How I Passed the CPA Exam in 4 Months: Live It, Learn It, Love It!


Hi, my name is Gina Lehner and I’m just a 21 year old girl who loves to go running and spend time in the kitchen baking.  And this is my CPA Exam story. 

I live in Shamong, NJ and I recently graduated in May of 2016 with a Bachelors of Science in Accounting from Stockton University.  

Currently, I am pursuing my MBA and I plan to graduate May of 2017.  Ever since my first year of college, I always knew that I wanted to be a CPA, but it wasn’t until last fall that I realized I needed a game plan.  The upcoming 2017 Exam changes sounded daunting, and it motivated me to figure out a way to take the test before they were scheduled to go into effect.  So, I decided to take June, July and August off from my staff accountant job at a local CPA firm to tackle this exam before I started school again in September.

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Before I started studying in June, I had to come to grips with the sad reality that this test was going to be my life for the next few months.

And that – to put it simply – it was going to suck. I made sure to get as much fun in as possible before my study start date, which included a spa day, plenty of shopping, and seeing all my friends and family.  So when the time came for me to start studying, I was relaxed and well rested, and pumped to start my CPA Exam adventure.    

With the help of Roger’s study schedule, I mapped out the order of my tests and what I should study each day.  

FAR was the first exam on my lineup, scheduled for July 5, which gave me about one month to learn the material.  I chose to tackle this one first for a few reasons:

  1. It has the most material and I knew I would need the most time with this section
  2. The content was not as fresh in my mind since all my financial accounting courses in college had been taken a few years back
  3. I thought this would be my toughest section.  

Next came REG on July 30.  This followed FAR in my plan because it had the second most amount of material to cover.  Then AUD on August 16, and BEC on September 3.  It seemed intimidating, and everyone told me I was crazy, but I wanted it.  I wanted to study, take the exams, and have it all be over.  I wanted those three letters after my name.

Studying became a routine: watch Roger’s videos, read the chapter in the textbook, and go through all the multiple choice questions.  

Every day I would spend anywhere from seven to nine hours studying; a few days before the test, the hours would increase to about ten per day.   When my first test day arrived, I was filled with adrenaline; half nervous energy and half excitement.  However, no amount of studying will ever prepare you for the actual test.  The test was horrible – it was difficult and I felt like for most of the questions, I stared at the screen asking myself, “What is this?”  

The feeling I experienced walking out of the testing center was one of crushing disappointment and frustration.  I had studied so hard, for so many hours, and at a great sacrifice of being holed up in my room for four weeks straight, and I thought for sure I would have nothing to show for it.  

But I was wrong.  I passed FAR with an 81.  

And so my studying and test-taking continued on for the rest of the summer.  I did fail REG on the first try, and it was devastating and embarrassing.  Instead of letting it bring me down, I knew that I had to take that defeat and channel it into studying for my next exam.  The feeling of failure pushed me even more, because I knew I never wanted to experience it ever again.  I passed AUD with a 77 and BEC with an 81.  Later, when I re-took REG, I passed with a 75.  

There were a few things that I learned during my entire CPA exam studying experience.  

The first thing is that no one will ever understand what you’re going through, except for the people living with you and other CPA Exam candidates. No one understands the amount of time you need to dedicate to studying and that when you say, “No, I can’t see you, I have to study” or “No, I can’t make it tonight because I have to study,” they don’t believe you.  But I did find that knowing someone else who is studying, too, is oddly comforting when you can share mutual sentiments on how awful it is.  

It’s also important to begin the journey knowing what type of learner you are and what works for you.  

Personally, I need to be in my room by myself to be able to absorb information.  I can’t have any distractions.  But, I know that other people focus better with music playing in the background or can get into their study-zone later in the day.  Just knowing what your studying strengths and weaknesses are will help you to map out a strategy.  

Lastly, I learned that it’s healthy to take a day off here and there.  After every test, I took the next day off and just enjoyed being free for 24 hours. Go shopping.  See your friends.  Have a drink.  The downtime before the studying starts back up is a much needed break to recharge and gear up for the next section.

Roger’s review course made studying entertaining and he was exceptionally motivating, especially with his mantra of, “Live it, learn it, love it.”

Through the daze of being bogged down in study material, it may seem as if the end is never in sight.  But then, there will be that day when scores are released and you see that passing grade on your last exam.  You lived it, learned it, and loved it.  I know each and every one of you can do it. It’s difficult, but well worth it in the end. And when you do finally pass, then you can pop the champagne! 

–Gina Lehner

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