how hard are the CPA exams?

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dvictr's picture

im guessing the meat of it is jus FSA on steroids? compared to the CFA.. whats the deal.. 

I know states have different requirements, including academic course work.. but in California, its just about passing the exams.. right?

CFAvsMBA's picture

Bout as hard as my cocc during a fuccfest.

As for my number, I’m pretty sure I can use the z-table instead of the t-table, provided I am willing to assume no sampling bias. 

dvictr's picture

CFAvsMBA wrote:
Bout as hard as my cocc during a fuccfest.

?? limp and drunk?

kevinf12's picture

The states have different requirements to sit for the exams and get the license, but the exams are the same.  The viewpoint is different than the FSA section of the CFA, in that CPA is more about building the financial statements and CFA is more about analyzing them.  I did the CPA first, which made the FSA section for CFA relatively easy.  While doing the CFA first will certainly help, I think for me it wouldnt be as much of a help since it is at a broader and higher level. 

in general I didnt find the CPA as hard as all the levels of the CFA combined.  Also, keep in mind the above part is really only comparing one section of the CPA to one part of the CFA exams, as there are other sections that need be completed (audit, reg, BEC).

bchad's picture

What I’ve heard is that the CPA is similar in terms of level of effort it takes to prepare, but because the orientation is different, some will find it easier and others harder.

CPA is more about knowing the rules of accounting and making sure that accounting statements accurately reflect reality (or whatever reality is presented is at least legally defensible, given the rules).  CFA is more about using the knowledge gleaned from these statements to make forward-looking projections about the health and future performance of the company… so there’s more analysis and projection in CFA land, and fairly little actual bookkeeping.

So if you are better at memorization of large blocks of stuff, CPA may be easier for you.  If you are more into analysis and putting ideas together to come up with something new, CFA may be more your style.

I remember in the science curriculum in college, people basically fell into those who liked chemistry best and those who liked physics best.  Almost no one liked them about the same (except for those who detested both).  It seemed to boil down to learning styles.  You could do chemistry by memorizing lots of stuff and then applying relatively simple rules.  With physics, you didn’t have as much memorization, but you had to put different equations together in unique ways to solve the problems.  So people who could memorize easily thought that Chemistry came more naturally, and people who couldn’t but who were smart, liked Physics.

I came down on the Physics side, BTW.

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itera's picture

If I dual major in finance and accounting, and could only land an accounting job, I would be hugely ashamed at my grand failure

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

krazykanuck's picture

bchadwick wrote:

So people who could memorize easily thought that Chemistry came more naturally, and people who couldn’t but who were smart, liked Physics.

I’d totally agree with this. My friends who actually like accounting *shudders* like memorizing things, but can’t deal with ambiguity or any type of analysis. Maybe I’m a rarity… I’m very good at accounting, but I don’t enjoy it. I learned it more as a means to an ends and because having a good acct knowledge really does help with financial analysis.

I will be taking my 4 CPA exams starting after I take the L2 exam in June. I’m expecting them to be a cake walk after CFA L2. Not only does accounting come pretty easily to me, but the CPA exam is eating 4 Krystal burgers vs. the CFA which is like having to eat 10 lbs of food at a buffet in one sitting. More or less.

CFASac's picture

What benefits does it have to have a CPA on top of a CFA? I mean besides the obvious benefits, are there any particular jobs that require both?

My alma mater just introduced a new masters in accounting and I’m considering doing it. 

dvictr's picture

the CPA is a license to audit/prepare public financial statements.

If you are the CFO of a Hedge Fund you need to know exactly what auditors are looking at/for and how to creatively manage cash flow/ earnings. (for incentive reasons and tax purposes..) within guidelines obviously

a masters in accounting is just a really expensive preparation course for the CPA exams -not worth it, some states require specific course work and the masters of accounting would fill  that.. California has no coursework requirment but the laws very by state.

Alladin's picture

i have heard that CPA australia is different from CPA (US)…is this true?? is one easier than the other? hehe imagine having different versions of the CFA in different countries..a bit weird.

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itera's picture

Yes there are multiple versions of the “cpa” across the world.

I’ve heard the European version is one of the hardest

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

krazykanuck's picture

CFASac wrote:

My alma mater just introduced a new masters in accounting and I’m considering doing it. 

The ONLY reason to do a Masters in Accounting is because it conveniently bundles together all of the classes you need to take to meet the education requirements in your given state for the CPA exam. You generally need 150 cr hours, but each state has specific classes you need. Nobody gives a shit whether or not you have the degree (this from the mouths of Big 4 acct recruiters). The only thing that matters is you get your CPA.

Alladin wrote:

i have heard that CPA australia is different from CPA (US)…is this true?? is one easier than the other?

In Australia, Canada, and most (all?) European countries the equivilent designation is the CA, which is a Chartered Accountant. I don’t know about other countries, but to get your CA in Canada is harder than getting your CPA, not because of the material but because you need 3 years of qualified work experience with an approved firm. In the US you only need 1 year.

kevinf12's picture

In the US, I would agree that having a masters in accounting really isnt worth it.  Just get the CPA as it demonstrates what people need to know about you, in terms of accounting knowledge…

CFASac's picture

krazykanuck wrote:

CFASac wrote:

My alma mater just introduced a new masters in accounting and I’m considering doing it. 

The ONLY reason to do a Masters in Accounting is because it conveniently bundles together all of the classes you need to take to meet the education requirements in your given state for the CPA exam. You generally need 150 cr hours, but each state has specific classes you need. Nobody gives a shit whether or not you have the degree (this from the mouths of Big 4 acct recruiters). The only thing that matters is you get your CPA.

Alladin wrote:

i have heard that CPA australia is different from CPA (US)…is this true?? is one easier than the other?

In Australia, Canada, and most (all?) European countries the equivilent designation is the CA, which is a Chartered Accountant. I don’t know about other countries, but to get your CA in Canada is harder than getting your CPA, not because of the material but because you need 3 years of qualified work experience with an approved firm. In the US you only need 1 year.

Wouldn’t the Big 4 prefer you get your accounting courses done at a respected university and not just Devry or some city college online class? I figured the masters would be a much surer way to get into a Big 4 as opposed to just taking some online classes during free time and knocking out the 4 exams. 

krazykanuck's picture

CFASac wrote:

Wouldn’t the Big 4 prefer you get your accounting courses done at a respected university and not just Devry or some city college online class? I figured the masters would be a much surer way to get into a Big 4 as opposed to just taking some online classes during free time and knocking out the 4 exams. 

Sure they would (who wouldn’t), but the difference is they won’t pay any more for it. Starting pay is standardized by location. I’ve worked for 2 different firms and in both places, the people who went to crappier public schools vs. private schools were paid the same amount. Honestly, grunt level auditors are so in demand right now (at least where I live) that anybody with an average head on their shoulders, a cheap ass suit, and be CPA ready can probably get in at big 4.

At the firm I interned with, we had a 33/66 split of random classes vs. masters people. Most people do the masters at the school they did undergrad at, simply out of convenience. Acceptance is usually a given and you already know the professors. Picking and choosing the required classes is more of a pain.

At the end of the day, if you stay in the accounting track, nobody gives an F where you went to school or what degrees you have. If you have your CPA, that’s all that matters. Hell…anybody that started work back in the 90s won’t have a masters because that’s when the CPA requirements changed to require 150 hrs. I don’t think Masters in Acct even existed prior to the CPA requirement change.

bodhisattva's picture

iteracom wrote:
If I dual major in finance and accounting, and could only land an accounting job, I would be hugely ashamed at my grand failure

Are you only an undergraduate?

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