Thursday, March 25, 2010

Becker BEC Class Review

I took the live class of Becker BEC in February 2010.  I sat for that section of the exam at the end of February and passed with a 93.  I put in a total of 75 hours of study time into the section.  This post will be my review and experiences with the Becker program for this section of the CPA exam. 
Just as a reminder for those that haven’t followed any of my other posts, I have been out of college since 2001 and haven’t seen any of the materials covered on the exam in 10 years.  I worked a normal 40-45 hour week while taking the live classes and studying.  I took off one day of work to study during this class (and one day to actually take the test).

Overall the Becker materials were a good representation of what I saw on my actual exam.  This section was a bit odd compared to the AUD and REG sections that I have already taken.  My initial thoughts on this section were that it would be easier than AUD or REG as well as being short.  Once I got into the material I found that I struggled with it more than I had with the other sections.  Going into the test I was nervous (vs feeling good going in for AUD and REG) and felt great coming out of the exam (vs very nervous coming out of AUD and REG).  I can explain the good feeling coming out of the exam as BEC is not adaptive; hence it did not get more difficult the better I was doing.  My nervousness going in was due to my letting the exam mentally beat me before even taking it.

BEC is different from the other sections of the CPA exam in many ways.  The exam itself is different in that it does not get harder or easier depending on how well you are doing on it.  Through the end of 2010 it also is the only section comprised solely of multiple choice questions.   There are a variety of topics covered in the five classes that do not really relate to each other or build on each other.  It is like a completely different course each week.

BEC-1:  The first class covers entities (sole proprietorships, corps, s corp, partnerships, LP, LLP, and LLC).  This section was pretty easy.  I had never known the differences between the L** entities, so that was all new to me.  Much of the other stuff was still fresh in my mind from the materials in REG.  This section helped fuel my “this section is going to be cake” mentality.  I scored 95% on the multiple choice questions my first pass through them.  Listening to the lecture once was plenty to grasp everything I needed to know for this section.  I listened to the lecture, did the multiple choice questions once, and reviewed the great summary table for 3 minutes.  If you are planning out your study time for BEC, this section shouldn’t require nearly the time commitment the other sections will require.

BEC-2:  The second class covers basic economics.  I try and read the materials before class.  Reading this section put me to sleep (literally…..I had to stop reading the book on the couch and move to the kitchen table).  The wording also didn’t click with me for some reason.  The good news is the lecturer really brings it together so that it made a ton of sense easily.  I would go as far to say to not read this section until after listening to the lecture.  The lecturer for this section was not one of the two usual guys.  He was not as humorous as Tim or Peter, but he got the job done, which is really the important part.  This lecture covers material only worth 10% of the BEC section and several people I know ignored it more or less.  It is worth the time to go through it in detail though since the homework and supplemental questions manage to find a way to twist simple concepts into questions that make baby Jesus weep.  Once you feel comfortable with the questions though the material isn’t overly difficult to grasp or get.

BEC-3:  The middle class covers financial management.  I was really hoping for an easy pass on this section since it is close to what I do in my day job.  The material covered here comes mostly from the basic finance class with a few items from later finance classes thrown in to keep you on your toes.  I felt great coming out of the lectures.  Then the brick wall that was the multiple choice questions humbled me greatly.  I felt like the village idiot after I got through the questions on this section.  Ultimately, I re-watched this lecture one topic at a time stopping after each lecture topic and re-worked the multiple choice questions.  This topic by topic approach took me 10-11 hours to get through (on a Friday I took off from work expecting to relax on).  This was probably the best 10-11 hours of study time I had in BEC.  The topic by topic approach really helped me understand the material and piece together my shattered ego.  Even after the day of hell I spent on this topic, much of my study time was spent reviewing this class.  There are various ratios and such between this section (and some in BEC-5?).  They are worth knowing.  Don’t kill yourself trying to know them, but they are worth a couple of points on the exam, so don’t blow them off.

BEC-4:  The fourth section is the dreaded IT section.  I’m a computer geek.  I love computers and am a techy.  I was expecting this section to be a joke.  I was going to go to the lecture and listen and then blow through the questions once.  I was humbled a little, but it wasn’t as bad as people thought.  The main thing to focus on this section is the separation of duties between the various computer job titles.  This is less techy in nature and more old fashion memorization.  Being a computer person definitely gave me an edge in this section, but everything in this section can be memorized by a non-techy without too much effort.  If you can memorize the terminology of BEC-1 you can get through this one the same way.  This section is known for having really random and detailed questions being thrown at you in the actual exam.  I saw two really random, out of left field types of questions on my actual exam.  There is no way that any material is going to be able to prepare you for those things without completely overwhelming you.  Learn what is presented in the chapter and it will be enough to get you through this section.  I did read the 40-ish page addendum provided.  I found a few tidbits interesting as a computer nerd, but by and large it was boring and more detailed than anyone would ever want/need to know.  I am a fan of Linux but I really could care less what programming language was used to program and compile it.  Know the basics of what a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th generation programming language features are but keep it simple overall.  All but two of my IT related questions were basic concepts covered in the Becker material.  Of the two questions that were not, one was logically deductible; the other was just so random to even worry about it.

