How to Pass the CPA Exam in 7 months (and fail at least once)

how to pass the cpa exam

The CPA exam is hard, really hard. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you can’t pass, and quick.

When I took the exam, I was determined to pass in 6 months, it took me 7, and I failed one section, audit.

Funny enough, that was the type of work I went on to do, auditing. When I took the exam, I was working a full time 40-hour a week job, taking 12+ hours of masters level courses, homwork, and I had a girlfriend.

I was determined to pass in 6 months. Here is what I did.

Online vs. Live Classes

I spent one Saturday at in-person classes and it was terrible. It started at 8am and went to 5pm with a 30-minute lunch break.

I went back and looked at the online lectures for the sections we covered and I realized that if I would have taken the online lectures, I could have been done by 2:30pm. The in-person instructor got off track and was constantly on tangents. And all the other students asked question on topics I knew in and out.

I vote online, always. And I took every lecture for every exam and read every textbook, all from home, Starbucks, and Panera.

Multiple choice practice questions

I took every single multiple-choice question I could, and many twice. You need to make sure you know why you got answers wrong, but there is also a benefit in memorizing questions and answers.

Many of the questions on the actual exam are similar if not exactly the same.

Practice Exams

I never, not once, had a passing score on a practice exam. Passing score for the CPA exam is 75% and no joke, I never got that on any practice exam.

Yet I passed 3 out of 4 exams on the first try and here were my scores:

REG 85 | BEC 84 | FAR 81 | AUD 71, 91

Setting Study Hours

Even though I had a full-time job and class, I was determined to study.

Nights without class – study from 6-10pm

Nights with class – study from 9-11pm

Weekends – study from 9am-8pm

I would also occasionally sneak in some multiple choice on lunch breaks at work and at slow points during class.

This was perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle, I was hard-core disciplined about this regimen. I stuck with it and almost never compromised.

Setting The Exam Date

I always took the exam at 8am and I took most of my exams on a Monday.

I should I also not that while I lived in Florida, I registered the exam in Alaska. I still took my tests at Prometric centers in Florida, but I did this for a specific reason. Alaska allowed me to take the exam 6 months sooner than Florida. In Florida I needed to have business law II completed to sit for the exam, which would’ve taken me another semester.

As a result of registering in Alaska I completed the exam 6 months earlier than I otherwise could have.

How did I react to failing?

The night I found out I failed audit I was surprised. It was the last of the four scores I received and I thought I passed with flying colors. In fact, I had already went out celebrating. The audit exam only took me about 100 minutes. But I rushed it. I got a 71.

This is perhaps the biggest mistake people who fail make. If you’re close to a passing score, don’t spend weeks studying. DO NOT spend more than 3-5 days, and then re-take it.

I did and got a 91.

The story is that I probably bombed a simulation or got a string of multiple choice questions wrong. I just needed a new batch of questions and new simulations. I knew the material, I just needed another shot at the test.

My mentality

While my study regimen was perhaps the most important part of passing the exam, this is close second. I have never been a huge believer of any real value in exams. I see them for what they are, an attempt to measure ones ability to memorize concepts and answer questions. That’s it.

And I don’t want to wear a badge that says, “I’m a memorizing monkey”. It’s not something that cool to be good at memorization. But if you want to be a CPA, it’s necessary.

Memorize and pass you will pass. In the real world, most of the knowledge you learned while studying won’t be useful.

I see so many people judge themselves based on whether or not they pass, and they build up all this pressure. Don’t worry about it.

This test does not define you. And you’re certainly not defined by how many times you take it. Here’s a quote I heard back in the day and this pretty much sums up how I feel about the exam:

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.

It’s just a silly hazing exercise. Not a life defining moment. Don’t let other people passing and posting on Facebook bother you. Don’t let you parents who keep asking you if you pass bother you. Don’t let your friends bother you about it.

All of those fears and doubt cloudy up your mind and prohibit you from achieving the objective. So here is my final advice, which I heard from the founding CFO of Apple Retail at the Institute of Management Accountant’s Student Leadership Conference in 2010:

KYFHD – Michael Kramer

(Keep your f*$#ing head down)

See the full video version of this post in recent Webinar: “Pass the CPA Exam in 7 Months And Fail At Least Once”

Did you use any of the methods I mentioned above? Do you have any questions on how you should take the exam?

Would love to hear about them in the comments down below!

  • Kalina

    Hi Andrew!

