Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Love Computers, But They Hate Me

166 days remaining
Mood – Annoyed
Study Time – 4.0 hours (42.0 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none 

My technical problems continue.  I do computer stuff as my main form of entertainment, so that fact that my computer is messed up is annoying me to no end.  Even with a clean install of my operating system I'm having issues (has to be hardware thing).  I think it could be my memory or motherboard/processor.  In either case, I'm annoyed as the computer is only 6-7 months old.

On the study front, this morning wasn't great.  I was pretty tired from the week, so I slept in longer than I had intended.  I got started on my studying almost two hours later than I wanted.  After reading the material for AUD-4 (Monday's class material) I worked the simulations for AUD-2 & 3.  I did great on the simulations except for the written part, which I butchered on both.  I finally gave up the day as a waste and ran some errands I had to do.  I felt guilty by time I finished those, so when I got back I sat down to do the multiple choice questions for AUD-3.  I missed a whole 3 questions out of the 231, for 99%.  This is much better than the previous 86%.

Tomorrow I plan on reading the final class material and do more multiple choice questions.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Technical Problems

168 days remaining
Mood – good
Study Time – 4.0 hours (38.0 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none 

Technical problems annoyed me throughout the night tonight.  While working the AUD-3 class problems my computer locked up twice and rebooted once.  The reboot was when I was on question 100 of 100.  That means the software didn't record anything for that set of questions for me.  I was between 84% and 86% though for that set.  It took right at the four hour mark not including breaks and dog issues to get through all the AUD-2 and AUD-3 questions (all 396 of them).  I scored a 96% on the AUD-2 questions, which is in line with having done them a couple of times.  I came out at the 87% mark on the AUD-3 questions, mostly due to poor performance on the supplemental questions (66-70%).  Unlike Tuesday's pass through the AUD-3 questions, I felt a ton better about them this time.  I had the answers down to two options most of the time when I missed or had a RTCDQ issue.  I'm still short 4-5 hours between now and Monday's class in order to do all the study items I'd like to (see yesterday's post).  I might do a second mini-study session on Saturday to help.

Anyhow, I feel better about the AUD-3 section even if I am below the 90% mark I wanted to be at for my second pass through the questions.  I'm feeling really good about the AUD test in general still.

A side note for tonight:  Our dog was rather distracting tonight.  She kept pawing at the door like she needed to go out, only to run for a toy when I'd get up to let her out.  I know my study time is hard for her too, but she has actually been pretty good overall.  I also had a 15-20 minute break tonight for a friend that showed up (house sitting this weekend and needed the key).  While I got in 4 hours tonight, it took just shy of 5 to get those 4 hours in.  Tomorrow is a study-free night, but it is also Halloween, so frequent doorbell interruptions are expected.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AUD Class 3

169 days remaining
Mood – little bit down
Study Time – 4.0 hours (34.0 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none

Three classes down, two to go.  This was a long class that covered a ton of information.  It took almost 30 pages to cover 2 letters of one of the mnemonics (painful).  I also missed 3-4 of the 20 in class questions.  The air conditioning is also a bit funky in the room we are in.  I think there is an override that kills the air conditioning about 6:30-7.  The end result is I get to burn up for the last half of the class.  I did find the two people sitting behind me bringing in an entire pizza to eat during the class hilarious.  I wasn't annoyed or anything by it, but found it very amusing.

I also have found a problem with my current study plan.  I need an extra day or two do complete all the tasks I want to complete before next Monday's class.  This means doing an eight hour day on Saturday or Sunday , giving up my day off of study, or changing the laws of physics and space/time.  Personally, I'm hoping for the third option.  By my count I need to re-read section 3 (and 2 if I can manage), answer the MC questions for sections 2 & 3 at least twice more , although I'd prefer three times (160ish and 230 questions in the sections), read AUD-4 & 5 class material (60-70 pages each), do the simulations for 2 & 3.  That list includes 8 items (read 4, read 5, MC 2, MC 3, read 3, MC 2, MC 3, Simulations 2/3).  I can effectively do 2 items per study session, which means I need 4 study sessions while only having 3.  That doesn't include doing the MC questions for 4 once before class like I want to do.  Reading the material before class is very beneficial, so those can't go.  I really don't consider 2-3 times through the MC questions to be enough, so those can't go.  This means not re-reading the section 3 stuff, even though I am a bit weak on it relative to other sections.  I can probably squeeze in just enough to allow me to do the questions twice and read next week's material if I skip lunch the next couple of days.  We'll see how it turns out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Questions, Questions, Questions! Do you ever end?

