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Thoughts on the exams passed to date (5/2/14):
Overall for some reason, I don't believe in practice tests. Instead of doing practice tests, I would rather do all the problems again. It all depends on how much time you have.
FAR (83): Suggest one develop a very clear study plan upfront and stick to it. The exam is tricky and requires a clear understanding of the concepts. Coming from a non-accounting background, I thought Becker was really good at explaining the concepts. I must preface by saying that I did used to teach Financial Accounting to First Year MBA students at Berkeley (as a Graduate Student Instructor). So it isn't fair to say that I didn't have any accounting knowledge, but haven't necessarily worked in public accounting. Struggled with Wiley textbook explanations. For FAR practice, practice and then practice more and understand the reasoning behind the problems. I didn't quite finish the entire exam (missed one sim). The MCQs are 60% of the exam and wanted to spend the time to make sure of the calculations before proceeding to the sims. Please be comfortable with JEs. This is a very practical exam and the knowledge gained here should be useful later at your job.
BEC (85): Postponed it once, when I should have probably taken it. Guess I am weary of taking an exam when I don't feel confident. Overall took BEC on a total of 3-4 weeks of effort including the time from the first postponement. Thought the exam questions were on topics different than the Becker material and focused more on concepts that I studied during the MBA (Micro and Macro economics). Suggest you read a micro and macro econ book from the library to understand supply, demand, FX. If you read the WSJ and understand the implications of changes in trade deficit, monetary and fiscal policies, then feel free to skip. I, personally, struggled with overhead variances and should have worked harder to understand the reasoning and the thought process behind the concept. There are a few problems in Becker on overhead variances where the explanation of the answer is better than how the topic is explained in the book (that example saved the day). I had done Wiley when I thought I would take the exam the first time, but didn't re-visit it as much the second time. I should have done so to understand the concepts more broadly and would suggest the same to others.
REG (83): This was a tough exam because while I started it back in June, I had to postpone it because of health issues (surgery) and then ran out of time in the Jul / Aug window and had to switch to BEC. In my experience, switching topics with a significant delay is a bad idea. I forgot everything that I had done in June and early July and had to almost do all the work again! Also regulation is a lot of memorization because while some things are logical others are not! Logic is easier (to me) because then it comes down to understanding not memorization. What's the logic of taking the six deductions into account for calculating the max. limit on charity deduction for corporations? I can think of an overarching reason but still it is something that has to be remembered. Doing Foth helped, especially for AMTI (individual and corporate) because some topics are more clear in the book than the review course (Becker / Wiley). Should have spent more time on understanding LLC and Proprietorships.
AUD (98): So I flunked this exam once (70). So take my advice with a grain of salt. I didn't prepare well the first time and think did only about 60-70% of the topics and didn't understand audit evidence at all. But the second time around I read the book (Auditing & Attestation Eighteen Edition - Ray Whittington) which helped me understand the process of auditing and helped me form a mental picture of the same. I read the audit reports multiple times and stuck with Becker than doing anything else. My advice to fellow candidates would be to understand how auditors think (skepticism) and read the reports multiple times and understand the timing, the framework and who sends the report to whom. There is a lot of memorization that has to done, but if you understand how an auditor thinks you should be able to draw a mapping of how it works. I should have spent more time on GAGAS. Not sure I understand that well yet.
Disclaimer: I still have two exams to go and only scored an 83 on the FAR exam. So by no means am I an expert on FAR. However, I can tell you this much - I would rather be studying FAR than Audit or Reg...
FAR is all about understanding the material. And one knows whether one understands the material or not. The trick is to understand what is it that the question is referring…Continue