Thursday, February 25, 2010

Full Time Job & Studying

I was asked in a comment from last night's post about my study schedule and a full time job.  The comment box was a little tiny for what I wanted to say, so here comes the response to that inquiry.

First off, studying for this exam on the schedule I am while working full time sucks.  It requires a ton of self-discipline.  At the onset of this torturous journey I knew it would be painful.  In college I worked full time and took a full course load (5-6 classes 15-18 hours for undergrad 4 classes @ 12 hours for graduate work) each semester.  I pretty much hated life back then as well.  However, I knew if I could do that for 6 years before that I should be able to tolerate it for 6 months now.  

While the CPA exam studying has be very similar to college it is much more intense.  Every part of my studying for the CPA exam has been like my hardest college classes.  Most of my college classes were pretty simple.  They were time consuming, but not overly difficult.  Only in my hardest classes did I have to have any intensity to my studying.  I was tired enough that I would fall asleep from time to time in some of my college classes.  I could listen to music or do other things while studying typically.  With the CPA exam I pretty much have to have complete silence in order to focus enough to get through my studying.  My wife watching something on her computer with headphones being extremely quiet in the same room is enough to destroy my concentration.  Some days our dog wants to play more than sleep (not often thankfully).  When she gets like that it breaks my concentration and I have to stop and play with her until I wear her out and she goes back to sleep.  The level of focus this exam has required is intense.

As to my actual schedule:  I hate mornings.  I have always hated mornings.  I roll out of bed with just enough time to clean up, dress, pee of the dog, and run out the door to work.  Thankfully I work in a relaxed atmosphere and 8:20 is the same as 8:00.  I usually get out of the office by 5:15-5:30.  Pre-exam I would usually work until 6-6:30.  I am home around 6:00.  It takes me 30 minutes or so to change, take care of the dog, read email, go through the mail, etc.  I am usually in the care studying by 6:30-6:45.  I don't usually get up aside from to let the dog in/out once and maybe to take a bathroom break and refill my water cup.  In the course of 3-4 hours I really do not have more than 5 minutes of non-study time.  I do not study on Fridays during the weeks of class.  My wife is going through college (finishing community college level in a few more classes) and we both come Friday and pretty much collapse from exhaustion.  We make the attempt to watch a movie typically, but we both fall asleep during it every week.  I do study on Fridays after classes are over and I'm into my final reviews.  Saturday & Sunday mornings I try and get up around 8-8:30 and be studying by 9-9:30.  I try to do no more than 5 hours on Saturday & Sunday (only one weekend has blown that limit).  This typically leaves me 6-8 hours on Saturday and 4-6 hours on Sunday to do other things like take care of the house, grocery shop, and have personal time.  I'd love to say I get to spend time with my wife, but she typically studies both the AM and PM hours on the weekends (she has classes most every night so she doesn't get study time in during the week).  

Those weekend hours to myself are the hours that I live each week for.  Others say they study 10-12 hours on each weekend day.  Good luck to those people and I think they are insane.  My mind goes to mush after 5-6 hours.  Typically any studying I've done beyond that is not very productive (exception of last Friday's 11 hour marathon which was actually productive).  I would also go crazy with absolutely no time to myself.  It is not enough time to myself, but it is enough to keep me going another week. 

I have also taken a couple of days off in addition to test days.  I took one extra day off in January during REG that I got a quick 5 hours of study in and then had the rest of the day to myself (an extra Saturday schedule basically).  I also did the same thing last Friday for BEC, but that turned into the nightmare study day.  I am most definitely in burn-out mode at this point.  This is why you can see my study time during the weekday nights drop to 3-3.5 from the 4-4.5 they were during AUD.  I've tried to make up some of that time on the weekends, but even my weekend study time per day has come down.  This stares me in the face each day in my hour totals.  AUD had the same number of classes as BEC yet I'm almost 20 hours less than I did for AUD.  I felt good for AUD and I feel like crap on BEC.  I think those 20 hours are a good chunk of my problem.  

For those that are looking at doing this exam while working.  Know that it is a life changer.  This exam is the whole of my life right now.  I think about how I'm going to study that night during the day and dream about the exam many nights.  This exam is an obsession at this point.  I hate having to get up feeling exhausted knowing that I have a full day of work and a night of study.  On class days knowing that I'm only halfway done with my day at 3pm is depressing.  Those negatives are actually what drives me to study like I do though.  I would rather go through this pain and suffering once.  If I don't study and fail an exam that is another 3-5 weeks that I will have to live like this again.  I am about 2/3rds of the way through this process by content (almost 3/4ths by test sections).  I just have to stay focused for another 2 months and I can have my life back.


