For my first blog of the year, I’d like to discuss a topic that has been a huge part of my life lately – the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Exam, but let me start with a brief self-introduction. I am coming to “The” Ohio State University all the way from Denver, Colorado. I did my undergrad at Colorado State University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting and a minor in Spanish. The summer before graduation I did an Audit internship within the Denver office of KPMG and have accepted a full time position for next fall. The number one question I have received since moving here to Ohio has been, “why would you come to Ohio from Colorado?” (and they usually have that “you’re crazy” look in their eyes…) While Ohio may – at first glance – seem slightly less appealing than my home state, I definitely had some huge reasons for electing to join this prestigious program. Primarily, the MAcc program here at Fisher was the best of both worlds regarding my main concerns and considerations while evaluating various programs. On the one hand, OSU has a huge national appeal and the MAcc program in particular has an extremely high national ranking, while on the other hand, OSU does a great job of making the program financially accessible to students from all walks of life.
Now to the point of this post – the CPA exam. I’m going to be honest with you: as far as commonplace tests go, this one is a beast. You can read all the grimy details of the exact specifications of the test online on a number of websites, but here’s the basic idea: you must pass all 4 sections (that each range between 2 to 4 hours of actually test lengths) within 18 months. When I put it that way, it sounds deceptively “not that bad.” However, keep in mind that between those 4 sections, there is an absolute TON of information that you need to cram into your head, and not all of it is strictly “accounting” knowledge. Every person who studies for the CPA exam has a different experience, but there is that common denominator – you need to STUDY! Now the time that you actually should commit to studying depends on whether or not you have a photographic memory, but just to give you an idea, here is a graphical depiction of how I have spent ALL of my free time over the past few months while taking the CPA exam:
Sadly enough, I don’t think that’s a dramatization. I took Audit (AUD) while working full-time over the summer, followed by Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR) while I wasn’t working, and currently I am studying for Business Environment & Concepts (BEC), which I will take at the beginning of October. Mainly because I had a full-time job over the summer and now I am starting the MAcc program, I have had to fit in all my studying during my free time. As we all know, when you’re working and going to school, that free time is scarce, hence the chart above.
Please note that I am not trying to scare you; I just want to share my advice after my personal experience with the CPA exam, and if I had to sum it up in one sentence: take the CPA exam as soon as possible and get it out of the way! If at all possible, I recommend taking it at a time in your life when you don’t have any other large commitments (primarily school or work) because this is one of those things that has exponential returns for the amount of time you put into it. I know because of different educational requirements of varying states, not everyone can start sitting for the exam before school, but if you’re like the typical accounting student, you’ll most likely finish school in summer and will not start working full-time with an accounting firm (especially the Big 4) until the fall. That “last” summer break is a great chance to squeeze it in! During my internship with KPMG, I talked with a few full-time employees who were studying for the CPA exam while working (even during busy season), and trust me, they were not happy. If they had the chance to do it over again, every single one of them said they’d prefer giving up one summer and getting it out of the way.
Sorry for the HUGE first post, but I know this test is on the minds of a lot of the MAcc students, both current and incoming, and so I wanted to provide my take on the exam. If you do think you’re ready to look into it, I’d suggest the NASBA website: here. Also, make sure you talk to the recruiters/representatives of the firms that you are interested in working with, because most accounting firms have some huge perks regarding the exam such as paying for the entire test or even providing a monetary bonus as an incentive to pass the exam. Once you are ready, best of luck, and the studying may seem downright dreadful at the time, but I can assure you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Thanks for reading!