One question many CPA candidates tend to ask concerns what order to take the exams. The old adage was B.A.R.F. and not just because it makes a fun acronym. The idea was that a candidate would start with the “easiest” test first and work their way up. The general belief was that BEC was the easiest then AUD, REG and FAR. The benefit of this method is that the CPA candidate tends to build confidence as they pass the easier tests first and the future CPA gets a burst of energy to study the next test.
There are however some cons and the first is that this can create a false sense of security. Someone who doesn’t study much for BEC may decide that they don’t need to study much for AUD. A month later when they get their scores they are confused and angry that they didn’t pass. The second con is that pesky 18-month window. If a candidate doesn’t pass all four tests in an 18-month window, (starting from the date they pass their first test,) they lose credit for the first test and the window rolls forward and starts at the next test that was passed. This rule poses a problem if the candidate left the hardest tests for last. REG and FAR take the longest to study for and are considered the hardest to pass. Leaving these for last could lead a candidate to lose credit for BEC and even AUD if following the B.A.R.F acronym.
So what do I recommend? I recommend two different approaches based on a candidate’s strengths. If you tend to be better at studying math rather than law or factual concepts then I would save the math intensive tests for last and study for the harder tests first. Someone who tends to be better at mathematical concepts and problems should have an order something like this: R.A.F.B. and no the acronym is not as fun. If you are better at studying concepts, theories and definitions then I would study for FAR first then BEC, followed by the tests you will have an easier time studying for REG and AUD. Your order should look like this F.B.R.A. If you follow these two examples then you take your hardest test first giving you the best chance to complete all four tests in 18 months. On top of this, you’ll have the knowledge that you’ve already conquered your hardest test.
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