The CPA exam is challenging but something I have confidence you should be able to complete with enough studying. The exam has been summed up very well in the video within this link:
This video explains the four parts of the exam and what material it covers.
I found it easiest to take exams as they corresponded to the classes I was taking. The first exam I took was REG. I took this right after completing a business law class. This helped to coordinate what I was studying in class with the CPA preparation I was doing.
I recommend you enroll in a review course in preparation of this exam. I used Becker but there are multiple different options at different prices. Additionally, if you get a job offer from an accounting firm they may pay/reimburse you for the course.
Hi Arturo! I will say that the CPA is definitely a difficult exam, but using study materials from a company like Becker will help you study and in the end, pass all of the sections! Many accounting firms will actually pay for your Becker study materials which is helpful for a recent college graduate. My biggest tip when studying for the CPA exam is to make sure you actually sit down, learn the material, and do all of the questions. Also do not procrastinate after graduating! There are some people who want to give themselves some time off after graduating, but if you decide to start working at one of the Big 4, you typically do not start working until August or September, so you have a few months to really study and pass a few of the exams. Studying while working is the worst so you definitely want to try to pass and exam or two before starting work! I know what I wrote might scare you a little, but it is all worth it afterwards!
Michael Afshin’s Answer
The exam itself is not easy, but it's also not that difficult. I never took an accounting class in school but was able to self-teach the material using Becker's program (I qualified to sit because I'm an LLM graduate). Because you get to take the exam as four separate parts, it really lets you focus on one area of accounting and take the time to learn it.
I also recommend starting with whichever one is hardest. Not only because it starts the clock on your window to pass them all, but also because once you take the hardest one (FAR for many people) the rest feel a lot easier. Even though I failed FAR first, the next 3 exams felt much easier to study for.
Pro tip: When you get a Notice to Schedule (NTS), you pick which exams you want to take and then you have one year to schedule and take the exams from your NTS date. I picked all four exams thinking one year was enough time but I was wrong. I ended up taking the Audit exam with about a week of preparation and failed. If I could do it again, I'd only choose 2 or 3 exams at most in my first NTS instead of all four. The only downside of picking less than 4 exams in your NTS is that you have to pay a fee for every NTS (I believe $50), but that fee costs less than taking an exam unprepared and failing (which costs hundreds of dollars).
The CPA exam is definitely challenging, but doable. My biggest piece of advice for preparing for the exam is that the more time you commit to studying, the more likely you are going to get the outcome you want. I think if you set a disciplined thorough study plan then you will be setting yourself up for success for passing each part of the exams. From my personal experience, I would start with the hardest exam first because you do have a specific window that you must pass all four exams and passing the hardest one first is going to make it easier down the line. Overall, as long as you commit the time and effort into studying for the exams, I think you can pass all four and work your way towards becoming a CPA!
The exam is challenging but that should not discourage you from pursuing the certificate. From my experience, the key is to set aside time to study and practice. I took 3 exams during my first year of working at Big 4, so the CPA exams are definitely doable. However, studying and working is difficult. Therefore, I encourage you to finish as many parts as you can before starting full-time work.
At the end, you will be glad you received the three coveted letters behind your name.
As noted in many responses, the CPA exam is challenging but possible to complete within the 18 month window given. My recommendation is to dedicate the attention that each exam requires. Setting the time aside to master the material requires dedication and perseverance.
My advice is to reflect on the topics that were covered during your college courses and how comfortable you felt with each course. This will assist you in identifying your weakness and strength points. Also, this will help allocate which topics within each section will require more effort and time to study. Make sure that you are well prepared before sitting for each exam but do not forget that your health and well being is essential during the process. In other words, balance your CPA plan/schedule well so that you are not only studying but also setting time aside for activities that you enjoy. Do not feel discouraged by the difficultness of each exam, take each section as you go and reward yourself. It's the small wins that count. Best of luck!
The CPA exam is a difficult exam, but if you give yourself enough time to study and use study materials (for example, I used the Becker study materials) it is definitely doable. I took the CPA over a five month span, which I felt gave me enough time to study for each part before taking each exam.
I set goals for myself along the way so that I stayed on track. Every week I tried to complete two lectures and the associated questions of the Becker study materials. I would recommend doing all of the associated questions, including the optional ones to ensure that you completely understand the materials. I started studying while I was still in school, so I treated my studying as another class to make sure that I took it seriously and gave my studying the time necessary.