    I actually took an audit class with you back in the day. I have failed Audit recently and it’s really hard to get motivated to study for the exam again. Any suggestions or should I attempt to try a different section of the exam?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Kalina –

      Take it again as quickly as possible! I got a 71 on audit and I hardly studied at all. I re-took 5 days after I received my score 91. Sometimes it’s not that you don’t know the material, you just need a different set of questions. Have you considered that?

      • Chris Antaki

        How did you retake it so fast? Don’t you have to reapply for an NTS?

    • Bob

      Great webinar, thanks.

      If you register for the exam in a different state will it cause any delays your home state once you get your 150 hours? I’m just concerned about additional hurdles.

  • Carl

    Do you have to take all CPA exam sections in the same state?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      No. You can take sections in any state. I registered in Alaska and took the exam in Florida. Then transferred all 4 scores for $25 if I remember.

  • Lata Kella

    Hi Andrew,

    I am planning to give CPA over the next few months. And your webinar has given me the motivation I needed.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Thanks Lata! Happy to help. Email me anytime and let me know if I can help you! –

  • Angela Kennedy

    Thank you for the Webinar! How did you determine the order you took the exams in?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      I was taking business law so I started with REG. After that is was at random. I had nobody to give me any advice on the subject.

      Now I would say either 1) take FAR as it’s the largest or 2) take the easiest section for you as a confidence booster!

  • Angelique D

    This webinar was very helpful the first time around, and even better this time around. Thanks for your tips. Hope I can follow through with this 7-month plan.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Let me know how it goes Angelique!

  • Angie Yan

    Does Becker CPA online courses and material work well? Or do I just need to review Wiley only?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Angie – thanks for the comment. Glad to see you have decided to get a full CPA review course.

      I recommend Roger CPA Review mainly for his incredible ability to keep you engaged for hours on end, see here:

      Feel free to email me at if you want to discuss further!

  • Patricia Gee-Jones

    Do you believe that age have it’s limitations with passing this exam?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      I don’t think so at all. You can pass at any age if you are determined, have a full CPA review course, and spend about 4-6 weeks per section!

  • Jessica

    Great webinar, my question is I took BEC in Januay 2014 and passed the first time. I was so excited and went on to the other three, fast forward 17 months and I have taken REG (2), AUD (3) and FAR (1) and have failed all of them. I have not gotten higher than 56% on those 3. I practice the questions over and over and used CPA Excel and Roger CPA cram course. I am not sure what I am not doing right and why I am having so many issues with those three. Can you please tell me what I should do different?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Go ahead and send me an email with any further details (i.e. life events, study habits, work or school commitments, etc).

      Hope I can help!

  • Everett Broussard

    Hello Andrew.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience on prepping and studying for the CPA Exam. I will definitely use most of your tips to get ready.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Thanks Everett! Glad I could help! Email me with any questions at

  • Nicole Marshall

    Awesome webinar!!! Thanks for the great info!!

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Thanks Nicole! Glad I could help!

  • Sherman Tang

    How much does the order of taking the exam matter?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      I don’t think it matters THAT much.

      However, I would say either 1) take FAR as it’s the largest or 2) take the easiest section for you as a confidence booster!

  • Courtnie

    Hi Andrew!
    Loved the webinar! Looking for a suggestion on what order to take the Exam. Also, do you know any private CPA Exam tutors.

    • TheBeanCountercom


      I would say either 1) take FAR as it’s the largest or 2) take the easiest section for you as a confidence booster!

      Also – contact Roger CPA Review as they have some incredible people that help support their material and I believe tutors as well!

  • Kristi

    I recently failed FAR with a 70. My score report showed that I was weaker in all areas. In the webinar you said retake as soon as possible because a 70-75 is just a rounding error. Should I take more time to review the material since I was weaker in all areas or retake ASAP in July?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      I took AUD in January. Find out I failed late March. Re-took 6 days later in early April. Hardly studied.

      I went from 71 to 91. I would re-take ASAP and don’t kill yourself on studying. You are very close but just need a different set of MC’s and Sims in my opinion. Let me know how it goes!

  • Asssan

    I took REG on May and score a 71. Any suggestions on how I should approach the test again?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      I took AUD in January. Find out I failed late March. Re-took 6 days later in early April. Hardly studied.

      I went from 71 to 91. I would re-take ASAP and don’t kill yourself on studying. You are very close but just need a different set of MC’s and Sims in my opinion. Let me know how it goes! You can email me at!

  • A LeBlanc

    Great Webinar!!! Which exam order do you advise we take it in?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Thank you!

      I would say either 1) take FAR as it’s the largest or 2) take the easiest section for you as a confidence booster!

  • Paul S.

