Preparing for the CPA Exam: How to Study for the CPA exam using Becker?


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The CPA exam is a long and extensive journey. I passed all four parts of the CPA exam on my first tries, averaging a score of 91. In order to do so, I learned, studied, and reviewed the CPA materials for many hours. Through the process, I improved upon my study methods and preparation strategies. I felt that I learned to study more effectively and efficiently throughout the process. Now, having passed all the CPA exams, I want to share my insights on how to best study for the CPA exam. It will remain a lengthy study process, but I hope my guidance will help establish a successful and efficient study system to prepare you for each CPA exam!

My firm provided me access to the Becker CPA review course. Like most people, I elected to enroll in the online course only, which means I listened to prerecorded lectures for each section posted on Becker’s review course website. I chose this method because I wanted the ability to study at my own pace. Additionally, I felt confident in my ability to remain disciplined and committed to studying and preparing for the CPA exam. Because Becker serves as my only CPA exam review course, my strategy focuses on preparing for the CPA exam using the Becker CPA course and its related materials. I will discuss each element of the review course, and how to best utilize Becker’s immense library of study materials. My study strategy proved successful, and therefore, I hope the study strategy will prove successful to others as well. Lets get to it!

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Fair warning, this strategy is not a guide aimed at taking each exam as quickly as possible. Instead, my Becker CPA exam strategy aims to influence both effective and efficient learning. In a quick introduction, the study strategy will eliminate unhelpful and tedious Becker tasks and assignments while focusing on the important and beneficial aspects of the Becker review course. By following the strategy, you should feel well prepared and confident for each CPA exam!

Terminology

If you are not yet familiar with the Becker terminology or want to apply the CPA study strategy to another CPA review course, please see the terminology description below:
  • Chapter – The chapters represent the large sections of the review course. The amount of chapters vary, ranging from six chapters (BEC, AUD) to eight chapters (REG) to ten chapters (FAR).
  • Modules – Each chapter is separated into modules or subchapters. The modules address specific topics within the chapter. Like chapters, modules will vary throughout.
  • Final Review – Final review is a separate review software and book. If you order the Becker 'Premium' package, you will have access to Final review; again, this is a separate, additional add-on to the standard Becker review course.

Please email me (textbooktax@gmail.com) if you are interested in a free PDF printable CPA exam checklist!

Study Guide: Preparing for the CPA exam using the Becker CPA self-study review course

As I stated, I relied on the Becker CPA review course to prepare and study for each CPA exam. I am very happy with the quality of the Becker review course. Below, I will discuss and provide insights on study materials included in the Becker CPA review course. The study guide will include two phases: the learning phase and the review phase. The learning phase includes module materials and chapter materials. The module materials focus on mastering the specific topics covered in the module while the chapter materials provide an overview of all the topics covered in the chapter. The review phase includes the final review materials (add-on) and Becker Flashcards. Lets discuss what to use and what not to use while studying for the CPA exam using Becker!

Learning Phase

Module Materials

Preassessment

When first starting a module, Becker will give you the option to take a preassessment test. Becker coins the feature as a study customization tool. The preassessment feature allows you to answer a range of multiple choice questions. If you correctly answer a specific percentage of questions, Becker will allow you to skip the lecture portion of the module. In other words, Becker automatically gives you a checkmark for the lecture portion of the module.

In my opinion, the preassessment test is a waste of time. I recommend skipping the feature for every module. I personally found it always beneficial to listen to the module lectures; therefore, the automatic checkmark did not appeal to me. This also relates to an important point about not obsessing about the completion checkmarks but more on that later. By skipping the preassessment test, you will save 10-20 minutes per module, which will add up in your favor.

In a situation where you feel extremely confident in a topic and feel strongly about skipping the lecture, please go straight to the multiple choice section of the module to test your current knowledge. In all situations, you should avoid the self-assessment test.

Lecture

The prerecorded lectures serve as the most important source of material for CPA exam preparation. The lectures provide the teachings and examples related to the CPA exam topics. My CPA exam study strategy changed and progressed the most relating to prerecorded lectures.

To begin, you will want a notebook and/or a lot of paper. Additionally, please keep the Becker CPA textbook close by. As you watch the lectures, take handwritten notes relating to the covered material. I cannot make you a good notetaker but remember to focus on the important stuff while taking notes. Becker instructors constantly prompt you to take notes and highlight text in the book. Do not highlight and annotate the textbook, but instead, write the important notes in your notebook. Becker allows you to adjust the speed of the lecture audio, I suggest increasing the speed to 1.25 or 1.5 based on your preference. Additionally, feel free to pause the lecture while notetaking as sometimes the notes may take some extra time. When you reach an in-text example, locate the CPA exam textbook. I found it helpful to take notes and work the problems in the textbook. Additionally, do the same thing when faced with in-text multiple choice questions.

