Overcoming CPA Exam Failure

Your heart races with anxiety as the score page from NASBA loads.


Well, nothing except Error: Score not found. Please verify Section ID Number and Date of Birth format and re-submit, which is the same thing it has said the past five times you?ve checked in the last hour.

A few minutes of casual internet browsing pass and you come back to the score page to check ?just one last time?.

Elliott, Jeffrey


Hours of preparation and sacrifice down the drain. Thoughts of vacation days wasted, and weekends absent from friends and family add insult to injury.

Here are some tips for dealing with failure on the CPA Exam:

1. Honest evaluation of yourself

It?s time to come clean ? at least to yourself. Did you give 110% or was it more like a 65% effort? While you were ?studying at the coffee shop? were you watching CPA review lectures or was it YouTube? The frantic typing on your laptop that could be heard from 2 tables away ? were those CPA Exam notes or where you commenting on pictures of your friend?s weekend indiscretions that were posted on Facebook? While your spouse was watching the kids ? did you turn up the heat and knock out a section of FAR or did you take a ?much deserved mental break? and watch tv episodes on Hulu? Just asking.

If you started to feel a little guilty reading this?you already know what needs to be done.

2. Honest evaluation of your review materials

Are you trying to study Auditing with 2007 books that you purchased off of eBay? Are you crazy? ? those were written in 2006 and you?re taking a 2009 exam. Did you go cheap when you bought your flatscreen tv? No ? you just had to have a 52 inch 1080 instead of a 46 inch 720. Yet, for some reason you?re sitting there studying for this beast of an exam using 3 year old study material?ironically with your expensive flatscreen blaring in the background.

Throw that garbage away and get NEW CPA Exam review materials. You?re studying outdated information that could very well be the difference between passing and a 74. Go cheap on that engagement ring ? NOT your CPA review materials. She?ll never know it?s a CZ anyway. Her friends won?t be able to get over how shiny and perfect it looks and you?ll be a hero?AND a genius because you passed the CPA Exam?which means you must be ?really good at math?.

3. Honest evaluation of your schedule

So, you work 45 (or 65+ during busy season) hours a week and try to get in a little study time between going to the gym, the TV shows you recorded on your DVR, and seeing family and friends.

Great ? at this pace you?ll be ready for FAR in 6 months. It?s time to get medieval on your study schedule.

If you?re not studying 20 hours a week?you?re not studying.

Wake up an hour and forty-five minutes earlier than normal?the first 30 minutes will be spent stumbling around, hating life, cursing the exam, and making coffee. The next 15 minutes will be spent checking e-mail and Twitter. You know you?re going to do it, so plan for it. This clears the way for a solid hour of studying.

1 extra hour a day Mon-Fri = 5 hours of studying a week

Bring your lunch to work?eat for 15 minutes?and study the next 45 minutes.

45 minutes at lunch Mon-Thurs (eat out with friends on Friday) = 3 hours of studying per week

Studying at Home:

If you?re single, your schedule is much more flexible and you could feasibly study 4 hours a night if you wanted to at home. If you have a significant other or a family ? the following applies to you:

If you have kids ? get them in bed by 8:30 (many times a laughable proposition with the repeated requests for drinks of water, needing one more hug, too hot/cold, and the sudden urge for them to declare their birthday wish list even though it's still 10 months away – but still try for 8:30)?watch an hour of TV or whatever with your spouse?study from 9:30 to 11:00. This still puts you in a prime spot to get to sleep early enough that you can get up early as mentioned above.

1.5 hours studying Mon-Thurs (Friday is a night off of studying) = 6 hours of studying per week

Grand total for weekday studying: 14 hours


You don?t have to kill your weekends in order to be a good CPA candidate. You also don?t have to be AWOL from your family and friends. Three hours a day each day on Saturday/Sunday is all you need to get 20 hours of CPA Exam study time per week.

If you have kids ? spend time with them in the morning?study during nap time (if applicable) and you have the rest of the evening with them as well.

That?s 20 hours a week of studying for the CPA Exam and you barely had to alter your schedule or lose out on time with family and friends.

