Hello. My name is Chip McCraw. I’m from a small rural area near Farmville, Virginia (yes it’s a place and not just a game). I have lived in Richmond, VA, for the past 12 years. I’ve been married for 10 years to my wife Stephanie. We have a 2 ½ year old daughter named Charlotte and a 10 year old Chihuahua/dachshund mix named Buddy. I just found out that I passed my last section of the CPA Exam, and I couldn’t have done it without Roger CPA Review and the scholarship I received from them last year. This is my success story.
I graduated in 2004 from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA, with a degree in business administration.
I took the handful of required accounting courses but never really saw myself as someone who would work in accounting. After graduation, I did an internship in minor league baseball, and then began the search for my first real job. I got hired in December 2004 to an entry level job doing basic corporate tax accounting for a newspaper/TV company called Media General.
A couple years into my time at MG, I was promoted to a role on our PeopleSoft administration team. I was responsible for maintaining the GL module and building reports/queries for our finance/accounting folks. However, I quickly realized that my accounting education was lacking, so I enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Certificate in Accounting program which is essentially an accounting major and fulfills the credit hour requirement to sit for the CPA Exam in Virginia.
As I neared completion of the program, I left Media General in 2011 and actually went to work in financial reporting at VCU.
While there, I finished my accounting certificate and also completed an MBA at VCU in 2013. In early 2014, I left VCU and took a role as a principal accounting specialist for Capital One’s commercial bank.
Throughout the first decade of my career, I have put off sitting for the CPA Exam because I didn’t think I could pass. I also didn’t want to pay for a review course, and I didn’t think I had the time, nor was I sure if I wanted to stay in accounting.
However, last spring I was doing some research and found out that the exam would be changing extensively in Q2 2017. I also figured my daughter was only going to be more active as she gets older. So given those two factors, I figured it was now or never to take the CPA Exam.
As I began researching a course to take, I knew that I needed a lecture based format and I needed an instructor who was going to be high energy.
Well, Roger is high energy to say the least and I knew immediately that this course was the way to go. Luckily for me, Roger CPA Review was running their annual scholarship program. I applied, not thinking I would win since I knew there were already so many applicants. But I took my chances anyway. And I’m glad I did. I was awarded a scholarship that I used for the Elite Course Package, because it also had the thumb drive that I could take with me on vacation.
I committed to the 9-month study plan so that I’d be finished prior to the 2017 changes. I knew I had to become a CPA if I wanted to be fully qualified in the accounting profession. But I also wanted the challenge to prove to myself that I could do it. It was helpful to have tons of encouragement from my wife and friends/family who had more confidence than I did.
I took BEC first because it was only a four week study period and I thought it would get me off to a good start.
I took BEC in early July, then studied 10 weeks for REG in early October, 6 weeks of study for AUD in late November, and 10 weeks for FAR in early March. Throughout the process I tried to take about two weeks off between exams (and four weeks around Christmas prior to tackling FAR).
One of the hardest parts was when I had to start studying for the next section without knowing if I’d passed the previous section. But in the end, each section was easier on test day than I expected. I think that’s because of the quality of Roger’s course. I left each section very confident in how I performed which helped me greatly in moving forward to study for the next section. Not only could I have done it without Roger, but I don’t think I would have even tried if I didn’t find a course that fit me so well.
The biggest obstacle I faced during my whole CPA Exam journey was just deciding to tackle the exam and actually get started.
But once I did, I found having a study guide laid out for me was a huge help. That turned it into a large check-the-box exercise, although checking each box took 3+ hours. But as Roger says, “if you study you will pass”, so I just kept checking boxes.
Beyond that, the other biggest obstacle was time. My wife and I both work full time and we have a young daughter, so free time was minimal. I did most of my studying after my daughter went to bed which meant some pretty late nights. So, it was a good thing that Roger provides the energy because I usually had very little.
But despite the long nights and many sacrifices I had to make, I can say in the end that it was all worth it. Here are some things I found to be extremely helpful to get through this exam.
Find a partner to help keep you accountable and as a source of encouragement.
It doesn’t have to be someone else who is studying for the exam. Just someone who knows you and can keep you honest and pick you up when you’re dragging. For me, that was my wife. She was a constant source of strength for me. I truly couldn’t have done it without her. She took on more of our duties at home so that I could focus on the studying/exams, and it was a true team effort. She’d encourage me when I wanted to skip a night of studying when I didn’t think I’d ever remember all the different phase outs and limits on the REG exam.
And she’d occasionally see some of the lectures over my shoulder and get a good laugh out of Roger’s antics (I heard “what the heck is he doing?” more than once).
Secondly, remember that your study guide is your guiding light.
Before tackling an exam, look at your personal calendar and the study guide side by side. Find days where you have to adjust your study schedule and move them prior to starting to study. That way you limit your changes to your schedule and there’s less of a chance of you getting off track.
Then just stick to your study guide. Some nights I nailed the material and some nights I survived (and a couple nights I’m almost certain Roger was speaking a foreign language). But the good news is you don’t have to know every topic extensively. You have to know a little bit about a lot. Check those boxes, hammer the practice questions, and move on. I always aimed to be done with lectures about 7-10 days prior to the exam. I used that last week as an extensive review of pages I bookmarked and questions I missed. Then say “here goes nothing”, take your exam, and go have several beers.
--Chip McCraw, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review
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