Four Steps for Making a Decision
“Something needs to change, but what?” Does that sound familiar? Especially about your job? I have a friend who is in this situation right now. She works for a big company, has a good position, a nice salary, reasonable co-workers, and the office is close to home – everything seems to be perfect, except for one thing: She hates her job!

The problem is that she hates her job, and she doesn’t know what she should do to fix it. She could:

  • Stay in the same company and move to a different position.
  • Stay in the same position and move to a different company or a different location.
  • Change her career field and start something completely different, perhaps her own business.

As you can imagine, each answer has its own risks. What if she makes less money? What if she has to work more hours and has less time with her family? What if she has to move and doesn’t like the new location? What if she makes the change and still doesn’t like her new job?

There are A LOT of questions that she needs to answer! Luckily, there is a process with only a few steps that makes it much easier to answer such questions and greatly increase the chances that the answers will be the right ones for you. However, even though the steps are simple, they are neither fast nor easy to go through. If you put in the time to complete the process, you will be surprised how easy it will be to make decisions (both personal and professional). The steps are:

Step 1. Establish your values. Values are the things that have the most meaning for you in life. Things that you cannot live without, and things that make you happy. Start by writing a list of everything that comes to mind, but then narrow it down to three. Be honest with yourself. 

Examples of values: health, family, friends, education, career, financial stability, freedom, time, development, travel, home … 

Step 2. Prioritize your values. After you identify your three most important values, you may feel like all three of them are equally important to you. However, it is critical to determine which value is the most important to you, which is second, and which is third. 

Step 3. Identify the character traits that you value. What are the character traits that you appreciate in people and want to develop in yourself? Make a list and choose 4-7 main character traits that are the most important for you. The traits that will describe you as a person or a person who you want to be. Even if you have not developed these traits in yourself as much as you would like to, you know that you would like to have these traits. 

Examples: honestly, kindness, accountability, mindfulness, leadership, confidence, hard-working, humbleness, loyalty, unselfishness, bravery, empathy…

Step 4. Describe the reason for and give examples of each value and character trait. Why is each value or trait important for you? What do they mean for you? A lot of people understand the same words differently. When we write things down, it helps us better understand our own values, priorities, and character traits. Be specific, write examples, names, and actions. Make sure that you put your heart and mind into each word. 


  • If one of your values is health, write what being healthy means to you (both physically and emotionally). Write what you will do to stay healthy and live out this value every day.
  • If one of your values is family, write the names of the people who are part of your family and how you are going to value your time with them.
  • If one of your values is financial stability, write what level of income helps you feel financially stable.

Steps 1 and 2 are the answers to the WHAT questions in your life. Steps 3 and 4 are the answers to the HOW questions in your life.

After my friend did this exercise and determined what was important to her, she knew what she wanted to do. She decided to stay in the company, get a professional certification, and work towards a top management position. She will be doing it with respect, dedication, and curiosity. Interestingly enough, by going through this process with respect to her career, she also made some important decisions in her personal life. Whether or not she should move to a different state, what arguments to have and not have with her spouse, and even whether or not they want to have a child now. By establishing her values and priorities, she knows what she needs to do to achieve those things.

So, what are YOUR values, priorities, and character traits? Follow these simple steps to figure them out and you will be able to more easily answers the questions you face. It is THAT simple, even if it is not always easy.

Scheduling for Success and Peace of Mind

Scheduling for Success and Peace of Mind

How to study for an exam?

One of the most common questions I get from students is how to study for an exam. I have written about how to study before, but there is one part of the study process that I want to specifically address again.

Time commitment

When you make the decision to study for a professional exam, you have made a time commitment that will span months, if not years (depending on the exam). On the first day of a class, I would often tell my students that for the next few months they would no longer have to ask themselves, “What should I do with my free time?” Once you start studying for an exam, you always have something that you could be doing, whether that’s reading the book, watching videos, or answering practice questions.

