don't let the cpa exam define you I have spent a couple of years now studying for the CPA exams. Whether I pass or fail, I have yet to feel that the results were an accurate representation of my knowledge of the material. I’m not saying I feel my test results were inaccurate, just that I have a better understanding than I’m able to perform accurately on the exams.

My youngest son, John, is having the same issues as he progresses towards his degree in Petroleum Engineering.

Tests don't always accurately reflect what you know 

He will explain things to me, which I do not understand, as if he were teaching me the material. I tell him it sounds as if he knows the material. He says that he does until the tests come and his results, like mine, are not indicative of what he actually knows.

The other day, I was studying and John came home from doing yard work for some friends. I asked him if it was study time. He said, “I wish I was studying.” I jokingly said, “Why, because it’s more rewarding?” He laughed and said, “No, actually mowing is more rewarding because I can see the results of my work more accurately.”

That's because there are other factors to take into consideration 

I get that completely. When I cleaned out my closet the other week, it was so rewarding because I could see the results every time I walked into it. That is the feeling he gets when he mows, and glances back before he drives off…a job well done. But just because the results of our tests might not be as rewarding as we would like them to be, we do have to keep something in mind. We are in fact learning the material, and as we take more and more tests, we’re learning more and more how to hone in our knowledge to make it applicable to the testing style, environment, and pattern. It’s one thing to know something front and backwards; but it’s a completely other thing when it comes to applying that knowledge toward whatever medium you’re aiming for (whether it’s a test, teaching it to someone else, or using it in the real world). So for all of you CPA Exam candidates out there who are feeling similar to my son and I, just remember: while the CPA Exam is testing you on the material you’ve studied, it’s also testing you on time management, working under pressure, critical thinking/decision making skills, and much more. So if you feel like your tests don’t always reflect what you know, it’s probably because there are many factors that go into test-taking rather than just spitting out answers.

Make the CPA Exam part of your life--not your life

While studying for the exam is a long process and it does take up a lot of your time, don't let the CPA Exam define you. If you have failed or passed, don't let the results of these tests determine whether you see success or failure in the mirror. Adjust your study habits or game plan to continue to do better. After all, when people look at you, they will see a human being with great traits as well as imperfections; not a walking Prometric Center computer that outlines all of the questions you answered correctly or incorrectly for every section of the CPA Exam. 

So with each successful or unsuccessful attempt, know that you are closer to obtaining your degree or certification. Make it a part of your life rather than your life. Then, when you hang it on the wall, you'll get the well-deserved satisfaction you have been waiting for. Every time you look at it you will be thinking, “Yes, indeed, a job well done!”

-Donna Elish, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review