Today, I’d like to talk about the difficult parts of preparing for and taking the CPA exam. The CPA exam process can be very long. Watching the lectures, reading the material, taking practice tests, and the four individual parts themselves all add up. In addition, you find out that it is not unusual to fail parts of the exam. Many people openly talk about their score and pass/fail status in the CPA forums online. I’ve only passed FAR and AUD so far, but I would like to share parts that have been especially hard for me in the hopes that other candidates will know they are not alone and can gain some insight from my experience.
Dealing with weak areas of study has been a challenging part of the exam for me.
Because the CPA Exam consists of four large sections: Auditing, Tax, Business Environment and Concepts, and Financial Reporting, many candidates have topics on the exam that they either like or dislike, and covering the areas you do not like is not enjoyable. Some topics might be more familiar than others because of work experience, school, or other exposure. In my case, I worked as an auditor at a Big 4. Because of this experience, Auditing was not hard for me since I was already familiar with it before I started studying for the exam. However, Tax was very hard. Diving into new information I hadn’t been exposed to before was learning something completely from scratch and you don’t know how much time you will need to cover the information and understand it. With that being said, I had to delay my REG exam date because I was not ready for the date I initially picked. I only took two tax classes in graduate school and understanding the basic concepts of REG was never easy for me.
My suggestion on how to tackle this problem is to give yourself an ample amount of time to learn new concepts and to plan your test dates and study schedule accordingly. Figure out what is the best way you learn new material, and use those study techniques and strategies to pull you through. Do not get frustrated if it takes you a few times to understand a new topic and use resources such as your Homework Help Center or other forums if you need help or have questions.
The time commitment has also been a very challenging part of preparing for the exam.
I am a mother of two. My oldest is 4 years old and my youngest is 19 months old. Even though I am not currently working, finding time for myself is never easy. In addition, I have been visiting an ill parent in Japan and my husband and I recently bought our first house. There are many events in life and of course those events do not come at convenient times. CPA study time needs to be balanced with all of the other things that go on in your life like work, family, and relationships.
My recommendation on how to overcome this challenge is simple. If you can’t find the time, you need to make time. While work, family, and relationships are all important, you need to make studying for the CPA Exam part of your daily priority list. Talk to family and friends to let them understand and to give you the proper time and support you need to accomplish your study goals. Your days will be long and you will be tired, but if you can’t make the time to study, you will not pass.
Lastly, the uncertainty of how long the CPA process will take can be very hard.
You spend hours studying for one part and your CPA journey is based on whether or not you pass or fail each one. Being flexible and realistic are key. How long it takes to pass all of the exams largely depends on your comprehension and memory skill, and your study plan will need to be revised as you learn your strengths and weaknesses. CPA review courses expire after 18 months and the review courses are not cheap. Credit for passing a section of the exam also runs out after 18 months, so that is a challenging hurdle to get over before you need to start retaking tests.
My advice is to continue to be realistic and flexible. Understand that this is not an easy task and that life will often times get in the way. You need to persevere through the adversity and push forward. Do not give up hurdling over obstacles. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Through these challenges that I’m experiencing, I stay motivated by looking at all of the new things I’m still learning and all the positive aspects of being CPA once I get past the exam. As long as you remember that this is a journey and that if it was easy to become a CPA, everyone would do it, you should be able to overcome the difficulties.
--J. Frazier, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review