The problem is that the feeling that you should or could be studying is always in your mind. When you are reading a book for pleasure, you begin to think, “I could be studying the textbook.” When you are watching your favorite TV show, you think, “I could be watching a video lecture.” When you are exercising, you think, “I should be reviewing that last chapter that I read.”

Make a schedule

To help manage your time when studying for an exam, I strongly encourage you to make a schedule of when you will study each week by specifically designating time for studying (our standard study plans suggest about 10 hours per week). It might be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings from 6 – 8 p.m. It might be 6 – 7:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday. It might be an hour at 8 a.m. in the morning and an hour at 7 p.m. night on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Whatever will work for you.

Having a schedule of exactly when you will study will make your non-study time more enjoyable. You will have your set study times, but you also will know that during all of the other times of the week, you can do whatever you want. For example, if you know that you study on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings, you also know that the other nights are not times to study. So, when you are relaxing on Wednesday evening, you do not need to worry that you should be studying because you know it is not a time that you need to be studying.

Success and peace of mind

A schedule is critical not only for your success on the exam, but also for your peace of mind while studying. If you have a schedule already, congratulations. If you do not have a schedule for studying, then the first thing you should do today is to make a schedule. Both your studies and your personal life will be more enjoyable and less stressful as a result.

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA


Should I use a computer, tablet, or smartphone to study for an exam?

Students frequently ask us what kind of device they should use to study, and whether a laptop, tablet, or smartphone is best. In this post, we will give a quick reference for which materials we recommend using on each type of device, and which devices work well for each type of materials. The HOCK website is optimized for all sizes of screens including smartphones. This means that you can access and use My Studies and the PassMaps on all devices.

Note: For our purposes, a tablet is a full color touchscreen device running iOS or Android with at least a 7 inch (18 cm) screen. Black and white or eReader tablets are not supported.

By device:

  • Computer: A computer is ideal for using the HOCK materials. With a large screen, you can easily read the textbook, watch the videos, and answer practice questions.
  • Tablet: A color tablet works well with the HOCK materials. We do recommend doing the mock exams on a computer to mimic the exam environment and get practice taking the exam on a computer.
  • Smartphone: We do not recommend reading the textbook on a smartphone, but you can still watch the videos or use the practice questions on your phone. The audio files can be downloaded and played offline, so listening to the audios on your smartphone is a good way to use travel or exercise time to study. Our CMA and CIA materials include a mobile app with the MCQs that can be used offline.

By type of material:

  • Textbook: The textbook is easily readable on computers and tablets. While the textbook can be viewed on a smartphone, it is tedious to read with a lot of scrolling and zooming required.
  • Videos: The videos work well on any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Some slides with a lot of text may be difficult to read on smaller smartphone screens. The closed captions may also be difficult to read on a small screen.
  • Practice Questions: The practice questions can be used on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. The smartphone is not ideal because longer questions require scrolling or zooming, but most questions will be easy to read. Our CMA and CIA materials include a mobile app with the MCQs that can be used offline.
  • Flash Cards: Our electronic flash cards are in PowerPoint format and can be viewed with any program or app that can open PowerPoint files. Some cards with more text may be harder to read on smaller screens.


A computer or tablet are both good choices to study for your exam. While all HOCK materials are usable on smartphones, we do not recommend using only a smartphone to study for an exam. However, the smartphone is a great way to supplement your studies when you are not able to use a larger device, especially by listening to the audio files.

If you have any questions about the HOCK materials or how to use them on any type of device, we will be happy to help.

Exam Shortcuts

Do Exam “Shortcuts” and “Cheat Sheets” Work?

Studying for a professional exam is just like preparing to accomplish any significant goal—the only way to succeed is to put in the required time and effort. There is a specific and defined body of knowledge that you need to know to pass a professional exam and until you have mastered that body of knowledge, you will not pass the exam.

