October 2003

Wiley CPA Examination Review, Volume 1, Outlines and Study Guides (30th Ed., 2003–2004)

By O. Ray Whittington and Patrick R. Delaney
John Wiley & Sons; 1,152 pages; $56.95 (paperback); ISBN: 0471352306
Reviewed by Ilene Leopold Persoff

Offering more than its title suggests, the Wiley CPA Examination Review covers not only required topic knowledge and question formats for the Uniform CPA Examination, but also offers myriad suggestions for preparing, studying for, and taking the CPA exam. The manual is appropriate for first-time as well as repeat candidates. While its magnitude may intimidate some, the writing is clear, concise, and well organized.

Chapters 1 through 4 present nontopical exam information. The reader should not skim them, as each candidate will find something relevant. Chapter 1, “Beginning Your CPA Review Program,” with material directly from the AICPA’s “Information for Uniform CPA Examination Candidates,” explains the exam’s purpose, schedule, format, and content. The chapter gives AICPA website references and telephone contacts and includes a directory of state boards of accountancy. The balance of the chapter offers suggestions for preparing a study schedule and tools for knowledge retention. It provides specific time-allocation and self-evaluation formats, as well as study flashcards. The conversational tone makes this section read like a personalized coaching system.

Chapter 2, “Examination Grading,” uses official AICPA information for the current paper-and-pencil exam. It explains the grading process and how passing standards are set. An essay question uses the authors’ own grading guide to illustrate concept significance and keywords when preparing a solution. A hypothetical example that shows how a candidate’s grade might be derived should probably instill confidence. In addition, an actual candidate diagnostic report—received by one of the nation’s highest grade scorers—shows that the exam can be passed even when there are weaknesses in content areas.

Chapter 3 offers a very specific approach for managing the three exam question formats (multiple-choice, other objective questions, and essay), using tools such as T-accounts, journal entries, diagrams, timelines, margin notes, underlines, and process of elimination, and providing organization sequences. The authors acknowledge that their program is highly structured and remind candidates to individualize the suggested procedures. The personalized coaching concept is significant because readers must know they can decode information according to their own style and still get a correct answer.

Chapter 4 is full of exam regimen practicalities. The coaching system continues with the message that candidates must be psychologically ready, logistically prepared, and aware of exam-taking rules. Diet and exercise are deemed important for mental activity. Knowing where to go, what to take into the exam room, and what is provided with the exam are considered essential. Part of an actual test booklet, containing candidate instructions and an “objective answer sheet,” is provided. The authors stress that candidates should be aware of the numerical organization on their answer sheet so they can insert their answers in the proper order. The authors also discuss essay papers and offer suggestions for titling the pages. They note that different CPA licensing jurisdictions have different instructions for handing in papers and booklets.

In presenting the AICPA’s general rules governing the exam, the authors would do well to mention that candidates receive these by mail, and that states may also have individual requirements that candidates will receive and should read before attending the exam. The chapter has sections on time allocation, time management, and the order in which question types should be read and answered. The latter should be taken as suggestions, because candidates should practice beforehand to see which order works best for them.

Two particularly useful sections in Chapter 4 discuss the calculator and its usage. The book uses pictorial symbols to explain the functions of the calculator provided by the AICPA at the exam and gives contact information so candidates can purchase a sample calculator to practice with while studying. The authors wisely caution against overreliance on a calculator and urge candidates to remain focused on understanding and applying concepts of topical coverage.

The last part of Chapter 4 is the authors’ CPA exam checklist. The chronology begins one week before the exam and continues to the actual test-taking period. The authors provide excellent suggestions, but readers should fit these to their actual schedule. The authors suggest “evening-before” activities such as “review,” “scan,” and “reread notecards.” This reviewer thinks the authors should also recommend activities to avoid, such as working long problems or studying topics of least confidence.

The remaining chapters include topic coverage regarding all four parts of the CPA exam and are divided into numbered modules by major topic categories. Each part is introduced by the AICPA Content Specification Outline. Mini-outlines for Business Law and Professional Responsibilities are provided at the end of that section, and outlines of professional pronouncements are at the end of the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FARE) and Audit sections. Each module is in outline form. The authors give abundant examples and use study tools, such as boldfaced terms, tables, diagrams, lists, mnemonics, flowcharts, and summaries.

Ilene Leopold Persoff, CPA, an associate professor at the School of Professional Accountancy, C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, is the 2002/03 recipient of the NYSSCPA’s Outstanding CPA in Education Award.

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