Interviews with Real Students

Expert Advice

Test-taking skills add critical points to your score. A few missed questions can be the difference between passing or failing. It is easy to get a tricky question wrong, even when you understand the material.


Like many of our students, I passed all the parts on my first try. Here are 9 tips to help you do the same.

View 9 Tips to Pass

Courtney E. PHD, EA - Tax strategist, Speaker, CVO for OTBTAX, a full service accounting firm

Courtney E. - Enrolled Agent


"I passed the first time. I took all 3 parts in 1 week and worked at my practice full time. Thanks"

How long have you been involved in accounting and tax?

I have been an accountant for the last nineteen years.

What made you decide to earn the Enrolled Agent Credential?

I wanted to be able to represent my clients under audit, even if I did not prepare their return.

What is the best part of being a credentialed tax expert?

Honestly, audits can be very stressful and even scary for clients and it is very rewarding to be able to help them through that process and give them peace of mind.

What are the most important lessons for someone just getting started in the tax industry?

The most important lesson for someone starting out is the importance of Tax Strategy before Tax Preparation. You should always be focused on the client's situation and how they can save money in taxes to put back into their business, all while remaining Audit Compliant.

What are your favorite types of clients to work with?

Our clients range from start-ups to $120 million in income. Although helping all of them is important, I really enjoy working with Corporate Return clients because there are so many ways to help them strategize and save.

How does having your PHD and EA credential help you to solve client issues?

It allows me the ability to handle more IRS issues with clients when I have not prepared their original return and it gives me more credibility.

What would you tell someone considering the EA credential as part of their career development?

I would rather spend the time getting the EA credential over the CPA because it is the highest credential and it is helpful more with Tax Strategy over just Tax Preparation.

Christopher W. CPA / Enrolled Agent - Passed CPA Exams June of 2020

Christopher W. - Enrolled Agent ”I was intimidated by the CPA exam. So, I figured let’s take it down a step and use the EA exam as a confidence booster.

After passing the EA exam, I purchased the CPA exam prep course and was able to roll right through the regulation portion of the exam. With the confidence boost from passing regulation, I was able to keep rolling through the CPA exams.”

What made you decide to become an enrolled agent?

At the time, I was intimidated by the CPA exam. I had tried an exam study course through Wiley that didn’t work for me. So, I figured let’s take it down a step and use the EA exam as a confidence booster. Before taking the exam, I had been working on business and individual tax returns for 10+ years. After that long I would hope I would know a little bit.

How long did it take you to pass all three of your EA exams?

Not long at all. I had purchased the EA exam prep course in late May of 2019. I was told that the changes in the tax laws for 2018 would not appear on the EA exam until after June 30, 2019, so I scheduled the individual exam for early July. I passed the business exam in August and the representation exam in mid-September of 2019. So overall just about four months.

Did you find any benefit to having the EA credential as you prepared for your CPA exams?

After passing the EA exam, I purchased the CPA exam prep course and was able to roll right through the regulation portion of the exam in October. The EA exam seemed like a more condensed version of the CPA regulation exam. With both covering business law, taxation, preparer penalties, etc., I just felt like I was fully prepared going into taking the exam. With the confidence boost from passing regulation, I was able to keep rolling through the CPA exams.

Now that you have earned your CPA license what types of customers do you look forward to helping?

Generally, the firm I work for services small to midsize businesses and individuals with rental properties and sole proprietorships. I can’t say I’ve ever really tried to focus on a specific type of customer. More often than not, I’m just presented with a situation and then dig for more information to find a solution.

What would you tell someone considering using Fast Forward Academy versus some of the other course providers out there?

I purchased and attempted to use Wiley’s CPAexcel program in 2010. At the time they charged an arm and a leg for books, flashcards, and a program you had to install on your computer along with video lectures on DVD. It just seemed overwhelming to sit through a long lecture and then miss the majority of the questions afterwards only to have to re-watch the lecture to figure out why. It turned me off from even trying to pass the exam for almost 10 years. Just the way the lectures Fast Forward Academy are shorter and more specific was helpful. While there are sections with multiple lectures, I don’t remember a specific video being longer than 20 minutes and it felt like the average was 10 minutes. Through most of them I was listening to Brian on fast forward 1.5X (which is just a brilliant option to have). On top of that, the in-depth explanations for the answers to the practice questions helped immensely. If there wasn’t enough detail, people can ask additional questions, and they’re answered. I can’t really talk about the e-book, as between the video lectures and practice questions, I never looked at it (and still passed).

Sallyanne H. Enrolled Agent Consultant

Sallyanne H. - Enrolled Agent


"I was ready to study, I lost everything in the meltdown during 2008 and 2009, my previous business was gone, so I was ready to jump in."

What made you decide to get into tax and become an enrolled agent?

I had experience running a CPA business for some time and when I had the chance to start my own firm I did it. It was not easy and there were some setbacks but I am glad I opted to start my own firm helping others. I was ready to study, I lost everything in the meltdown during 2008 and 2009, my previous business was gone, so I was ready to jump in.

What tools did you use to prepare for and pass the Enrolled Agent Exam?

I passed all 3. It took 1 year to get my EA credential while I built my business. I went from underemployed to Enrolled Agent in 4 years. I love Fast Forward. I could take the test bank and exams any time. Thank you

When you started your business, how did you find your early clients?

Some of my early clients came from another CPA firm that was leaving the business just as I was launching mine. I painted my car and branded myself as the local tax expert: “Tax Lady X”.

How long did it take you to build your business to a self-sustaining level? Where there any setbacks?

The setbacks were many, but I want to grow my business and was determined. It took me three years of hard work to become profitable. If I had to do it all over again, I would have hired an administrator sooner to handle some of the day to day tasks. Having help would have freed me up sooner to handle the higher level things I needed to focus on as a business owner.

