Hello CPA Exam Club,
I recently passed the FAR exam with a 78%! Whoooo! But it was not all fun and games getting there. The first time I took the exam I ended up failing with a 73! I know it sucks but it felt good being so close (I'll explain why later). In this post I'll discuss my thought process in getting through the FAR exam. My method may not be the perfect way to pass but I did end up passing so something worked.
To start with, I used Becker's software and books to help me prepare. I felt Becker did a great job in covering most of the topics with FAR. What makes FAR so difficult is the fact that there is a large amount of information. The examiners can literally hit you with anything. With that being said I still felt pretty prepared going in the exam.
For my first attempt, I set up my timeline for about 2 months to prepare. As a student I had the time to study at least 6+ hours per day (taking a break on Saturdays). Some of my friends put in 8-10+ hours per day but it is all up to you (I like cooking and cross-fitting…not saying my friends don’t haha). I suggest taking your time with FAR so you can truly understand the concepts and methods because it is pretty dense. With this timeline I was able to finish completing the FAR book provided in about 6 weeks and used my remaining 2 weeks to review. Now I'll talk about my approach to studying the material.
For my first approach I would go through the lectures of a chapter, do the homework that was given from the software and work on the practice sims that was in the software as well. For the homework I would review what I got wrong as well as the sims and then move on to the next chapter. This approach was pretty good but as you begin your journey through studying the material you revamp your approach to study better. To revamp my approach, I read the entire chapter (which sucks) before looking at the lectures and then looked at the lectures to reinforce what I just learned. As per the homework what I would typically do was do the work cold turkey (without referring to the book).
With my revamped approach I referred to the book for almost every question. This allowed for the concepts and methods to be further implemented in my brain. I still ended up doing the sims cold turkey but what I noticed with my new revamped approach my score was higher compared to my first study approach. In comparing the two, my revamped approach takes more time but the concepts and methods came a lot easier in understanding (which allowed me to get better scores during my review process). Now to discuss how I reviewed.
The reason I break up my study approaches and the reviewing process is for a couple of reasons. The way I see it, first, when your reviewing the material the primary purpose is to understand the information of the concepts and methods you do not understand that well. So how do you know if you don't have a concept or method down? It's simple if you are pretty confused with a concept or are struggling to understand how it works you truly don't know that concept or method and you need to review it.
In the reviewing stage you are constantly looking at different material to work on your weak points and strengthen what your good at. In the studying phase you are just going through the material just to understand what the examiners can hit you with. You should always give yourself room to review studying for the exams ESPECIALLY FAR. To go through all that material and nail the exam without reviewing is pretty hard (but if you can do that and pass you are a beast!).
To truly get better at understanding the material for FAR you must practice answering questions and re-doing practice sims until you nail it. In reviewing I would do about 100 MCQs, a sim for a particular chapter I am focusing on and review everything that was in that particular chapter I was focusing on. In reviewing the chapter I would read what I highlighted and take notes on the concepts and methods I missed to really ensure I got it down. Any notes I took on that chapter I would read too. I would continue this process until I finished every chapter in the book so that I did a complete review of the book. I also took a practice final exam to gauge how much time I wanted to spend on each testlet of the exam. Now to discuss where I went wrong mentally a couple days before going into the exam.
The mistake I made was I was pretty relaxed when it came to reviewing and time just flew! Things were just getting in the way at the last minute (don't worry this is normal for everyone studying for the CPA, for some odd reason time just slips away the days you really want to study). Next thing you know I was doubting I could even pass the exam because I felt I didn't review enough or retain enough information to pass. This was a big mistake that I will never make again.
What I ended up doing for my last couple days of studying was telling myself that I wasn't going to pass and already contemplating how to do better for the next try. What I should have done was cram like hell to get those extra points in, but hey I ended up passing the second time around so I lived and learned from the experience.
Looking back I learned a lot from my experience in my first attempt. And that is why I didn't feel so bad in not passing my first time. I was able to reevaluate where I went wrong and reorganized myself. During my second attempt I was way more efficient with my study time and felt I was able to learn more in a shorter period of time compared to the first attempt.
I also took the exam right away since I was so close to passing last time I didn't want the information to slip away by taking another exam. I am currently reviewing the AUD material and my exam is in about 16 days and I feel mentally prepared to knock this out on the first try! Please leave comments below if you feel this post was helpful.
I hope this helps!