Marketing Gimmick

When someone advertises that they have a shortcut or very short materials that condense the exam into “only what you need to know,” this is only a marketing gimmick. Unfortunately, marketing does not help you pass the exam. Marketing may help you feel confident that you have some special knowledge, but when you get to the exam you will be in for a surprise if you don’t know the information that is tested on the exam.

Practice Questions vs Exam Questions

One comment that is often made by unsuccessful candidates is the questions on the exam were different than the practice questions. Of course the practice questions and exam questions are different—they should be different! If the actual exam had only questions that you practiced with, then the exam would not test what you know, but only how many questions you can memorize.

Knowledge Application

Candidates who pass that exam understand the concepts and theories tested on the exams and are able to apply that knowledge, even if the questions are asked differently than the questions that they had practiced with. Earning the credential means that you can apply your knowledge to new situations, and this is what your employer expects you to be able to do. Memorizing specific answers is of no value to your employer.

How to Save Your Time and Money

In order to be prepared to pass the exam the first time, you need more than shortcuts or simplified materials. You can save yourself a lot of time, effort, and money by studying only once using complete and comprehensive exam prep materials that prepare you to pass on your first attempt.

You can learn more about HOCK’s comprehensive CMA, CIA, and CPA exam prep materials on our web site. We may not have any shortcuts, but with our Complete program, we guarantee your success!

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

Value Chain Analysis

How to Use Value Chain Analysis While Preparing for the CMA, CIA, and CPA Exams

This continues a series of posts that looks at preparing for an exam using some of the same concepts that you might study for the CMA, CPA, or CIA exams.

Value Chain Analysis

Value chain analysis helps a company understand which processes add value for the customer and which processes do not. If the company can reduce or eliminate activities that do not add value for the customer, then the company will lower its costs without having to reduce the price because the customer will not notice any difference in the product or service after the non-value-adding activities have been removed.

From an exam preparation standpoint, value chain analysis can similarly help you identify the activities that do add value to the exam preparation process and eliminate those that do not. Eliminating non-value-added activities will not reduce your ability to pass the exam, and will give you more time to do value-adding activities.

Value-Adding Activities

Some of the activities that do add value to your exam preparation process are:

  • Reading the textbook
  • Answering good practice questions
  • Studying incorrect answers to questions to help you understand common mistakes
  • Watching exam prep videos
  • Asking questions of exam experts
  • Reading some exam advice and guides on-line
  • Making your own study notes, especially for topics that you find difficult
  • Reviewing previously-studied topics
  • Discussing the exam with other candidates

Activities That Do Not Add Value

Examples of activities that I know candidates sometimes want to do but do not add value to the exam preparation process are:

  • Spending too much time reading exam advice or tips. The only way you can prepare for the exam is by actually preparing (i.e. performing the value-added activities). Just reading exam advice or tips will not prepare you to pass the exam.
  • Answering non-exam-based questions. If you search for questions online, there is a great risk that the questions you find will not be relevant to the exam.
  • Asking questions to people who are not exam experts. Colleagues, professors, or other users on general accounting forums do not have the exam in mind and may give answers outside of the scope of the exam.
  • Trying to find “shortcuts” to studying. There are no shortcuts to passing the exam and there is no secret knowledge that substitutes for spending the required time studying and learning the material.
  • Memorizing practice questions or repeating practice questions so often that you know all of the answers. The questions on the exam will be different than the practice questions.
  • Spending time and money on multiple question banks from different providers. Because all providers have access to the same previously-released exam questions, the questions will be mostly the same no matter which question bank you use.
  • Trying to guess what topics might or might not be tested on your exam. Because the exams use large question databases covering all of the topics on the syllabus, you need to be prepared to answer questions on any topic.

As you are studying for the exam, ask yourself if your activities are value-added to the main objective of learning the concepts tested on the exam. Anything that is not accomplishing that objective is non-value-added and can be eliminated from your studies.

What are some other value-added activities that you do to prepare for the exams?

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

Variance Analysis

Using Exam Variance Analysis to prepare for the CMA, CIA, and CPA Exams

This continues a series of posts that looks at preparing for an exam using some of the same concepts that you might study for the CMA, CPA, or CIA exams.

