Serena’s Journey with the CPA Exam

Serena is a weekly NINJA CPA Blogger.


Last week I left off at the point when I decided to finally plunge into studying for the CPA exam.

I started studying for the CPA exam in August of 2011 and sat for AUD in October 2011. I probably put in close to 90 hours of study time using the ELL – Early, Lunch, Late – method (the only way to get in enough study time with a fulltime job and a child), and squeaked by with a 77! Woohoo!

Maybe passing on the first try was too much of an ego boost. I have since been humbled. Considerably. After I passed the exam in October, I decided to start looking for a job in California where my boyfriend was living. At the beginning of November I had my first interview and lo and behold, an offer!

Needless to say, getting everything in line to move 400 miles away with a kindergartener did not provide enough time or focus for studying. That was on hold until we got settled into the new place, school, work, etc. But the clock didn’t stop ticking.

My NTS was going to run out in March—which isn’t even a testing window—so I had to take the next section by the end of February unless I wanted to pay for another NTS and testing fees. Believe me; I called NASBA and the AZ State Board just to make sure.

I think I started studying right after New Years, and scheduled the test for the latest possible Saturday (2/25/12) so I didn’t have to miss any time from my new job. Not only was I in a panic to be prepared in two short months for the next test, but I had also decided to try a more affordable study material.

This may have been the biggest mistake I have made so far. I should have stuck with what worked the first time, even if it did cost almost $200 more. I didn’t think I made an uninformed decision about switching material. After all, a girl I went to college with used the other material and passed all four sections on the first try!

We were always neck & neck in class getting similar scores on exams. But I learned you can’t assume what works for one person works for you. I became so frustrated with the layout of the study material and lack of explanations after answering questions incorrectly, that I pretty much gave up two weeks before my exam.

This mistake probably tops the study material switch. I had the mentality of “If I haven’t learned it by now, I won’t in the next two weeks.” And I desperately wanted my personal life back!

If I can offer a couple words of advice, it would be to treat the last couple weeks of study time as the last 100 meters of a race, and put all your strength and will into it.

‘Till next week!

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Laura Berthiaume 11 years ago

Hey Serena, Is that your family in the pic? I find it incredibly impressive to see young professionals doing so much with a young family. I find it hard enough to get things done without kids. Good on ya'