From Zero to Hero

One of my EA Exam students called me the other day, and left a message on my answering machine telling me that he had gotten a ZERO on the Enrolled Agent exam.

I have been teaching a review course since the early 1990s and have never heard of someone getting zero. After all, don't you get some points just for writing your name? What an amazing feat! OK, he had my attention. Just how did he pull this off?

Well, it seems once the proctor sets you up at the computer, a timer starts. If you don't start doing SOMETHING on the computer within a certain period of time, the exam times out - and you get a ZERO.

Clearly, it has not been a problem before, so no one really addressed this issue in the past. But there is always someone who is the first to identify a flaw or feature in a system. My student managed to do that.

The IRS Office of Professional Responsibility and Prometric were absolutely gracious about this and allowed him a do-over (a rare occurrance, so please don't expect it), the following week. Naturally, when my student actually took the exam - he passed.

His call to me this time was, the ebullient - "From Zero to Hero!"

Very gratifying.

That brings me to the issue of studying for the EA Exam.

There are fewer than two dozen courses or study tools listed on the Prometric site.

Each of them is good for one study/learning style or another. There are some live, in-person courses, some tools with discs, some that teach you the material, most that offer testing software.

I use two of the better testing tools in my course - Gleim and Fastax. Why two tools? They each have qualities the other doesn't have. Some people learn much better with Fastax's down-to-earth language and explanations. Others prefer Gleim's set-up, with the testing software that looks exactly like the live Prometric exam experience.

But is this enough to for people to pass the exam? Clearly, it must be, or those companies would not have such popular followings!

So, with all that good material, who the heck needs to spend the extra money to take a class like mine?

And let me tell you, I do my best to encourage people to spend less and to use one of those other systems.

Exam review courses are designed to do exactly that - to provide a review of material you already know, to help you pass an exam.  What TaxMama does is teach a double course.

The EA Exam Review part of the course is all about Final Review sessions, intensely working with students to prepare them to pass the exam.

But, Solving the Tax Puzzle deals with teaching you taxes. It covers material you don't already know, or have forgotten you know, or have taken for granted all these years, but cannot express, in the event of an exam. By the time folks get out of my classes, they have learned, not just how to pass the EA exam, but how to run a tax office, deal effectively with clients, make judgment calls about tax decisions, understand ethical choices - or how to defend their position when they appear to go against the Regs - and so much more about the practical, day-to-day issues of being a tax professional and an Enrolled Agent. Hmm...maybe that's why I can't talk people into making the cheaper choice?



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Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

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