Variance Analysis

In management accounting, variance analysis is the process of looking at the differences between the actual and budgeted results for a period. Common uses of variance analysis are in manufacturing expenses, i.e. direct material, direct labor, and overhead. When teaching variance analysis, I emphasize that we should not ignore variances that are favorable (positive) because we should look to see what that department is doing differently that led to the positive variance.

Actual vs Expected (“budgeted”) Results

When preparing for an exam, we can look at the difference between an actual result and an expected (or “budgeted”) result with practice questions. We recommend for most exams that you should be getting at least 80 – 85% of practice questions correct in order to be ready for the exam. So, when you answer practice questions, you can measure your actual result against your “budgeted” result and analyze where you need further study.

Answering Practice Questions

When you are answering practice questions, you should pay attention to how well you know each topic and how easily you can answer the questions. There are different ways that you can achieve a “passing” score, and you are in the best position to know how you did it. What do I mean by that? Let us say that you answer 10 questions and your goal is to get at least 8 correct. When doing the questions, there are 6 questions that you know for sure, and four questions that you mostly guessed on. If you got lucky in your guessing, you might get 8 or 9 of the 10 questions correct. But, in reality, you really only knew 60% of the questions, and the 60% score is the one that really matters.

Therefore, when you look at your results on a quiz or mock exam, you, and only you, are in the best position to make an assessment of your knowledge. Candidates often ask us if they are ready for the exam based on a mock exam score. That is an impossible question for us to answer; we don’t know how many questions you got right because you knew the answer and how many you got right because you guessed. On a mock exam, there’s a big difference between scoring 90% with 10 lucky guesses (you are probably ready for the exam) and scoring 90% with 25 lucky guesses (you are probably not ready for the exam).

Assessing Your “Total Variance”

Being honest in your assessment of your “total variance” is one of the best things you can do while studying for the exam. What are some of the strategies you have used in assessing your true variance when reviewing practice questions?

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

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Capital Budgeting

CMA, CIA, and CPA Exam Preparation Using Exam Content: Capital Budgeting

Capital Budgeting

This is the first in a series of posts that looks at preparing for an exam using some of the same concepts that you might study for the CMA, CPA, or CIA exams.

Capital budgeting is the process that a company goes through when it makes large capital investments or investments into long-term projects. As individuals, we do not have much need for capital budgeting, but one example of personal capital budgeting is the decision to pursue a professional certification.

Usually, when we make a decision to get a certification, we are focusing on the increased salary that we expect to receive as a result of having that certification. While that is obviously a great benefit (cash inflow), it is not the only element of capital budgeting that is part of this decision. There are also cash outflows associated with taking an exam.

When I teach capital budgeting, I always emphasize that we need to take into account the non-monetary qualitative factors (both positive and negative) involved in a decision. For example, how the project would impact employee morale, whether the project would have any public relations implications, and if the project is congruent with the company goals and objectives. These qualitative factors are difficult to put into an analysis but may be just as important as the quantitative factors (i.e. the cash).

Cash Outflows

Some of the cash outflows and qualitative considerations connected with pursuing a professional certification are:

Cash Inflows

Some of the cash inflows and other qualitative benefits that you will receive include:

  • The increase in your salary that is the direct result of gaining the certification
  • An increase in respect and reputation within your organization
  • An increase in confidence that comes with passing an internationally recognized professional exam.

The tools that a company uses to determine whether or not a project is beneficial include the payback method and the net present value method. Both of these can also be applied to making a decision about getting a professional certification.

Payback Method and Net Present Value

  • Payback method. Based on the expected raise from gaining a certification, you can calculate how many years you will need to work to earn back the costs of taking the exam.
  • Net present value. To calculate the net present value of a certification, you would need to determine a required rate of return. I am not sure how you would determine a required rate of return, but it could be based on how much you value your time. It would also be possible to calculate the Internal Rate of Return and see if that IRR is acceptable to you. But, however you calculate it, is the return acceptable to you?

