

Which Section of the CPA Exam Should I Take First

You know there are 4 parts to the CPA Exam, but did you know that each part should be approached differently? Below, we’ve broken down each exam section and provided some expert tips so you know how to prepare and what to expect. This is our inside scoop on the CPA Exam.

FAR – Financial Accounting and Reporting
Our recommendation? Definitely don’t try to study this with another part; it’s the longest section of our course and the most material!  Just think: this part includes all your Intermediate Accounting 1 and 2, and not to mention Government/Non-Profit, which your campus may not even offer as an elective!  Most importantly, what Intermediate Accounting professor gets through the entire book?  They skip chapters and you’re relieved because they aren’t on your professor’s exams, but that doesn’t mean the CPA Exam is going to skip those chapters as well.

FAR takes a lot of study time, so just be prepared. We tell our students to get this section done first and out of the way because it tends to be the most intimidating. Once you’re done with FAR, you need to decide what section to take next. It helps to think about what you’re gearing towards: Audit or Tax? Go for the topic you have the most passion for.

REG - Regulation Out of all the exams, students run out of time on this section the most.  It’s a lot of material all lumped into one 3 hour section. We tell students that for this exam, they really need to listen to Roger and “run a smart race” with their time.  He’ll not only teach them the material, but also how to successfully beat the clock and get a great score. We recommend that you practice timing yourself when you study for this part.

BEC – Business Environment and Concepts Don’t let the shortest exam fool you; there are no simulations in this part, and if you’re taking our course, it has the shortest amount of review with Roger. However, this part of the CPA exam does have a lot of material you haven’t seen before like Economics (supply/demand curves) and IT.  You may not have seen that kind of material since your lower division classes. Cost accounting sneaks up on the BEC as well, and because you have written communication in this section, you could be writing on Cost Accounting principles. Take the time to review this unfamiliar territory! Given its length, you can pair up BEC with another exam if you’re looking to take two parts at once.

AUD – Auditing  and Attestation First off, do NOT worry if you’ve never taken an Audit class before. Depending on your campus, an audit class is either an elective or a required course. If you’re taking a prep course, the course should teach you the material. Here, at Roger CPA Review, it’s Roger’s job to teach everyone at the same level, whether they’ve seen audit material before or not.

One question we frequently get asked is: “Which section should I take first?” 

Our general recommendation is FAR, because it requires the most hours of study.  Since the 18 month window to complete all four sections begins after the first exam part is passed, this recommendation will prevent students from having to dedicate any of their crunch time towards the massive FAR section.

Here’s our pro tip: If you’re aiming to finish in 9 months, do FAR in the first window. Then, do AUD or REG in the second quarter paired with BEC (based on your strengths:  tax or audit). Finally, in the third window, aim for the remaining part, AUD or REG. Our course comes with efficient study planners that help you chart your course; it’s always a good idea to have a game plan given the 18 month window. With all of this said, the bottom line is to make a plan, and play to your strengths.

We can only make recommendations, but it's ultimately up to you, the student, to find out what works best for you.

If you have any questions about the CPA Exam, either leave your questions in the comments below OR tweet your question to us @RogerCPAReview. Good luck to everyone!
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

6 CPA Exam Review Study Tips

As today's guest blogger, I've decided to share my 6 best stick-with-it study tips for those who are studying for the CPA Exam:

