My CPA Exam Success Story: Phyllis from New York

05 Oct 2009

Success Stories

I am definitely not your traditional student. After getting pregnant at 19 and married at 21, I never completed college. (To be honest, I never really started. I finished about 18 credits at the local community college.) Life continued. 4 more babies came along. I worked odd jobs, but never felt satisfied. Then a life changing event happened. We had relocated from NY to Pennsylvania for my husband?s job. We bought our first house, and then, my husband was let go with no warning. There we were, in Pittsburgh, with 5 kids, a mortgage and no source of income.

I was able to get a full-time job in mortgage collections for the medical benefits, but it bothered me that I was unable to make enough money to support my family when I needed to. At that moment I decided that was never going to happen to us again. I was going to go to college, and get my CPA by the time I was 40.

We moved back to New York and I attended the local community college and then a local private university. I graduated in May 2008. I got a terrific job as a Special Auditor/Investigator investigating Medicaid Fraud. That gave me just over 2 years to complete my mission of becoming a CPA by 40. I decided failure was not an option for me. I was not paying for any section more than once, and I never wanted to say the words ?I failed? out loud.

I followed my review course for my first section, AUD. I watched the lectures, did every multiple choice question, the final exams and all the simulations. (It is very important that I note that I could not have done any of this without my husband. From the moment I started studying for this exam, he picked up all the slack. I would study at the clubhouse and he would bring me lunch and snacks. He did the grocery shopping, ran the kids around and cooked dinner. He went to family functions with the kids. He was amazing and supportive and I know I couldn?t have done it without him!!)

When I sat for the first part of the exam on Feb. 13, 2009, I was a wreck. I vomited in the parking lot just before my exam, and when I left, I cried in the car. I felt like a complete failure. I prepared myself for the worst, but hoped for the best.

Thankfully, I had found another71 just when I started the process. I knew how the score release worked and when the AICPA released the AUD scores, I could barely function. In March, NASBA was still posting in the early AM. My husband got up for work at 4:45 am, checked my score and then came up and rubbed my back. The way he rubbed, I thought I failed. He didn?t say, ?Honey, you passed!!? Instead, he said ?Honey, your score is posted.? I ran down, hit F5 and there it was: 81!!! I couldn?t believe it. I passed!!!!!! It was an amazing feeling and it definitely gave me the boost I needed to continue my studying.

I studied the same way for REG. I took the exam April 3, 2009. I wasn?t as nervous that time, and there was no vomiting in the parking lot. I didn?t feel like I nailed the REG exam, but I didn?t feel as bad as I did for AUD. I thought to myself that if I felt that awful for AUD and passed, I must have passed. It was hard waiting for the score, especially since I scheduled BEC for May 15, and couldn?t focus on studying. When the grades were posted, I got an 82! Two down, two to go. The pressure on me started to increase. My coworkers knew I passed the first two, first try and while they were happy for me, I felt there was a part of them that wanted me to fail.

I thought BEC was the least difficult of the exams. I love math and word problems and BEC was all those type of questions. When I took BEC, I knew I passed. I was actually surprised that I only got an 83.

Lastly, I had FAR. My brother was getting married, the kids were out of school and it was very distracting. I fell into the trap that I had avoided up to now: I allowed too much time from beginning to test date. After starting to study June 1st, I scheduled my exam for August 3, 2009. But I wasn?t ready. I hate Financial Accounting and journal entries. I hadn?t finished studying the way that had worked for me the other three times.

I postponed to the 5th, but I still wasn?t ready. I couldn?t focus, couldn?t study. Knowing what I know now, I would have taken FAR first. The class I signed up for was ARBF, and that is what I did. I was just drained and tired of studying. I postponed until October 10 (NTS expiring) and decided to take the month of August off and start fresh in September. But that isn?t really who I am and it bothered me that I had given up.

We had a family BBQ scheduled for the last weekend in August, but then it looked like we were going to get hit by Hurricane Danny. I canceled the BBQ and decided if I checked Prometric and there was an appointment available for the 31st, I was going to take off from work, study for the next 5 days and get this freaking test over with. I checked, there was a 4 pm appointment and I signed up. I studied 12 hours a day for the next 5 days, but went to the exam feeling I wasn?t prepared.

I felt good on the MCQ, but bombed the sims. For one of the communications, I was asked to explain something to my boss. I drew a complete blank and thought to myself, what would I do in real life??? So I wrote that unfortunately I didn?t know the answer to his question, but I would get back to him tomorrow. As I wrote that, I knew I failed. After passing the first three parts, I was going to have to say I failed a part. It was horrible, but at least the wait for scores wasn?t too long. On Wednesday, September 23, 2009, I came home at 8:40 pm, walked up to my computer, pressed F5 and waited for my failing score to appear. Instead, I saw an 81. I though great, I put in my AUD launch code, but no, it was my FAR score: 81!!! I was done.