Have you considered any other cash flows or qualitative factors in your decision to prepare for a professional certification? I’d be glad to hear from you in the comments about what they were.

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

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Why CMA is the Best Accounting and Finance Certification

There are several well-known international certifications for accounting and finance professionals, including CMA, CPA, CIMA, ACCA, ACA, CIA, CFA, and others. The first step for you as a professional seeking a certification is determining which one will be the most beneficial. This requires looking not only at your current job, but also what you would like to do in the future. By looking ahead, you can be certain that you have the needed skills, experience, and certification(s) for your career.

I have been involved in professional certifications in accounting and finance since 1998 and through all of these years, the certification that is generally the most valuable is the CMA. Of course, if you want to be an internal auditor, you become a CIA and if you want to be an investment banker, you should become CFA. However, if you are looking for a career in accounting or finance, are looking to start or operate a small or medium-sized business, or want to have a certification that will provide the most flexibility and most options for you in your career, the CMA is the best certification for you.

There are five main reasons that the CMA is the overall best accounting and finance credential:

1. The CMA Syllabus is practical and relevant to your job.

Everything in the CMA syllabus is something that a business does or should do. Such a practical syllabus provides a lot of benefits to you:

  1. It makes studying easier. It is a lot easier to study and learn something when its relevancy to a business is easy to understand. Also, by being practical, there is a greater chance that you will have some experience or exposure to the concepts before you start studying.
  2. The content you learn is useful for your current and future jobs. Ideally, studying for your certification will help you perform your job better. Whether you are in accounting, finance, budgeting, management, or operations, what is covered on the CMA Exam is what a company does or should be doing.
  3. The knowledge does not limit you to a specific department or career path. With topics ranging from financial accounting to management accounting, to planning and budgeting, to internal controls, to ethics and decision making, CMA prepares you for any job that is connected to management of a small or medium-sized business, or the accounting and finance functions in any size company.

2. You only need a Bachelor’s degree and two years of relevant work experience.

While some accountants have advanced degrees, there are many accountants who started in a different career and may not have a business degree or number of hours of accounting courses. For the CMA exam, as long as you have a 3 or 4 year Bachelor’s degree in any subject, you meet the education requirement.

Furthermore, as long as you have two years of relevant work experience, you will meet the experience requirement. Your experience does not need to be with any specific position nor does your supervisor need to be a CMA.

3. You only need to pass two exams to become a CMA.

While it may seem at first that only two exams are not enough for a professional certification, the two CMA exams cover a wide range of topics that are all tested in depth. This means that you get a rigorous exam that covers everything it needs to cover, but without a multi-year time commitment. With only two exams, you will be able to earn your CMA in around a year (average), and you will actually have a certification. While there are certifications with many more exams, if you don’t complete them all there is no benefit to you.

4. Your CMA certification is internationally recognized.

In all likelihood, you will have a number of different jobs during your career, which may include working for a multinational corporation, or in another country. Because the CMA certification is internationally recognized, it will help you get a job anywhere in the world. Having a CMA will also show to others in your organization that you are committed to your profession, which will help with promotions.

5. The CMA Syllabus is practical and relevant to your job.

Yes, this was also #1, but it is so important that it needs to be listed twice. An international syllabus (without country-specific details such as US Tax law) allows you to learn what is needed in today’s international accounting and finance marketplace.

For all of these reasons, I strongly recommend CMA as the best international certificate in accounting and finance. Of course, when you have a particular career goal, or your company requires a specific certification, then you need to pursue that required certification. If, however, you are looking to develop and expand your career prospects and possibilities within accounting and finance, then I strongly recommend the CMA Certification.

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

How to choose a live-taught course provider for the CMA, CIA, and CPA exams

Around the world, there are hundreds of institutions offering live taught classes for CMA, CIA, CPA, ACCA, and many other certifications. While there are a lot of excellent review course providers in the market, there are also some that charge too much for too little service. Some provide poor materials, illegal copies, and/or unqualified teachers and do not do much to help you prepare to pass your exams.

