Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Becker REG Class Review

I took the live class of Becker Regulation in January 2010.  I sat for the exam on the first of February and passed with a 97.  I put in a total of 118 hours of study time for this section.  40-ish of that was me reading the book in December and doing the multiple choice questions once before the classes started in January.  Without that I would have been about 75-80 hours in January which is similar to what I put into AUD and BEC each.  I do not work in tax and haven’t had any college classes in tax in about a decade.  This post will be my review and experiences with the Becker program as it relates to the Regulation section of the CPA Exam.

Overall the Becker materials were a good representation of what I saw on my actual exam.  Going into the test I felt really comfortable with the material.  There were a couple of questions that were not covered in my Becker materials, but those might have been pre-test questions.  The book presented the materials in a logical progression of topics and it flowed well.  The lecture style for REG was very similar to AUD.  In my AUD review I mentioned that I felt the lectures reading the book to us and having us make notes and highlights seemed odd.  I am use to it now and it does work and I didn’t question it this class.  I reviewed the book materials the weekend before my test and the notes and highlights were useful.  If you are using Becker for REG make sure you read all of each chapter and the homework reading.  I had questions on my exam covered in Becker’s material that was not in the lecture.  Be sure you’ve actually read the odd industry-specific exceptions on things.  Even reading it once should be enough to tickle your brain during the exam when they bring up the random oddities.  It got me a point on my actual exam.

I took my study style from AUD and actually increased it a bit.  Towards the end of AUD I was reading the materials before class once and trying the multiple choice questions before going to the live class.  For REG I did this for all classes.  It was extremely beneficial to me for REG.  I had a basic understanding of the materials and how the material would be presented in questions.  Listening to the lectures knowing that allowed it to sink in really well.  Any area I had trouble in was typically clarified by an example in the lecture not given in the book.  All in this means I went through all the material twice during the course of the month-long classes.  I think many underestimate the power of seeing the material in its entirety twice.  I did not go through all the multiple choice questions 4-5 times like I did with AUD, but I felt more comfortable with the material sooner in REG than I did in AUD. 

Throughout REG I also continued to take progress tests.  Progress tests in the Becker software allow you to select which classes you want questions to come from.  It then gives you up to 100 questions (if all classes are selected) weighted by the same weights the actual exam uses (ie. more tax than law questions).  This helped keep what I had already done fresh in my mind.  This was an important part of keeping the tax stuff in my head during the two weeks of business law lectures.  If I had not done those I would not have been in good shape to take the test so quickly after the last class (I took the exam a week after the last class).

I have the Becker flashcards for REG (and other sections).  I figured there was no point in going cheap on the $200 after dropping almost $3,000 for the classes.  Like AUD, I did not use the REG flashcards after looking at them early in my course.  They would probably be beneficial for those that learn well in short sessions.  I was always doing multi-hour study sessions so I got more benefit out of working multiple choice questions.  I probably would not buy the flashcards knowing what I know now, but they would be great for someone that has used flashcards before.  If you are going to make your own consider buying the pre-made ones.  I am just not a big flashcard person in general.

I do have a couple of criticisms towards the Becker REG program though.  The quality control for this section was noticeably bad in several places.  In many questions there were inconsistencies in the question answers and explanations.  Most of these were due to deduction, phase-outs, and other changed values not reflecting the current amounts.  Most of these were fairly trivial and most occurred solely in the answer explanations.  There were a couple of questions where the problem’s answer choices did not have the correct answer as an option though.  All in Becker dropped the ball on their quality control for the 2010 REG materials.  It was still very useful, but the number of simple issues was a bit distracting and embarrassing given the price point of their classes.  Most of these issues were published in a correcting document on the Becker site after being brought to their attention, so they get good points on making correcting information available to those that check regularly for the updates.

Another item I’d like to note is the same thing I mentioned with the AUD review.  I really wish there were more simulations to work through in the software.  They did have several additional simulations in the REG software than they did in AUD, but I still wanted more.  I would have loved to have 15-20 or more.  With the written parts I would have loved to have a whole addendum with example questions and suggested answers just to read through.  The written part is a bit pointless to mention since starting next year there will not be any written parts to REG though.  Basically though I wish there were a ton more simulations available to work through.  The topics that can be covered in the exam and how they are tested are so random it is hard to say that working just a few is good enough to make you feel comfortable with them.

While I doubt anyone associated with Becker will actually be reading this, the following could be helpful for those doing the self-study versions of the program.  I really wish they would cover the law/ethics/professional responsibility part of the course first and then move on to the tax topics rather than doing the tax stuff first.  The tax parts account for a larger portion of the exam and it would be beneficial to have those topics fresher in your mind.  I worked around this shortcoming by doing progress tests constantly to keep it fresh.

One last general recommendation for Becker.  At the start of the live classes they give you these really high quality highlighters (for highlighting along with the lecturer) and ink pens.  I prefer blue ink for stuff like this as it stands out against the black print better.  This is a really minor suggestion, but might be logical.

Overall Becker is great for REG.  If you follow their material and put in the time it takes you will have the knowledge needed to pass this section of the exam.  I have no basis to compare Becker to other programs as I only used Becker.  However, if you use Becker you will be able to get through it just fine.

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