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Passing the CPA Exam: A Review Strategy Based on Self Confidence and Frugality!

After careful thought, I decided to start the process of laying the necessary groundwork that will enable me to be in the the best position to successfully pass all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination in the year 2011. Therefore, for the next 15 months or so, I am going to be seriously tied up studying to pass the CPA exam all while completing my Masters of Accounting curriculum as a full time student. Because I like to keep under wrap the details of the personal projects I work on, it’s very unlikely that I will be writing any blog post to update you on the ongoing progress of my preparation for the CPA exam. It is a given that reviewing for the CPA Exam requires an unprecedented¬† level of time commitment but what about the financial aspects of this endeavor? Most individuals taking the CPA exam opt to spend anywhere between $1,500 to $3,000 on CPA exam review materials, courses, or a combination of both. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a fortune to me. These are only the costs associated with reviewing for the CPA exam. The total CPA exam registration fees for all four sections amount to about $1,000 give or take. When it’s all said and done, passing the CPA exam can come at a hefty price tag.

The exam registration fees are what they are and I am just gonna live with them. However, there is no way I am gonna hand over $1500 dollars or more to any of the CPA exam review companies just so that I can possibly improve my prospects of passing one or more of the four sections of the CPA exam. I am too much of a frugal person to invest in any of those CPA exam preparation schemes. Part of the reason why the CPA exam review companies charge so much is because they derive most of their revenues from many CPA firms subsidizing their employees’ CPA exam review expenses. I guess I ought to tell myself tough luck because I won’t be receiving any subsidy for taking on the much vaunted CPA Exam. Fortunately, there is a select number of CPA exam review options that are a bargain when compared to those provided by the vendors over on High Street! Please note that the names of CPA exam review companies charging exorbitant fees won’t be mentioned on this post. This is because I wish not to give them any more publicity than they already enjoy.

Because I graduated from college a little over year ago and the accounting and business education I acquired is still fresh in my memory, I feel confident that the 2011 Wiley CPA Exam Review series in combination with my accounting and business textbooks from college will be more than adequate to get me ready to successfully pass all four sections of the CPA exam. I am planning on taking two sections of the CPA exam in the first half of 2011 and the other two in the second half of 2011. I recently ordered a Wiley CPA Exam review book for each of the two sections I will be taking in the first half of next year. The cost for the two books plus free shipping came down to a little less than $70! Later this year, when the 2011 Wiley CPA Exam Review Test Bank CD is released, I will purchase it so as to complement the other components of my CPA exam review strategy. When it is all said and done, I am looking at spending a little less than $300 in CPA exam review materials. Some of you reading this post might wonder what’s the big deal with Wiley? Simply put, Wiley might be the most trusted publishing company in the area of professional and academic accounting learning materials. Additionally, the Wiley CPA Exam Review series has been around for thirty seven years and still counting.

There are plenty of CPA exam review solutions available. Some of them are ridiculously expensive while others are surprisingly affordable. However, pricier doesn’t always equate to better, does it? For the needs of my CPA exam preparation strategy, I decided to go against the grain and opt for a time tested solution at the lowest responsible cost. While I feel very comfortable with my choice, I won’t go out on a limb and claim that it is a sure bet. What I can tell you however is that I will put in all the hard work to make sure that my frugally oriented approach to preparing for the CPA exam is well executed. By next year end, should I be still alive and well, I will write a follow up to this very post to give you an account of the final outcome of the long and arduous journey to the nations of CPAs that I am about to take. Wish me good luck!

Further reading:


  1. Comment by Cher:

    Cherry’s my name – Cher for short. Thanks for your response back! Please let me/your readers know when you have posted the update, for I do look forward to reading it.

    As for me, I’ve been contemplating if I should buy studying materials/study now before I hear back from CBA or afterwards.
    On August 28th, I received notification from CBA that Step 4 has been completed (pmnt/application recvd). I would like to take FAR at the latest day slot in November 2014; so I’ll hear back from the Board very soon. Your thoughts?