  1. Dale,
    It's almost like your blog
    inspires me each day ;) I completely agree that this is a life changer!!! .. I'm from Ohio and passed Reg with a 95 so far.. I took
    BEC on 2/22 and I think I may pass that too.. Fingers crossed!
    I work full time too and I'm planning to take FARE in May.. Using Becker myself and think it's pretty good so far... Good luck with your process and keep posting your status ;)

    - Sharan

  2. CPAinAtlanta2010 from Another 71February 25, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    WOW! You truly are dedicated. I had to waste a year (2009) until I have become dedicated like you (2010). I have taken FAR twice and failed and AUD once and failed. This year I will pass them all.

    Thanks for the explanation, and I agree with you fully. Be dedicated, do it once, never have to do it again.

    Lisa :-)

  3. Thank you so much for the posting this..just what i was looking for. Thanks again for being so quick to respond. this really helps.


  4. Hi Dale - I completely agree with everything you said. I work full time in a pretty stressful job and I've passed REG and just found out yesterday that I passed FAR. Just ordered my study materials for BEC and AUD. I take off more time in between exams than you do in order to keep my sanity, but I admire your dedication. You're getting through all of the pain and misery quickly. Good luck tomorrow! Being that BEC is my next section, I can't wait to hear your take on the test. I use Becker materials as well...

  5. Dale - You sound like a giant d-bag.

    a) You are wasting your time. There is no need to spend such an excessive amount of time on these tests. Study - get a 75 - and be done.
    b) If you're so concerned about studying you probably shouldn't be wasting your time writing a detailed blog about it.
    c) I would like to see you try to fit your little "schedule" into a 70 hour work week - there is no way you could handle it. I only wish I could go home from work at 5:30 - try 11.

    Don't get me wrong, I agree that these tests are hard, and that they take over your life - but like I said deutsche-bagary at it's best!

    1. "Dale - You sound like a giant d-bag.

      a) You are wasting your time. There is no need to spend such an excessive amount of time on these tests. Study - get a 75 - and be done.
      b) If you're so concerned about studying you probably shouldn't be wasting your time writing a detailed blog about it.
      c) I would like to see you try to fit your little "schedule" into a 70 hour work week - there is no way you could handle it. I only wish I could go home from work at 5:30 - try 11.

      Don't get me wrong, I agree that these tests are hard, and that they take over your life - but like I said deutsche-bagary at it's best!"

      You are horrible....

  6. a) I'll study what it takes to make myself feel comfortable. If that means I end up with something higher than 75 then so be it. I haven't seen any of this material in a classroom setting in over a decade. If I spend more time then that is what I will do.
    b) I could also give up showering, eating, or other things. I never claimed that I spent every moment studying, just that it is the focus of my life right now.
    c) I busted ass in school and in my jobs so I could put myself in a position to not work 70 hour weeks. I had a job like that once and would rather not. If others want to be crazy and go for the money and such that jobs like that bring more power to them. I will enjoy my more normal 45-50 hour weeks and enjoy my life much more.

    If you don't need any help, advice, or stress relief in your life that is great. I find writing the blog for myself fairly relaxing. I've enjoyed answering emails and such from others as an added benefit. It is pretty pitiful to have to go around pissing on other peoples' sandbox. In the end you are just an anonymous troll and no one really cares about your little rant.

  7. Wow - to the anonymous person that wrote the message to Dale about being a D-bag... I find his blog extremely helpful, as I believe I have similar work ethic and study habits as he does. I'm not quite sure why you could be so angry with Dale. Last I checked, we are all capable of making our own decisions and create our own realities. Obviously, you've created a reality where you have to work a lot and seem very angry about it. Others of us decide other things. If you're angry about working so much, maybe you should consider another option instead of being angry with Dale... Just a thought.

  8. That comment was from a true cpa loser. Anywho, Dale your blog is inspiring me just a week after getting my BEC #FAIL scores. Yes I'm wasting time, regrouping and taking BEC over in May. Thanks for adding some coherence to this mess

  9. Thanks. This blog has been very relaxing for me and I've enjoyed helping others with questions as I'm able to. I saw your other comment. Stick to it. I think I saw a statistic somewhere that said 80% of the people that do the cpa exam eventually get through it. Those are decent odds for most things.