    What key thing would you have done differently if you had to take the exam again?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Send my NTS earlier to take all four sections withing 90 days. I got my NTS late and it threw me off a few weeks.

      I would also take a bit more time to take each section. I finished the exams in 90 minutes when I had 4 hours. I needed to slow down a bit! Probably would have passed AUD first time around if I did.

  • Shane Dillon

    Hey Andrew,

    A quick question, is the CPA exam similar to the SATs in which you do not get points taken off for questions left blank? I loved the webinar on this, keep up the great work!

  • Ivy Lo

    Hi Andrew,

    Do you think it’s better to take the most difficult section first?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      I would say you can either 1) take FAR as it’s the largest or 2) take the easiest section for you as a confidence booster!

      I think either strategy make sense!

  • Daniel

    Thanks for the great Webinar! I have taken (and failed) the AUD section a year ago, was scheduled to take FAR last August…before “life happened”. Pretty much starting anew…like you said, I was spacing things out too far. Currently registering for REG and BEC to knock out first, then registering for AUD and FAR again. To answer Carl…no, you do not have to take the exams in the same state. I was living in TX when I started, registered through OR where I received my bachelor’s, took AUD in TX, scheduled FAR in CO where I was moving. Now living in CO, will still be registered through OR, but testing in CO.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Thanks for the comment Daniel! Let me know how it goes!

  • Joe Perry

    Great advise Andrew thank you! I was planning on trying to get all parts done in a year. After listening to you I will definitely aim for four months but hopefully pass in 7.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      BAM! Great to hear Joe. Let me know how it goes!

  • Jonathan N Cece

    Hi Andrew!

    I just watched your webinar and it was very helpful!

    Thank you!

    Cecile Pierce

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Thanks Cecile! Let me know how the CPA exam goes for you!

  • Karen

    Hi, The webinar really help. I am stressing about just taking the test and I haven’t started. I just recently graduated with masters in accounting and tired of school but I know I gotta take this exam. I am going to take your advice and try to follow this path to take this exam as quickly as possible. Thanks again.. Karen K

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Knock it out quick and you’ll be happy! Let me know how it goes –

  • Kayla

    Hi Andrew,
    I’m graduating in December and I’m going to start working at PwC in January. I was originally going to hold off studying for my exams until after busy season. However, after listening to your webinar, I’m reconsidering. What is your opinion on studying/taking the exams during busy season?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      How about start now (July) and pass before you start? Much easier while you’re in school than while you are working at PwC busy season or not.

      • Kayla

        Im not eligible to take the exams yet. I’m graduating with my Bachelors in December (I’ll have the 150 without going to grad school), so the earliest I would be able to start is January/February.

        • k4bui

          I know this is late, but depending on your state, you don’t NEED 150 to sit. Just 24 business and accounting semester units.

  • Mandy Barrows

    Hi Andrew,
    Thank you so much! Everyone I’ve talked to has said the opposite of what you are suggesting. I think your way would work much better for me.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      That’s awesome! Would love to hear what you have been hearing. Email me if you don’t mind –

  • Thaiha S.

    Hi Andrew. How do you deal with the fact that you cramp in so much material for a CPA section and it feels like they are all gonna slip out of your head the more you study?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Thaiha – try to think of each section as having “mini-sections”. Some you will know well and others will be tough for you. Focus more on the harder ones for you (practice 2-3 times on the MCQ’s). When you break it down to bite size and focus on the harder parts, it seems much smaller than it is!

  • Kelly

    Do you need an MBA if you have 150 credits and have a CPA?

  • Le Nguyen

    I am still 1 semester away from finishing my bachelor degree. So when do you think the best time for me to start preparing for the CPA exam?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      You need to research the requirements in your state:

      If you are doing a Masters or need more classes to be a licensed CPA before you start working, I would do it after your Bachelors and before you start working!

  • Lynnda

    In which order would you recommend that a person take the particular sections?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      You can either 1) take FAR as it’s the largest or 2) take the easiest section for you as a confidence booster!

  • Viren

    Hi Andrew,
    Can you share your biggest motivating factor of your study pattern and thought process of picking Roger CPA review course over other review courses like Becker, Wiley, etc.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Roger has an incredible ability to keep you engaged for hours and hours because of his ELECTRIC personality. That is why I recommend them.

      Check it out:

  • Matthew

    Great info., thank you for taking your time to help us out! How would you politely tell your family and friends that you want to keep them in the dark about the Exam?

  • Ryan Ferrell

    Do you have any tips on staying motivated throughout your studying. I hit it hard for 2 weeks then my motivation starts to die off.

  • Paul S.

    Would you strongly advise against using older study materials?

