Completing the exam is one of the greatest accomplishments an accountant can achieve. Completing a degreed accounting program is an accomplishment to be proud of, but passing all four sections of the CPA exam is the crowning glory. The old story goes, anyone can earn an accounting degree, but only the best accountants can pass the CPA exam. Without the three initials CPA, you are just another accountant. How could three initials mean so much?
Being a CPA sends certain signals. People know that you have achieved a very difficult goal—you have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam, one of the most difficult certification examinations in the nation. In the business world, the CPA designation instills confidence and trust. Compared to an accounting graduate who has not yet attained certification, CPAs command higher salaries, are in greater demand in the workforce, and are given greater respect by the general public. The recent accounting problems experienced by a few large corporations have made the CPA certificate more valuable, rather than less valuable. With the various oversight boards watching the profession, the CPA designation sends the signal of professional achievement.
You have attained a minimum level of competence required to perform your work. Who wouldn’t want more money, more job choices, and more respect? The desire to become a CPA should be yours. You must believe that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to pass this exam. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I can pass the CPA exam,” you are ready to proceed. Believing that you can pass the exam is the first step. Now, what’s next?
Steps To CPA Exam Success
In today’s highly technological and informational age, it is amazing how many people take the CPA exam without knowing much about the process.
Perhaps this is the reason why over half of the people taking the exam fail on their first attempt. To complete the CPA exam successfully, you must understand much more than the technical material. The three to four hours that it will take you to read a CPA exam guide book will save you countless hours of study time, not to mention the stress and anxiety that goes along with a high stakes exam.
Get Motivated is designed not only to keep you pumped throughout the study process, but also to help you:
- Increase your memory power
- Design a personalized study plan that is customized to fit your busy lifestyle
- Eliminate the fear of failure by understanding the exam process
- Decrease test anxiety by increasing your overall knowledge of the exam process
- Improve your study habits for the CPA exam, other professional certifications, and other study
- programs, such as graduate and certification programs
Taking the CPA exam is a costly venture. When you add up the cost of a review course, textbooks, software, the exam application and related fees, the time off work, and the cost of travel to and from review courses and the exam, the total investment can easily exceed $3,000. Yet many exam candidates have the attitude that they will just “go try the exam to see what I can learn”. If you were running a business, would you waste time and money just to understand the process? I doubt it. You would hire a consultant who not only understands the process but who can quickly teach you how to make the most out of the experience. Why take chances? Learn how to attack the CPA exam and beat the odds of failure. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Learn from other people’s successes. Why reinvent the wheel? Utilize a best practices management plan that has been developed, tested, and found to be successful.
Find out nice tips as much as you can as if a CPA exam consultant personally developed them for you. You are ready to proceed. You have the desire to pass the CPA exam.
The next step is to understand why so many people fail; failure is what you want to avoid.
Failure On The CPA Exam
Failure is the act of nonperformance. Failure means you were not successful at this attempt. Failure is temporary. Failure does not last forever. If you did not pass the exam, you are not awful, stupid, or careless. You just did not perform in the manner that was required. There is no need to provide excuses as to why you did not or will not pass the CPA exam. Making excuses takes time, bores the person who is listening to you, and reminds you that you were not successful. Move on; failure is the wrong focus. Spend a brief amount of time analyzing why you or others before you have failed. Then use your knowledge to move on. Learn from other people’s mistakes.
Why do so many candidates fail the exam? Less than half of the people taking each exam section pass. What makes this exam so difficult?
First, the exam probably is not similar to any other exam you have ever taken. The total exam time is fourteen hours; the longest section, Auditing and Attestation is four and one half hours. Most exams you took in college were much shorter in length, perhaps one to two hours. A four and one half hour exam would be considered very long.
Next, the exam is given in a place and format that is unfamiliar to you. You are accustomed to taking your exams in a college classroom, not at a Prometric test center. Not only is the place unfamiliar to you, but the format of taking an exam on a computer is new to most CPA exam candidates. The exam is administered under the rules set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Prometric test center using a well defined navigational process. Most CPA candidates are not informed about the exact exam-taking rules or of how to navigate the computerized format.
Finally, the exam covers material you learned over four to five years during your college studies. Although you are permitted to schedule each exam section over several testing windows, you must successfully complete all four sections within an eighteen-month period. Learning about the exam process, the format, and then reviewing course content and material that you learned several months or years before is a daunting task. If you stack up your college textbooks and professional reference materials that support each of the four CPA exam sections, you will have a pile that is at least a foot high. Add the four piles together and you quickly see the tremendous amount of material that is tested. Dealing with such breadth of material is enough to destroy your confidence.