I agree with Michael above, the exam is not the most difficult information to grasp, but there is a lot of information. The amount of material on an exam will generally be too much information for most people to "cram" in the final week of studying, so you need to give yourself time to get through the material.
Biggest piece of advice would be to give yourself enough time to study for each part as you need (1.5 -3.5 months). Obviously, this timeline can change based on different factors, but in general trying to fly through the exam to "just get it over with" can be a trap that can lead to non-passing scores and burnout towards the last few months when you need to finish strong.
The CPA is all about how you prepare. You get what you put into it. I have friends that did the bare minimum to study and thought they were the hardest tests in the world and failed. Then I had friends, myself included, who utilized all of the materials that I was provided, took every practice exam, and actually read the books, and we all ended up just fine. Personally, I could not have done it without Becker, but even with Becker, it is important to build a schedule, stick to it, and try your hardest, because when it comes time to take the exams you won't be blindsided. You will have seen it all before, practiced a million questions, taken practice exams, and know what is coming at the testing center.
The CPA exam is difficult but doable. It's important to study, and I'd advise using Becker or something similar to prepare. Don't wait to start studying and don't wait to apply to sit for the exam either once you're eligible!
There is a lot of great advice already contained in this thread. The one piece of advice I always give people on the CPA exam is to treat studying like a job. If you have the ability to use the few months immediately after graduating college to study for the exam I recommend devoting as much of this time as you can to studying.
To be perfect honest, the CPA exam is a beast.
It requires dedication and long hours of studying to be successful. With this in mind, it is also one of the more rewarding things you can achieve in life. The feeling after leaving one of the exams is amazing and only can be trumped when you find out you've passed.
Looking back on it, I would 100% recommend taking the exam becuase the benefits in the long term are amazing.
Hope this helps!
The CPA exams are definitely difficult, but doable if you study hard and budget your time effectively. I think the most important thing to recognize while studying is that what is effective for another person may not be effective for you, so the best thing you can do is try a couple different methods until something works. I used Becker, but there are several other programs out there too. Also, the exams are harder to balance once you're working, so try to get some done before you begin working at a firm, if possible.
Hongyun (Heley)’s Answer
Definitely challenging but it is also a well-rounded integrated system to look at accounting as a whole. Some exams are comparatively easier while others could be more comprehensive. It does require a lot time and effort to study, complete questions, do mock exams.
Great advice above. In addition to Becker, I also found the Becker flash cards totally worth the investment. I would walk on the treadmill for some exercise and run through flash cards! Best of luck, you can do it!
The CPA exam is tough, but doable. My advice to anyone taking it is that if you put your time into studying then you can pass. If you are dedicated and diligent to studying, then you will hopefully pass with no issues. I think the hardest part is the time requirement to get all four passed within the allotted window. I used Becker and highly recommend it to anyone planning on sitting for the exam. Also, get the tests done as early as you can in your career. You only get busier as you advance at your firm. Good luck!
Sophia Nicole’s Answer
While I agree with all of the other answers, I have a different perspective as someone also from Illinois that can speak to the Illinois requirements to sit for the CPA exam. The exam is standardized state-to-state, but the requirements to sit for the exam vary by state. I don't know where you are in your education currently, but it's important to know that for Illinois you need 150 credit hours, which may determine when you can take the CPA exam. That's one reason that many students in Illinois will not take the CPA exam until after their master's program. I was able to complete 150 credit hours in 4 years, and am currently studying for the CPA exams while working full time downtown.
While the exams are challenging, they're even MORE challenging to complete while working! I'm currently studying using Becker, which I've found to be very helpful in learning even the most difficult material. Most people say that FAR is the most difficult because it covers the largest amount of information. Many people say that REG is also fairly difficult because taxes have many specific rules to follow. I would recommend attempting to complete on of these first because if you do not pass, you will be able to take more time to re-study than worrying about the 18-month time window. However, every person will find each exam at a different level of difficulty based on the courses they took in college and their personal work experience. Regardless, based on my experience, my best advice would be to attempt to complete your exams before starting work if you can. Always feel free to reach out for any additional questions or career advice!
Sophia Nicole recommends the following next steps:
- Find more information here: https://www.aicpa.org/
- Find more information here: https://www.ilboe.org/
- Find more information here: https://nasba.org/
- Find more information here: https://www.becker.com/cpa-review
What would you like to know about the CPA? For example, what it's like studying for the exams, what the actual exam is like when you're taking it, etc.
Looking forward to hearing from you!