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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back on the Saddle and Studying for FAR

The sun and warmth has finally come to Minnesota, and I can’t tell you enough how it makes a huge difference in both overall mood and energy levels.  I managed to get back to where I knew I needed to be for studying managed to get in just over 30 hours this week.  Phew!  After multiple distractions the past few weeks, it was good to get my hands dirty again and roll up the sleeves. 

Due to some internet issues (there’s always something) at home this week, I decided to go to the book, mechanical calculator, and scratch paper.  Since the internet wasn’t reliable, I reviewed my notes from the lectures and focused on intangibles, receivables, and bonds; and just began some review of the leases section. 

Additionally, one thing I found extremely useful was reviewing the GAAP balance sheets and statement of earnings and comprehensive income.  Roger has these presented well in both the full FAR course and the CRAM.  Every section I’ve been through goes back to recording a transaction that appears on these statements.  Once I was able to have a firm grasp of these statements, the studies made even more sense.  I literally took about 30 minutes every day to write out, over and over, these statements until I could do them without looking at the book.  Roger’s mnemonic “ON-TIDE-N-OC” really simplifies the flow of the earnings statement.  Don’t overlook this simple, yet effective mnemonic!  I really think this help pull everything together and to allow you to understand subsequent sections. 

FAR is very detailed, but don’t forget that everything flows back to the financial statements.  Understanding the details of the statements makes the learning come faster.  Additionally, knowing the statements makes you analyze what the questions are asking you.  During the PP&E sections, if you understand the statements, you will understand the logic of the rules of when you need to capitalize it (BS) or expense it (IS), and you will see exactly where it goes in your mind once you know the statements.  This is a fairly simple and high-level example, but if your study efforts are getting compressed, a working knowledge of the statements allows you to logically examine most questions from the practice materials.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

How To Study For BEC

And for my last trick (hopefully), I started studying for BEC this week.  The wait for my REG results is killing me but the show must go on! I think I will be able to concentrate better on BEC once I know if I passed REG.  Luckily, BEC starts out with Economic Concepts & Strategy and a lot of the economics concepts are coming back to me.  However, just like every other section of the CPA Exam, there are areas that I forgot or never learned (or never wanted to learn..ha!).

So far, the Economic Concepts & Strategy section seems to be pretty formula and definition heavy.  When learning formulas and definitions, the best study tool for myself (other than an infinite amount of MCQs) is flashcards because I will need to know these concepts inside out.  Formulas and definitions were made for flash cards.  I am making the flash cards after I write my initial notes for each section.  Then I will add the cards to my stack for easy and portable studying.  When I feel that I know a card well enough I will take it out of rotation for a while in order to concentrate on the cards that I do not know as well.  Just like anything else the key is repetition and persistence.  Maybe you are even lucky enough to have a friend or coworker to help you study with the flashcards. 

One of the most important concepts in the microeconomics section is understanding the supply and demand curves.  There are many factors that shift the supply and demand curves which in turn changes the equilibrium price and quantity.  I will make flashcards to learn the factors that have a direct and inverse relationship with the curves.  Roger provides a great chart that summarizes the changes in equilibrium price and quantity resulting from various shifts in supply and demand curves.  Memorization of this chart is important but it is easier to memorize the chart if you understand why an increase or decrease changes the equilibrium.  I have been drawing numerous supply and demand curves to visualize how the shifts work.  I know that on exam day I will be drawing the supply and demand curves for every question about shifts.

Now that I am almost done with Section 1 - Economic Concepts & Strategy, I look forward to moving on to Section 2 - Corporate Governance, Internal Control & Enterprise Risk Management and I continue to keep my fingers crossed for good news on result day.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dealing with Loss of Focus

There is nothing more difficult for me than juggling the studies with family time during busy season.  April 15th is history for 2014, but with one more exam to go before my May 31 exam deadline, I need to patiently hold my celebration until then.  I’m currently sitting at my desk at work while the majority of my co-workers are enjoying the end of busy season.  Well, mine is still going, but I’m using their well deserved celebrations as my energy to keep going.  Next year I’ll be leaving early with them!