These are the questions that you need to ask providers when choosing a course: 

  1. How many hours of instruction are provided per part?
  2. Who are the instructors?
  3. How many candidates are usually in a class?
  4. May you attend a class, or part of a class, for free to see how the class is run?
  5. What support the does company provide outside of classes?
  6. Will the publisher of the materials that they use answer your questions?
  7. Will I need to study between classes?
  8. What happens if you miss a class? How can you “make it up?
  9. What study materials are provided?
  10. What will they do for you if you attend every class and fail the actual exam?
  11. What is the total cost of the attending class will be?
Watch the video to learn which answers you should expect from a good course provider and what answers are causes for concern.

In my twenty years of helping candidates pass their certification exams, I have come across many myths and misconceptions that can cause candidates to spend more time and/or more money than they need to. These myths are often perpetuated through the marketing that companies use to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Unfortunately, this marketing can be very misleading as you research the best materials to use to study.

Myth #1: More material means better material

There are not a lot of materials that you need to prepare properly; all you need is a way to learn and way to practice. Usually, this means a textbook (but can also include videos if the videos cover the entire syllabus) and practice questions from past exams. The quantity of pages, number of questions, hours of videos, etc. is not as important as whether or not that material is complete, relevant, and prepares you to pass the exams. You generally do not need multiple question banks, either, because the question banks from each provider are usually very similar, including the same previously-released exam questions.

Myth #2: More expensive material means better material

While it is usually true that “you get what you pay for,” it is true only if what you are paying for adds value for you. When a material provider pays to receive “status” from the examiner or has an affiliate agreement with another site that “recommends” them (more on this next), these are costs that are passed on to you but do not add any value. If someone “approves” or “recommends” certain materials, be certain to find out the criteria for that recommendation. Any non-quality-based recommendation adds no value to you.

Myth #3: Review comparison sites are really unbiased

For many professional exams, there are websites that claim to offer unbiased reviews of the different providers. What is not very well known is that most of these sites receive commissions from the material providers listed on them, meaning that the reviews are not objective. Usually, the company that is rated the highest is the one that pays the highest commission to the review site. On some sites this relationship is disclosed (though often not very prominently), but on many sites it is not disclosed at all.

As an example, one of the review sites for CMA materials used to list HOCK as their #1 provider with five stars. When the owner of the site asked HOCK to join an affiliate commission program but we chose not to participate, we lost 2 stars overnight and went from first place to third place in their rankings. The change had nothing to do with the materials, but rather the review site could make money recommending other providers who would pay a commission.

Besides the undisclosed financial relationship, these sites often have incorrect and/or outdated information because they write a review and then it sits online, unchanged sometimes for years. These sites also give no mechanism for the course providers to provide updated information or to respond to the reviews if there are inaccurate or incorrect statements.

You may have noticed that there are a lot of these review comparison sites for CMA, CPA, and CIA materials that do not include HOCK. This is usually because we refused to pay a commission to the person who runs the site. I am certain that we have lost business over the years because of this decision, but I also know that it has allowed us to keep our prices more affordable for you, because we do not need to include a 20% or 25% commission mark-up in our price. What you pay for HOCK materials goes to value-added activities, and not to expensive marketing relationships.

Myth #4: Pass rates are accurate and honest

Many course providers post a pass rate for candidates who use their materials. I have written about this in the past (, but these pass rates mean almost nothing because there is no straightforward and consistent way to calculate them. Which candidates are included? Or excluded? How do we determine a “pass?”

For example, if a candidate buys materials from Provider X and fails, but after purchasing Provider Y materials they pass the exam, is that candidate a “pass” for Provider X, Provider Y, or both? Does Provider X still include the first failure in their pass rate? Provider X could claim a 100% pass rate for that one student because they eventually did pass, but a 50% pass rate would be more accurate and honest.

