Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Have I Mentioned How Frustrating This Is?

I've said it at least a dozen times today: "This is killing me," or, at least, "I hate this." No, it's not really killing me, but it is frustrating the heck out of me. What the heck am I talking about? My online CPA review seminar thingy.

Here's the basic problem. My accounting courses at the University of Phoenix began in early 2003 and ended around the fall of 2004. This means that the last time I was exposed to Earnings Per Share, Loan Impairments, and a thousand other accounting concepts was over four years ago, in some cases closer to five years ago. While it's true that I've worked as an accountant since then, doing a variety of tasks, roughly 90% of what I've been studying recently has little or nothing to do with what I've done for a living to date. My practical knowledge is limited and specialized, at least compared to the breadth of knowledge required to pass a CPA exam.

Now, I knew this going in, and expected to have to work hard to refresh my stale knowledge of all this stuff. The problem is that this online seminar I'm attempting is not calibrated for the staleness of my knowledge or, God help me, the ability of my aging brain to relearn it quickly. Even this 61-day course, the longest available, has more material due in a given time frame than I can effectively cover. On nearly every unit (or lesson or segment or topic or whatever it's called), it takes me significantly longer than the average student to complete, as reported by the software. In order to finish by the time the assignment is graded, I find myself memorizing the dollar amount of the right answer rather than the concept and calculations used to arrive at it. Needless to say, remembering for the next 30 minutes that the answer to the question about Bee Company is $24,000 will avail me nothing in a CPA exam six months from now.

And yes, I admit that I got a late start on Assignment 2, but that only exacerbates the problem. It doesn't cause it. If I start right in on Assignment 3 at midnight tonight, and spread it out over three days as I should, it's still going to take me far longer than other students to understand it all and retain it, as opposed to getting the answers right once by a combination of answer memorization and guessing and sorta-kinda understanding parts of it. If I were working, it would be flat-out impossible for me to do this FAR course in 61 days, short of continual cheating that does no one any good. Even without a job, I've been at this computer for 11 hours to do eight lessons, minus an hour in which I went to the dog park, read half a lesson there, and hit the Taco Bell drive thru on the way back. And that's with only a vague understanding of half of the stuff I supposedly just "learned" (or "reviewed"). To do it right would have taken far longer, which renders my achievement, such as it is, nearly useless. In order to actually pass a CPA exam, I'll pretty much need to study the same material all over again. In fact, I'm seriously thinking about rereading my Intermediate Accounting textbook and redoing some of my old homework from four years ago, just to ram all these concepts back into my head.

Now, I'm not saying the course is deficient or poorly written or anything like that. The truth of it is the equivalent of that old break-up line: "It's not you, it's me." If I had taken this review course when I was four years younger and fresh out of school, I'm sure I would have done better. It's meant to be a review of stuff I know, not a retraining from (almost) scratch.

Maybe it will get better as concept builds on concept, or I hit more areas that relate to past jobs. More sleep (although I got 7 hours last night) and better study habits would also help. So here's the plan. I've going to give Assignment 3 my best shot, spreading out the work, trying for lots of sleep, and taking twice the time anyone else takes to do it if that's what I need. And if that doesn't work, I'll drop the damn seminar again, and do the AUD (Auditing) one instead. That's even more likely to be far from my recent experience, but it's less math-oriented and more conceptual, I think, and there's just plain less of it. Over time I can try to get through FAR on my own, and then maybe use that seminar for review when it actually is a review, after I relearn most of the material, one way or another.

Y'know, I can be fairly arrogant about my intelligence. But this thing knocks the wind out of me.



1 comment:

Dawn Allynn said...

I look up to you on no small way. As an office manager/ bookkeeper for a large construction company I have considered going to school to be a CPA, but a second glance at the study load and all the work that comes with it made me turn right back around. I couldn't handle it.

For someone who loves what they do it may be an easier tackle, at least your heart is in it. My good wishes, as useless as they are, go out to you.