I have had a grin on my face for the last three days. I can?t believe I finished the exam. I will have my two years experience on July 11, 2010. I turn 40 on 9/11/2010. My goal to be a CPA by forty will be reality. I will never again have to wonder if I am able to support my family.

-Phyllis from New York

Leave a Reply


Jeff - 15 years ago

"For one of the communications, I was asked to explain something to my boss. I drew a complete blank and thought to myself, what would I do in real life??? So I wrote that unfortunately I didn?t know the answer to his question, but I would get back to him tomorrow." This is one of the funniest exam tales I've heard. That takes guts! Well done, Phyllis. -Jeff

Marcy 15 years ago

Phyllis - That's great news! Congratulations. You absolutely did the right thing on the written communication as a big part of your score is based upon how well you get your point across - i.e., spelling, grammar, sentence construction etc...and less on your actual response. Congratulations also for meeting your goal of passing the exam by 40. Awesome!!

BETH 15 years ago


Mike 15 years ago

Interesting story. Though I am not surprised of your results, I must say that you have done it under extreme circumstance. It is really great to see that you have dodged the obstacles of life and being a mother of five. Congratulations and am glad that the studing is over for you!!

Allyson 15 years ago

Wow! What an inspiration. I graduated with an Accounting degree at 41 years old last December. While I was studying for REG in August, my husband found out he was being laid off. It was a distraction, but also motivation for me to study. I thought it was impossible until I got my score and passed. I couldn't believe my eyes, ran and got my kids and starting squealing and dancing all over the house. FAR is next. What a great feeling to pass. The fact that you have passed all four parts within your goal is awesome. Your family must be proud!

Erin 15 years ago

Congratulations again P! I am so proud of you!!!! :) <3 E

adri 15 years ago

this made me cry :) so proud of you, though i have no idea who you are!

cpastories 15 years ago

What a beautiful story! Congratulations! You have shown once again that once you set a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timed) goal and do put in the effort, it works out in the end. Happy for you!

Anita 15 years ago

This is a great story of success. Congradulations! I could be proud of youself! It really amazing!

Tai 15 years ago

This is my 3rd time taking the Audit section of the exam. I resigned from a corporate accounting job back in July to work from home with the goal of waking up from this CPA exam nightmare by the summer of 2010. At times, I am discouraged but after reading Phyllis' post, I have a new found energy to keep going. Thanks for sharing your spirit of tenacity.

Lakia 15 years ago

I just wanted to say congrats.... u have worked very hard and have earned your scores...i know this was challenging as I too as iam 28 years old & have three kids 7,6,&4 and one on the way...i finished college oct. 09 and is just starting to study for the CPA exam... so i have a lot of respect for u and everyone that passes. I have looked through the study guides of Wiley and it is a challenging exam .. but not impossible. So great for u and i wish u the best u have worked very hard.

mizner park apartment 14 years ago

Last year, there was nothing wrong with democrats. Look at how many were elected. This year the tide has turned. What happened in 13 short months?

Phyllis 14 years ago

Update: As of today, I am a licensed CPA!! Thanks so much Jeff for an amazing site.

Jeff - 14 years ago

YES! Congrats Phyllis!!!!!

Ram 14 years ago

Hi to all Aspiring CPAs or professionals: I have read all the moving stories of successes and frustrations. they are all part of life and enrichment to our being. there is a saying: No gain or pride without pain. Life is a challenge and running through the obstacle course is what will make us the professional and envy of others. Success takes one effort. You have to have a love for what you are doing and want to do. For this love to become a reality takes something else. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, this is, in certain circles, quite the opposite of the work Love. It takes 'PASSION' to want to succeed. When one is moved by this passion, the obstacles start to fall one by one. At college, knowing that I wanted to become a CPA I told myself that if it takes me to my grave, I will go there and do it. Like many other aspiring professionals, I managed my full family and community obligations; and made it through. The 'difficulty' of the exam is the wide array and scope of the material that must be known and within 30 seconds recollection of reading the question. The other 'galling' thing is that only about 60 - 65% of all the material one studies is tested. In my preparation here is what I did: 2 - 3 hours 5 - 6 times a week night study. At least one hour of test questins - 1/2 hour before and 1/2 hour to end. I never sat through a full 3 hour sample test paper at any one time. Maximum time of test q answering and review - 1 hour - 10 -15 m/c questions; never a full blown and complete accounting question! let me leave you with one thought to drive you to success: Let your passion match your aspirations. Congrats to all who have made it through and best wishes to all in the 'boat.' Ram, NYC

Laura 14 years ago

CONGRATS TO YOU!!! WAY TO GO!!! You give me hope being as I just turned 39, and am so worried that my age will make it so much more difficult on me. Did you use a review course, and if so, which one. I am REALLY investigating this, and just praying that I will find the right one for me!! You have a suggestion?