Olga Timirgalieva was honored as one of the prestigious Elijah Watt Sells Award winners for 2016, which recognizes CPA candidates who have scored over 95.5 on all four sections of the CPA Exam, and passed all four sections on their first attempt. Find out about Olga’s pathway to success, and pick up a few CPA Exam pointers from this star Roger CPA Review student along the way.
I’m originally from Uzbekistan, which used to be part of Russia. Although I am ethnically Russian (English is my second language), I consider my nationality to be American. I emigrated to the U.S. when I was 17, and ended up in Florida as an exchange student in a state sponsored program called Future Leaders Exchange. This program provided scholarships for high school students from abroad to spend an academic year in the U.S. by living with a family and attending an American high school.
With the support of my host family, I went to college at Florida Southern College where I double majored in economics and business administration with an emphasis in financial management. I graduated with duo degrees in three years at the top of my class.
I consider my host family to be my second family. I always tell people I have two sets of parents because they were the ones who guided and supported me financially and emotionally in the states. For that, I am forever grateful.
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The Road to CPA Licensure
After college, I worked full-time as a Business Intelligence & Finance Manager while simultaneously fulfilling military service as a reservist in the U.S. Coast Guard. I had a well-rounded background in business, but not accounting. So, once I resolved to become a CPA, I knew I had to prepare well to pass the exam. I needed a strong plan of attack.
I started doing my research about the CPA Exam in December 2015. Knowing that the exam was going to change in 2017, I planned everything well in advance since I wanted to take the exam before the 2017 changes rolled out.
Why I chose Roger CPA Review
As I researched course providers, Roger CPA Review always popped up as a top choice. I watched the sample YouTube videos, read a lot of blogs, and saw many forums where candidates talked about and recommended the course. However, what sold me most was the lectures, which I found to be energetic and interactive. I appreciated the use of the white board to break down concepts, making it easy to follow along and understand. I sampled other courses which seemed to be just a headshot of a person who was reading or talking in a monotone voice, and wasn’t engaging at all. That’s when I committed to studying with Roger CPA Review.
My Study Plan
My most important piece of advice for all CPA Exam candidates is to be consistent. Come up with a study schedule and commit to it. I used Roger CPA Review’s study planners as a skeleton which I customized to create a plan that met my needs. It’s said that the CPA Exam is a marathon, not a sprint, so I tried my best to create a schedule that fit organically into my daily routine. This made the process much more sustainable by preventing burn out and keeping me motivated to get to the finish line strong.
I looked at how many hours of studying I needed to accomplish per section and broke that down into how many hours I could allot in my daily schedule if I wanted to pass within 12 months. I decided to start with FAR. As the densest and most time-consuming section, I didn’t want it to affect my 18-month window.
How Roger CPA Review Prepared Me for Success
Here’s a quick overview of some of my favorite features of the Roger CPA Review course:
- Adjustable playback speed
This may seem odd, but one of the most useful features was the lecture’s adjustable playback speed. The ability to speed up or slow down lectures allowed me to focus on concepts I needed to pay more attention to, and skim through the ones I already had a firm grasp on.
Another great feature was the micro-lessons which followed seamlessly along with the textbooks. Having related MCQs specific to each section of the material was key in quickly assessing whether or not I was doing well on particular topics.
- Interactive Practice Questions
Being familiar with Task-based Simulations formatting and how to answer them is key to success on the exam. Even though you may know the answer, it can take some time to figure out what they’re asking you to do or what cell to put your response in. Roger CPA Review’s course is great at mimicking the CPA Exam structure and format in the Interactive Practice Questions, which is what CPA candidates should be familiar with to be well prepared for the exam.
- Building foundational knowledge
Roger CPA Review really helped me understand the concepts, rather than just memorizing. The materials break down difficult topics, and link them back to the basics as well as the bigger picture—building a strong foundation. I found that trying to remember too much early on could be counterproductive because concepts would be easily forgotten, and I’d have to go back and re-study. Of course, there will be items you’ll have to memorize, but the bulk of your study time should be spent on really understanding the material—and Roger CPA Review helps you do that.
Overcoming Challenges on the CPA Exam
The biggest challenge I had to overcome was not knowing where to draw the line of how much studying was enough. The CPA Exam covers an ocean of information, and for someone like myself who is a perfectionist, it was difficult coming to terms with the realization that I wasn’t going to learn everything.
Another challenge that I’m sure many CPA Exam candidate encounters is losing steam at the tail end of the study process. Towards the end of my last two sections, I got worn out by the constant studying, and missed a few very simple questions that I knew the answers to simply because I was mentally exhausted. If I could go back, I would have tried to go to the finish line strong.
On Being an Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner
After passing FAR on my first attempt with a high score, I felt confident that I would be able to pass the remaining 3 sections. Then I passed AUD and BEC with equally high scores on my first attempt and realized that the Elijah Watt Sells award was a possibility. I had to do just as well on REG to be eligible. It also gave me a newfound sense of internal motivation. I knew my study methods were working, which gave me the strength I needed to keep going.
The night before my last score for REG came out, my best friend was so excited for me that she waited until 3am, constantly refreshing the score release. I was asleep, and I woke up to a text of a screenshot of my score. I had passed, in the high 90s. I was elated! Half of my family already had a feeling that I would be a recipient of Elijah Watt Sells. We all celebrated by going out for a nice steak dinner and some much-needed wine!
My Life Now as a CPA
Now that the CPA Exam is behind me, I celebrate every day simply because I don’t have to study anymore! But I am highly considering continuing the celebrations by taking a trip to Europe. I love to travel and have been to several continents thus far.
Additionally, I've used my free time to read, take an online cooking class, and learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I’m naturally a very curious person so it’s great that I can dedicate all my new-found time to exploring new interests.