  10. I am taking the becker review now, I am on regulations and I find becker to be about an 8 hr day for me. I am not working just graduated in may 2010. I am going to take all four parts atleast once just to say I did.

  11. Dale is right, self dicipline is key

  12. I think I'd go nuts trying to do 8 hours a day on this stuff.

  13. Dale,

    This post is exactly what I have been looking for! I will be graduating from Grad school in December. I have an offer to begin with a big 4 firm in January or I could begin with a different big 4 in October. My biggest concern and stress (already) in my life right now is taking this exam. I could begin working in October and have an etire 10 months to do nothing but study; however, I really like the firm that needs to start me in january better. I've already looked up Becker on-line courses and if I start working in January I will begin studying in April. I've already told myself taht I will have absolutely no life, I am fine with that. I am just worried about being able to handle working full time and passing this exam.

  14. Hi Dale,

    I hope you're still checking your blog. I'm not sure how you did on you last test, but I'm hoping you got through.

    It's the wee hours of the morning right now in Los Angeles, California, and I'm studying for a cost exam for tomorrow night. I'm a senior and an undergraduate accounting major.

    I don't know what my plans are yet, but if I survive this major, I want to pass the CPA exam. My biggest concern is that I can't handle too much at once. I had to stop working this last year of school because I just couldn't handle it anymore. So, I deeply admire your commitment and only wish I could do the same.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your blog and was wondering if you could rate the exams by level of difficulty, this way, I at least know what to try first. I don't expect to immediately graduate and find a job, first because most firms that are currently recruiting future graduates are particularly picky and I'm not a 4.0 student -- I'm more like 3.6 overall; 3.2 major. So, I anticipate studying for the exam right out of school. Any further advice?


  15. I do still check for comments on my blog although I haven't done new posts since getting my license.

    A good chunk of this exam is dedication and perseverance. You have to stick to your studying and never give up.

    I found REG to be the easiest for me. There is a certain logic to the IRS and once you understand that the tax stuff makes sense in a twisted logically sortof way.

    BEC was my next easiest although it actually stressed me out the most going into the exam. The topics are more general business and cover things I do in my work. There are still plenty of challenging topics here and are things you can't just skip.

    AUD was my first section and I rank it as my third section. There are practically no calculations involved. You can almost get through this section purely on memorization. There are several styles of questions that make you apply that theory to a given situation, but you can basically memorize the theory and do decent. This was a good first section to take since it is mostly memorization and is a good representation of what the exam is like as to the style and format of the questions.

    FAR was by far the hardest section. It is just a monster in the shear volume of topics covered. Many of those topics are complex and without a solid grasp of accounting you will not make it. I would rather take all three of the other sections again than have to take this one at all.

    That being said, this exam is completely doable. For me, I had been out of school for 10 years and had forgotten much of the material. It really was just a matter of putting in enough good quality study time. Others in my Becker class that were finishing up college were putting in a third or less of the time and passing just fine.

    Like you said in your other comment, there are other posts with a ton of good information in them. The bar on the right has a section that shows roughly when you can find specific section information. Also, if you look in April-May 2010 you will find some general posts on the overall exam. Take a look at those and if you still have questions feel free to email or IM me. The contact info is in the right bar as well.

  16. Opps, I missed on question. I did end up passing my last section (FAR)on my first try with a 94.

  17. I randomly came across this blog, and it's very useful to me! I don't know if you will still see this comment but I'm glad you've tracked your progress on here. The exams have changed slightly since you took them but your process and dedication are inspiring and help give me insight as well.

    I just graduated in May and I FAR in July and AUD yesterday. I am trying to get one more in by Oct 1 or 2nd before I start working Oct 3rd. I've devoted as much of my free time as I can to the CPA exams because I am terrified of the thought of studying while I work full-time. So here's to hoping I only need to go through them once!

    Thanks for posting these, and congratulations on all your hard work and in obtaining your license!

  18. I do still read any and all comments that come through. Working and studying sucks, so I do hope you get through it before you start working. I am actually teaching BEC for Becker now, so I have kept up with the new changes. FAR & AUD got the biggest changes really. REG picked up some of the easier material that used to be in BEC. BEC became adaptive (evil) and picks up a few short written. Feel free to drop me an email if there is anything I can help with.

  19. This is me!! Everything you said is how I feel studying with a full time job. It made me feel less alone so thank you.

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