Passing the Exam: A Top Ten

Mari is a weekly Club 75 Blogger as she documents her journey through the CPA Exam. She has been a member of Another71.com's Club 75 since March 2010.

I got my scores last week for my last part and it has been a whirlwind of excitement and emotion! I want everyone to feel what I’m feeling at this moment. If you received a failing grade, I have been there with you. I have cried tears of absolute excruciating pain after the exam and then again, after receiving a failing grade or worse – a 74 (worst grade ever!).

After all these years, I wanted to give up. I had a husband that thought I should quit and my guilt of not being near my family 24/7 was killing me. But my stubbornness of not giving up kept me here, at another71.com, finding other members who were in my place. No one told me how to start, what to do, or how to study when I first started the CPA exam. That’s almost a definite sign of a failing grade for an exam.

I found another71.com when Jeff had a Google group, and we all sent each other emails almost on a daily basis! As I go back and re-read some of our many, many emails, I remember some of the best advice I’ve gotten through my journey and some I’ve learned on my own and I want to share it with you all. Hopefully, it helps you as much as it helped me!

1. Don’t take more than one exam during a testing period. I have never passed an exam when I schedule two in one testing period. Maybe it’s just me. Or the stress factor. But I’ve never done it. I know others who have and maybe if you quit your job and don’t have kids, but I can’t imagine that scenario is realistic for everyone. I’ve also never passed during tax season except once (REG) which brings me to my next advice…

2. Take REG during tax season if you are a tax person! It seems for some reason, this helped me with REG. I’m not sure why but I took it the first quarter and passed it on my first try. I like to think all the auditors were taking it and no other tax people were trying to take an exam. But they say the exam is not curved so who knows. Last quarter was the lowest scores for REG but somehow I squeezed by with a 78 on REG on my first try. I like to think practice helped with theory.

3. Don’t let people saying “Aren’t you done yet?” get you down. More than likely, they never took a CPA exam or the Bar so they have no experience with professional exams. Now, if it’s a CPA that took it ages ago saying this to you, I always say I would KILL for the chance for the exam to be handwritten and two days straight – and decades ago with no IFRS and no new pronouncements, rules, etc! They have NO clue what the exam is like TODAY!

4. Find a good study material for the part you are taking that works with you and stick with it! It took me several attempts with Bisk and Becker to pass BEC until I found Cindy at Yaeger CPA Review to help me with BEC! Roger CPA Review was also great with FAR! Sometimes asking around and seeing what helped others with specific parts helps!

5. Follow Jeff’s study plan! It’s difficult to follow to the exact T at first, but once you are motivated to get it done, follow it as closely as possible! Revamp it daily. Make it the first thing you do each day. What hours are you putting in today? What’s your schedule look like for the day/week?

6. I hate to say this but you almost have to MAKE it your LIFE! I haven’t taken a trip with my family or sisters in a while because each time I have done so in the past, I have not put in the hours I have needed to. That party out of town that you need to go – I would pretty much venture to say not to RSVP for it. But that almost negates my next point:

7. Prioritize your life! I breastfed my baby until he was 18 months old, even while I was studying. That was important to me. I would pump while studying sometimes. But that party for my girlfriend’s 25th birthday? – sorry, not as important as my kids, family and exam.

8. If you have kids, take your note cards with you. At events, and shows, and other fun moments with my kids, I always tried to have my note cards when they had events going on. It gave me extra moments of quick studying reminders. I couldn’t do this all the time, of course, but its helpful when waiting somewhere and the kids are busy playing. Just keep an eye on those kiddos while doing so!

9. Always give yourself enough time for the SIMS! I’m almost certain the reason why I passed REG and FAR (passed 1st try with REG, 2nd try with FAR) is because I gave myself an hour to an hour and a half for those task based simulations. My multiple choice was weaker, but my SIMS was stronger comparatively to everyone else. Somehow, this equated to a passing grade.

10. Use Jeff and another71 and anyone else taking the CPA exam as a guide and a motivator! NO one else can motivate me as much as Jeff, Angie and Shannon (my best friends ever and I’ve never even met them!). Become a member on Club 75 and add forums to your favorites as they pertain to your studying. Be bombarded with CPA review information to get yourself more motivated and in the know!

On a personal note, I want to thank Jeff Elliott, Angie Gionni-Evans and Shannon Fessenden personally. Without you all, I wouldn’t be here, with a packet from the TX state board of accountancy on my application for my CPA certification. I was LOST with no credits (and had already sat for some parts) when I found another71.com and the great people I have encountered here.

Jeff, Angie & Shannon- You all are my inspiration and motivators every day and will continue to be for the rest of my life! I love you all! I hope I am here for you all as much as you’ve been there for me!

Good luck to everyone! Now, go study!

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4 comments

Swetha 10 years ago

Hi Mari, So good to know your journey. It is indeed motivating, specially for a person like me who was so disappointed after receiving a score like 74 in Auditing, it being my first exam ever. After a long break, I intend to pursue CPA to its completion and was wondering how much time it might have taken for you for the whole journey?? Any ways, so happy to hear about your success and all the best for your future endeavors.

Allyson 10 years ago

Great advice, Mari! I was wondering how it was going for you and I am so happy you did it. I know it has been a very long road. Congratulations!!

undeniable23 10 years ago

inspirational indeed.

Rebekah 10 years ago

Congratulation Mari. As I read your blog, I FELT every bit of pain you expressed because it sounds like mine. I've been struggling off and on with the CPA exam for about 3 years now. But reading scenarios like yours helps me stay motivated. Thank you for sharing and good luck with all your future endeavors. :)