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7 Foolproof Ways to Pass the Philippine CPA Board Exam
Ways to Becoming a CPA
The CPA (Certified Public Accountants) Board Exam is one of the toughest government examinations in the Philippines. It takes five years of rigorous studies and a six month period of review at the CPA Review Centers. Entry into the program is tough, as a student is made to take several written tests by the school of his choice, before acceptance. Aside from the entry-level tests, the applicant must have at least a 90% GWA (General Weighted Average) in high school and with no failing grade. Some schools are tougher, where panel interviews are required to determine the suitability of the applicant to the program.
Upon acceptance, it would take lots of skills to survive the course. It is sometimes akin to doing death defying acts of constant studies, more studies, and never ending studies. Who then in his right mind, would take up this horrible course? If you are in the Philippines, I would say that many would jump into it head first, and without much thinking.Many students and parents have this idea, that accountants have a better chance of finding a job than those in other courses. There might be some truth to this, but finding a job would depend entirely on one's personality and suitability to the job applied for.
Students have often asked me if the CPA Board Exam is hard. I say to them that it depends. It depends on your preparation, your stamina for hard work, and your persistence to be better than yourself. When you study accounting, you are not out there to compete with the other students. You are there to compete with yourself. Accounting is not merely a study of numbers and equations, but the ability to understand on what is being asked for. To survive, you must develop the skills of thinking fast and clear. Meaning, that you must not get confused with all the mumbo-jumbo, and can go directly to what is being asked of you.
So, what are the 7 foolproof ways to become a CPA?
1. Accounting is NOT Rocket-Science
You don't need to be exceptionally brilliant to take the course. It takes tons of practice; and any average student with the right attitude, can tackle that without much pain. For you to do this, studying MUST start early: like in the First Year, NOT when you are about to take your CPA Review Course. You must have the patience to read voluminous books and understand it completely. Another plus factor, would be your being unafraid to explore the unknown to learn new things. Remember, that Accounting is a world of its own. It takes much patience to learn new terminologies and the rudiments of the course.
You need fortitude to learn the basic equation of --- debit = credit; and asset = liabilities + equity. You must have the stamina to learn the language of Accountancy by heart, that when you come across it, you can blurt it out like a pro. It takes constant practice and much learning to do that. One important factor is for you to have humility. You ought to accept that you are like the rest of the student population and nobody special. Don't get air in your head, by thinking that you are better off than the rests, being in the Accountancy program. I tell you, at this early and with that kind of attitude, you'll never make it as a CPA.
2. Accounting is Problem Solving
Some students who dream of entering the program, thinks that they can make do with a little problem solving. However, they are in for a surprise. From the Basics of Accounting to Higher Accounting would all be problem solving. I have seen many students make do with understanding their textbooks without going through the strenuous exercises at the back pages of each chapter. You are not going to learn anything by taking a short cut. Passing the CPA Board means that you have to solve and understand ALL problems that were given to you. Some like to take it easy, that with a little learning and preparation, the CPA Board would be an easy picking. Not so, as I have seen many dead bodies after the board examinations, who have this kind of thinking.
To be adequately prepared, you need to solve ALL the problems in your textbook and find the right solutions to the problems. You have to understand why it was computed that way and how it was done. You need to solve it, again and again, until it becomes clear as day. There is no short cut to the study of Accountancy. You need hard work and patience to be able to do what is required of you. If you think that picayune learning and having a bombastic personality are enough to pass the board... Sorry kids, that's not the way to do it. Burn that night lamp and study like it's the only thing that's left for you to do. The way to have that three letter tag attached to your name, is through constant practice in problem solving.
Are you confident in taking the CPA Board right after graduation?
3. Being a Working Student
Having financial problems while still studying, is a bummer when you take up Accountancy. The course has the workload of a horse, which is five times the regular load of other Business courses. I see several students attempting to work and study at the same time, and what results are total failures. Accounting is like having a jealous lover. You should pay attention to it and never leave it to wander around. It does not like having competition and you have to choose her/him over all the others. Hence, it would be difficult to work and study at the same time. You may be able to pass the course, but you will find it hard to pass the board.
There are some, who takes the six month preparatory review, while working. Again, this is a no-no. Like a lover, Accountancy needs your undivided attention. Your mind and heart should be at it while you're studying; and like a lover, you must be completely enamored of it while taking the six month CPA Review, in preparation for the actual CPA Board Exam. There are some who opts to take the weekend review (Saturday and Sunday) and leave the rest of the week to either study by themselves or work. If on a self review during weekdays, you might make it. But working on weekdays, would be tantamount to failure unless you have an extraordinary brain power. Few people have that, and you may not be an exception.
4. Attitude Problems
It takes humility and a zest for hard work to make it through the course. You must have great fortitude to handle stress at all times. Having tons of work in school, can put too much strain and pressure on any student, more so if you take the Accountancy course. There is a GWA to maintain, lest you get booted out of the program. There are assignments to do and voluminous materials to study. You need to burn the night oil for the year end exam, given by the Department Head, as eligibility to proceed with the course. If you are not made of sterner stuff, you might not make it halfway through the course.
The colleges and universities have different programs, and the difficulty may rest entirely on your choice of school. However,it is often observed that those with tougher programs have a better chance of producing CPAs. It is not unusual to see the top-notch schools like the University of the Philippines, having a 100 percent passing rate. Other schools would have a different passing percentage depending on the strength of their curriculum. Entering into colleges with a tough program is oftentimes hard. In addition, unless you have the right attitude in handling stress, it is advisable that you do not take up this course at any cost.
5. Family Support
Your family must be aware of the difficulty that you're going to face in the next five years. Sacrifices will have to be made to help support you in your quest for the CPA tag. Accounting books are not cheap, and you need to buy all of it as well as other materials to help you understand the subject matter better. There will be much time spent studying as Accounting books like Wiley's can only be found in the school library. You need to attend workshops and conferences to be made aware of the new developments and trends in the practice of Accounting.
The study is not cheap, as it will need money and time for you to finish it. The family should be aware of the sacrifices that they will make in the next few years. You may not be expected to help out with family expenses, since you cannot work and study at the same time. They may need to contribute more to your fund so you can buy books and materials. Without the support of your parents and siblings, studying the course may be difficult for you.
6. Choice of a CPA Review Center
There are many review centers in the city, and you can have your pick with any of them. One may not be as good as the other, but there are review centers who have stayed long in the business, and are known to produce passers above the national average. For the longest time, the national passing rate was around 46 percent. It dipped to 19 percent July, 2014 and went up to 37 percent in October of the same year. You can assess your chances of passing the CPA Board Exam, if you get beyond 80 percent (CPA Review School) in the pre-qualifying exams given by the review school. It has been observed that getting scores below this cutoff rate would give you less chances of passing the board.
There are exceptions, but they are few who made it below this pegged rate. For assurance, some students who have the time and finances, can do a self study for the first six months after graduation and then do an all out review in the next six months. This worked well with students who came from schools where the accounting foundation is not that good. Others might opt to review two or three times before attempting to take the actual board. This is rather expensive, as you would have to blot out a year just to do the review. But if you feel that your preparation is still inadequate after one review, it would be wise to take another review before you throw in your hat.
7. Determining your life goals
It is every Accountancy student's goal to have the CPA tag attach to his name. It is a long cherished dream to be included in the esteemed association of Certified Public Accountants. Some can get so besotted with the tag that they start dreaming about material possessions like: buying a car, having a new house, out-of-country travel, and other material possession, upon accreditation. I hate to prick their bubbles, that life is not going to be as rosy when they start dipping their hands into the real world.
The work will be hard, and the money will not be enough. It will take years before you get into a comfortable lifestyle, where money may not be much of a problem. On the other hand, not passing the CPA Board Exam may not be altogether a bad thing. One's ability to become a success, does not depend on that three letter tag. There are many successful people who have not even reached college, or have failed the exam several times over. Feeling bad about yourself, because you failed while the others passed, is an exercise of self-pity and will lead you nowhere.
Being a CPA is not an easy task. It takes years of hard work and sacrifices. It is every Accountancy student's dream to have that three letter tag attached to his name. But that tag doesn't mean anything, if you do not have the right attitude or the right people-skills, to survive in the workplace. These are 7 Foolproof Ways on How to Survive the CPA Board Exam --- so, go ahead, make a run for that tag. But always remember, that it is the sum total of all your intellectual, emotional, and psychological quotient that will give shine to your being called a CPA!