Friday, May 28, 2010

Post Exam Thoughts

I've had a couple of days to digest that I'm actually done with this exam.  I've still got paperwork and stuff to do, but the exam itself is done and the worry of grades is behind me.  I'm hoping that the exam will stop consuming my life in the near future.  Overall it was an exhausting thing.  I was tired most of the time.  I was unable to focus on other things in my life like work, house chores, or hobbies (what little time there was for it).  I would never have made it through without the support of my wife and the people I met through the live class, this blog, and the people over at  

There are a couple of general points about this exam that are simplistic, yet really true.

1.  Nothing in this test is overly difficult on its own.  Each topic can be confusing at first, but once you dig into it, the topics aren't as bad as they look on the surface.
2.  The quantity of material you have to learn for some of these sections is mind-blowing.  You have to know a good bit about it all to survive.

3.  One Day At A Time!  This is your daily mantra.  Due to the above two items you have to look at this exam one step at a time.  FAR has 9 Becker classes.  REG has 7 Becker classes.  Each class may cover a dozen topics.  You have to break it down into small steps.  If you try to think about what has to get done in a short amount of time you will drive yourself nuts and waste time.  Truly believing this concept in your heart is hard.  If there is one thing I could give to others taking this exam, a true acceptance of the One Day At A Time mantra would be it.  It will help greatly in trying to focus.

4.  No one other than someone else who is going through or has gone through this exam really understands what you are going through.  Statements like "You're smart, you'll do fine" and other like it will drive you nuts.  The speaker means well, but they just don't get it.  Find others going through the exam.  That support is essential for those times when you will be depressed, upset, and unfocused. was the main source of that for me.  The people there were a wealth of information and doublely so for moral support.  

5.  13-15 hour marathon study sessions seem like a good idea but they are not.  I will learn more in two 4 hour sessions than I will in two 10 hour sessions.  Sometimes you have to buckle down and crank out a 10 hour or more day to nail down a topic, but those should be rare and far between.  Doing them regularly will burn you out and not be as productive as shorter study sessions.

6.  You have to take some time for yourself.  I did really well about taking Friday nights off.  On Saturdays and Sundays I typically kept myself to 5 hour sessions.  This left 6-8 hours of the day to spend with my wife and relax.

7.  No one likes to do what makes them feel stupid.  This has a negative impact when you are trying to study.  We tend to drift towards what is familiar and what we know.  For studying you need to do the exact opposite.  Spending 2-3 hours studying stuff you already know does not benefit you.  You have to intentionally seek out your weak areas and focus on them.  This will naturally make you feel bad or stupid.  Learning to recognize this made pushing weak areas bearable.  They are still painful and un-fun, but  if you understand why you are avoiding a topic it will help to push through the feeling. 

This exam sucks.  Not only does the exam itself beat you down but the whole process is an endurance test.  Dealing with three of four different entities to register and take the test (with fees to each person for each step).  The unlisted benefits/trials of the process are lessons in patience and frustration.  The score grading process for all the AICPA's talk of transparency is a mystery more clouded than a government special ops program.  The score release process has all the efficiency of the department of motor vehicles.

Is the exam worth it?  I don't have the experience to say.  For myself, it wasn't about getting another job or a higher paying job.  I'll continue to do what I've been doing.  Doors will be available in the future that wouldn't be available without getting the CPA.  The satisfaction of finishing is amazing.  I did this for me and finished it.

I decided to take this exam in late September 2009.  I started my first classes in mid-October 2009.  I took my last test April 14, 2010.  That is 6-7 months if you don't count the 5 weeks of waiting after the last test to get the score.  It was a hellish 6 months.  I hated the lack of free time that I had grown accustom to.  I hated the lack of time for friends and family.  I hated being tired all the time.  I've now finished something that most people will never even attempt.  I jumped through the hoops that were put out for me to jump through.  I will soon be a CPA.  For me it was something I left undone in my life after college back in 2001 when I took the old paper test.  This was the one thing in my life that I started but never finished.  The conclusion to that part of my life adds to its meaning to me.

