Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gah, no time!

It's tax season and well... I have no time. I have several blog posts to edit before I post them, but hope to catch up tomorrow and post something then. Until then, study hard or work hard.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Study Tools

Everyone study's differently, these are just some of the things I have done to make my studying successful.

Use the checklists at the beginning of the chapters, it will help you to focus on what you should be learning. I review these checklists at the end of the chapter to make sure I went over everything, and understood the topics before I went onto the MCQ's.

Make flashcards / stick notes - The area's that are new to me, or that I need to "refresh" my memory on I make flashcards / sticky notes on.

Sticky notes are great because you can see and read them everyday, even when you are no longer on that topic, you keep the topic in the forefront of your mind by seeing it stuck to your wall or monitor day in and day out. The drawback to stick notes are you can't take them with you wherever you go.

Flashcards have become useful to be with regards to some topics. I write them up myself because I feel that taking someone else's flashcards is just the same as reading the books. Making your own flashcards allows you to categorize things the way you need to see them. Flashcards can go with you where ever you go, I throw them in my purse and anytime I am waiting for something I pull them out. The drawbacks to flashcards are you have to actually USE THEM for them to be beneficial. So many times I made them and then never looked at them again and felt "Boy that sure was a waste of time". They can be useful, you just have to use them.

MCQ's are the most important study tool you have, once you have the basic concepts down, drill those questions over and over again. Just be sure you are focused and getting them correct, otherwise you are wasting valuable time. Work every question you can find, work it, understand it, and explain it to your imaginary intern. Do what you have to do to pass!

"All the so-called "secrets of success" will not work unless you do"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Planning & Goals

It's important to understand the structure of the exam. This will help you to prioritize your time and will also help you to focus on your weak area's by knowing which area's to concentrate on as well as which to touch lightly on.

2011 AICPA's CPA examination CSO's/SSO's that will go into effect on January 1,2011

Set daily goals - This is the most important task in this entire post, if you do nothing else do this! Get a tablet of paper to keep a time table type journal of your daily goals. I started out writing the date and the 4-5 sections I wanted to get done that day. Labeling the approximate time it should take me to get each part done to ensure that I stayed close to my time table. There is flexibility in this schedule, after all you created it you can change it. But it helped to keep me focused, when I wanted to drift off and take a break I looked at where I was and what I had left to do and would struggle through a bit more until I was at a good point to take a break.

Keeping your daily goals on paper allows you to track and evaluate your progress. It allowed me to visually see what I had accomplished in what seemed like a short amount of time. If you fell behind you could see it and knew it.

ST & LT goals - That's accountant speak for short-term and long-term goals. I wrote them on a separate sheet of paper and posted them on the wall behind my desk. It was really rewarding to reach my short term goals quickly! Also you can build in a reward system to keep you motivated. Short term goals for me were to log 25 hours in 1 week, reach 50 hours of study time, get through a particular section that is not my strong point feeling confident. LT goals were attaining more than 100+ hours in study time for AUD, completing 90% or more of the modules in my AUD material.

Make sure you only set goals for yourself that you feel you can reach, start off small and work your way up to larger and more detailed goals to ensure success. It needs to be a positive process, so make it possible for you to succeed.

"We live in a knowledge economy - in a knowledge economy the smart people win!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Study

Inevitably everyone will study differently based on how well they absorb the material and what they are comfortable with, this is just what works for me. There are, generally speaking, three types of learners; Audio, Visual, and Kinesthetic. It is important to find out which type of learner you are so that you tune your study habits into your best learning style to ensure the most retention possible.

Visual learners are characterized by the following:
 They tend to be fast talkers.
 They exhibit impatience and have a tendency to interrupt.
 They use words and phrases that evoke visual images.
 They learn by seeing and visualizing

Yup, that is definitely me, I am a visual learner. Through trials and tribulations I realized that my initial study plan was not remotely close to a visual learner's style. I was listening to audio CD's in the car (Which were not apart of my study materials, I purchased them from another merchant which was NOT a good idea). They only confused me more since the material was not in the same form as I had been use too. Plus they were boring and with my commute I need something to keep my attention, the other drivers on the road would appreciate it if I were awake during my drive to and from work.