In your current work, what types of tax issues do you like to tackle most?

I like offers in compromise and negotiating with the IRS on behalf of my clients. This is where I can save my clients a bundle and stop cold cases from getting notices that are computer generated. I will work with clients that have collection issues but typically I like the challenge that comes with negotiations. Americans have been overwhelmed by automatic computerized notices, some sent in error. I teach my clients never to "ignore" any notice.

Nucha M. Enrolled Agent

Nucha M. - Enrolled Agent “Fast Forward Academy will set you up for success I took around a month and a half to study part 1, 2 weeks for part 3, and about a month on part 2. I passed all tests (1,3,2 the famous order) all on first attempts.”

How did you approach your studies with Fast Forward Academy?

FFA set you up for success on their study program! I started everything off by scoping the topic, drawing out mind map of chapter’s topics on the notebook and do 10 quizzes each topic, followed by textbooks and lecture. I really love the toolbar on the right side where you can view E textbook and parking lot note side by side, and the “§” symbols icon that shows you the reference of forms etc. FFA saved me so much time from picking up different folders, books and searching google.

Repetition is very essential for your success. Revisit the chapters every day/every other day/week by selecting the topic. Do 10 questions each time. If you studied 3 chapters, do 10 mix questions of those 3 chapters. That way your brain can retain the concepts until your practice test days and scheduled test day. You can select doing just your incorrect/flagged questions until you get your points and un-flag the ones when you feel confident about.

How did you research questions you got wrong?

When I had questions along the way, I mostly found my answers through the explanation and coach’s replies on the thread that is already there. I re-read the questions, viewed the E textbook (side by side using the right toolbar) and read discussion posts to find my answers.

What tools did you find useful and how did you maximize your time?

I reviewed my incorrect questions using online digital book and parking lot flashcards on the right toolbar side by side. Drilling the material I was able to see the same concepts over and over again. When I studied for part 2, I made my own notes and flashcards on my laptop and phone. I color coded my flashcards to help me remember. When feeling study burn out, Id take a short break by reviewing my flashcards. You should view the material you don’t remember every every day/ every other day until your brain retain the concepts.

What would you say to students that want to memorize answers as a study tactic?

Do not memorize answer on calculations! Take some time to review how that is calculated and redo that calculation again 3-5 times and do the same calculation again the very next day. Part 2 study was challenging for me. I revisited the lecture multiple times and when I heard the lecturer said, “If you don’t remember the formula, you’re probably guessing.”, he was right. I decided to write the formulas on ONE sheet of paper instead of using my notebook and flashcards and that helped me a lot.

Did you have test anxiety before taking your first exam?

I was really nervous on my first exam (part 1) even though I knew that I was going to pass because I followed RAIN’s steps accordingly and I did pass. So to those who are reading this right now for your first exam, if you follow FFA study tips, you will be fine! Stay calm, focused and get some good rest before the exam.

What insights can you share about your exam for part 2?

There were questions about de minimis rule, corporation’s AMT and QBI questions. I am so thankful for the Fast Forward community thread in these areas. I also went through and read all the 100 questions before I start. I answered some of the straightforward concept questions, wrote down some notes, then I went back to question number 1. This process took me 30 minutes and I still completed my exam before the 3:30 hr limit. AND I PASSED!

How has earning the EA credential helped you in this most recent tax season?

Having an EA credential motivates me to study and do extensive research for taxpayers. My ability to explain tax concepts improve tremendously.

What kinds of things are you doing now that perhaps you did not do before?

Now that I am an EA, I have been taking all of the IRS webinar classes offered by the IRS website. Also, I am still using the FFA book to review the basic concepts up to this very day. I appreciate the course and the community FFA provided.

Meera K. Enrolled Agent / Business Owner

Meera K. - Enrolled Agent


“I cleared all three exams on my first attempt. I highly recommend this course for anyone preparing for EA exam.”

What made you decide to become an enrolled agent?

I had been running an accounting practice since 2006 and had started filing taxes for some clients. Having the ability to represent my clients in front of the IRS was necessary as I was expanding my tax business.

How long did it take you to pass all three exams and what tools did you use as part of your exam preparation?

FFA provided simple videos with supporting material that allowed me to finish all three exams successfully in five months while I was running my business. I passed all three exams on my first attempt.

What would you tell others considering earning the EA credential?

When I looked at the FFA syllabus, I was impressed with the comprehensiveness. I could not only become an EA but gain knowledge about intricate tax situations which would help my clients.

Now that you have earned your EA, what types of customers do you look forward to helping?

Becoming an EA has given me the confidence and increased my credibility. I am now able to take new clients without being apprehensive about complex tax situations. Now my firm files individuals, corporations, partnerships, trusts, and estates tax returns.

C. C. Enrolled Agent - Passed Final EA Exam September of 2020

CC - Enrolled Agent "I just wanted to thank you and the FFA team so much for helping me in the most difficult study journey I’ve ever been on!"

How difficult was it for you to earn your EA?

I’d say this was more tough than college.

How much tax experience did you have going into your EA studies?

I have no experience in the tax field, but felt that this may be my new calling, as I have Japanese-speaking translation clients who have been asking for my help in meeting their tax obligations. I couldn’t do anything more than translate the tax forms for them in a very basic way, as I didn’t know anything regarding taxes at that time.

What was your last exam to pass?

Thanks to your very helpful advice on preparing for Part 2, I was able to pass Part 2 on 9/28 Monday, with all 2s! I am officially done with all three tests and have already submitted Form 23.

How do you feel now that you have earned an expert level tax credential?

Now that I can help these clients, I feel proud of myself.

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