After the exam, you must wait for your scores. Unlike the timely feedback you received in college, receiving your CPA exam score may take as long as six to eight weeks. Your kind college professor will not be grading the exam. Accounting professionals and AICPA examinations staff, who do not personally know you, will be grading your responses using a predetermined grading guide. You will be expected to achieve at a certain level that has not been clearly demonstrated or defined for you. The passing level often is established well before the exam is given. When the scores are released, you will not see your answers. You will see only your overall score for each section and a brief summary of your performance called the “Uniform CPA Examination Performance Information” report. The uncertainty of the content, the exam format and environment, the grading process, and the sheer volume of material may make you want to give up.
Don’t give up!
If you give up, you will never become a CPA. Take short course, get a nice mentor and coached, and learn how to develop a customized study plan to maximize your study effectiveness. Learn how to remain motivated and confident during both the study process and the exam-taking process. On exam day, learn how to attack and control the exam. Learn step-by-step how to remember concepts, apply exam strategy, and achieve a passing score section by section. Don’t think about what you can’t or don’t know how to do. Believe and it can happen. Believe that you have what it takes to become a CPA. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? You must convince the exam graders that you possess the necessary knowledge to have earned the right to call yourself a CPA. If you keep saying “I can’t pass the CPA exam”, you are probably correct. A successful candidate does not accept an “I can’t” attitude. If you so easily discount your ability to perform, imagine what the exam graders will do! From now on, even when you are feeling low or doubtful about your abilities, remind yourself that you can pass the CPA exam. You will believe in yourself.
Believing is your first step to becoming a CPA. The CPA exam is not a new experience. Ever since 1917, people just like us have been passing the exam. You aren’t the only person in the world who will struggle from time to time in your exam preparation. You are not the only person in the world who will have distractions, crises, and problems during your study process. You are not the only person in the world who is anxious, fearful, or worried about the exam. Remember, you are not alone. If you dwell on your doubts, you will become distracted and lose focus.
Take a lesson from the people who have failed. Failure on the CPA exam occurs for a variety of reasons including:
- Fear of failure—not believing in yourself
- Lack of technical knowledge
- Lack of knowledge of the computer-based test format and navigational system
- Lack of knowledge about the exam environment at the Prometric test center
From this list, it’s easy to see that people fail because of both a lack of knowledge about the exam and a lack of knowledge about themselves and their capabilities. Unfortunately, some people fail even after hours of studying. They study the wrong material. Using out-of-date study materials is one of the biggest mistakes a person can make. Material that is more than six months to one year old may be out of date. Currently the CPA exam is adjusted for professional changes every six months. If people spend hours studying old college textbooks, they probably are not only using out-of-date materials, but they also are studying material meant for a college course rather than material meant for a professional, computer-based exam.
The CPA exam is written using a unique method. People can arrive at the testing center and find no correlation between the materials they studied and the material tested. Why study just to study? Your time is too valuable. Spend your time learning and using the concepts and the formats used on the real exam.
Well-studied people can fail because they allowed themselves to be overcome with test anxiety. Taking a computer-based exam in an unfamiliar test center, next to strangers, under strict time conditions, all while being videotaped on camera can be very stressful. What a shame to have spent weeks preparing for a section and then to be overcome with fear just because the setting and format were not what you had expected.
If you have attempted the CPA exam and did not pass, you are not a failure. You have just hit a temporary setback. You have the power to turn failure into success. Once you have passed the CPA exam, no one will ask you how many times you sat for each section before you passed. The question is always: “Are you a CPA?”
What can you learn from other people’s mistakes? It takes more than just technical knowledge to pass. The successful candidate will:
- Prepare an organized study plan
- Use the proper study materials
- Learn about the exam environment, the grading process, and the exam requirements
- Remain motivated throughout the study process
- Use knowledge about the exam process to control the exam
- Remain confident that you are better prepared than the average candidate
Enough talk about failure. You must focus on obtaining positive results. Use your energies toward achieving a positive outcome. Believe that you are a successful person. Your focus is to pass the exam section by section. Your focus should never be failure, even if you learn that you have failed a section. Once you abandon the failure focus, you can begin to work on the steps to success.
Success is easier to talk about than failure. However, success does not come easily or quickly. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could develop a CPA potion that you could purchase from a drive-up restaurant? You could drive through and order a burger with onions and one large CPA success drink. The inventor of the CPA success drink would be one very rich person. No, it is not that simple.
There is no fast track to success. You must go one step at a time:
- Slowly, step-by-step, you learn the concepts.
- Slowly, step-by-step, you gain exam confidence by learning more about the exam process.
- Slowly, step-by-step, you understand the exam content, the grading process, the computer navigational format, and how to control the exam before it controls you.
You are in command of the CPA exam.