In conversation with US CPA Alumni – Harsha Begwani

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Harsha Begwani

What was your strategy in preparing for the CPA Exam?

Contrary to what others say, I found REG and FAR subjects simpler than the other 2 CPA subjects (AUD and BEC), as the concepts are concise. Both FAR and REG are concept-based and relatively easy to understand.

BEC, on the other hand, has a vast theory portion that one needs to cover and a surprise element in the form of Written Communication Tests (WCTs). One can never know what to expect in WCT. Since WCT is more about personal opinion, one needs to be careful in framing the answer. The various topics in Miles Concept books help to understand how to frame the answer, how to know the crux and further elaborate on it. One needs to begin with an introduction, elaborate on the body, and then wrap it up with a conclusion. Being mentally prepared and knowing how to form the answer, clarity over various concepts, and framing the answer in the right way helps.

With the AUD portion, given that the majority of the portion is basically theory-based, MCQs could turn out to be tricky. I used the elimination technique (where you cancel out the wrong options one by one, getting you closer to the right option. Cancelling out each option increases the probability of the best options to be right) for the ones that I had a doubt on. It really helps in solving the question quickly.

Were there any questions that completely took you by surprise?

I clearly remember my experience with the REG exam. About 2 to 3 questions were completely outside the box in REG (they were related to the detailed AICPA topic which I had no clue about). So yes, that did take me by surprise – a scary one! I would say, one has to be mentally prepared that few questions will be out of the syllabus. Though, there wouldn’t be any vagueness in questions. If you know your concepts well, or if you can make sense into what’s been asked, you can surely come up with what looks like a close answer, if not the right answer. Understand the tricks and concepts by solving more and more OTB questions. It gives you the pattern of how to crack questions and helps create your own approach to solving the questions.

Did you allot time frames to each set of questions?

By far, the subject FAR has most calculations and can be time-consuming. It is extremely important to time the section and finish it within the stipulated timeline, Else, it will have an impact on the later sections. My advice would be to quickly run through the simulations first. It gives you an idea of whether you can complete it quickly or if you would need time and effort to read and understand it. Accordingly, allot time to each one of them. For example, REG simulations are very small but the concept should be very clear in order to solve them quickly. Browse through the questions, mentally prepare and allot time for each of the questions, and using concepts, they can be finished quickly.

Any tips or words of advice to aspiring CPA candidates.

I would suggest the CPA aspirants give more importance to the concept books and study materials. Do revise it a minimum 3 to 4 times and make your concepts strong. In my case, I preferred to solve the simulations only after thoroughly reading my books. I would revise the study materials at least twice before I got to the simulations as they need a deeper understanding of the concept. MCQs can be taken up after you’ve completed the material at least once.

Any exam tips and mantras for CPA aspirants?

Here’s an interesting tip, something that I followed for all the 4 exams. For two days before the exam, just stick to the study material (the concept books). You don’t have to indulge in solving OTB questions except for the flagged ones which we think are different/difficult. Be sure to brush up your notes.

What helped me greatly is that I made notes in small sections within the books for the topics that I felt needed more of my attention. I went through them the day before the exam. I would personally suggest the exam takers to not touch the books on the day of the exam. It will only increase your anxiety and cause unnecessary tensions. Rather, finish everything one day prior to the exam. Take the mandate 15 mins break to unwind during the exams if necessary. It really helps rejuvenate and pull yourself together to work on the next set of exam testlets. And yes, eat light on the day of the exam.

Tell us about your interview preparation techniques.

Well, I majorly focused on the AUD and FAR topics to prepare for the interview. I was aware that the interview panel would look for technical terms in answers. It’s crucial to use the right terminologies during the discussions. This would certainly set you apart from the other candidates. It makes you look and sound sharp. One of the behavioral questions I was asked during the interview was regarding why I pursued CPA even though I was already a CA. I had foreseen such questions coming up and I dealt with them by playing the right cards.

In one of the rounds where I was facing the Director, I was asked if there were any situations in the past, where I may have positively impacted the organization through my individual contribution. I had somehow looked forward to such questions beforehand and was rightly prepared for it. So yes, it is important that one prepares thoroughly for an interview. After all, what lands you an opportunity is usually a result of what you speak in that 15 mins interview. The Miles team was helpful in understanding my requirements and scheduling interviews accordingly.

1 thought on “In conversation with US CPA Alumni – Harsha Begwani”

  1. Viswajeet Sankhari

    I have known Harsha in person and I am not surprised that she cleared the CPA exams in her first attempt. A lot to learn from her journey and it surely motivates CPA aspirants. Well done Harsha. We are proud of you.

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