January 19, 2018
by Amanda Carlson

Spring 2018 Center Hours

Welcome!  Hope your spring semester is off to a great start. Please stop by the LPDC (BH339) to grab a cup of coffee and say hello!

Study Hours: M-Th 8a-6p; F 8a-4p.

Consultation Hours: M/T 9a-6p; W 4-6p and by appointment; Th 9a-6p; F 9a-1p.

As always, we are available for walk-in appointments, but we strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment ahead of time because we get booked up (usually at that time in the semester when you really need us!).  Please schedule appointments by e-mailing us at eylpdc@niu.edu.

Very Important Reminder:  Coffee or food CANNOT leave the LPDC!  We have been put on notice that if students take coffee out of the LPDC and into classrooms, we will lose the privilege to eat and drink in the Center.  Don’t ruin it for everyone else – finish your coffee before you leave.

Don’t Miss These Upcoming Events:

Pizza with BarryWednesday, January 24, 12-3pm in the LPDC.  Enjoy a free lunch and hangout with Barry.  This is a great opportunity to come and ask questions before the ACCY Career Fair or simply pick Barry’s brain about leadership or professional development.

The Second City Workshop:  If you are in ACCY 675, don’t miss this trip on Friday, February 2.  See Jen Ellis or Mark Riley for details.


November 17, 2017
by Ellen
Comments Off on Take the Power Back…from the EasyBib Machines

Take the Power Back…from the EasyBib Machines

I’m sure you know all about online bibliography generators… sites where you can plug-in the source info and it turns out a citation in your chosen format (MLA, APA, Chicago Style, etc.) Those are useful resources — and I personally have no problem with students using them —  BUT they only work if you know how, exactly, to categorize the source you are using and what the relevant info to plug-in is. Is it an article? book? blog? website? And what’s the difference between an online article with no discernable author and an article linked to the AICPA website? AHHHH!!

Frustrating, right? You betcha. I have a Ph.D. in English, and even I have to really dig around in the official guides to figure out how to cite some of the sources relied on in business research. With this in mind, I sought out to find a resource that provides better examples. After a little digging, I struck gold!

Texas A&M University’s business library created a “Citation Guide for Business Students.” It is an extensive guide that provides the APA citation format for just about every source used in business research. AWESOME. For example, need to cite an advertisement? or maybe an analyst report? Boom — page 7. What about trade policy reviews? Page 47. World bank data catalog? Page 49. Yup. All there.

Hands-down, this is the best citation resource out there. Check it out. Time to break-up with EasyBib.

November 14, 2017
by Ellen
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MAS Grads Celebration!!


*Attention all MAS students*

We are having a special graduation celebration on Tuesday, November 2812-2:30pm in the atrium.

There will be special gifts for graduating MAS students and a free taco bar for everyone!

CONGRATS to the Class of 2017!


November 3, 2017
by Ellen
Comments Off on Words and Phrases You’re Probably Using Wrong

Words and Phrases You’re Probably Using Wrong

Just about everyone has had the sudden realization (and accompanying embarassment) that they have been using a word or phrase wrong for their entire lives. Most of the time, the mistake is what’s called a “mondegreen” — a misheard version of a word or phrase.

Growing up down south, I had a lot of these because nothing was ever spelled the way it sounded. For example, when we overslept, my dad would shout up to us lazy children, “Come on, up and at them!” Now, maybe it was the sleepy brain or maybe it was his southern accent, but I always heard, “Up an’ Adam!” I puzzled over this phrase many times, ultimately concluding that it had something to do with Adam being the first man in the Bible, and thus, we needed to be like him and be first to the breakfast table. Yes, it sounds silly now, but it made perfect sense to the eight-year-old version of me. The really embarassing part of this story is that I didn’t figure it out until I moved to Colorado as a teenager and heard someone who actually speaks like words are spelled use the phrase! Ah, good times.

If you want to laugh at yourself a little, check out this list of the most commonly misunderstood words and phrases.  You’re bound to find one or two that you’ve been messing-up all these years.


October 20, 2017
by Ellen
Comments Off on CPA Exam: Here’s Some Advice You Don’t Want to Miss!!

CPA Exam: Here’s Some Advice You Don’t Want to Miss!!

This week, we bring you some valuable CPA exam advice from Mark Hogan, CPA, MBA, Director-CPA Exam Preparation and AICPA Academic Champion at Northern Illinois University; Julie Cukla, a staff accountant at Lou Malnati’s corporate office, who has successfully completed all four sections of the CPA exam on her first attempt; and current NIU students Byron Downen and Harshana Reyhart, who have both already passed one or more sections of the CPA exam.

