CPA Exam Success Story: Nate Wong

Passing the CPA Exam has been much less about the late nights studying and overcoming shortcomings than about the stark transformation that I’ve seen in my life between deciding what I wanted and seeing it come to fruition. Hi, I’m Nate Wong, and this is a bit of my story.

I was born in Bakersfield, CA, and at the age of 8, moved to Malaysia with my family.

When it came time for my sister and I to attend high school, our family moved back to the States, where I graduated and attended California State University, Bakersfield. I’ve always done well in school, but was overwhelmingly disinterested in education. After changing majors several times, I left school for a year to tour with a metal band (yes, the kind that involves dissonant chords and guttural screams). Through all of the transience of my life, I think I was ultimately searching for what felt like my place in the world.

I met Demi in 2011.

We had only been dating several months when I began to realize that what I had always wanted was my own family, something secure, something to call home. At that point, I wasn’t taking classes, and I didn’t have much direction. Thinking about what I wanted out of the future, I started looking into careers that would provide my future family with some sense of support and stability. By 2012, I had started taking accounting courses.

In 2013, I was offered an internship at a local firm.

Daniells Phillips Vaughan & Bock became an extended internship through graduation, and then a full-time job. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in economics and an accounting concentration, and became a staff accountant. A year later, I was promoted to my current position as a tax analyst.

Oh, and the week after I graduated, I married the woman who became my best friend. 

A month after our honeymoon, I started studying for REG.

I honestly didn’t even consider any of the other CPA review courses.

A colleague who had already started studying with Roger spoke highly of his enthusiasm and charisma, and I was sold. I always had difficulty paying attention to long lectures where the professor recited bullet points from slides, and Roger proved to be nothing like that. Roger Philipp is my spirit animal.

I was newly married at the time, and making time to study wasn’t easy. Furthermore, I don’t consider myself a traditional learner, and struggle greatly with memorization. I wanted to pass the first time I took each test, and was willing to sacrifice a longer study period to do it.

I studied for REG for 3 months. During the week, I would study in the mornings from 6 to 8, work till noon, study for 2 hours during lunch, and then work till 6. I studied another 4 hours on Saturdays. I took REG in October ’14 and passed with an 88.

I took BEC before tax season, and passed with an 89, no small thanks to Roger’s vigor and passion. After tax season, I started studying for FAR. 4 months later, I took and passed it with a 92. I finally took AUD in November ’15 and passed with a 92.

Roger says, “If you study, you will pass.” I don’t consider myself intelligent or special. I believe, wholeheartedly, that passing the CPA exam is 100% about hard work. 

Several partners at my firm have emphasized that the CPA exam isn’t a race, but a marathon.

I’m on board with this. Being able to study for the CPA exam is about finding the pace that works for your life. Some people can afford to take off 3 months of work and study 10 hours a day, but those of us with families or who might not be able to afford that luxury do not earn immediate disqualification. Achieving your goals in life isn’t always about the all-out sprint, but about being able to find balance and manage your time and pursuits.

Ultimately, you will be the only person to find out how to earn that passing grade.

There is no one solution or method that is a surefire success, except the virtue of hard work and perseverance. I’m thankful for my wife and a support system who helped me see that my accomplishments and failures don’t define who I am. I consider myself incredibly blessed, and am excited to see the opportunities that will open up, now that this part of my journey is over.

–Nate Wong, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review 

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