Following this study plan, you could conceivably be ready for:

FAR in 6-7 weeks

REG in 5-6 weeks

AUD in 3-4 weeks

BEC in 3-4 weeks

It sounds simple ? and it is. It?s the schedule that I used to finally pass the CPA Exam and if you have failed a section and are looking for a new approach, I recommend that you give it a try.

Thanks for reading.


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Leave a Reply


Izabella 13 years ago

i love that picture!!! Thats how my face every time i sit to study for this crazy test.. Thanks for the advice... Will probably use it for BEC

Edgar 13 years ago

This exam is so frustrating!! But the rewards are definitely worth it.

CPA2B 13 years ago

Another 74!!!

VA REG 13 years ago

Great advice. I could use more time to study every week if I can be strict on myself.

Mark 13 years ago

Good advice. I follow it pretty good. I am taking FAR for the second time this morning. I hope I do good. It's hard to be super-optimistic when I have fallen short so many times.

Steve 13 years ago

Very nice advice. I am going to use it for AUD and REG that I am taking next quarter. Hopefully, I passed BEC and FAR using my study version which was a little different from yours ;-) Good work on encouraging everybody and providing practical ways to deal with the exam. Last but not least, I thought you did a terrific job with people's questions last week (or 10 days) as the exams were coming out in wave 1!

TX_09 13 years ago

So Jeff, Is the above schedule for AUD sufficient for a second time after a 71. or should I shoot for more hours? BY the way I retook BEC yesterday after a 73, I felt horrible coming aout of the exam, I thought I did better the first time. I know I did really well on the second testlet but don't know about 1st and 3rd.

David 13 years ago

Where on the NASBA website can you check your scores for California?

Dawn 13 years ago

I just found out I fail BEC part. Thanks, Jeff for the schedule will use it on the next test (FAR).

desparate 13 years ago

CPA is taking all my energy and motivation. I failed FAR the second time and I feel like quiting. I feel like I can't do it anymore. and I studied really hard and still...

nisha 13 years ago

Great schedule! Personally I think that if we put in like 4 hours of continuous study-dat shud do, but to each his own. I follow this blog regualarly, Failed REG (last subject currently left to pass)wid 72 couple of days back-3rd attempt-feel very down n depressed-will try once more in july before FAR credit expires(July 31st)-else will be rethinking about d whole CPA thing. Been at it since 2007.

ed 13 years ago

It is not another 71, I got 74 4 times!!!! Need some advice.

ed 13 years ago

It is not another 71, I got 74 4 times!!!! Need some advice.

mae 12 years ago

thanks for the wake up call!!! im so guilty with.. uhmmm..ALL OF THE ABOVE!!!

Sara 12 years ago

To those who feel desperate and at the end of your rope: Don't quit! I failed BEC and REG twice each (74, 74, 73 and 74). I passed my last test ONE MONTH before both FAR and AUD lasped. It was crazy stressful and upsetting and difficult but I can't even begin to describe how good if feels to pass. Keep at it! It took me 2 years!

nad 12 years ago

I got 74 again on BEC. So far my score track on BEC is 74,72,74. :(

Jose 12 years ago

Jeff, I am using Becker to prepare for the exam. Each of the individual topics alone take upwards of 4 hours to watch (there are 9 in FAR). I took the approach of watching one per day, taking all of the notes and then studying each topic for 20 hours per week. So, I had to factor in an extre week or so of prep time. My exam is in July. I'll let you know how it goes.

Zack 12 years ago

Just found out i failed both BEC and FAR....totally disappointed...its a big deal taking these exams coz i have to fly half way around the world to do it.....and with work n all....it just makes it more difficult.....dont really know what to do now....#@%!^

Jeff - another71.com 12 years ago

Diana - you're not a "loser". Losers don't have the guts to take the CPA Exam. Stupid people don't score 74s, either. I know how a 74 feels...I scored 74 back-to-back on REG and lost my FAR credit. If I had quit in the face of adversity, I wouldn't be a licensed CPA and this site wouldn't exist today. -Jeff

Diana 12 years ago

I'm so frustrated & I don't no where to turn to get moving again. I got my BEC score a few week ago. FAILED - 74 Couldn't believe it. Financial Mgmt killed me. Starting slowly re-listening to lectures but I have lost the wind in my sail - feel like such a loser. This was my 2nd time. What does it take because I'm thinking I don't have it. :(

Bonnie 12 years ago

I wish my sister read this a few years back. After failing twice, she vowed never to take the exams again. tch.