    • Comment by Narcisse:

      Cher – I will try my best to let everybody know when the update is published. As it relates to your CPA Exam taking plans, there is not much I can offer in the form of commentary. All I can say is follow your gut, study smart, and stay focused. Good luck with taking the CPA exam.

  2. Comment by Cher:

    Narcisse, great blog! I’m keen to know how did your study material/strategy fair? Were you able to write a post of your outcome? If so, please point me to it – and if not, please be so gracious to fill your subscribers in.

    • Comment by Narcisse:

      Cher – What a nice name or nickname! Thank you for dropping by. I always wanted to come back and report on the effectiveness of the CPA exam review strategy outlined above but got way too lazy to do it. I have been a CPA for little over two years now. Except for one section I had to take a second time, I obtained a passing score on all other sections of the CPA exam on a first attempt basis. This strategy works but it needs to be articulated in more detail. I will be writing an update of this CPA exam review strategy but it will be published on a fellow blogger’s blog. It should be up there by the end of the month. Are you currently studying in preparation for the CPA exam?

  3. Comment by Susannah:

    Just wish to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your put up is just great and i can assume you are knowledgeable in this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks one million and please carry on the rewarding work.

  4. Comment by Naz:

    Good luck to You. I am also a candidate of CPA since 2008….but still not taking any exam yet as I can not afford very expensive material…however, I heard about CPA Excel is less expensive but not tried yet…does anyone have any review about CPA Excel material..?

  5. Comment by Bill Nesto:

    I would like to say good luck to your exam and i hope you will be past it. cheers!

  6. Comment by Richard Bonilla:

    thanx, usefull information and comments !! richard / colorado

  7. Comment by Christopher Austin:

    I wish you the best of luck in your exam, Narcisse. While getting feedback from others is a great way to mentally “prepare for your CPA exam” [blog owner removed promotional anchored link], everyone is different. Some folks will need as much help as they can get and some people can do it by the seat of their pants.

    Nobody knows you better than YOU. Listen to your own self, trust your own decisions and I’m sure you’ll do just fine. Above all, relax and try to make it as fun as possible! …if that is actually possible. LOL

    • Comment by Narcisse:


      Your feedback doesn’t do much to advance the issues being discussed herein. Sorry your comments were not published as you intended them to be, bad luck mate! Better luck next time…LOL

  8. Comment by Gale:

    Best of luck to you in your exam preparations. I am currently taking the exam myself. BEC Nov 2010 (passed) and am scheduled to take REG end of Feb 2011. I looked at several of the CPA exam prep programs and opted for self study using Gleim. I felt the most comfortable with Gleim as I used their material to study for, and pass, the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam in 2009.

    • Comment by Narcisse:

      Hello Gale:

      Thank you for your feedback. Back when I was an undergraduate student, our Audit instructor wholeheartedly recommended Gleim as the most cost effective CPA exam preparation publisher for the AUDIT section of the CPA exam. I am glad to hear that your Gleim reviewing materials have been very helpful to you. I went with Wiley just because it's relatively cheap but more importantly because the review questions/problems are from old CPA exams. I also understand that Gleim is very competitively priced. I wish you much success for the remainder of your journey to securing your CPA license. Be kind to keep us updated of your progress and your successes!

  9. Comment by Souveek:

    Best of luck for your Cpa exam. . . I'm preparing for Ca from india. . Loved the posts on your Blog.

    • Comment by Narcisse:


      I realize that it might be a little too late to react to your comment however better late than never. Thank you for taking the time to drop a few words in reaction to this post. Also thank you for the well wishes as they related to my pursuit of the CPA license. I do also want to wish you much success in your quest to become a Chartered Accountant (CA).

  10. Comment by Lisa:

    What an insightful read. This has opened my eyes to a whole lot of stuff that I never knew before. Thanks for spending the time to write this up.