Lastly, thank you to those that supported me throughout this process.  Many of you think I helped you with questions and support, but I got much more out of it than you.  The blog and the comments/emails/etc helped motivate me and keep me focused when I was exhausted.  Once I started getting messages regularly I felt that I had to keep going and putting a strong face forward even when I wanted to just find a dark hole to crawl into. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

FAR Score Released! Also 2:30 am & 4 am Is Extremely Early

The Texas site was down at 2:30 am when I checked this morning for maintenance.  I guess this answers the "did they change when they update" question from yesterday.  A bit after 4 am I checked again after having almost no sleep and what sleep I did have was about checking my scores.  This time the site was down completely.  Another 15 minutes go by and the site finally comes up.  Scores are there.  I am so exhausted and my eyes are burning.  However, with my score of 94 on FAR I am finally done with this exam!  I'll add more later today after I've gotten some sleep.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The AICPA released almost 4,900 FAR scores to the state boards yesterday.  That means a bunch of folks will start getting their scores tonight.  Texas doesn't update until 2:30-4:30am though, so hopefully I'll know something tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BEC-5 Additional Info

Someone sent me an instant message yesterday while I was out.  I then lost the window and hence the messenger name as well as the email address I was suppose to respond to.  I remember the question though, so I'll answer it here.

The mnemonics for BEC-5 relates to the direct labor and direct materials variances.  The mnemonics are  PURE, SAD, and DADS.  PURE are the different variances you'll need to calculate and DADS shows you how to get them.  SAD is what order to subtract.

P = Price variance
U = Usage variance
R = Rate variance
E = Efficiency variance

Standard less Actual = Difference (SAD)

For the SAD mnemonic a positive difference is good and a negative difference is bad (ie standard price is greater than actual means you saved money, hence a positive number is a good variance).

DA = Difference times Actual
DS = Difference times Standard

You line up the PURE and DADS/DADS nmemonics together as such:


For each one you are going to do the SAD mnemonic for the item you are working on and multiply it by either the Actual or Standard (DA vs DS to figure out which).

Price Variance:  [Standard Price less Actual Price = Difference]   Take that Difference and multiply it by the Actual Usage   (P=D x A)

Usage Variance = [Standard Usage less Actual Usage = Difference]  Take that Difference and multiply it by the Standard Price  (U = D x S)

The P & U are the material variances

Rate Variance = [Standard Rate less Actual Rate = Difference]  Take that Difference and multiply it by the Actual Efficiency  (R = D x A)

Efficiency Variance = [Standard Efficiency less Actual Efficiency = Difference]  Take that Difference and multiply it by the Standard Rate

The R & E are the labor variances.

When you line the above up you get:

P = DA
U = DS
R = DA
E = DS

This is a little complicated and confusing.  Once you work through it a couple of times though it makes the direct labor and direct labor variances very easy.  If you have my two page cheat sheet for BEC (  on the bottom left is where I have this part written out.

In the Becker books the above comes from the page just past where they cover the direct variances.  I do not have my books with me, but I believe the above stuff are all in passkeys, so that should help make it easier to find.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Where for art thou Scores? 

Monday, May 3, 2010

How are Scores Released?

I've been asked how/when scores are released.  I'll attempt to explain it.

Each quarter is a testing window.  Each window you are able to take the test during Month 1 and Month 2.  Scores are released twice per window.  If you take the exam in Month 1 through the 1st week of Month 2 you have a good chance at being in the Wave 1 score release.  Wave 1 score release usually happens between the 16th-25th of Month 2.  Everything after the 1st week of Month 2 (and everything not released in Wave 1) gets released towards the end of Month 3 (again, typically the 16th-25th).  This is not an exact science, but it is what I've seen and what others I've heard of have experienced.

Even if you take the exam in the time frame that would be in Wave 1 it is possible to be in Wave 2.  If you get any of the non-graded pre-test simulations I understand you are automatically moved to Wave 2.  There is no way to know if you get these pre-test simulations though.

On the actual score releases each wave:  There is a two-step release process.  The AICPA releases the scores to NASBA & the State Boards.  The next day usually NASBA releases the scores to the students.  A few states do not use NASBA to release scores to the students.  For those states the State Board releases them.  Those states do it however they want.  In my case, Texas does not use NASBA but rather releases scores on their own website.  This usually happens a day or two after the NASBA release.  Other states come out as fast as NASBA while others only send scores by mail.  Basically, pray you are in a NASBA state or a state that has their stuff together.  Each section of the exam is released separately.  The goal is typically for them to release a section per day for 4 days.  That doesn't always happen, but it is the general idea.  The end result is the AICPA starts the release process and everyone is glued to their computers for 4-7 days checking to see if their scores have been updated on a website.

Jeff over at has put together a good video explaining the above and has more information.  Check it out: