Believe you can pass—and you will!
New York City, NY
I obtained a bachelor’s degree from Sophia University in International Business in Tokyo, Japan. I started my career at Robert Half International as a recruiting specialist in the IT industry. After working several years, I started to study for the CPA Exam in order to brush up my knowledge in accounting and other general business areas. Upon passing the CPA Exam, I was approached by EY and decided to change my career.
I work in EY’s New York office as a Senior Manager in the Japanese Business Service group. We provide assurance, tax and transfer pricing services to Japanese companies located in North America. The presence of Asian companies in the United States is expanding, and our clients expect us to understand their business back in Asia as well as in the U.S. market. Working globally, I’m currently expatriated to the EY Tokyo office in Japan for a project.
I suggest taking a review course. I took mine with TAC, a Japanese review course provider. They have a powerful partnership with Becker Professional Education, and they provide very helpful information. You will find a lot of resources that will help you along the way. Even though your colleagues and people you know who are going through the same process are of great help, I recommend going to a professional source from the beginning so that you are sure you won’t miss out on anything.
Planning for the Exam
I started my study for the CPA Exam while I was working for Robert Half and still unsure if being a CPA was the right career for me. I ordered the CPA prep course provided by TAC. I pursued my studies mainly taking classes at the school on weekends. The deeper I got into studying for the exam, the stronger my determination to be a CPA became, so I decided to focus only on my studies and quit my previous job. During that time, I sat in a café five days a week just preparing for the exam. My weekend course was designed to be completed in a year by attending the courses once a week, so I ordered the self-study version of the courses to accelerate my study time. This helped me complete the course in about six months, at the end of which I felt ready to sit for CPA Exam.
How I Studied
I completed my studies in about a half year. My strategy was to utilize the in-class study program and online classes together. I would attend the in-class course on the weekend for one subject and study using the text book on Monday and Tuesday. I then watched the online course on Wednesday, and studied with the textbook on Thursday and Friday. By using this regimen, I was able to accelerate my studies dramatically. Additionally, studying two subjects together was very efficient for me. All the subjects on the CPA Exam are interconnected in some way. For example, depreciation method applied not only to U.S. GAAP, but also for tax calculation purposes as well. Understanding both methods at the same time gave me comprehensive knowledge, and it was easier for me to memorize.
As far as order, I studied for FAR and BEC first, then for AUD and REG after I passed the first two. My teacher told me that intensive attention is required to study FAR and REG, but BEC and AUD are somewhat “manageable” in that we can utilize “business common sense” on certain topics. In addition to my study plan, finding a testing center was a problem for me since I was in Japan. At that time, the CPA Exam was not offered in Japan. So I ended up flying to San Francisco for the first two exams and took the rest in New York since I had several job interviews with Big 4 accounting firms there.
Taking the Exam
I arrived at San Francisco three days before the exam. I was planning to study and also get over my jetlag during those days. Despite the urge to go sightseeing in the city of San Francisco, I spent my days studying in the hotel room, and I also visited the exam center ahead of time, to make sure I wouldn’t get lost on exam day. The morning of the exam, I spent about an hour going over my flash cards and a few key pages in the textbook, especially key numbers and formulas. I also limited the amount I drank as I thought going to the bathroom too many times would be a waste of my precious exam time. Just like everybody else, I planned out how much time I could spend on each section of the multiple choice questions and the simulation and kept the pace. I think keeping my own pace was the most important strategy for my exam-taking success. There are many difficult questions, but the key is to pass about 75% of the exam—not 100%. To achieve the goal, completing all the questions was far more important than spending too much time on the difficult questions and not having enough time to complete all the questions. Lastly, when you encounter difficult questions, it’s important to have the skill to eliminate some choices. Although some questions are difficult, it’s not too difficult to eliminate several choices. At least if you can cross out one or two choices, your chance to get it right increases from 25% to 33%, or even 50%.
The most important exam tip I can give you is to set your mind firmly on passing before you start to study. Remind yourself of the reason you want to become a CPA, your dream after passing the exam, and all the motivation you need to tackle it often. Write those down on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet or tape it to your mirror—and remind yourself why you’re doing this when you’re about to give up. Have a strong mind and you will never fail the exam.