I am amazed and humbled that there are people who pass this exam the first time and study less than 100 hours a section. My experience was not so pleasant. However, I believe it's just as important to share the struggles and the horror stories as it is to share the heroic success stories. When people ask me for advice I reply that I can tell them all about what not to do when it comes to the CPA exam.
I passed my first section (BEC) in May of 2007. I spent the rest of the summer studying for FAR whenever I had free time at work. But every night when I got home, there were friends at my house and I didn't have the discipline to go to the library and study. Almost every weekend I was at the lake wakeboarding instead of locked in my room with the books.
My FAR date went from July 7th to August 7th to October 17th before I finally got tired of procrastinating and decided to go ahead and take it. 67. It was the first of three failing FAR scores. At this point I had already put in at least 100 hours of studying,but it wasn't focused, productive studying. By the time I reached chapter 3 I had forgotten chapter 1.
Oh well, FAR was behind me for the time being. I decided to squeeze Audit in by November 30th because I'm an auditor and thought it would be easy. Three weeks of studying for 4 or 5 hours a day. Fail. I received my 64 on Christmas Eve. Not happy.
Before I knew it, busy season is in full swing and I'm in California for a 6 week audit. Sure I could have studied in the hotel on the weekends but how many times is a TN girl in CA, right? When I returned from Cali in April I decided to get serious. I gave up TV for five weeks (except for The Office) and studied during every spare second I had.
I took the exam on May 22nd? 72. Ok, this sucks but I'm not ready to give up yet. Study all June and all July. FAR take 3 on August 5th. I walk into the room, sit down at the computer and start scribbling down some mnemonics and formulas before I press go. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of entering my launch code in the midst of my scribbling. I'm about to press begin when a box comes up saying my session has been terminated.
There is nothing the Prometric people can do to get it started again. A $130 seat fee and 3 weeks later my launch code is reopened and I can schedule a new testing day. The only day available is August 21st, three days from now. I take the next 3 days off work and studied about 15 hours a day.
Sometime in mid-September I received my score- 69. I was at work and I couldn't fight back the tears. It was awful. For those of you keeping track, it is now September of 2008. I have one section passed and my 18 months expire November 30th. I was so close to giving up. I thought, this is not meant to be, I need to consider a new career path, I'm not smart enough?
I decided to give everything I had for the next 3 months. Having been out of school for 5 years, I was having trouble understanding the concepts and hoping that I could get by on just memorizing lists.
The CPA is by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. It took me almost two years and over 1000 hours of studying. This is my advice:
1. Do not give up! If I can do it, anyone can. No matter how many tries it takes, do not quit.
2. You have to make sacrifices. Be prepared for friends to be mad at you. The worst part isn't the studying, it's knowing your life is going on all around you and you're not a part of it. If you make the commitment and sacrifice at the beginning then the period of having no life will not last as long.
3. Don't be in a rush. If you're not ready it's so much better to pay the $35 and give yourself a few more weeks than to pay $190 and have to wait 2 or 3 months.
4. Make your own flashcards. Determine what you need to have memorized cold and put it on a notecard. This is the best way to be sure you have something memorized.
5. When you read the text or your notes ask yourself what the examiners could ask you about this topic. When you answer a multiple choice question, think about how the question could be turned around to try and trick you. The examiners know what your CPA Review Course has told you to know cold. They don't want to know that you can regurgitate, they want to know that you understand the concepts. Which means they will ask you in a way that tries to trick you and makes you think outside the box.
6. Use current CPA Review Material. I was using a 2006 FAR book in 2008. It does make a difference.
7. Take the exam as soon after graduating as you can. It is so much harder if you wait because you have to re-teach yourself the concepts instead of just memorizing them.
8. Seek support from others who know what you're going through (like Jeff) and offer support to others when you can.
Don't get frustrated. Almost everyone finds it to be harder than they had expected. Be confident and positive. Good luck!
-Karen from TN