1. Find a CPA Exam review instructor that you like. I chose Roger Philipp, CPA, because of his teaching style.  If you end up on an early morning study plan like me, you'll want an instructor who is interesting, engaging and won't make you nod off. Even if you don't study during the early morning hours, Roger is still WAY more fun than other instructors I've seen.
2. Figure out your work/life/study balance.  It's important to figure out where studying fits into your schedule. I had to experiment a little bit but chose to focus on family in the evenings, so I  studied in the mornings. I also made sure to study during my lunch breaks and right after work, before I drove home.
3. Be realistic about your time frame to take the exam. If you are able to cut out everything else from your life or are a super sponge of learning, you can cram like crazy and knock out all 4 parts of the exam quickly. I'm older and haven't been in school for awhile. I also have many obligations, so decided a year was more realistic for me.   I put too much pressure on myself to complete the CPA Exam faster, but I couldn't retain all of the information in such a short amount of time.
4. Find a way to make it fun. You're investing a lot of your personal time and energy into studying for this exam and you'll have a much better experience if you make it fun. Find a study buddy.  Text questions back-and-forth to another CPA Exam review student. Give yourself little rewards when you do well on a section.
5. PRACTICE! It can sometimes be a dreaded, but the principle behind the word is solid. Practice makes all the difference in the world. You retain more of what you DO so work the problems over and over and keep track of how you do each time. It's nice to be able see that you're getting better or where you need to spend more time.
6. Find a good support system. Even if it's just to keep you accountable so that you stay on track, it's important to have a good support system.  Supportive people in your life help keep you from throwing in the towel or getting off track.

Good luck!

- Kerry
Want to read more from Kerry? 
Sometimes I Feel like I'm Climbing a Mountain
Studying for the CPA Exam? Practice Makes Perfect!
Sleep Deprivation, Working Full-Time and the CPA Exam
Studying Requires Some Sacrifice
Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2015 Colorado CPA Licensure Changes Q&A Transcript

Did you miss the 2015 Colorado CPA Licensure Changes Live Q&A with Roger Philipp, CPA? Not to worry!  We have a transcript of the session below. (Download PDF)

Roger CPA Review: Our first few questions for Roger are from Eli who submitted questions prior to the event.

“How can internships count for either credit or professional hours towards CPA requirements?”

Roger Philipp
: Hi, Eli! Internships can count for both credits and for professional hours. For credits, you will want to check with your university and be sure that you and your firm are following the proper protocol for your internship to count for credits. Typically, that requires signed documents from a supervisor at your firm verifying the work you have done.

Professional hours towards your licensure are very similar. In Colorado, these requirements can be fulfilled before, during, or after the CPA Exam. In order to get your license you will need no less than 1 year (1,800 hours) of work experience, this can be done through internships! You will also need to make sure these hours are completed in no more than 3 years. All hours must be verified by an active CPA in good standing.

Roger CPA Review: Thanks, Roger Philipp! We have a few more from Eli that he submitted prior to the event.  Next question: “How do the rule changes affect the amount of professional hours we have to complete?”

Roger Philipp
: Good question! The rule change is not affecting the amount of hours required rather it is requiring students to get 150 semester units to obtain their CPA License. Currently, students can obtain licensure through two options:

  1.  A bachelor’s degree with 120 semester units and 1 year (1,800 hours) of work experience.
  2. A bachelor’s degree with 120 semester units and in lieu of work experience, an additional 30 semester units for a total of 150 units.
On July 1, 2015 students MUST have 150 semester units AND 1 year of work experience in order to get licensed.

Roger CPA Review: The next question is more of a general question about the CPA Exam.
“What is the normal sequence people take the exam in?”

Roger Philipp: I get asked this quite often and another good question! People generally take FAR, AUD, REG and BEC in that order. Some experts recommend starting with FAR because it can be tricky to pass on the first attempt and you don’t want to start your 18 month time clock ticking, have life get in the way and lose a section or two that you passed and then have to re-take. Yet others suggest you should start with the section you feel most confident/comfortable with, for example if you are an Auditing whiz, just completed an Advanced Audit course, you may want to start out with AUD! It is all about personal preference and how much time you can devote to studying.

Roger CPA Review: “How long is it recommended to study for each section?”

Roger Philipp: We recommend you study for a part, take a part. Our learning system has study planners for 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. That being said, it is VERY INTENSE to take on the 3 month plan. Basically the CPA Exam is your life for 3 full months, 8 hours a day 7 days a week. Realistically, 2-3 months per part is what most exam takers commit to. Remember, the AICPA recommends studying 300-400 hours for the entire exam, for every 1 hour of lecture time, plan to study on your own 2-3 hours.

