I am sure there are many unanswered questions about the CPA Exam
 

I am sure there are many unanswered questions about the CPA Exam

Hello my name is Justin Riley.  As many of you prep to begin the process of taking the CPA exams in the near future, I am sure there are many unanswered questions that continue to stir in the back of your head as they did for me.  One question I had was which test would be the best one to start with?  In my opinion there are three strategies to consider when deciding the order of the exams.  It will be up to you to decide which strategy will best work for you.  There is not a right or wrong way to approach the exams.  The best advice is to take the exam that you feel most comfortable with.  Hopefully my strategies will help you in your decision to give you the highest probability of passing the exams on your first try.

The first strategy is to take FAR first.  FAR consists of the most material and will mostly take the longest time to prepare for.  It is generally talked about as being the most challenging section as well.  The strategy behind taking FAR is getting the hardest and longest section out of the way first.  This will leave you with shorter and “easier” exams to finish with.  Let me also say that all the tests will be challenging and take dedication in order to pass.  Another thing to keep in mind is the 18 month time frame which starts once you pass your first exam.  Many people try to avoid leaving FAR until the end because it will take the most time to prepare for as a previously stated.  By getting FAR out of the way you limit the risk of burning up a good portion of the 18 month window if you take it first.  This will make it less stressful knowing the smaller exams are the only ones left.  These are the main reasons why taking FAR is the most common test to take first.

The second strategy is taking one of the shorter exams first such as BEC or REG.  By taking one of the shorter exams you will feel less intimidated and overwhelmed by all the material.  This will hopefully make studying for the first test less stressful and lead to an overall more positive outlook for the CPA process.  The shorter exams are said to be less comprehensive as well.  By passing your first exam you will gain confidence and feel much more motivated to start studying for the next exam.  Staying confident and sticking to your prep schedule is key to being successful.

The third strategy is taking the exam with the content you are most familiar with.  If you are still in school or just finished school, taking an exam that you most recently took a course in or did well in during college may also be a good test to start with.  If you are more familiar with a topic or have a topic you particularly enjoy, studying for the test with that related area will come much easier and will make the process more enjoyable as well giving you a better chance of passing.

With these options in mind, the most important thing is to choose the strategy that you think will make you the most successful in the exam process.  Take the test that you feel most confident in first and the thrill of passing the test will only make the process more enjoyable making you eager to move on to the next exam.  I chose to take FAR first.  I recently got my results back and missed the passing mark by 8 points.  As disappointing as it was, it is important to learn from failure by recognizing what areas you need to improve on and most importantly keep a positive attitude.  Getting discouraged will only set you back and keep you from reaching the end goal.  If you do not pass a test it is not the end of the world.  Now I feel better prepared and will have more confidence knowing what to expect and how to adapt my study habits in order to get a passing score.