Or, if a candidate uses materials from three providers and passes on their first attempt, who claims that “pass?” One way that you can see the inaccuracy of pass rates is by looking at all of the providers who publish pass rates. Every company claims a pass rate that is significantly higher than the exam’s published pass rate by the examining body. If these claimed pass rates were true, the real pass rate for the exam would as high as the claims made by the providers.

Myth #5: You must attend a class

For many years I taught live classes, and I know that a good class can be very helpful. However, the materials that a company sells should be sufficient to pass the exam with self-study. If you are going to study in a classroom, please make certain that the class will be value-added. See this post that I wrote previously listing some questions you should ask a classroom provider (

In addition, pay attention to the number of hours in the class. Some classes (including online classes) can include a large number of hours of instruction, which may be used to “justify” a higher price. No matter how good the teacher is, however, you need to spend time yourself studying and practicing questions. Not all of your study hours need to be instructor-led and if the class goes on too long, you are not getting any value from many of those hours.

For the CMA exam, both HOCK and the ICMA recommend 150 hours of study per part, and our videos are currently only 24 hours for Part 1 and 25 hours for Part 2. I have been teaching CMA since 2000 and we use those videos as the basis for our “You Pass or We Pay Guarantee.” If I am able to teach the content that you need in 25 hours per part, you do not need to be in a classroom for 100 hours per part.

Myth #6: Personal counselors are personal and needed

Some companies offer a personal counselor or similar service. While this sounds good, we believe that personal counselors are of limited added value to your studies. There is a specific syllabus for the exam, and every candidate must learn the material on the syllabus. You are able to determine in what areas you need additional study by looking at the statistics in your practice questions. If you have 94% for a topic, you know that topic well. If you have 43% for a topic, you do not know that topic well and you need to keep studying it. Maybe the counselor helps keep you motivated because they contact you every one or two weeks, but a good study plan can also keep you keep on track.

Besides statistics, only you know how well you understand a topic, regardless of the statistics. Are you guessing on the questions a lot? Are you confident in your knowledge as you read questions and answer them? Those are indicators about your preparedness that only you know. The counselor can’t tell you what your understanding and confidence level is.

In the end, interacting with a personal counselor adds time to your study process because the time you take talking to them or trying to meet specific administrative reporting tasks is time that you could be studying and learning the material instead.

Myth #7: There are shortcuts to passing the exam

Occasionally, a company will claim to have materials that reduce the time that you need to spend studying or have a shortcut to focus on “the right topics” for the exam. While that would be nice, there are no shortcuts! There is a syllabus for the exam and you need to learn all of it. Some common shortcuts include mnemonic devices or memory tricks, which may seem like they are working when you practice with questions that you become familiar with in the practice software, but on the exam you will have questions that you have never seen before. If you have only memorized a handful of key terms or phrases, you will not be able to answer questions on the exam that are different than the practice questions.

Using such shortcuts may reduce the amount of time you spend preparing for your first attempt on the exam, but you will spend the full amount of time later when you need to prepare to take the exam again. Not only do the shortcuts not save you any time, they cost you money as well when you don’t pass on the first attempt.

Final Thoughts

I hope that it is not too late for you to avoid some of these myths and misconceptions that could make your studies more expensive or take more time than necessary. You won’t find any shortcuts or marketing gimmicks at HOCK; instead, we will prepare you effectively and efficiently to pass the exams on your first attempt with comprehensive materials and support that give you all of the tools that you need – no more, and no less.

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

In this video, HOCK international President Brian Hock offers some tips for how to set up a study schedule for effective and efficient studying.

Some of the suggestions discussed in the video include:

  • Set aside time when studying is the only thing you do.
  • Make studying a priority in your schedule.
  • Study at a time of the day when you are alert and focused.
  • Use smaller blocks of time for studying rather than longer blocks.

Learn more about the HOCK study materials for the CMA, CPA, and CIA exams and see how HOCK can help you prepare to pass your exams on your first attempt.