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. 


  1. Truly amazing Dale, your scores are incredible. I thank you for answering my questions and I finally passed REG now its onto my nemesis FAR (especially if I passed AUD today - I'd passed it before :( ) and then just maybe I can say I'm done too and feel just as good.


  2. Finishing feels great. Keep at it and good luck with the horror that is FAR.

  3. I guess I am not the only one that wants to do the CPA just to do it.

    I am not looking for another job or a higher paying job. I am also doing it just to have it and to have other opportunities later down the road if it is ever needed.

    Again, good job!

  4. Dale, great post! Congrats on finishing the exam.


  5. Thanks. It is nice to have my life back.

  6. Hey Dale! I am working on BEC now. There is a lot to memorize and a lot to remember key concepts. If I do all the questions and I feel comfortable, do I need to worry about all the other details in the chapter that is skipped in the lectures. I read it through once, but I am not sure if I need to do more with it or not.

    Please let me know, thanks!

  7. I usually had one question from each of the homework reading sections. If you read them once and get the basics of it you should be ok. You definitely want to read the entire chapter, including what is skipped in the lectures. 95% of BEC-1 can be answered by knowing the summary chart at the back of BEC-1. BEC-2 reading was a bit goofy. The lecture was boring, but brought what the book was trying to do into focus. BEC-4 is pretty good about giving you what you need to know. Don't read the huge download from Becker on BECK-4. BEC-3 & BEC-5 is where you need to spend the bulk of your time studying. BEC-5 on the direct variances, the lecture skips over the mnemonic for PURE DADS completely. Read my post on it (couple posts back). It is a bit goofy and hard and then after going through it several times it will just click and you'll wonder what all the fuss was over. Fire off an email or IM and I can work through some with you. I've helped many people on the direct variances over IM/phone/email. You will probably see 3-6 questions on direct variances and the PURE DADS thing makes those questions a joke.

  8. I'm so glad I found this blog. It feels creepy because I just purchased the Becker live classes for all four sections starting October 11th and I intend to take my last exam April 18th. 6 months while working full-time and taking MBA classes one at a time. This is going to be a pain. But I'm glad I found this blog.

    1. It is a rough schedule but it is doable. I teach BEC for Becker now actually, so I still have access to the software. If you have any questions or need help/advice shoot me an email (see link in top right of blog for address).

  9. Thank you so much! I sure will. I'm starting with REG first then BEC in the beginning of the year.

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