What the CPA Exam Has Taught Me

Hi there. My name is Derek Bird. I’m a United States Navy Veteran, husband, and father. I’ve been married to my beautiful wife, Kristi, for 5 years, and together we have 2 sons: Benjamin, who is 3, and Abraham who is 8 months old. We live in Crosby, Texas, which is about 20 miles from Houston, Texas. And when I’m not a craft beer snob and avid Houston Texans and Houston Astros fan, I consider myself just a normal guy from the lone-star state who has always dreamed of becoming a CPA. 

After I graduated high school, I spent 4 years in the World’s Finest Navy as a Quartermaster.

In the Navy, I did global navigation and coastal piloting for the warship USS Samuel B Roberts. I was part of 2 Counter Narcotic deployments to South America.

After receiving an honorable discharge from the United States Navy, I knew I wanted to have a career that was stable and promising. I have several family members who are CPAs, and I’ve always been interested in the field, so accounting seemed like the best route to take. 

I went to the University of Houston-Clear Lake and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 2012 and also went on to pursue my Master of Science in Accounting, graduating in 2014. 

During my time at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, I knew I had to get some experience in the profession to count toward my exam requirements, and I also wanted to get hands on experience of what life on the job would be like. So I did 2 Accounting Internships with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and 1 Consulting Internship with CSC Consulting. Upon completion of my degrees, I went to work for Camden Property Trust doing Fixed Asset and Construction Accounting as a Staff Accountant.  After 2.5 years at Camden I joined the Internal Audit team at Waste Management and have now been here for 1.5 years.

My CPA Exam journey started back in May of 2015.

I had been at Waste Management for 2 months and my boss approached me about pursuing certifications. I had always wanted to pursue the CPA, but never had anyone really pushing me to do it. But it was at this point that I realized how important this license was in order to move upward and have more opportunity.

I knew it was now or never, so I purchased Roger CPA Review and started studying.

After passing FAR (the first section I took), I had a lot of confidence.  

I decided to take REG next and rushed a bit too much on my study time.  I ended up failing REG with a 72. This failure was heartbreaking to me.  After 2 months of studying every weekend, and every day during the week on my lunch breaks and after work, I couldn’t believe I failed. I felt like I had let my wife and my sons down. 

Once I received my REG score, it took me a couple days to start feeling good about myself again. I reapplied for REG and scheduled my exam for 3 weeks later. In the meantime, my wife was 8 months pregnant and her due date was the week I scheduled the exam. I kept telling her, “Hold that baby in mama; I have to get this exam out of the way.” During the 3 weeks of study, I had extremely focused study time working strictly on Roger’s IPQs.  I also went over all my mnemonics again, and made sure I knew how to get To AGI and From AGI.

I sat for my REG retake on January 5th, and my wife went into labor on January 6th!  

Abraham Bradley Bird was born January 7th, and I received my REG score of 80 on February 4th! I continued studying and passed AUD and BEC thereafter.

My study techniques that worked very well for me were watching a full chapter’s video and going through all the IPQs before moving onto the next chapter. I would back out 2 weeks from my test date, and make sure I had 2 weeks to review before the test. During the 2 weeks before the test I would do nothing but IPQs and Simulations. I also used this time to become familiar with the Authoritative Literature and the testing format. 

Going through journey has taught me a lot about myself and it has taught me a lot about how strong of a woman my wife is.

She held it down at home for a year while I was focused on these tests. Although the process can be strenuous and grueling at times, sitting for the CPA Exam is definitely an unforgettable experience that really teaches you a lot about self-discipline, sacrifice, and consistency. I feel like all CPA Exam candidates come out of the other side better for it. 

For all you CPA Exam candidates out there, my best piece of advice to get through this exam is to focus your studies and remember that it’s quality over quantity. Don’t think that just because you’re sitting there watching a video means you’re putting in the hours. You have to be 100% engaged to make it work. As Yoda would say, “Do or do not, there is no try.” This experience has taught me that with hard work and dedication, you can do anything in life–including conquering the CPA Exam.

–Derek Bird

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