Sarah is a NINJA CPA Blogger.
If you had the chance to read my last post, I began with my journey of moving to New York City and trying to “do it all” – the “all” being settling into a crazy city, working a physically and mentally taxing job (taxing in a very menial, soul draining kind of way), and meanwhile trying to somehow cram all of the FAR material into my brain.
My takeaway from a year and a half of torturing myself and feeling guilty every time I did anything other than study was that I had completely set myself up for failure – and that is a key lesson that I have learned through the last few years of figuring out what’s required of the CPA exam process.
I could have saved myself a lot of heartache if I had been honest with myself and waited to begin studying until I actually had time and energy to spend learning and caring about the material. Being exhausted and overwhelmed in this city was just not a conducive mental state for what this test requires of a person – which really is everything.
Picking up on my story, I might have even kept going on my pointless journey to hammer through my CPA book, if it hadn't been for the literal perfect storm of personal life misfortune. In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, and hurricane melanoma hit my family hard.
My beloved aunt, who had always been almost a third parent to me, was diagnosed with multiple melanoma in May, and on September 16th she passed away, a whirlwind 4 months that we had to cope with her condition and her rapid deterioration.
With all of this, I just couldn't study another word. I gave up; I even got a partial refund of my exam fees because NASBA took pity on me and my situation.
I was out of work (the coffee shop was flooded and closed for weeks), and I had to leave the city for over a month to be with my grieving family and to deal with the fallout from our devastating loss.
After all of this, I didn't even try to pick up a book for almost a year; I focused on getting my life together, getting married after a 3 year engagement, losing my freshmen 15 (ok, maybe more like 50…), and staying sane in this crazy city.
When my life finally calmed down and I was able to clear the cobwebs from my brain, I finally took my first step and signed up for an in-person exam review course in the city. I then spent every Saturday and Sunday for about 8 weeks taking these classes and learning the basics. After finishing the course I took my first crack at the exam and surprise, surprise – got a 60.
I was actually surprisingly happy with that – considering all of my practice sessions I had been averaging between 30-40%. I took it as a learning experience, and immediately scheduled a new appointment to sit for FAR, and hit the books again. This time I made my own study style, stopped going to the classes, and just did hundreds of multiple choice questions in every spare second that I had.
The NYC subway has become my study haven, having no cell service is a considerable plus sometimes, as it removes the temptation for distractions. Every second I'm on the train I’m going through multiple choice questions, NINJA Flashcards, or closing my eyes and listening to the dulcet tones of Jeff explaining cash flow statements over and over again on the NINJA Audio, as I try not to be crushed by the 5 o clock rush.
By the time I took my exam this past October (2014) I really thought I was ready, I mean I was convinced. I even got lucky enough to review a few SIMS immediately before my test in a crowded Starbucks on 34th street, and then see almost exact replicas of them on my test!
I was flying coming out of that center, I knew I had done it that time. A few weeks after taking the test I was on vacation with my family, in Bermuda on a cruise, and our one day on land just happened to be the day that my score came out. I was first in line off the boat to find some Wi-Fi, armed with my Section ID scribbled on my hand.
It took some time to find a connection, but I will never forget sitting in a crowded bazaar in Bermuda, finally logging in only to see a 71. I could almost physically feel my heart drop through the floor.
I looked up and saw my mother across the way and she could see in my face exactly what happened. After a few hours of mourning, and a big box of Bermuda mint fudge later, I felt better. I had improved a lot from the last time I took the exam, and now I knew I could do it.
A 71 is nothing to sneeze at. It’s not quite there, but I know in my heart and my head that this is sincerely one of the hardest exams out there, and even to get a 71 made me feel that I had really accomplished something. I came a long way from not caring, not connecting, to being within reach of exactly what I want.
Now it’s almost 6 months later, I’ve had one more attempt (more on THAT next time), and I’m sincerely so close that I can taste it.