My CPA Exam Story

my cpa exam story

Believe it or not, when I started University, I had no idea that accounting was a career. Never knew an accountant, no family had ever done it, nothing! Then, when I sat in my first class, it all just clicked. I remember my first accounting professor (who looked like Borat and even has a student tell him that once).

When he first threw the Assets = Liabilities + Equity, it all clicked, this was the business scorecard.

Throughout the years I learned about accounting through my intermediate courses, business law, audit, and tax. Then eventually I found out about the CPA license. Apparently, this thing was important. One professor told me that:

Becoming an accountant without a CPA is like becoming a lawyer and never passing the Bar exam.

I now see things differently as you can practice as an accountant without a CPA, I don’t believe you can with the Bar. Very few accountants actually use their CPA, most just have it as a mark of prestige and achievement, in reality, you may actually never use it.

Another professional one referred to the CPA as a hazing experience:

It’s just like a fraternity, in order to get in, they run you through a series of confusing steps and test you to the breaking point. Those that make it through, are now in the club.

However you choose to think about it, one thing is true. If you’re in accounting, this is the most respected symbol in the profession.

I didn’t start taking the exam until after I worked at PwC and they covered the cost of my review course, taking the exam, and a $5K bonus if I passed in the first year.

Note: Make sure you know what options you’re employers offers for the CPA exam before you accept an offer, the difference in paying for it yourself, and getting the costs covered with a bonus can be almost $20k.

Back to my story. I started studying sometime in late 2010 and passed all 4 sections and the ethics exam in 7 months. Here were my scores:

REG 85 | BEC 84 | FAR 81 | AUD 71, 91

Yes, I failed audit, which is ironic as that was the field I chose (and was actually pretty good at!). You might ask yourself, how did I get a 20 point bump. Easy, I didn’t do any additional studying and just took the exam right away. When you fail the test it doesn’t mean you weren’t ready, you may have just got a tough mix of questions or had a tough simulation. Rather than study for another two months, take your chances, take it again ASAP.

And believe it or not, while I went on to become a CPA in the State of Florida, I took the exam through Alaska. No I didn’t have to fly their for each exam. You’re allowed to register in a different state, and then transfer your scores to the state where you want to be licensed.

Why would you do that?

For me, If I wanted to sit for the exam in florida, I would have had to wait an additional 4 months to complete another round of University classes. In Florida, you have to have completed business law II in order to sit for your first exam, but in Alaska, you didn’t! Boom! I got a 4 month earlier start and only had to pay a $25 transfer fee to move my scored from Alaska to Florida.

So for you, where should you get started? Luckily people far smarter than I have mapped our every single step you need to pass and it doesn’t need to be the headache for you that is was for me. If I were in your shoes, I would check out the CPA exam checklist to the right and get started on your journey to pass the CPA exam today!

  • Lifestyle Accountant

    Very strategic approach to getting your exam completed in Alaska and transferring to Florida.

    I always thought it was funny when auditors wouldn’t pass audit, but in reality, that section is so conceptual that it’s not all stuff you deal with on a daily basis when doing auditing.

    Crazy how short that took you to pass, very impressive. It was a good 1.5 years for me from start to finish to pass but that included FAILING 3 exams. Two of which were just a couple points away from passing! But so worth it to stick with it.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      I was the but of many jokes after that fail. But you are spot on! The exam is nothing like actually auditing in the first few years.

      So many people freak out after failing but my wife failed the first 3 exams she took then passed all 4 in 3 months. I always tell people just because you are failing doesn’t mean you won’t end up passing faster than most of your friends. Find out WHY you’re failing and fix it!

      Thanks for the comment!

  • KPMGed

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m just curious, how were you able to take Alaska’s CPA exam without needing to fly up there? This would be very useful for me to know.