  • Rachel

    Thank you for doing this webinar. If I’m finishing classes in December, when should I start studying for the CPA? How many tests would you recommend taking in one testing period? Do you recommend any specific order for taking the tests? Is there an inexpensive way to study well, or is it really worth it to spend the money on a review course? How far ahead do I need to schedule an exam?

  • Amber

    Great webinar!

  • Emi L

    Your webinar was pretty thorough in explaining the CPA exam for me. I just need to find the motivation to start taking the CPA exam again. Thanks Andrew for all the great advice!

  • Anita

    I plan on using the CPA study/reviews before I plan on sitting for the CPA. It will also help with my classes I have yet to take. Is this a good idea?

  • Josh

    That was a great webinar. It’s given me some new tactics in approaching the CPA exam!

  • Linda

    Hi Andrew,
    Great advise. Any suggestions on how to pick the CPA review course that’s will work best for you? Thanks!

  • moose

    In a recent interview I mention this process was how I planned to pass the CPA exam in 4 to 5 months. They looked at me and laughed and thought I was joking. Once I complete the exam I will be sending them an email to let them know it can be done in a short time period.

  • Desi

    Thank you, Andrew. The webinar was very informative. As a current graduate student and not a lot of work experience, I was not sure if now is the best time to take/pass the CPA exam. Now I am totally motivated to pass the exam in a short time while I am still in school. I was thinking about studying from books and do as many practice exams as possible but you said that it is best to select a review course and go from there. Which review course do you recommend based on quality and price? Thanks

  • America D

    Keeping ourselves focused on the material is going to be absolutely imperative. However, what types of activities or pass-times did you find gave you a much needed “breather” from all the studying. Do you have any tips for keeping away study fatigue.. Thanks for the insightful webinar!

  • Jeff Phillips

    Great session as always Andrew! Thanks to everyone for great questions and comments. I’m enjoying reading the rest of the conversation here.

  • Lucille Reddic

    Why do you recommend RogerCPA Review over the other review courses?

  • Jack from the Bean Stalk

    Hi Andrew!
    Great webinar yesterday! I’m currently studying and I find myself needing many hours getting through all multiple choice questions than it would seem what you needed. Do you suggest looking immediately at the answers, or should I rather try figuring it out on my own first, although that consumes more time?
    Also, you mentioned at the webinar that you don’t attach much importance to the simulations. However, it seems to me that the simulations are very helpful for gaining an understanding of the underlying concepts, and they also count for 40% of the exam. On the other hand, going through the simulations requires a lot of time which is hard to afford. Can you weigh in on this?
    Thanks Andrew and Jeff for the great webinar!

  • Anny

    Hello Andrew! Thank you for such an informative webinar.

    I am currently an undergraduate student with just 2 more classes left in school (Intermediate Accounting and Auditing). I have been offered a 50% off scholarship Becker review that expires 6/30, but I am not sure whether I should take it or not because I can’t afford it even with the scholarship. Should I start getting a CPA review course now or wait until Dec 2015 when I am done with those classes? What would you recommend? Also, do you think a 3.0 GPA (that is my overall GPA and my major GPA is lower) will be look down upon when I apply to one of the Big 4 accounting firms?

  • Matthew

    Great video! No other review course has suggested to aim to take the exam within 4-7 months, great advice. What can you recommend to be successful passing for a not-too recent Accounting graduate who is working full time in an unrelated field?

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Thanks for the question Matt!

      I would say you need to get CRAZY and PUMPED UP! Before work, at lunch, at night, and weekends – STUDY.

      If you can sustain that for 3-6 months, you can pass all 4 parts very quickly! This thing can drag your life out for YEARS but why let it? Get it done quick and re-take any failed sections fast as well with minimal study if you are within 5-10 points of a 75.

  • Brian

    Thanks for this advice so a commerce student at my university year 3 and i keep on scoring a grade C and D. Can I manage the CPA exams

  • Hate 74

    Hi Andrew,
    How were you able to re-take the test within 5 days? It’s a great advice but they don’t allow to re-take the test within a same window. It means if you fail you have to wait until next quarter :( so frustrating..

    • TheBeanCountercom

      When I took the exam, for some reason they took FOREVER to release the grades. I took AUD in January and didn’t get my score until the last week of March, re-took the first week of April. Just schedule it as soon as possible, good luck!

  • Nick

    if I do rogers 6 month review how many hours m-th and sat and sun should I dedicate? I saw online Fridays are recommended as off days

  • Madhu Sudhanan

    I am gng start CPA from may in Feb can I pass 3 sub I.e.bec,audit,far