These are the changes I made to my study material:
1. Watch video's, take notes
2. Ready study material/chapter, NO highlighter (This does nothing for my memory retention other than coloring pretty colors in my books.
3. MCQ's
4. Write Mnemonics on sticky notes
5. Study simulations
6. Rewrite Notes

If you have trouble with the MCQ's stop working them, don't keep doing something that you are not understanding. Move onto another section and come back to the troubled area the next day when you are refreshed and have had time to think about it. Repeat steps 1-6 on the troubled area and by the 2nd or 3rd time through you will get it.

Sticky Notes
These were the holy grail for me in studying. During my practice tests, simulations and MCQ's I would cheat. Yes I did cheat. I looked at my sticky notes as many times as I could to ensure I got the right answer. I would rather work the questions and pound the correct answer into my head over and over again rather than trying to figure it out, get it wrong and read through the correct answer afterwards. Instead I wanted to just solidify the correct answer in every question as many times as I could, and in doing this it helped me during my exam. How? you might ask, here is how.

Each time I came across a question during the exam in which I would normally "cheat" and look at my sticky note, I would look down from my computer screen and visualize my sticky note and even wrote it down at times. It was amazing! I had looked at my sticky notes so much that I had memorized them. It worked for me, so here is hoping it works for you! FYI I hate flashcards, if you hate them too try making sticky notes.

"Knowledge is only potential. Knowing is not doing! Consistent action is the only thing that defines the results of our lives, Act Now!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dedicated Study Zone

So, working at the kitchen table or in front of the television may have worked while you were in college but trust me, it isn't going to work for studying for the CPA exam. This baby is a beast to study for! You are going to need a specific dedicated study zone, someplace that you will go to and ONLY think of the CPA exam. No distractions.

Some people chose the library, which would be perfect for me as well except I have a family and that is just not going to work for me and my family. I am away from the family enough as it is so we chose a study zone at our home. I purchased a small desk at the local Walmart, had just enough room for my computer, keyboard, and writing tablets for notes. Looking around my home to find the quiet spot was the hard part. Garage is to cold, and we do not have a den or spare room so we ended up putting it in my bedroom closet! Ha! My desk and chair fold up nicely so that I can shut the closet door each night and my bedroom still remains my bedroom.

Study tool items: Earplugs (or headset), water bottle, flat screen monitor ( allowed me the most space on my small desk), calculator (as close to AICPA calculator as possible) extra light on desk, calender, pens, pencils, highlighters, and a time clock. I saved the best for last, my Sticky Notes! They are the best, but more on that in a later post.

It is key to keep distractions at bay, put a sign on your door, if you are at home like I am, to remind your family that you are not available. Do not put any games or links to social website on your study computer. Keep it as bare bones as possible, don't take "breaks" on your study computer and look at the news, it will only lead you to have the mindset to wander during your study time. Go in another room to play on the computer.

Keep your study zone stocked with water bottles and snacks, and vitamins (Fish oil is great for memory retention but thats for another post). Thats all I can think of for now, good luck on your study zone!

"It always seems impossible until it's done."

Researching the CPA exam

I think its fair to say that I have invested just as much time into the CPA exam materials, motivational quotes and ideas, study techniques, study tools, and others past/current experiences as I have studying so far! So, I plan to share them here on my blog and keep it updated with my journey in hopes that it will help someone in their own journey someday.

First and foremost, I had to create a strict time table. (otherwise I would find myself postponing portions and getting incredibly behind) I needed to treat this like a job, act like I would if this was put in front of me at work. I set up a daily routine schedule which looked like this:

Mon - Friday (3 hours a day)
6:30 - 7AM - Study notes / flashcards
7 - 8AM  - Get ready/drive to work (45min commute here)
8 - 5PM - Work; get in 30 minutes of study time during lunch
5 - 6PM - Drive home
6 - 6:30PM - Workout on bike/treadmill
6:30 - 7:30 - Study
7:30 - 8PM - Eat Dinner
8 - 9PM - Study
9 - 10PM - Free time
Bedtime 10 - 10:30PM
It is really important to go to bed at the same time each night, this ensures that you stay on schedule and don't have to change things or feel tired if you stayed up the night before. I took Melatonin on nights that I had a hard time falling asleep.

Sat-Sun (6 hours a day)
Not sticking to my schedule for weekend but 6 hours each day is my goal.
When I figure out a good weekend study strategy I will post more on that later.

Total study time 37 hours a week! And I work full-time with an hour and a half commute, have two children, and as of up to my CPA exam journey am a happily married women. If I can do this, so can you!

"Don't procrastinate, don't put it off! Put in those hours and learn those questions. That's how you become a CPA"