  11. Comment by Julia:

    Congratulations, and good luck! I'm also starting on the CPA exam, and I'm using Becker (paid for out-of-pocket). I teach accounting & tax at a major university, and graduated with my MSAT in 2009. As much as I got out of the MSAT, it doesn't prepare you for the CPA. It's funny, everyone assumes that since I teach accounting, I can just take the CPA exam like that and not study. But no course includes all of the elements of the CPA exam, and part of the prep is getting used to the testlets and the simulations.

    I'm buying the Becker parts one by one – right now I'm studying for FAR – but I may skip buying Becker for some of the easier parts of the exam for me (REG and BEC). FAR and Auditing I think are the hardest, which is why I'm doing them first, in case I don't pass. I only had to take one auditing class for my MSAT since I specialized in Tax, and I have no auditing experience, so that one I will need all of the help I can get. I'm counting on my experience running consulting engagements for one of the Big 4 and my knowledge of their methodology to help with AUD.

    Good luck to you! I'm not sure I'll be done in a year, but my goal is to be finished by Spring 2012. I'm taking FAR in January as I didn't get my test date in time to squeeze it in for November.

    • Comment by Narcisse:

      Hello Angela:

      Thank you for taking the time to read this post and for being kind enough to leave your comments. The Becker CPA review series is very popular among CPA exam takers and I can understand why you went that route specially if coughing up a few hundred dollars is relatively inconsequential to your purse. I would like to think that starting with FAR is a very smart strategy. As you appropriately pointed out, FAR is usually the most challenging section for most exam takers, consequently it would be a real ego/confidence booster for the remaining sections if one was to sit for it first then cleared it on a first try. In summary, your comment was very insightful and I don't doubt many readers of this blog will find it helpful as they too embark in their preparation for the CPA exam. I wish you best of luck with the CPA exam.

  12. Comment by Christy Pinheiro:

    Nice blog. I attempted the CPA exam in 2006, but didn't pass. I used the Becker program, which I thought was very expensive and overrated (cost me over 3K). I'm going to use the Wiley books this time around, but I already passed the enrolled agent exam years ago and I'm already working at a CPA firm and also as a technical writer the remainder of the year. I would like to become a CPA for the additional certification, though. I already have all the hours I need, so I just have to sign up with Prometric and study.

  13. Comment by Angela:

    I bought expensive materials (more than $2,000) and it seems to me it is to MUCH stuff. I want to take two exams before the end of the year and the other two next year, but it means that I'll have to get new material, because of the changes…

    We use Wiley for review when I was doing my MACC, so I'll get the material for the other test from them so I don't spend to much money.

    All that I need now is a study partner so I get more motivated…

    • Comment by Narcisse:

      Hello Angela:

      Thank you for taking to the time to chime in. It's not unusual for CPA Exam candidates to spend over $2,000 on exam preparation materials. Let's hope the flavor of passing all four sections of the CPA Exam will make that Quinine easier to swallow.

      If all the money you invested on a MACC degree and on CPA Exam review materials is not enough to motivate you, frankly I don't see what it will take to get you motivated. It takes unyielding determination to conquer the CPA Exam. The little that I know about you tells me that you have the resolve to take on the CPA Exam without the need of a studying partner.

      This blog always welcome your feedback.

      Good luck with your CPA exam preparations. We all look forward to hearing wonderful news from you in the upcoming weeks or months.

  14. Comment by Brenden Schaaf:

    Good luck to you in your exam preparations. I took the exam long enough after a lot of my core accounting classes that the best decision for me was to go through a review course. Without it I would have had to sit multiple times for several sections I believe (I still had to take two sections twice). I'm confident, though, that the biggest predictor of success is motivation and effort and it sounds like you have both of those.

    • Comment by Narcisse:


      Thank you very much for your words of encouragement. Thank you for sharing your past experience with the CPA exam review process. I happen to believe that all roads lead to Rome and consequently I don't see anything wrong with people opting for a CPA review course.

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