Passing the CPA Exam: The Hardest Things in Life are Worth it

08 Jul 2015

CPA Exam Updates, NINJA CPA Review

By Sarah M

Sarah Headshot NewSarah is a NINJA CPA blogger.

You know what’s super fun? Having two auditors breathing down your neck while working during the day, and then trying to study for AUD at night…

Now on one hand I have these handy resources right here that can hypothetically answer some questions for me… but in reality it’s just kind of disheartening knowing that I am so baffled by their specialty.

As I study, I keep feeling like every question stands alone and has no relevance to anything else that I’ve learned. I’m so much better with concepts than situational learning – so this one is a real challenge for me.

I’m convinced that I can do it, and I’m really looking forward to the freedom that will come with FINALLY becoming a CPA, but at the same time I know that when I finish I will certainly be able to say that passing this test is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done (and that I basically hated every minute of doing it).

I suppose things are only worthwhile if you have to fight for them. Things that come easy aren’t really that valuable in the end.

I know that I will treasure this certification more than I would even a doctorate, but going through it is just plain hard.

There’s no way around the hours and hours of studying and just bullying your brain into wrapping itself around concepts that seem so foreign sometimes.

Lately I’ve been wondering if part of my struggle is due to the university where I received my accounting degree. I have a double major from a small Christian college in PA; my first major is Accounting and Finance, the second is Missions and Anthropology.

They clearly don’t overlap at all – but I really think I will be able to use them both throughout my life (example, I currently do accounting for a missions organization in midtown Manhattan).

However, I constantly am confronted with the fact that my liberal arts school wasn’t necessarily the best equipped to propel me into passing the CPA exam.

We talked a lot about social justice and ethics in business, but I legitimately don’t remember a single class on statements of cash flows or accounting for governmental organizations. Shocking right?

Especially considering that I graduated with honors, and never once got below an 80 on a test, including finals. So why is it that I just received a 59% on my auditing exam (when I got a 95% in my college auditing class)?

I believe that it’s because college only really prepares you for the next step – get a degree, get a job, THEN learn what you’re doing in real life…

It doesn’t actually teach you how to be an adult, how to apply real skills in the real world, or even to necessarily completely understand what you’re learning!

Here’s my theory on why the CPA exam is so much harder than school, are you ready?

Have you ever told someone that you’re an accounting major (or a practicing accountant) and they say “woaw, you must be great at math then!” I get that a lot, and to be honest I’m terrible at math! I hate it!

If I didn’t have my adding machine next to me I couldn’t function. I get made fun of by friends when I try to split a check in my head… it NEVER works out!

I believe that accounting is so much more about common sense than it is about dollars and cents, or any kind of math.

I also believe that while college prepares you to do the logical thinking – the “math” aspect (ratios, spreadsheets, etc.), the CPA exam is so much more about the fundamental foundation of common sense in our brains than anything else.

I think the exam is weeding out the math nerds and “test takers” from the logical, common sense brained individuals that will excel in accounting.

Therefore, in order to tackle this exam, I believe that we have to largely forget the kind of learning that we were conditioned to do for 20+ years, and just learn the material – from a common sense, “I actually understand this and am not just rattling it back on a test” perspective.

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that part of this whole process really challenging!

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