The past few weeks have been less productive from the studying side than I would like to admit.  I even found myself skipping over the end of chapter questions just to keep moving forward.  (Self slap on the wrist!)  I even blogged about how important it is to do the end of the chapter questions and I still didn’t follow it.  The result now, tonight, is that I don’t have a firm grasp of Inventory or PP&E because I slacked.  The retention just isn’t there when you don’t do it in its entirety.  You have to do the questions each time you get to the end of a chapter. 

I’m recalling a great quote from a movie from the 80s, “Over the Top”, starring Sylvester Stallone.  He tells his son, “The world meets nobody halfway.  When you want something, you gotta take it.”  That might sound cheesy or may not work for you, but finding something simple like a quote, small reward, etc. to keep yourself going is necessary.  I don’t think there is a better quote for describing what it takes to get these exams done.  You have to get after it and keep after it because the exam will not do you any favors if you aren’t prepared. 

I failed at going after it these past two weeks.  I’m writing this because the next time I blog I don’t want to hang my head in shame and provide a repeat story.  In fact, I’m going back to Inventory and PP&E tonight and doing it right.  I’ve got 6 weeks to go before the next exam, so I’ll tell you next week how I left it all on the field with no excuses.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Student of the Month Spotlight-April 2014 Congratulations to: David Coyne

Name: David Coyne
Exams Passed:  AUD, BEC, FAR, REG

Student of the Month for April 2014 goes to David Coyne! David has passed all 4 parts of the CPA Exam and has some great words of wisdom to offer. 

What was your favorite aspect of our course?: There were two things that I appreciated about the course. First, I think the cohesion of the lessons is a major benefit of the course. Each lesson flows logically to the next and builds upon topics that have been presented previously. There is a real focus on understanding the big picture so that you can drill down to the more minute details. Second, Roger's enthusiasm and wit make the lessons really engaging and makes your mind that less likely to wander off mid lecture. 

How has passing the exams affected your personal and professional life?: Personally, my wife is happy because I have more time to spend with her. Professionally, it gives my employer and clients the comfort of knowing that they can rely on my work.

Words of advice for those studying for the CPA exam?: If you are married or in a committed relationship: Set aside time everyday to share with your partner; the exam is a long process and you need to make sure to keep time for your loved ones. Also, do as many pactice questions as you can.

Favorite Quote: "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

Anything else you'd like to share?: If you're currently taking the exams; keep up the hard work! It will payoff!


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

CPA Exam Day Experience

I took REG on Saturday and now all I can do is wait…. for a month!  Oh, and start studying for BEC.  Saturday’s exam was the third different Prometric Center that I have tested at.  On my way to Prometric I listened to Roger’s Audio Course. Of course, I swear I only had two questions on the section that I listened to, so I guess I should have chosen a different section.  I arrived at Prometric early as planned and I studied some flash cards that I had made in the car before I went in. I recommend you go into the Prometric center about 30 minutes before your appointment time, just to give yourself a nice buffer.

The office was by far the smallest that I had seen and the place was crowded. There were 6 other test takers in front of me and I had to wait a while before I got to go into the testing area.  When it was my turn to go in they made me flip out my pockets, lift my shirt arms and pant legs and waved me down with a metal detector.  The testing center was almost claustrophobic.  Fortunately, once you sit down at your cubicle, you do not really notice your surroundings.  In the past I have worn the headphones to block out any noise in the room, however the pair at my desk were crooked and I took them off immediately.  When I was waiting to be checked in, I saw a guy who brought in his own ear plugs (the ear plugs that squish into your ears).  I’ll have to remember to bring in my own ear plugs next time.  Hopefully I will be able to use them.

When I was done with the exam I was not sure how I felt.  I’m still not sure how I feel about my performance.  I can tell you that I was much more confident on my way in then on my way out.  It’s amazing that I practiced over 800 MCQs and they still had questions that boggled my mind.  I could tell that the testlets had gotten harder as I progressed.  The first section I only flagged 3 questions, and then more on the second and even more on the third.  I had at least 3 questions that my answers were flat out guesses.  Other questions I had narrowed down to two answers and guessed between those.  I finished my exam with about thirty minutes to spare so I went back and reviewed my TBSs.

The good news is that I have never felt confident after an exam.  I did pretty well on AUD (88) and I still felt like it could go either way.  I just pray that I pass or else July will be my last chance to pass REG before FAR expires.  Fingers crossed until May 5th!

-Daniela

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