Courtney 12 years ago

I'm waiting to hear if I've passed/failed BEC after failing it once before. I am seriously considering giving up but what you wrote is starting to sink in. Did I really give it my all? Now the question is do I stick w/ Becker or make the switch to Yaeger?

Mike 12 years ago

I'm going to get started with this approach. I've put in so much time for FAR and I got my 70 today. Ouch. When test day came I was wishing that I had another week. During the test I knew the question but just couldn't remember the right stuff. I have scheduled to take BEC on Oct. 2nd.. I really want to nail it then study FAR again for a few weeks and test it again.

Rahul 12 years ago

Dear ALL, in case you are working, take long leave or may even leave job, but just complete your CPA before new course comes in. It will be worth studying now and jobs will follow you.

Sue 11 years ago

I feel like a failure, everyone around me is passing and I feel like i am the only one who hasn't. People keep asking and I already failed FARS. I don't know what to do. My work sucks because they never let me study other than giving me a few days off before the exam. In the end it is very difficult to cope, and I cannot stress how much this has taken a tole on me.

T-Man 11 years ago

This is the best site ever, im here in Australia and the CA is breaking me balls,balls juice everwhere. Me mate and we struggling with the last technical unit (FIN) but now u have given us hope. We thought we are Mega-dumbos but many people are struggling aswell. Keep at it people, it will be worth it at the end. The struggle continues!!!

T-Man 11 years ago

This is the best site ever, im here in Australia and the CA is breaking me balls,balls juice everywhere. Me mate and we struggling with the last technical unit (FIN) but now u have given us hope. We thought we are Mega-dumbos but many people are struggling aswell. Keep at it people, it will be worth it at the end. The struggle continues!!!

Mary 11 years ago

I'm feeling pretty low...just got my FAR score back and received a 73 (my track record is 73, 72, 73). I don't know what I"m doing wrong? I also don't want to admit how long I've been at this either. Let's just say I've sat for both paper and CBT. I feel like giving up. I do have three other parts done and I have until 10/31/11 to pass FAR but I can't find the motivation to keep on going. HELP!

Kerrie 11 years ago

I am right there with you! I got a STUPID 73 as well. I had actually felt good about the test. In the scoring, I did better than others on 2 sections, comparable on 2 sections and less than on only 1 section, how could I have failed? Like you, I have passed 3 parts, which expires 8/11 and can't pass this FARS section. After I saw my score, I immediately reapplied. I am determined, on a mission, to master FAR! Good luck to you and just know, you are not alone :) Kerrie

Julia 11 years ago

After three failed attempts in FAR in 2009,i gave up, but latetly I am starting to reconsider and try again. I was studying with Bisk Review, but unfortunately didn't work for me. Some advices please?

Stacy 11 years ago

Okay, so my boyfriend took his CPA exams about a month ago and just got the results. He failed every single test. He studied more that 20 hours a week I'm sure. He's very smart and currently holds a job that is basically a pre-stage for when he does pass his exams. So of course I have a question...when he finally told me his results u wasnt sure what to say. I said a few uplifting things but I dont think they helped. So what I'm asking or wondering is...what can I do or say to help him and is there any advice for him if he does decide to re-take his exams? Please help. Thanks!

Tyler 10 years ago

I have been studying for 25 hours a week for the past two months and still don't feel ready.....

Omar 10 years ago

I'm studying for FAR now, using Becker(may have to switch to Yaeger), I'm not feeling really confident right now. I'm putting in the hours of study, but when I go to the next section, I forget the stuff in the previous section. I retake the last sections test and score lower than the first time, so I have to go back and restudy. At this rate, I'll never be ready.

gracious 7 years ago

thnx for dat advice ..