Though we're really excited about the 2011 CPA exam changes, we understand that many candidates are feeling confused and anxious about how to maximize their opportunities this year without sacrificing their chances at success next year. No need to panic, we're here to help!
Because the 18 month rolling period begins from the date you sit for and pass your first part, we generally advise CPA exam candidates to take whichever part that will be most difficult for them first. Because FAR is the longest and therefore requires the most study time, this is usually the hardest. The advantage to knocking out FAR early is that all studying you do from there on out is less time-intensive and appears "easier".
As anyone who has struggled to pass BEC can tell you, the size of each section is not necessarily indicative of that section's difficulty so always keep in mind that each section requires the same level of dedication and discipline to pass.
Because of the changes planned for 2011, many candidates are choosing to tackle FAR before the first window of 2011 as they want to deal with as little IFRS as possible. Keep in mind international auditing standards will be included in the Auditing and Attestation section after January 1, 2011 but beyond some small changes and reshuffling of content from section-to-section, the core content of each section will be largely unchanged. Accounting is still accounting and it would be unwise for the AICPA Board of Examiners to heavily test standards on the CPA exam that are not yet in practice for U.S. public companies (IFRS).
If you are nervous about the written communication section, try to take BEC this year and put off the other 3 sections for next year. Of course we have already given you plenty of tips to master written communication so you should be more than prepared to tackle the written component of the exam and feel confident in your ability to draft a clear, concise business letter.
Note: the last window of the year (October/November) is always the most difficult to schedule in. Because many candidates are nervous about next year's changes, we anticipate more scheduling difficulty than usual as candidates will be trying to squeeze in as many sections as they can before these changes take effect. It is imperative that you schedule early and are cognizant of the fact that you may not be able to schedule at the Prometric center closest to you or on the dates/times that you desire. Be flexible, schedule early and be prepared to adjust your plans as needed.