Taking professional exams can be stressful and time-consuming, but candidates don’t need to take their journey alone! Many candidates reach out to mentors, coworkers, friends, and family for support. It helps to know there’s someone who has your back and can help keep you on track.
Our Personal Counselors are ready to help CPA, CMA, CIA, and EA candidates achieve their goals and earn their certifications. They can help you create a study plan, give you study advice, share exam day tips, and much more.
Soncera Keene is our Personal Counselor Lead and was kind enough to answer a few questions so we can learn a little more about her!
What is your favorite part of being a Personal Counselor?
Hearing about the success of our candidates! It is amazing to hear from someone who has just passed one of their exams, especially someone who found that particular exam part challenging to prepare for. Getting to share in their moment of joy makes my day, whether it is their first exam or their last.
I also really love getting to learn about my candidates, like their motivations and plans once they complete their certification. For example, I have one candidate who is studying for the CIA exam right now, and I aspire to be like her when I am older! She works full time, has a young family at home, and still manages to volunteer every week at a food bank in her community. On top of that, she is pushing herself to complete her studies, and she’s currently on track to finish up her final exam in August! She’s ready to be a Certified Internal Auditor, and after seeing the drive she has, I’d definitely want her on my team! Seeing someone like her really inspires me to push myself.
Can you tell us a fun candidate story you have?
A personal favorite is about a candidate who was studying for the CPA Exam for years. She had used at least three other providers and just kept falling short of that passing score. She decided to give Gleim a try, and on her first AUD attempt with us, she missed the exam by one point. However, she wasn’t discouraged! In fact, she saw a major improvement in her performance on the exam, and was encouraged to see how much she was retaining!
Her perseverance in the face of the challenge of the CPA Exam inspires me!
Personal Counselors help candidates from all over the world achieve their career goals. When starting your studies for an accounting certification, it’s important to have a support network that not only has the answers to your questions, but also the experience to answer the questions you didn’t know you had!
Soncera talks to nearly 50 people every day about their studies. Many candidates share the same concerns and goals, but the path to certification is different for everyone. We encourage everyone to reach out to mentors like Soncera whenever they need help!
How have you seen the pandemic affect your candidates?
I find that our candidates tend to fall into one of two camps: either they have ample free time to prepare due to closures, or they have absolutely no time due to an increase in their work or personal load.
For both sides, the big question tends to be the same: when will I be able to sit for my exam? For some candidates, finding the answer to that is simple. For others, it is a bit more of a challenge. In the face of such an unprecedented event like COVID-19, things are constantly changing, and a lot of people are unsure about whether they should even continue with their studies! My goal is to help those candidates with the answers I can give them, direct them to where they can find the answers I don’t have, and set them up with a study plan for success!
What is the most common challenge you see candidates face and how do you direct them to overcome it?
I think the most common challenge would have to be finding time to study. Almost every candidate has some other demand on their time that makes it hard for them to set study time aside throughout the week, whether it be work, family, or volunteer obligations.
My typical recommendation is to try to think of studying as another obligation on your time. If you think of studying as optional, it can be easy to put off. If you think of it as another thing that needs to get done, like a part-time job, it is a bit easier to make yourself sit down to study. If you try to aim for something like 10-15 hours a week for each of the exams, you are usually on a great path to success!
Also, remember you don’t have to study for big blocks of time! Thirty minutes in the morning before work, thirty minutes during your lunch break, and an hour before bed adds up! If you can manage that, you are looking at two hours a day, five days a week! That’s already 10 hours! Always keep in mind that an hour a day is better than none! Every day you log in is a win.
For our EA candidates in particular , I know that around tax season, it can be especially hard to find the time to study. Try to remember, though, that if you stick to it and push yourself to get in the habit of studying at least 10 hours a week, it is possible for you to become an EA before next tax season, and wouldn’t that be great?
What part of the Gleim Review Course do you find helps candidates the most?
The adaptive quizzes! Since the SmartAdapt™ system tracks their progress through every step of the review, the adaptive quizzes are absolutely crucial to pinpoint exactly what information candidates are retaining and what areas they are continuing to struggle with.
This really helps streamline the study process and make the best of the study time they are able to put in every day.
What’s one piece of advice you give every new candidate?
Especially for candidates who haven’t used our materials before, I recommend starting online and completing the first Study Unit. When doing so, I ask them to keep close track of any questions or concerns they may have. With our SmartAdapt system and the Gleim methodology, a lot of candidates are unfamiliar with how everything is meant to work. I want you to come to me with those questions.
Because our methodology focuses on the mentality of “you learn from your mistakes,” candidates can often feel like they’ve done something wrong from the start. However, our system is designed to help you find and focus on your weaknesses, and I encourage you to put your trust in it and in us.
Also, this one is specifically for our CMA candidates! Please make sure to do your practice essays.
A lot of candidates feel pretty confident in their ability to handle a basic essay question, and I absolutely support that. It is important to remember, though, that the essay questions you see on the CMA exam are going to be a bit different than the essays you’ve done in the past, and the formatting you’ll need to use on the exam will be different as well. This is why we’ve set up our online materials to function identically to what you’ll use on testing day — so that you can be familiar with how it’ll work!
Get as much practice with those essays as you can. The same goes for our CPA candidates and the Written Communications!
Not every candidate’s journey is the same. Personal Counselors build relationships with their candidates to make sure they get the personalized help they need! Many of our candidates attribute their success to their Personal Counselor for giving them the extra push.
Even if you are just getting started and don’t have any questions about your studies, getting to know your Personal Counselor early makes reaching out later easier. Personal Counselors want to share in your triumphs as well as help you through your struggles.
What do you wish people knew about Personal Counselors?
We are here to help you succeed! My goal as a Personal Counselor is to do everything I can to help you get that passing score.
I want you to reach out to me! I love getting to talk with candidates that are just getting started, because I can address a lot of the questions that tend to pop up in the beginning:
Being able to address all of those questions early on means the candidate will have what they need in order to develop good study habits from the get-go, and they can get the full benefit of our amazing SmartAdapt system. There is no stupid question!
How has COVID-19 (Coronavirus) impacted your role as a Personal Counselor?
Staying on top of all of the constant changes with the various exams has presented an interesting challenge, that is for sure! Since Personal Counselors advise on all four of the accounting exams for which Gleim produces materials, we need to make sure to be aware of changes as soon as they are made, so that we can share that information with our candidates.
Thankfully, we have a great team here, and we are all constantly in touch to keep each other aware of important updates. I am extremely grateful to my fellow Personal Counselors and other Gleim team members for being such amazing colleagues!
Have you learned anything from your candidates accounting related or otherwise, that you wouldn’t have learned if you weren’t a Personal Counselor?
I think the single most interesting thing I’ve learned from a candidate since becoming a Personal Counselor is that if you keep a pot-bellied pig as a household pet, it will eat at your door frames!
On a more serious note, I’ve learned that there is a lot more to the accounting field than most people see. I think there is this one-size-fits-all belief of what working in accounting means, but I’ve met so many wonderful people from so many backgrounds, specialties, walks of life, and places that I could never think of that one-size definition again.
Okay, here’s a fun question, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to refill anything at will! Glass is empty, and with the blink of an eye, it’s full of soda again. Think of the possibilities! Refilling the charge of a battery, refilling the gas tank on my car, or maybe even my bank account. . .