The most important takeaway here is to avoid highlighting and annotating your textbook. During the review stage, you will not want to flip through the textbook to look for your notes. It is much easier to study and review your notebook containing your handwritten notes. 

Skills Practice

The skills practice provides further prerecorded videos and a task-based simulation relating to the module topics. The videos tend to focus on one or several specific topics within the module. If you felt comfortable with the lecture material, feel free to skip this Becker material section completely. The videos tend to be redundant and the task-based sims provide minimal learning opportunities.

Having said that, watching the additional videos may be helpful if you felt confused about the module topics. If the video addresses the specific topic, you may be able to gain some additional insights, but the videos tend to just reiterate the teachings in the lecture. All in all, it is most efficient to avoid this section, which will save you 20-30 minutes per module.

Multiple Choice

Do the multiple choice questions! The multiple choice questions are the best method to test your knowledge obtained from listening to the lectures. Make sure to correctly answer every multiple choice question. For each incorrect response, it is extremely helpful to read the reasons why an answer is correct or incorrect. Additionally, if you want to go above and beyond, take notes on the questions you missed or felt uncertain about. Do not advance to the next module until finishing all the multiple choice questions.

Chapter Materials

Simulations

The simulations at the end of a chapter are extremely time-consuming and best avoided. While in the learning phase, I recommend skipping the simulations entirely. Based on a simple cost (time) benefit analysis, I realized I should skip the simulations. By skipping the simulations, you will save an hour or more per chapter. 

Flashcards

Again, during the learning phase, skip the flashcards. I suggest utilizing the flashcards later during the review stage. More on that later. 

Personalized Review Session

The Personalized Review Session is another useless Becker customization tool. In my opinion, the customization tools are a marketing strategy for Becker. Anyways, the personalized review session simply pulls questions you missed from the multiple choice section. You have already mastered the multiple choice questions, and so, this tool is redundant. Additionally, I found it often pulled the poorly worded and unlikely tested questions from the MC pool.

The common theme is to skip the chapter materials. I do not find the chapter materials helpful during the learning phase. They may prove helpful during the review stage if you have some extra time.

Review Materials

I established a ten day CPA exam review phase strategy. Follow the link to the 10-Day CPA Exam Review Stage Strategy. The post details day to day study activities during the review stage up to the test date. It is a helpful guide on how to spend your last several days preparing for an exam. 

Standard Becker CPA Exam Review 

Unlimited Practice Tests

I utilize the practice tests during the review stage. After reviewing my notes to a chapter, I take a practice test. I set the practice test to 10 MC and 0 simulations. It allows for a quick and effective assessment of my chapter understanding. I take notes on my incorrectly answered questions and move onto the next chapter after scoring 70% and above.

Simulated Exams

The Becker course provides three simulated exams. The simulated exams reflect the actual exam. Therefore, the simulated exams may take you three to four hours to complete. Because of this, I do not recommend taking all three simulated exams. Instead, after reviewing your notes for each chapter, take the first simulated exam, completing all the multiple choice and simulation testlets. After, review the exam and take notes on the questions and sims you missed. After further reviewing and finishing the Final Review, take the second simulated exam, but only complete the two multiple choice testlets. Avoid the third simulated exam entirely.

Flashcards

As I stated, I like to use the Flashcards during the review stage. I prefer the hardcopy flashcards, but the mobile flashcards serve just fine as well. At your own pace during the review stage, simply go through the flashcards and test your knowledge. The flashcards serve as a quick refresher course on the important topics covered in the learning phase. 

CPA Exam Final Review (Becker add-on)

Lectures

I do not recommend listening to the Final review lectures. At this point, I was tired of listening to the Becker instructors. So, I recommend simply reading the Final Review textbook yourself. Highlight and annotate the book as you read. The Final Review does an excellent job highlighting the important sections from the textbook. I highly suggest reading the entire Final Review textbook for each CPA exam. 

Multiple Choice

You know I love multiple choice questions. Again, do all the multiple choice provided with the Final Review materials. Learn, review, and master the multiple choice questions!

Simulations

The Final Review textbook includes in-text simulations. Complete those in-text sims by hand in your textbook as you read through the material. Avoid the extra simulations provided with the Final Review download.

Summary

I hope you have a better understanding about how to study for the CPA exam using Becker CPA Exam Review. By following my study strategy, you should feel prepared to pass all four parts of the CPA exam. Additionally, the strategy should help you save time wasted on unhelpful and tedious tasks. As I stated earlier, do not fall victim to the completion progression checkmarks. It is fine to skip areas in the Becker Review course. By following my suggestions and skipping the unhelpful materials, you will more efficiently utilize your CPA exam preparation time!

If you successfully follow my study strategy, please share with others who may also benefit from learning how to effectively and efficiently study for the CPA exam. 

Please share any and all comments and questions below! Happy studies and good luck on your next exam!

Please email me if you are interested in a free PDF printable CPA exam checklist!

Example: FAR Progress Checklist

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