In Q&A form, Mark and Julie provide some CPA Exam preparation strategies and tips for staying motivated throughout the process:

Q: What study tools are helpful when preparing for the CPA exam?

Julie: I used a professional CPA review program. I chose to do online lectures instead of attending classes, which I found worked best with my work schedule. The combination of multiple choice and simulations that the program provided made me feel very prepared when going into the actual exam. I also made my own study guide for each section to help with final review.

Mark:  Even straight-A students should take a CPA Review course – this will greatly increase the probability of passing the 4 parts of the exam:

  1. FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting)
  2. AUD (Auditing and Attestation)
  3. REG (Regulation)
  4. BEC (Business Environment and Concepts)

Taking a CPA Review course is important not only to refresh your memory, but also to a) “fill in the gaps” (for some topics that you may not have had in class) and b) gain experience with the different types of task-based-simulations (the question types other than multiple choice). Exam candidates can contact me (mhogan1@niu.edu) for advice on which CPA Review provider is best suited to their needs.

In addition, all candidates should carefully review these resources at aicpa.org:

  • CPA Examination Tutorial (to gain familiarity with the tools available on test day, such as the on-screen calculator)
  • CPA Examination Sample Tests (“mini” tests, one provided for each of the 4 parts of the exam)

Q: What is the hardest part about developing effective study habits and how do you combat these problems?

Julie: The hardest part was studying each day. There were times I took too many days off in a row, and this set me back. I combatted this problem by creating a study plan week by week for what I wanted to accomplish.

Mark: The hardest part is accepting the tremendous dedication and sacrifice that’s required — even though it’s much more than worth it in the end! Another hard part is studying your “least favorite” topics – but it may very well be the points you get from a “least favorite” question or two that makes the difference between passing or not!  So as you prepare for each section, you should even start with your least favorite topics.

  • Of course, focus on just one part of the exam at a time.
  • Develop a game plan (schedule) which maps out, by day, which topic(s) you’ll study.
  • While it’s inarguably lots of study (see the next question), you do need breaks – often just a 5-minute break can make you feel better for tackling more material.

Q: About how much time do you need to study for each part of the exam?

Julie: I found my personal study time depended on the test that I was studying for at the time. Financial and Regulation took the longest amount of time because it had the most amount of information. On average, I would study at least an hour a night, with 5 hours each day on the weekend.

Mark:  A very rough rule of thumb is 100+ hours (spread over approximately 5 weeks). But a much better answer is it depends (on how recently you’ve finished related course work, how you did in those courses, which section you’re taking, etc.). So depending on individual circumstances, a candidate might invest anywhere from 50 to 200 hours to prepare for a section.

Remember: The #1 reason candidates don’t pass the CPA exam is not because they’re not smart enough; it’s because they underestimated the significant amount of time required to properly prepare (using a CPA Review provider).

Q: Any other advice for students preparing to take these exams?

Julie: The harder you work, the sooner you will get it done. You will have to make sacrifices, but it will be worth it in the end.  I would recommend starting with the hardest exam first because this would allow you to take your time with the material without the pressure of the 18-month window to finish all the exams. Lastly, I would recommend taking a day off each week for a mental break. Studying can be mentally exhausting and keeping a positive mental attitude throughout your studies can make all the difference.

Mark:  Planning ahead is key!  An ace example of how planning ahead can pay off is testing as a provisional candidate: You can start testing during your last semester (the semester in which you will have completed all educational requirements required by the Illinois Board of Examiners).

There are lots of other tips I give students, a sampling being:

  • Talk with others that have passed the exam – they can provide encouragement and tips.
  • Have a dedicated space for studying – perhaps at the library, to eliminate distractions.
  • After you test for a section, “exhale” and take a couple days off to do something fun before starting to study for the next section.
  • Get a bit of exercise each day — it really helps!


