How to Fail the CPA Exam

Everyone wants to know how to pass this exam so that they can be progressive in their career, increase their earning power, and be successful. I believe that knowing what to do to pass the exam is just as important as knowing what not to do. Unfortunately, I happen to be very experienced in failing this exam. However, I have had good success with the exam this year so far. 

I passed BEC in February and am awaiting my AUD score. Still, it took me some time to find my stride. At the beginning of my exam journey, I asked countless others who had passed the exam how they did it and what strategies they had used. I figured I would either copy what they did, or come up with a way to bypass a portion of their process in order to accomplish my goal quicker. It sounds crazy, I know, but I was desperate to find ways to avoid working too hard or putting in too much time and effort. As a result, I will share what I was told, what I did, and why it didn’t work.

One of the first pieces of advice I was told early on was to watch the lectures and take notes while doing so.

It is extremely difficult to watch someone talk about accounting without falling asleep. Most of the time, I would attempt to watch the lectures after work, which is when I was most fatigued. Sometimes, I was lucky if I watched 15 minutes of a lecture. 

So, I decided to skip lectures altogether and simply read the book, followed by working multiple choice questions. I tried this so many times. Ultimately, it didn’t work. When studying for the exam, repetition reinforces retention. The lectures are designed to initially expose you to the material, which helps you read the material with greater clarity and speed. It took me a long time to realize the obvious, but I eventually stopped trying to cut corners. I found Roger CPA Review, which has short lectures that keep me entertained and engaged. Now, I have no problems staying awake and understanding the concepts.

The next tip I was given was to make a realistic schedule and stick to it.

Before, I would just study when I felt I had the time and it was taking me forever to complete the sections. Also, I would set overly ambitious goals for myself, which would lead to burnout in a very short period of time. After skipping a few days, I would start again but had forgotten what I had previously learned. I was driving myself crazy.  By making a schedule for myself, I now have an accountability tool. I set realistic goals and am able to track my progress. It is also a great motivator to see that I am accomplishing a study goal on a daily basis.

I also was told that I should review the task-based simulations.

I never used to do this. In my mind, if those same questions were not going to be on the exam, then what was the point? I thought that my time would be better spent doing multiple choice questions. Consequently, I would struggle in this area. There were even times when I failed an exam a few points shy of a passing score. What I had failed to realize was that even though those exact questions are not on the exam, the concepts usually are. It is worth the time to, at the very least, review the examples provided in the study materials. 

Lastly and most importantly, I was advised to do as many multiple choice questions as possible.

I really love doing multiple choice questions on the subjects I like. On the other hand, I hate doing them on subjects that are super challenging and usually do those last. There were even times, in the past, when I never finished them. I would sit for an exam without a reasonable understanding of certain topics that I did not like.

What a huge mistake and hard lesson to learn. Most of the time, those are the very topics that are tested. I have learned to tackle the topics I dislike the most first. You can never do too many multiple choice questions. They are 100% unavoidable. I have friends who have done them until they could no longer see straight. Ironically, when I get this feeling, I know that I am ready to sit for my exam. 

I now know that there are no short cuts.

You have to make a lot of sacrifices and do the work. The sooner you buckle down and get it done, the sooner you will reach your goal. If you do not do these things, it’s a surefire way of how to fail the CPA Exam. 

–Kimberly Smith, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review 

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