Friday, December 3, 2010

Hi, I read your story. So, it is possible to schedule and sit for 2 exam sections in one testing window? What if I am not ready, can I re-schedule?

Thanks for reading my story! :) Yes!  It is possible to sit for two (even four) sections of the exam during one testing window. If you schedule your exams and you find yourself unprepared as test day approaches, you can change your appointment using the Prometric website. You'll incur a change fee, which varies depending upon how many days before your scheduled appointment you make your change. Best of luck on your CPA exams!


Hi Donna, I looked at the Lakeland College program. Can the online CPA prep courses also be applied to the 36 Accounting credits requirement?

Professor Rick Gaumer at Lakeland College is the best person to answer your question. I recommend you email him directly at for the most accurate information. Best of luck to you!


Hi Donna, is the Wiley review course sufficent for passing the CPA?

I used Becker CPA Exam Review to pass all four sections of the CPA exam. I'd like to refer you to Andrew Lee at - he offers Wiley, Lambers, Kaplan, Gleim & Bisk CPA exam review products and can help you find the product best suited to your needs. Best of luck on your CPA exams!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interview: CPA Review Materials

Recently, Andrew Lee of CPA Review Materials interviewed me about my CPA exam experience.  Read the article to find out how I overcame obstacles to success, the methods I used for retaining & recalling material, and where I found the determination to succeed.  This article was first published on October 10, 2010 at

Interview With CPA Exam Success Donna Harding
What made you want to become a CPA?
My accounting courses in college were taught by CPAs who highly recommended pursuing licensure. They often spoke of the difference it makes in accounting careers – I wanted the path that leads to a better earning potential and standard of living.

You passed the CPA exam on your first attempt, which is a rare feat. To what do you attribute your success?
Dedication and support. I set my goal to pass the first time, no matter what. I was going to finish the CPA exams ASAP because I’d seen the low pass rates and heard the stories about how the process could become drawn-out. Fear of spending months in “CPA study hell” boosted my resolve. I made all necessary sacrifices to study, prepare, and pass the exams on my first try. My family was a great source of support; my husband not only put up with my excessive grouchiness, but he pitched in at home and gave me the space and time I needed to focus on studying. He also has the best shoulder for leaning on.

What was the most difficult part of preparing for the CPA exam and what did you do to overcome it?
Making myself study was the most difficult part. There are so many distractions in life, all of which are more fun than studying. I found that tasks I previously avoided became more enjoyable than studying (who wouldn’t rather clean up after the dog?)! It takes a discipline to study rather than give in to distraction. I had a schedule to meet in order to be ready on exam day. My study calendar had very specific goals for each day and each week, with one “catch up & review” day per week, in case something came up. I stuck to that schedule as if it were life and death.

Many CPA candidates struggle with retaining the vast amount of information tested on the exam. They may learn a concept and understand it, but after continuing on to other sections and returning, they find some of the information is forgotten. Was this an issue for you, and if so, what did you do to combat it?
Yes, it was! Most of us never learned how to “study.” We might know how to get good grades, or how to pass a class, but these short-term abilities don’t often require long-term retention. The trick to retaining information long-term is cyclical review. I relied on and often recommend the Strategic Learning information provided by Dartmouth online at

What was the most effective form of studying for you (e.g. lectures, textbooks, flashcards, practice multiple choice questions, etc.)?
Honestly, I used all of it! Repetition, repetition, repetition. I viewed lectures with my textbooks and pre-printed flashcards open and ready; I made lecture notes and highlighted both textbooks and flashcards. This active form of learning required me to be alert and process information. I followed each lecture topic with multiple choice questions, repeating the series until I had 100% correct. I carried flashcards with me at all times and reviewed them at every opportunity. I also completed practice simulations and at least two complete practice exams for each exam section. Did I mention that repetition is key?

Any regrets about the long hours you put into it, now that you have passed?
That’s a tough one. If I eliminated one part of my study routine, I might not have passed on my first try, so I have no regrets in that respect. On the other hand, I missed several important things during my study sequestering and it took a toll on my personal life. After I passed my last exam, I focused on putting my life back into balance and I think everything worked out just fine.

Check out Andrew's blog & resources:
Follow him at @CPAStudy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Slaying Your CPA Study Dragon