BEC-5:  The last class covers cost accounting.  This section floored me as well.  I spent a great deal of time on my own in this section.  Like BEC-3 I ended up re-watching these lectures topic by topic.  The overhead variance stuff I watched more times that I would care to admit to.  There is a ton of material covered and it can be calculation intensive.  The homework for this section is brutal.  I thought the wall that hit me in BEC-3 was bad…..nooooooo.  The BEC-5 homework made BEC-3 look like reciting your ABCs.  I was especially amused by the answer explanation that looked like the chalk-board drawings of a football play.  Do not fear though.  The homework questions were much, much harder than what I ultimately saw on the exam.  This section had me in a panic prior to my test.  The actual was not as insane.  A slightly side note, the video lecture sortof skips over their S-A-D and PURE mnemonic.  I didn’t fully get what they were doing with it until I drew it on the whiteboard.  Nailing this bit down saved me tons of time on the actual exam.  My regret is that I didn’t nail this down until almost the end of my studying.  I could have saved lots of study time getting this down earlier.

Overall this section spun me around and I ended up using it differently than I had on the previous classes.  After BEC-2 I did not read the book materials prior to going to the live class to watch the lectures.  This explains my lower overall study time for this section compared to AUD. 

Again let me say that the Becker class prepared me well for this section.  The homework questions in the Becker software were much harder than what I ultimately saw on the exam.  If you can survive (and it is a fight at times) the homework questions the actual exam should be no problem.  That does not mean you shouldn’t work hard at getting through the homework with good percentages though.  Struggling through the homework questions will pound into your brain how to do the problems.

This section was the first section that I was worried about the time limit.  This exam has a 2.5 hour time limit in which to get through 90 questions (1.67 minutes per problem).  In the homework I was averaging a bit over 2 minutes the day before my exam.  This really worried me and I was committed to spending no more than 50 minutes on any one testlet.  When I got going on the actual exam I was churning through it at a pace that was not going to leave me any time problems at all.  I was able to go back and really think through the couple of questions I wasn’t sure on.  I moved onto my last testlet with about an hour to go and finished it in under 25 minutes.  I felt almost guilty how easy that last testlet was to me so I reviewed every question and still finished up with time to spare.  Again, the homework was a ton harder for calculation type of problems compared to what I saw on the actual exam.

The keys to this section is know where to put your study time.  You need to spend time going through all of the material, but don’t waste time in areas that are simpler.  Don’t skimp on study time for BEC-3 and BEC-5.  They are complicated in places and you just have to spend the time working through it over and over until you just get it.

DO NOT SKIP THE HOMEWORK READINGS in the Becker materials.  Just about every homework reading was worth at least one question on the exam.  They may not have time to cover it in the video lecture, but don’t skip it.  Read it through once and have a basic understanding of it.  If you pass with a 90+ it may not make a difference.  It could make a difference between a 72-73 and a 75+.

I did not even look at the flashcards for this section so I have no basis to comment on them.  As per my usual, I prefer a blue pen for taking notes in the book as it stands out better against the black type.  I still love the Becker highlighters, I just wish their comfy pens were blue as my finger cramps up after a couple of hours of writing with my cheap 15 cent pen.

This section is different from the others.  Don’t get over-confident and try to blow it off.  Don’t become the puddle of mush that my nerves were over BEC-3 & BEC-5.  They take a chunk of time and patience to get through, but if you do it will give you the ability you need to pass this section.  I spent over half of my total study time on those two sections (and most of that was just on BEC-5).  Get a white board and work through the variance problems until you understand it.  Note I didn’t say until you get the right answer… it repeatedly until you UNDERSTAND it.


  1. What? Becker gives you pens and highlighters?. :-D

    I just started my BEC review with becker today so this is super helpful. Thank you,

  2. I started mine on June 5th and was looking for an explanation as such. thanks for the post

  3. Great overview. I just started B-3 HW... ugh!!! cant wait for B-5!

  4. Thanks for your views. I am planning to give BEC this Nov. Can you share with me your materials (course CD's, Books, DVD and other). My mail id is and mobile no. 4126573170

  5. Overall, you think becker is the best CPA review course to use? Do you think if I order the material and get it by the end of the week that it will be enough time to study and take the exam by Nov 29? Considering I work full time and have a child. What are your thoughts?

  6. I did BEC in under 30 days while working full time. It took 4 hours a night during the week and 5 hours on each weekend day. It is doable, but you have to be extremely disciplined and focused.

    Becker worked great for me. I didn't use the other courses, so don't have much room to compare.

  7. Very true and very well said!!! Great Info Blog. I am now excited to attend my first day of live class at Becker tomorrow. God bless you.

  8. Good luck tomorrow. BEC-1 is probably the easiest class of all of the Becker review program. If you have time before next week's class take an early look at BEC-3. It is one of the harder sections of BEC and if you can get a head start on it you'll do better.

  9. You are right, BEC-1 is easy. I am taking your advice and trying to make an advance reading for BEC-3. It seems like a memorization of more than 30 formulas from ratios (financial modeling) to EOQ (Liquid asset management). Do I need to concentrate more on the theory question or a math question? Or a combinatination of both theory and math? What should be the important things to remember under BEC-3? Your suggestions will be valued and highly appreciated? Thanks.

  10. It is really a combination of both. You should find the theory questions to be fairly straight-forward after a little study time. The calculation questions will give you fits. I found (and others as well) that the Becker homework for BEC-3 and BEC-5 to be much harder than the actual exam. The actual exam actually seemed easy after working through the Becker homework repeatedly. It is a good preparation though for the exam.