My CPA Exam Experience

My CPA Exam Experience

Photo attribution: nyphotographic.com


“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”

This quote from Oscar Wilde explains my CPA exam experience, because I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I passed the exam in February of 1992, and it took me two or three tries of get all four sections passed. I hope you can learn from my mistakes and use that information to pass the exam with less time and trouble.

Years after undergraduate accounting

I graduated with an undergraduate in Business Administration in 1985, and then worked as a financial advisor for four years. I made the decision to become a CPA, and I went back to college in the summer and fall of 1989 to take the 20+ hours of advanced accounting classes I needed to take the exam.

This situation created two problems that had a big impact of my exam success. First, I simply didn’t take my accounting courses seriously while I was getting my business degree, and I earned low B’s and C’s in financial and managerial accounting. This was a huge issue, because I didn’t get that solid foundation of accounting knowledge that these courses provide. When I took cost accounting, intermediate accounting, and other courses in 1989, I had to learn so much accounting at the same time that a lot of it didn’t sink in. When I first took the exam in 1991, it had been about 18 months since my last accounting class, and some of that knowledge had faded from memory.

Career issues

My wife and I both started in public accounting in January of 1990. She worked in auditing for Arthur Andersen, and I was on the audit staff of KPMG. We both supported each other as we studied for the exam, but we both worked long hours and traveled as auditors, which made finding time to study difficult.

Becker CPA review

I took the Becker CPA review, and the course made all of the difference for me. I tried to attend as many live courses as I could, since the online version of Becker didn’t exist at the time. Taking a review course forced me to discipline myself and maintain a study schedule. Looking back, however, I don’t think I was honest with myself about how many hours I needed to put in. If I had accepted that fact that the CPA exam typically requires over 400 hours of study, I may have passed the exam on the first try.

What I learned

I didn’t purchase the Becker course until after my first attempt to pass the exam. If I had used Becker at the beginning of my study, I might have gotten better results. It’s expensive, but consider purchasing a review course at the beginning of the process. Getting a review course sooner would have helped reinforce those accounting areas that were a weakness for me. I would have addressed those areas of weakness sooner, rather than after not passing a test or two. Finally, if you’re graduating from school soon and entering the accounting field, make an effort to take the exam and pass some of the sections before you start working.

Those are some of the mistakes that I made, and I hope you can learn from them. All of the effort was worth it, because I can always tell a prospective client or employer that I passed the CPA exam.

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