The calendar is filled with chapters, topics and tasks to complete before sitting for the next CPA exam. Realistic daily study goals are set. Now it's time to slay the dragon. It will take dedication, focus and a bit of selfishness to absorb the reading and lectures, practice MCQ and simulations, and achieve success on your next exam. Preparing for the CPA exams is a temporary situation. You can do anything for a few months. You can achieve your study goals, especially if you're prepared!
  1. Develop the proper mindset. Set daily study goals and prioritize daily tasks, making study a top priority. Distractions will attempt to undermine you; conquer them with willpower and dedication to goals. CPA prep months are not the time to buy or sell a home, start a family, coach a little league team or take on any extra-curricular projects – these things will wait until after you pass the exams. Become comfortable with saying "No."
  2. Take care of yourself during prep months. Exercise to reduce effects of stress and anxiety. Eat a well-balanced diet, keeping snacks handy for study. Get adequate sleep nightly. Brains do amazing things during sleep; during my CPA prep, I often dreamt of the day's problems and worked them out by morning! Meditation, positive affirmations, and visualization techniques help with confidence, stress management, and focus; use every tool at your disposal.
  3. Block distractions. CPA exam prep programs make excellent use of computer and online capabilities. Yet, this is a doorway for distractions. Close email, instant messaging, and social media to avoid distractions during study time; these things can wait until break time.
  4. Track daily progress. Evaluate yourself weekly to see if goals for time spent and volume of material covered are achieved. If goals are not met, adjust behavior accordingly. Be sure to reward yourself for meeting goals!
  5. Use checklists. At the beginning of each chapter, list everything required and check off tasks as completed. I use spreadsheets for setting goals and tracking progress, but a handwritten list works, too. For me, each checkmark at completion represented another step toward passing my exams and was often my favorite reward! I've included my FAR final review goal sheet as an example.
  6. Make study and review convenient. Carry flashcards, textbook, handwritten notes, or a laptop (to access lectures and MCQ) at all times. Use every unoccupied moment to review flashcards, practice MCQ, view or review lectures and study. Have a good supply of blank 3 x 5 cards, highlighters, pens, note paper and other supplies ready to make the most of study time.
  7. Focus on the positive. CPA preparation has a learning curve. Lectures, MCQ and simulations require more time in the beginning; over time, candidates gain familiarity with format and routine, study progresses and endurance improves. Try not to become discouraged in the early weeks of prep; it will become easier.
  8. Focus on small pieces. The CPA exam is often referred to as "a mile wide, but an inch deep" and the volume of material to study can be overwhelming. Remember how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Set a timer for 20 minutes and study until it goes off, take a 5 minute break. Repeat until goals for the day are met.
  9. Ask family and friends for support and space. Family and friends can be a source of inspiration and support; they might help with children and necessities, or provide reassurance; accept their offers to help. Politely decline requests and invitations, knowing life returns to normal after passing exams.
  10. Use your CPA exam support network. As supportive as family can be, unless they've taken the CPA, they don't grasp what you are going through. Social media and CPA exam review websites are offer support from other candidates and those who have passed. My "Tweeps" were of great help to me during study breaks!
  11. Use long-term goals to stay focused and committed. Tape a photo of your dream car, a travel brochure, etc. on your fridge as a reminder of long-term goals. I found that seeing my name, followed by "CPA" was very motivating. Picture your future the way you want it to be, taking steps to create that reality.
My friend, Julie, recently said, "Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth. Befriend, tame, or slay the dragon and the gift is yours." At times, my CPA preparation felt like dragon-slaying. However, dragons are what you imagine them to be. Are you fighting a giant, scary beast or taking a ride on a friendly winged creature? Everyone's CPA exam journey is different. Try suggestions that make sense in your life and implement the approach that works best for you. If you have specific questions for me, feel free to ask them here, my question & answer page, or follow me on Twitter.

Best wishes for success on your next CPA exam!


This article first appeared at CPA Review Materials on June 7, 2010.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Donna, on one of your previous discussions, you have indicated that you took three sections all in November. I am curious to know how you allocated your time to study. Could you please elaborate on this a little more? Thank you.

I was 9 credits short of the 150-hour requirement when I began preparing for the CPA exams, which is the reason for my scheduling pile-up. In mid-July, I enrolled in a for-credit CPA prep course through Lakeland College, which included Becker’s full courses and final review product. I completed the full courses for REG, FAR and BEC prior to November (when I became eligible to sit). I began my final review for REG in mid-October and sat for it Tuesday, November 3rd. I took one day off to “decompress” then began final review for BEC, which I took on Tuesday, November 17th. One more sanity day off, then completed the AUD course and final review and sat for AUD on Saturday, November 28th.
If this sounds like a crazy schedule, it was. Other facets of my life were put on hold while I buried myself in studying throughout November. (Thank heaven for the wonderful mother & mother-in-law who sent home-cooked turkey & all the sides to me on Thanksgiving Day!) I also took a long and well-earned break during December to recuperate and catch up with my life. This is not a schedule for everyone; however, if you are highly motivated and want to pass your CPA exams under strict time constraints, it can be done!

Hey Donna...Can you please let me tell me how much time should i dedicate for Final Review and i am doing final review do i need to revise the entire textbook again??

Schedule about 14 days for each final review. This is not the time to learn new material, but to review the topics you have already learned. Browse through the entire textbook, making notes of key areas, mnemonics, formulas, charts, etc. (I used note cards and mind mapping for this). If you are using a final review product, such as Becker's, begin there and refer back to full textbook for more in-depth topic information & details.
While increased exposure promotes familiarity with material, memorization is required to be successful on the exams. During your final review, use your note cards every day, as often as possible. Each time you flip through a pack, remove the cards you have memorized and spend more time with those you don’t. Schedule and simulate at least 2 complete practice exams before your test date to build up stamina and endurance. Last 48 hours before your exam, MEMORIZE anything you don’t already know, manage stress and anxiety and see yourself being successful on that exam! Best of luck to you!
- Donna