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).


  1. Don't you have to take all parts of the exam within 90 days in Texas?

  2. Okay, good - I misread the site (had a bit of a heart attack there!)

  3. I'm using Gleim right now and I chuckled at "4 inch thick tomb of knowledge" because that is my life right now. I failed BEC and FAR so now I'm going to shell out the big bucks to buy Becker. It looks like it has helped you out a lot and a lot of people I have spoken with seem to think it is the gold standard.

  4. You are guaranteed to pass the exam if you will use Becker, put the study time in and aren't just a dolt on the intelligence scale. Everyone I know who has used Becker and was reasonably smart passed.