CPA Exam Success Story: From Limbo to Passed, Part 1

Raffi is a special guest blogger sharing his journey to pass the CPA Exam. This is part one of two installments.

“Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire

In the grip of a nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission”- Rush

Sitting in for eight test-taking windows really felt like a dangerous mission. Dangerous because studying for this exam consumes all of your free time, social life, and everyday pleasures such as eating or drinking a cup of coffee.

Even when free time opens up, you cannot shake this haunting feeling that you should be studying. So no matter where you are or what you do, you will always be uncomfortable, nervous, and unsatisfied (that is, till you pass your exams).

I titled this blog “Limbo” because that’s all I felt when taking this exam. While taking these exams, I felt like I couldn’t move forward in my life because I wanted to work full-time and start my my career. Obviously, the only way to move forward was to get these exams done. I will go window by window of all my experiences, mistakes, and study methods.

PrologueSummer 2011 – I just graduated Cal State Northridge in Accountancy and ordered my materials. I planned on taking the tests in the Fall 2011 window. Short and simple….for now.

And it beginsFall 2011 – The first exam I decided to take was FAR. Since it is the largest of the bunch, I thought it would be best to start with that and possibly get it out of the way. Like many students, I watched the videos and highlighted the book chapter by chapter. After each lecture, I did the homework and finished it until I got 100% on each one.

I felt like I got a good general grasp of the material as I reviewed with flashcards and went over all the general concepts. This was a big mistake to come in the next few months. One of the biggest problems is that I was generally studying all the material I thought that I knew was important and negligently ignored details that I assumed wouldn’t be asked. Let me tell you this from the start, read everything and understand everything. Read the book ever day over and over till you are sick to your stomach.

By my faults, I received a 64 on FAR, which I thought was bad, but not as bad as I thought. Still, lots of improvement was needed. The second monster was AUD. For AUD, I was careless with only three weeks to study and received a very low score that I am ashamed to even post here.

The biggest lesson I learned from this first window was that even though I got terrible scores, I still got this point to be a CPA candidate, which is an accomplishment in it of itself, so there is no reason to turn back because you never know where time will take you and where you will end up. At this point, all you have is your willpower.

This is a Land of ConfusionWinter 2012 – This winter really felt like the land of confusion. Instead of learning from my mistakes in the Fall, I decided to take FAR, AUD, and REG in one window. Did I learn nothing!?

Well I must’ve learned something because I scored a 65 on FAR with a month’s worth of studying. Two weeks for AUD and one month for REG equals scores so bad that I don’t have the stomach to even post. To highlight the mistakes, I relied on making lots of flashcards, watching videos, and Final Review from my course.

Cramming out of anger and impatience lea me to bad scores and learning pretty much nothing. I became exhausted and unfocused by shoving all these exams at the same time. This is where I drew the line and decided to give myself all the time I needed to prepare for each exam.

Like most candidates, that 18-month credit timeline scared me to death and I wanted make sure I pass all of them within that timeline and never take an exam that I already passed.

There is a little light at the end of the tunnelSpring 2012 – This is the window that gave me hope and put my fears of doubt behind me. Even though I did not pass any exams in this window, I felt like I found a groove and all I needed to do was build on it.

The first exam of this window was BEC and I scored a 70. I have never been so happy to see 7 ever in my life. This meant that I was a few points shy and did something right. There were a few changes to my study method and test-taking skills.

First of all, I gave myself a month and a half to prepare. Second, I did the problems over and over with an extra purchase of Wiley MCQs. Lastly, I developed a method to read questions carefully by creating ABCD columns and numbered rows on scratch paper. With each question, I would write a check, question mark, or an x for each possible answer.

This greatly improved my test taking skills. As for my FAR exam, I scored a 68, which is an improvement, but still not enough.

Break a leg! Summer 2012 – Unfortunately, that’s pretty much what happened. On a lovely summer evening, I was playing a friendly game of basketball and tripped over my own foot and fractured my ankle. My immediate first thought when I heard that bone crack was “How the hell am I going to study?”, then boom, I hit the floor. That’s what I meant when this exam consumes your soul.

Well, all I could do was just sit and study in pain. I took AUD, REG, and BEC. Didn’t pass any, but improved each score. All you can do is just toughen up, hit the books, and stay off the courts for a while.

Check out Part Two of Raffi's journey next week.

Read more NINJA CPA Exam Success Stories on the Blog and Forum.

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