170 days remaining
Mood –Committed
Study Time – 3.5 hours (30.0 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none 

I worked all the AUD-2 multiple choice questions and got 92% on them.  Some of my incorrect answers were RTCDQ problems (Read the Cock-a-Doody Question).  I feel pretty good about the questions, but really need to go through them another couple of times.  After that I went to look at the questions for AUD-3 class (tomorrow's class).  There are 197 questions not counting the supplementary ones (another 30-something).  Those took a long time to go through.  They were a bit demoralizing since I scored lower on them than the others.  While I didn't do too bad (76%) for my first pass through the questions, it was less than I had done on my first pass through AUD-2.  With AUD-2 I felt that I wasn't too far off the mark.  With these there was a lot of plain old guessing.  I only read the material the one time and I actually did better than I felt I did (felt like 60-65%).  If this follows like the other sections, I'll feel a ton better about the material after listening to the lecture tomorrow.  I almost wish I had one class per week so I could lock in my understanding of each section before starting another section.  I am less concerned with this for AUD than for the REG and FAR sections.

The realities of what I am undertaking is beginning to sink in this week.  So far I've done great on sticking to my study schedule.  It is tiring, but I'm doing it.  I am looking forward to November 16th when I can break for a couple of weeks.  The scary thing is once the next bit kicks in it is 3-4 solid months of pain and suffering.  I've still got a pretty good feeling for AUD and the study method I'm using.  I'm concerned that this method of studying will not be effective for REG and FAR (but should be good and sound for BEC).  I've looked through some other messages/forums for CPA exam takers and the more I read those the less comfortable I feel with the extent of my studying.  There are a ton of stories about people taking sections 3 and 4 times.  I can't imagine what I'll be like having to go through this level of study for that extended period of time.

One minor point of note:  I am finding an innocent comment from people is really annoying me for some unknown reason.  The comment I've heard from several people is "You're smart, you'll do fine."  I really wouldn't say that anyone sitting for the CPA exam would fall into my stupid category.  This isn't to say stupid people can't take the exam, just that it takes a lot to be able to take the exam, so most people taking it put in a good deal of effort.  Even with that effort a good chunk still fail (40-45% pass rate?).  Being smart by itself isn't nearly enough to pass this exam based on my previous taking in 2001, nor talking with those that have taken and are taking it.  While there is no ill-will in the comment, it doesn't have the reassuring message it is intended to have.  I wish I had more people around me that actually know what the deal is rather than just some vague notion of "oh he is studying for some test that is suppose to be hard."

Monday, October 26, 2009

AUD Class 2

171 days remaining
Mood – Tired
Study Time – 4.0 hours (26.5 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none 

15 hours days are not something I'd recommend to others.  I got out of bed around 7 am this morning and the first thought in my head was "it will be 15 hours before I get out of class tonight."  Here we are 15.5 hours later and I'm writing my post.  The work day started with loading a dozen printers in the pouring down rain (wet and sweat).  The work day concluded with getting behind overly dusty server racks in a noisy server room trying to help solve server/switch issues with our corporate IT folks.  After that, the real fun began.  I was pretty pooped going into class.  I felt good about the class itself though since I did so well on the questions on Sunday.  The class was mostly like the first.  The first seven pages of the section have been replaced by new material that is testable.  Thankfully, it is mostly the same as the old, just different terms and a couple of additional bullet points to learn.  There was a lot of highlighting and notes made.  We'll see if I can get over the 90-95% mark on the questions tomorrow.

The fun for tonight:  periodic chirping.  We've been fighting our smoke detector for the last week.  A couple of times we've woken up hearing the periodic (every 20ish seconds) chirp from the alarm.  Normally this would be a low battery chirp.  I put a new battery in it on Friday, but the chirping continued, but went away by time I got home.  Apparently it started back up sometime today, so now we get to try to go to sleep with the loud chirp every 20ish seconds.  Oddly enough, the chirping continues even when the alarm is disconnected and no battery is in it.  It sounds like the chirping is actually coming from the wiring in the ceiling, but that could just be a function of the pitch and shortness of the chirp making it hard to tell.  I'll have to see if the warranty guys I work with (work for a home builder) have any ideas or can get me the number of someone who will.

Off to the showers and bed for this CPA Exam preparer.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One Week Completed

172 days remaining
Mood – Good
Study Time – 4.5 hours (22.5 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none

It was a very long morning (bit over 4.5 hours).  It took three hours to read the material for Wednesday.  How we will get through all that in the 4 hour class is beyond me at this point, but we will see on Wednesday.  I decided to skip the multiple choice questions for the first class.  I think my eyes started to bleed in anticipation of that.  Instead, I took a crack at the MC questions for the AUD-2 class.  I did all the MC questions except the supplementary ones.  There were 128 questions answered and I got 104 of them correct (81%).  This is better than my first crack at the AUD-1 questions.  Many of the ones I missed I had limited the answer to two possibilities that included to correct answer.  I'm looking forward to seeing how I do after sitting through the class tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to getting to relax the rest of the day.  It is going to be a long week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


173 days remaining
Mood – Good
Study Time – 3.5 hours (18.0 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none 

I re-read the material for the class this coming Monday (AUD-2) and feel much better about it.  I read the questions in the book prior to the re-read and wasn't as ignorant on the material as my initial reading has led me to believe.  Thursday when I had read it initially had been a hard day at work, so that is the only thing I can think of that explains my mood then.  I then did all the multiple choice questions again for the AUD-1 class.  I did slightly worse on them than I did on Thursday, missing 5 out of the 177 instead of only 4.  I still think it is a good showing.  Three of my misses were purely do to my not RTCDQ as my accounting professor in college use to say.  RTCDQ = Read the Cock-a-Doody Question!  I like to add a RTCDA to that as well for Read the Cock-a-Doody Answer.  The questions that ask which of the following "do not" that then have double negatives in the answer selections are just plain freaking evil.  I didn't hit the 4 hour mark exactly (about 10 minutes shy of it), so I only counted 3.5 for today.

Tomorrow's plan is to read the material for Wednesday's class since I won't have time between now and Wednesday to do it and to go over the MC questions yet again (do them 'till my eyes bleed).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Head Swimming

175 days remaining
Mood – head swimming
Study Time – 3 hours and some change (14.5 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none

I did a ton of reading tonight.  I re-read the material from the first class and feel really good about it.  I then read the material for the next class.  I see the general idea of what they are trying to do, but the 50 pages of material (for the second class) is all so similar to each other that my head is swimming trying to figure out the differences they are trying to explain.  Although, this is exactly why I like to read the material before the class.  I'll go to class, hear it again, get better examples from the video lecture and the person administering the class, then it will make more/better sense.  It was a painful couple of hours though.  The good news is tomorrow is day off from studying!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fun with Auditing

176 days remaining
Mood – Confident
Study Time – 2 hours (11.5 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none 

I worked through the simulation problem and got most of it right.  I was off by one sub-section on the research portion.  The question wording was less than clear, but that about describes 90% of the CPA exam.  I worked through all the multiple choice questions, including the supplementary questions, again and got all but 4 correct.  That is out of 177 questions I missed 4.  If I can keep that level of retention going I should be in good shape.

I wish there were more simulations to work through.  I have a good understanding of how the multiple choice questions work (the correct answer has to be one of the options after all), but the simulations are more open ended.  I'll have to look for other sources of practice for those.

I feel a little cheap only putting in 2 hours tonight, but I think that has more to do with not having a second class this week than lack of effort.  I think I'll re-read the book material and start on next week's reading tomorrow.

I wonder what post titles I can come up with for just a regular study-day message....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


177 days remaining
Mood – Proud
Study Time – 4 hours (9.5 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none

I went through all the homework multiple choice questions twice and the supplementary multiple choice questions once.  My first pass through the questions I got in the mid-70s for percent right (68% low, 88% high) between the 5 sections.  My second pass through I think I missed a grand total of 4 on the regular homework questions and got 90% on my first (only) pass through the supplementary questions.  After the questions I watched the final part of the lecture that we didn't cover in class (the simulation).  After that, I went through the flash cards once.  I've really improved on the flash cards compared to a week ago.  The only thing I am missing on those is minor items (ie. I understand the concept each card is going for).  There was an hour or so between my first pass at the questions and the second pass.  I'll go through them again another day to make sure I have retained the information.

Since there is no class tomorrow, the plan will be to work on the simulation.  Based on the lecture example it really doesn't look that bad.  I will probably be lacking on the written communication part, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.  The research tab looks usable, but I'll need to practice.  I hope there are enough simulations to get enough practice on.

The lack of class sort of throws my regular plan out.  Thursday should be more multiple choice for the new class and Saturday/Sunday for simulations.  I plan on using one of those days to read the two lectures for next week (1.5 hours each I'm assuming based on last reading).  The chart in the book says I should watch the intro lecture and tutorial videos, but I watched those last week.  I might end up with a few extra hours this week before the next two weeks hit me full speed.

I also scheduled my AUD exam with the testing center today.  Monday November 16 from noon until 5pm I'll sit for the first section.  The last class ends on the 5th, so that gives me 11 days to finish the homework for the final class, review all the material, and take the two practice exams for this section.  I better enjoy it as the next two sections will be on a much more compressed time table.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Day of Class

178 days remaining
Mood – Even
Study Time – 4 hours (5.5 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none 

I sat through the first class tonight.  It was 4 long hours.  I found the building without too much trouble (I have no sense of direction).  The people were friendly and had answers to the million questions I've had for a couple of weeks.  The chairs are pretty comfy, although after 4 hours nothing is comfy.  The room got a bit warm halfway through and it was distracting.  The lectures themselves mostly involved going page by page through the book and highlighting a third of it (they provided a nice highlighter) and adding cross-references and other minor notes in other places.  While this doesn't strike me as a valuable use of my time (I pre-read the material in an hour and a half), they are the ones that have been doing this for decades, not me.  Class got out right at 10 pm.  It has been a long time since I've been mentality engaged for that long of a time at that level and it is tiring.  I'll hit up the lecture simulation tomorrow that we didn't cover in class as well as the multiple choice questions.

Other side information I learned.  Starting in January 2011 the BEC portion of the test will include a written component.  The written component in the other three sections is being removed (still have simulations, just not written part).  This is just one more reason to pass these things on the first round.  Also, the thoughts of me finishing the class and sitting for the exam before the next class between January and February got a pretty sever beat down.  There are people in this class that still have a week before they sit for the classes that ended at the end of September.  I wonder if I can just endure pain and suffering and take some days off work to make up for it?  Although, the people I spoke to were taking substantial time off work as well and taking several weeks.  This was the one real negative that I got tonight.  I really can't do much to change it though, so I'll just have to ignore it until closer to January.  I still think starting my studying in December will let me squeeze by.

On a side note, the wife is still sick.  Off to the showers and bed for me.  Tomorrow we get the first crack at my self-discipline and commitment.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Day Before

179 days remaining
Mood – Nervous
Study Time – 0 hours (1.5 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none

My last weekend before it begins was pretty nice. I relaxed and didn't think about what is about to happen until Sunday afternoon. My wife came down with swine flu Thursday night, so she was sick the whole weekend. I was dreading that I'd end up with it (and still might). So far though I'm feeling fine. As long as I can make it through class tomorrow night I'll be in good shape. After that I have a full week to be sick and get over it.

I've got my book, discs, and flashcards ready to go tomorrow morning. I know where the building is for the class (one of two buildings anyhow) and should have enough time to find it before class. I'm anxious about the whole thing right now. Moreso when I think about the January-March stretch. I've got to settle down a bit and just focus one week at a time. I didn't put any study time in this weekend, but will hit it full speed tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Beginning

184 days remaining
Mood – Cautious, Excited
Study Time – 1.5 hours (1.5 total)
Sections Taken/Passed:  none/none

On September 18, 2009 I apparently decided I didn’t have enough going on in my life.  I was talking with a co-worker about her college classes.  I had been toying with the idea of taking a college class or two myself for fun.  I had considered taking a couple of Astronomy classes.  I was annoyed to learn that even to audit the classes was just as expensive as it was to take the classes for real.  This put the cost way above what I was willing to pay for recreational learning.  The conversation turned to CPE credits that two other co-workers had suffered through that week.  This got me to thinking about going for my CPA again.
I graduated from the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor in the Summer of 2001.  I sat for the CPA exam in November of that year to lock in my eligibility.  I used all the vacation time I had at that moment in order to sit.  I did no studying or other preparation.  I didn’t expect to pass or do well at all.  My goal was to get a 50 or better in each section.  I was pleasantly surprised by the results as much as I was put off by the process.  I ended up with AUD-62; BEC-61; FAR-65; REG-72.  I found the whole thing amusing.  I actually did better in what I thought were my harder sections and worse in the ones I expected to be good in.  I did my best in the section I thought I did the worst in.  In any event, I had no plans on sitting for the exam again.  The vacation time, the expense of the test, the expense of the hotel, and the awful testing experience made me not want to go through that again.  I knew before that point I didn’t want to do public accounting and that I liked the private work better.  The test changed over to the computer format a couple of years later (2003-2004).  By that time I had just changed jobs, moved to Austin, and was just plain busy with life.

So, here I was back on September 17, 2009.  I realized I’d been out of school for ages and would need a review course in order to have a shot at it.  Given that I could schedule the exam one section at a time gave me hope it wouldn’t be the pure hell the previous experience was.  I looked up the review courses online.  I had a couple of friends from college that really liked the Becker stuff back when they were doing their CPA exam.  I tend to be easily distracted when sitting in front of a computer, so I was looking for live classes.  The good news is they have them in Austin.  Better yet, they have a 4 month schedule to get all the classes and testing done.  I feel that I can do 4-5 months of suffering to get this out of the way.  I go back and forth on what to do that weekend and have a couple of calls getting pricing and such.  $3,000 for the classes.  Ouch!  I discuss it with my wife and we decide it is better to do it now than to wait and it be harder later.  I decided to put out the extra $200 for the flash cards as well.  No sense in going cheap for $200 when I’m already spending $3,000.  Total costs came in a bit under $3,200.  On September 22nd I call in, register, and pay.  I am now committed.  On a side note, I’ve decided not to tell my parents that I am working on this.  I don’t know why, but I’d like to just spring it on them after I’ve passed all sections.

The Schedule – Becker has two sets of classes each year.  I am going to do the last class of the cycle in 2009 and the first three in 2010.  I will take the AUD class from mid-October to early-November and sit for the AUD section in the middle of November.  I then have classes solid all of January through March (REG, BED, FAR respectively) while trying to cram in the actual exam at the end of January, Februrary, and early April.  I really question if 5-6 days after the end of the REG class will be enough to get in my final studying and sit, but I’ll kindof have to in order to be ready to get into studying for the BEC class the first part of February.

Registering for the exam is an exercise in patience.  I am grateful that I did sit for the exam back in 2001 solely due to it locked in my eligibility and allowed me to skip that whole process.  Thank goodness for the internet as well, otherwise I’d be stuck doing things by snail mail.  I can’t help but laugh at the bureaucracy involved.  I know there are multiple separate organizations involved, but you’d think they could get the whole thing down to two steps of 1.  Apply to take and then 2.  Schedule the exam.  Instead we have the back and forth of ‘I’d like to apply’; ‘I’d like to take XYZ section’; ‘I’d like to pay’; ‘I’d like to schedule’; ‘Please schedule for X/XX/20XX’.  The websites for some of these organizations could use some work and/or update with current info better.  The good news is the people you talk to at NASBA and (in my case) the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy were easy to get hold of and pleasant to talk to.  I paid my $15 last week as the first part of my fees and just paid the $230.55 for the AUD section 30 minutes ago.  Everything is moving forward with my schedule pain and suffering right on time.

I received the first part of my materials a couple of days after signing up for the class.  I was actually really surprised by the book.  I was expecting something more along the lines of a 4” thick tomb of knowledge.  Instead, it looks much more manageable, although there is still a ton of condensed stuff in there.  I loaded the software and it appears to be running fine, including the video.  I was a bit worried as they claim to not support Vista 64-bit which of course both my computer and my wife’s has.  I’ve read the first class materials.  There is going to be a lot of plain old fashion memorization for this section. 

Having sat for the exam once, I can honestly say there was nothing on the exam that I hadn’t seen in my various classes.  I’d say most of my accounting class tests used the same format and types of questions I saw on the exam.  I know I’ve seen all the material tested, it is simply a matter of recalling that knowledge.  If I put in the study time I will pass.  If I half-ass my studying or don’t put in the time I won’t.  There is a certain relief in that simplicity and horror at the same time. 

My current study plan is roughly as follows:

Modnay:  6pm-10pm class (4 hours)
Tuesday:  6:30-9:30  homework questions & study(3 hours)
Wednesday:  6pm-10pm class (4 hours)
Thursday:  6:30-9:30  homework questions & study (3 hours)
Friday:  relaxation and/or time with wife/friends
Saturday:  4 hours (2 sessions?) simulation and other study (4 hours)
Sunday:  4 hours (2 sessions?) simulation and other study (4 hours)

Misc:  use flash cards 5-10 times per day for current and past class portions.

This is 22 hours per week including class. This is below the 30-35 the course recommends.  I need to find a way to squeeze in another 8ish hours.  I’m not really sure where to squeeze that time in though between work and sleep.  I could possibly squeeze an hour in before work, but I’ve never been a morning person and don’t know how productive I could be during that time.

I’ve bounced between excitement and dread ever since paying for the review courses.  I know I can do this.  I also know how much effort it is going to take.  I worked full time and took full time college (including graduate course work) and it sucked then too.  It is 178 days from October 19, 2009 (first class starts) to April 15, 2010 (sit for last section sometime in early April).  That is 6 months of calendar time and really only 4.5 months of painful study focus.  It is basically like one fully loaded college semester.  That is a very limited time with the light at the end of the tunnel visible from the start.

This blog is here to help me keep my sanity.  In the two weeks after deciding to do this I looked for alot of stuff online.  I did find a couple of forums where people discussed things.  I found a blog that was nice.  Nowhere did I see anything showing the day to day activities of how anyone survived the process.  I plan on using this to track my study time and to help me stay focused.  In the end it might be a good case study in showing a person's decent into madness.  Maybe I'll end up like that story about the lady and the wallpaper I read back in high school.  Maybe somehow someone other than me will find it and it can help them with whatever they need as they go through the process.

Things I plan on tracking at the opening of each post:
1.  Number of days left (currently based on April 15th end date, although hopefully it will be a little sooner)
2.   Mood.  I imagine I'll move between excited, dread, and exhaustion throughout the process.  It might be nice to be able to look back on it with detail some day.  If I don't collect/track that data now it won't be something I can create later.
3.  Number of hours studied.  I may change this up to add totals, but not sure yet.
4.  Sections passed

I also have my email listed on the side in case anyone ever feels the quirky need to email me about something.  Under that is my Status and Scores page I made.  This will be updated to show  what I'm working on currently; my class, testing, and passing status; and my testing/scores data.  Currently I've got my old 2001 scores listed as well as my status as working on the AUD section that I start Monday (starting flash cards tomorrow).