We also asked NIU students Byron Downen and Harshana Reyhart to share their insights. Here are their thoughts:

  • Take your studying seriously and make sure you understand every practice problem, even ones you miss! These explanations and then your own subsequent repeating of the questions will equate to you truly learning the material as opposed to just memorizing one answer. Your level of confidence will thank you.
  • Don’t get discouraged if things don’t go well at first. These things may take a lot of time to figure out and the exam is not meant to be easy. Push through and things will go as planned.
  • Confidence is key! As with most things in life, a positive attitude and a high level of confidence going in will lead to better results. Don’t try to cram an absurd amount of studying in during the week of the exam. Some light studying won’t hurt, but putting yourself through a long grind in exam week will only tire you out and have you running on fumes before you even get to exam day. Trust in the work you put in and trust in yourself. You will be much calmer on exam day.
  • The Task Base Simulation for the CPA is also very helpful when preparing for the exam. This simulation mirrors the real exam environment by showing questions in the same format as the actual exam. It gives you experience using the computer resources, like the calculator, that are provided during the real test. It provides you with a sneak peek of the exam and can reduce your nerves on test day.



October 13, 2017
by Ellen
Comments Off on CPA Exams Keeping You Up at Night?

CPA Exams Keeping You Up at Night?

Getting ready for the CPA exams? Freaking out? Yeah, I get it. I sat for two bar exams (California and Illinois) and the Ph.D. candidacy exams. The intensity of these life-altering events is enough to make even the steely of us crack. I still feel a little anxious when I think about it — trauma? Maybe. But you can harness that intensity and make it work for, rather than against, you. Use it — jump on the wave and ride it to shore. Your anxiety can become the fuel your brain needs to focus, if you impose a little structure on it. Here’s how.

1) Take a review course. This is a great way to get an idea of the scope of the exam, and the materials provided usually contain a relatively clear explanation of the relevant material.

2) Create your own subject matter outlines. It’s important to create your own outlines, rather than simply relying on the review materials, because the act of independently creating an outline forces you to actually process the material — you have to figure out how it all goes together. Each outline should reflect full understanding of the specific subject matter — if you were a super-genius, this would be your memory (the mastery you aspire to). Having a brilliant outline is crucial because it provides the foundation for your preparation.

3) Progressively memorize the material.

  • Break it down into sections and then break the sections down into layers. For example, take the first heading of the first outline level (I.) and the material that falls beneath it as your first “section.” Then, identify the layers — the heading (I.), the subheadings (A., B., C…), the next level (1., 2., 3…), the next level (a., b., c.,…)….you get the idea. Depending on the complexity of the material, you may have several layers.
  • Notecards are great for memorizing, but before you go there, try writing the outline out several times first. I literally used 100s legal pads when I was studying for the bar — writing out my outlines over and over. You could also type the material, if that works better for you, but there is something about physically writing the material over and over that helps me memorize it. Start with the big picture — the first level of the outline — write it out a few times. Then transfer it to notecards, memorize the notecards, and then write it out again from memory. Pacing around and saying the material out loud helps — kind of getting more senses involved. One of my study partners liked to create flowcharts, too.
  • Every time you add info, repeat what precedes it — like you are continuing the thought. This preserves the logical connections and helps you actually understand the material you are memorizing. For example, first you learn “I.,” then “I., A., ” then “I., A., 1.,” then “I., A., 1., a..” etc.
  • The key to memorization is repetition. Take your outline with you everywhere — stick copies in your bags, car, bedroom, coffee table — put it on your phone. Read through it whenever you have a moment or when you have a little shock of anxiety about the exam.

4) Stay calm and focused. Yes, it’s a herculean task, but it’s also doable. Thousands of people have taken — and passed — the exam. You will, too.

“Put yourself if their shoes” – a saying you’ve heard over and over, right? It’s about the importance of having empathy in our interactions with others. We all use our own experiences and beliefs as the point of reference in our understanding of other people. It is a useful starting place, but it can become a problem when we fail to acknowledge or value the varying perspectives of those around us. We become frustrated because “they just don’t get it” – and may become judgmental or dismissive. The workplace is no exception. There are three generations of workers today: Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and you – Millennials. Each generation has a different point of view, and to be successful, we all need to work together. That means listening, understanding, and being open to seeing things from various perspectives. For an interesting example of cross-generational communication aimed at just that, read this post in Accounting Today’s “Voices” section: “Generational Viewpoints: Requests from one age group to another.”

September 18, 2017
by Ellen
Comments Off on Finding Balance

Finding Balance

“Work hard, play hard” is a phrase we often throw around, but what’s interesting is that research actually supports the idea of playing just as much as you’re working.  A recent article in Forbes recommends not working more than 50 hours per week:

“…productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and it drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours. Those extra hours are wasted.”

Work on finding a good balance while you’re still in graduate school — you can’t study all the time! Then when you’re in the workplace, you’ll already know how to be more productive. Check out the article for more tips: