Which Exam Section to Take First?
There is no one easy answer to this question. Thoughts to consider are listed below.
If you can, take AUD or FAR first. These two sections are the longest sections of the exam (4-hours) and contain a great deal of content. However, if income taxation is difficult for you, take REG first.
Leave BEC for last. With the emergence of the 2013 CPA exam, candidates report they would rather take BEC last. They find that several topics covered in the other 3 exam sections help them pass BEC. Many report they wished they would have had FAR and AUD knowledge when they took BEC. For example, COSO is tested in AUD and BEC. Bonds and financing arrangements are tested in FAR and BEC. The topics are taught in detail in the classes before BEC. Save BEC for last.
Take your most difficult section first. Once you pass your first section, an 18-month rule kicks in from the date you sat for the first section you passed. The remaining 3 sections must be completed within 18 months. Here are some examples:
- Candidate A sits for the AUD exam on January 2, 2013. On February 15 he receives his score which showed he failed the exam. Does the 18-month rule apply? No, the 18-month rule does not kick in because he did not pass the AUD exam.
- Candidate A sits again for the AUD exam on April 2, 2013. On May 15, 2013 he receives his score which shows a passing score. Now, the 18-month rule applies as he has passed his first exam section. Candidate A has 18 months from April 2, 2013 (October 1, 2014) to complete the remaining 3 sections.
- Candidate A sits for the BEC exam on May 5, 2013. On June 20 he learns he has passed the BEC exam. Great, he now has until October 1, 2014 (18 months from the date he passed his first exam section) to complete the remaining sections, FAR and REG.
- Candidate A sits for the REG exam on October 5, 2013. In late November, he finds out he failed REG. This failure does not affect the 18-month rule. However, keep in mind that candidates can sit for an exam section only once within a testing window. Therefore, he must wait until the January/February 2014 testing window to retake REG.
- Candidate A is busy during the tax season and does not retake REG until May 22, 2014. He finds out in June 2014 that he failed REG again. Since he is busy preparing for FAR, he puts off retaking REG.
- Candidate A takes FAR on July 1, 2014 and REG on August 1, 2014. He finds out he passed REG but did not pass FAR. He now has until October 1, 2014 to pass FAR before he loses AUD.
- Candidate A must retake FAR on October 1, 2014 since this is his last day before the 18-month rule expires. If this day is a Sunday and there is no testing on that date, he will lose AUD. Upon the loss of AUD, the 18-month time period moves from the date he took the next section he passed which for him was BEC May 5, 2013. Keep in mind he must now pass both FAR and AUD again within 18 months from May 5, 2013.
The 18-month time goes by quickly. Here, candidate A knew he would have a difficult time with REG and FAR. He should have started with those sections so he would not be caught without time to complete those difficult sections.
Take exam sections as they fit your schedule and the CPA Review course format. The NIU CPA Review is offered in a "Live" classroom format and an online (correspondence) format. Many candidates find they benefit from the "Live" classroom setting. Look at the offerings and the number of sessions and consider the amount of time you can devote to studying. If your work schedule is super busy, be honest with yourself. You won't have time to study. Postpone taking the exam for this time period. Don't forget the 18-month rule. Sooner or later you must make sitting for the exam a priority.
Do you want help establishing a CPA Review plan? If you take the NIU CPA Review, please email Mark Hogan or phone the CPA Review office (815-753-6207) for an appointment to plan your CPA schedule. Before you enroll for the review course, schedule a PERSONAL EXAM PLAN appointment to meet with Barb at our DeKalb campus or schedule a phone interview. Avoid setting yourself up for failure.