Of Tax Season, and Exam Scheduling Hiccups

by Megan Taylor on January 6, 2016

Of Tax Season

I will be working this tax season at a mid-sized, local CPA firm, and I could not be more excited. The firm was kind enough to invite me to their Christmas party in December, and in these first few weeks of January before I officially start, there are trainings and new employee orientation to attend. It’s all very fun, and I am really looking forward to working at this firm. From everyone I’ve met and talked to, and everything I’ve learned so far, I think I’m really going to enjoy it.

Of Exam Scheduling Hiccups

2016 will be the year I finish my CPA Exam. I passed the first section on 11/23/15, which means that I have 18 months from that date to pass the remaining three sections. In other words, if I don’t pass the remaining three sections before 5/31/17, I have to take FAR again. And let me tell you, that is not happening.

So today I decided to sit down and figure out what my life will look like if passing the remaining sections is my goal before the end of the year.

If I plan to study one lecture per week (the sane plan, especially since I will also be working), my tentative study/exam schedule looks like this:

Auditing (AUD) – Exam Date: 07/01/2016

 A1: Audit Reports  04/18/2016 – 04/24/2016
 A2: Other Reports  04/25/2016 – 05/01/2016
 A3: Engagement Acceptance, Planning, and Risk Assessment  05/02/2016 – 05/08/2016
 A4: Audit Evidence  05/09/2016 – 05/15/2016
 A5: Sampling and Communications  05/16/2016 – 05/22/2016
 A6: Professional Responsibilities, Audit Documentation, Effect of IT…  05/23/2016 – 05/29/2016
 Trip to England  06/01/2016 – 06/12/2016
 Review Before Auditing Exam  06/13/2016 – 06/30/2016
 Exam – Auditing  07/01/2016
 

Business (BEC) – Exam Date: 08/19/2016

 B1: Corporate Governance and Operations Management  07/04/2016 – 07/10/2016
 B2: Strategic Planning: Techniques for Forecasting, Budgeting, and…  07/11/2016 – 07/17/2016
 B3: Financial Management  07/11/2016 – 07/17/2016
 B4: Information Systems and Communications  07/25/2016 – 07/31/2016
 B5: Economic Concepts  08/01/2016 – 08/07/2016
 B6: Process and Project Management, Globalization, Financial Risk…  08/08/2016 – 08/14/2016
 Review Before Business Exam  08/08/2016 – 08/18/2016
 Exam – Business  08/19/2016
 Wedding in Seattle  08/22/2016 – 08/28/2016
 

Regulation (REG) – Exam Date: 11/18/2016

 R1: Individual Tax—Income  09/05/2016 – 09/11/2016
 R2: Individual Tax—Adjustments, Deductions, and Credits  09/12/2016 – 09/18/2016
 R3: C and S Corporation Taxation and Exempt Organizations  09/19/2016 – 09/25/2016
 R4: Property, Partnership, and Estate and Gift Taxation  09/26/2016 – 10/02/2016
 R5: Professional Responsibilities and Securities Regulation  10/03/2016 – 10/09/2016
 R6: Business Law 1  10/10/2016 – 10/16/2016
 R7: Business Law 2  10/17/2016 – 10/23/2016
 R8: Business Law 3  10/24/2016 – 10/30/2016
 Review Before Regulation Exam  10/31/2016 – 11/13/2016
 Exam – Regulation  11/18/2016

The first hiccup – No-fly months

The first hiccup is, of course, the fact that there are four months during the year that I can’t take the CPA Exam, even if I wanted to. Which is why I’m not taking the AUD section of the exam until the first of July. Ideally, I’d take it near the end of June instead, but June is a no-fly month for taking the exam. So I’ll have slightly longer than the recommended two weeks to review before the exam, but that’s probably not a bad thing.

Where things will get a little stickier is in July and August. As soon as I take the AUD section, I have to start studying for the BEC section, which is what I will be taking next. September is a no-fly month, so if I want to take BEC before October, I have to take it at the end of August. But, my college roommate and one of my best friends is getting married at the end of August, so really I have to take the BEC section before we leave to go to her wedding. This truncates the amount of time I can spend on studying each study lecture for BEC. Fortunately, BEC is widely considered one of the easier exams. I’m hoping having less time to study for it will be okay.

I will start studying for the final section (REG) in September, after we get back from our trip to Seattle. My plan with that will be the same as my plan for FAR. Study through September (no-fly month) and October, with the intent to take that section of the exam in the middle of November. I’m not actually worried about having enough time to study for REG, but we’ll see how things look as the final test date comes closer.

The second hiccup – Limited Notice to Schedule windows

The second hiccup is that I need a Notice to Schedule (NTS) to make an appointment at the testing center to sit for the exam. That’s not really a problem, because I’ve already applied once. The problem comes from the fact that an NTS is only valid for six months. So if I apply today and get my NTS on Monday, it will only allow me to make an appointment to sit for the exam through the end of the second week of July. That’s (probably) fine as far as my current plans go, but if I have to push my exam date back at all I’ll be in big trouble because my NTS will no longer be valid and I’ll have to apply for (and pay for) a new one.

So I’ll have to get an NTS no earlier than February 1 in order to make an appointment to sit for AUD in July. And then I’ll have to get another NTS in July to make an appointment to sit for BEC in August and REG in November. Or, if I want to group AUD and BEC together (which is really the smart plan), I’ll have to wait until March to apply for my first NTS, which will then be good through the end of August. I can apply for my second NTS any time after July 1 and use it to make an appointment to sit for REG in November.

The third hiccup – Limited space available at the testing centers

The third hiccup is that the testing centers only have so many spots available during each day of the testing window. My carefully thought out schedule above goes to pot if I wait too long to get my notice to schedule and all the available slots on the day I want to take the exam are filled. And the summer months are a popular time for people to sit for the CPA Exam. So I want to get my NTS as soon as possible before the AUD exam date, but not so soon that I can’t schedule AUD and BEC at the same time.

Fortunately, I can sit for the CPA Exam anywhere, even outside of Michigan, as long as I have the correct documentation. So if there isn’t a spot available on my preferred exam date at the testing center closest to me (Grand Rapids), I can try the testing center in South Bend (IN) or the one Lansing, which are the next two closest. There’s also a testing center in Fort Wayne (IN), Ann Arbor, and probably several in Detroit. So there are quite a few possibilities that I can pursue in order to stick to my schedule, even if I would rather take the exam at the center closest to me.

2016 is going to an interesting year.

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