Roger CPA Review: Last one from Eli.

“What are the sections people normally struggle with the most?”

Roger Philipp: FAR and REG tend to be the sections most people have a challenge with because both parts cover a lot of information and exam takers tend to run out of time on exam day. Time management and being able to utilize your memory aides and mnemonics is crucial to getting through these two robust sections. Thanks for the great questions Eli!

Eli from Fort Collins, CO : What are the most challenging subjects in the FAR section?

Roger Philipp: Government and Non profit because it is an elective at many schools or not offered at many schools. Plus it is 20% of the FAR section.

Ellen from Akron, CO: How many hours of experience are required for the CPA?

Roger Philipp: Hi, Ellen! You don't need hours of experience to sit for the exam.
Ellen: but you do need them to obtain the license? right?

Roger Philipp: Yes. You need at least 1 year (1,800 hours) of work experience and your work experience cannot exceed 3 years.

Ellen: How do we initiate the process?

Roger Philipp: Ellen – the process to become a CPA?

Ellen: Yes, starting with the exam portion.

Roger Philipp: Your work experience can be earned before, during, or after the exam. This includes working for pubic, private, or governmental accounting firms. So any work/internships will count towards your hours, as long as it is under a CPA in what they call "good standing."
There's a great breakdown on how to become a CPA starting with the exam portion on our Web site.

Sean from Aurora, CO: How proactive do you have to be with NASBA to forward a completed packet to the CO board of Accountancy? In other words, if everything is completed May-June time frame, does NASBA automatically send it to the board or do they need to be 'prodded'?

Roger Philipp: Since this change will affect many students you will want to get in your paperwork as earlier as possible. The COCPA is recommending that students try and turn in their licensure applications by Jan/Feb of 2015. As that deadline approaches more and more students will be sending in their applications to beat the deadline. This will cause delays in application processing.

Colorado offers pre-evaluation as an optional service. A pre-evaluation will identify any academic deficiencies in your education before you submit a first-time application for the Exam. For additional information and to begin a pre-evaluation application, visit

Sean: Sounds good. I take it the AICPA ethics exam can be completed quickly?

Roger Philipp: Yes. Generally, the Ethics exam is a take-home test that can be completed online. You buy a "course" essentially, and you will be tested at the end. You must get at least a 90% to pass.

Sean: That can be completed before all of the CPA exam sections are done?

Roger Philipp: The COCPA provides students with the AICPA's Comprehensive Course. It can be completed after all four parts are passed. I would also check with your state's society for more information.

Kathryn H.: What are the requirements to sit for the CPA Exam before July 1, 2015?

Roger Philipp: Hi, Kathryn! Good question! Before July 1, 2015 students need a bachelor’s degree with 120 semester hours:
  • 27 semester hours of non-duplicative coursework in accounting
    • 21 in specialized accounting courses
    • Of those 21 semester hours, students need at least a 3 semester hour course concentrating on U.S. GAAS
  • 21 semester hours of non-duplicative coursework in business

Additional resources:

If you have any additional questions related to the CPA Exam, Colorado education and licensure requirements, you can email Tyler Skelton, West Coast Representative, at or call our Customer Care staff at 877-764-4272.
Monday, October 20, 2014

AICPA Fall Council 2014

AICPA Fall Council 2014 is meeting from October 19th to the 21st. Important issues to be discussed during the meeting include, "management accounting, the CPA Exam and ethics and audit quality."

Arleen Thomas, CPA, CGMA, AICPA Senior Vice President Management Accounting and Global Markets, will analyze the evolution of the Uniform CPA Examination during the meeting.

Want to receive updates and follow along with Council action? If you're on Twitter, use hashtag #AICPAGC14 or view the live Twitter stream on AICPA's Website.