By Greg Fong, FP&A
I am pleased to share with you what I did to prepare for the FP&A exam. Although I passed it, there were definitely a few things I could have done better in the preparation process.
Just a quick background on me that might influence how you view my preparation, as I am not new to this subject material. I have more than 20 years in corporate FP&A—budgeting, forecasting and analysis. I’ve also worked in accounting and passed the CPA exam even though I’m not certified, and I’ve been a CMA for 20-plus years.
My study habits
I have an iPad that allowed me to save all the documents in PDF format. I purchased the PDF expert app, which allowed me to write on the pages of the documents and bookmark important pages. I also downloaded the key ratio and formula references guides to my iPad.
I attended as many of the weekly webinars with the live instructor. There were 15 webinars; if you miss any, you can go back and watch the recorded session.
I started using the testing system only after I was done with the webinars. I took the practice tests, and any area that I didn’t do well, I retook. Over and over.
I waited too long to practice with the non-Excel spreadsheet tool. This made me anxious leading up to the testing day. I also waited a bit too long to see what my schedule looked like to schedule my testing date. I luckily found a decent date, but it was not my ideal one. If you work, you might have to take a vacation day off.
The day before the test, I spent the entire day studying and retaking areas I didn’t do well in. I did this because I didn’t prepare well enough, soon enough.
- Get to know the non-Excel spreadsheet tool right away.
- Download the Formula Reference guide. If you can’t memorize the syntax, write on a one piece of paper the ones you know were on the practice tests and can’t remember.
- Make sure you know how to mechanically take the test in the system—especially saving what questions you want to go back to and the use of the spreadsheet tool and functions.
- Start taking the practice tests three months before your exam date.
- As soon as possible, try to schedule your exam date. It’s first come, first serve. Even though it sounds lame, take it on the weekend if you work so you don’t have to take a vacation day. Or take a vacation day the day before so you can spend an entire day cramming—like in college!
- On the day before the exam, stop studying at a reasonable time and go to sleep early.
- On test day, wake up early, eat a good meal, get to the testing facility early, go to the restroom before. You can’t bring water into the testing facility and the clock keeps running even if you have to take a break to get a drink.
I hope this is helpful to you. Good luck, and please let me know if you have any questions.
Greg Fong, FP&A, is associate director of finance for Verizon Wireless.