• Nikki Winston, CPA

CPA Exam Q&A Part 2


Score release will be a bit different this time around. Just over a month ago, NASBA implemented continuous testing which hopefully will soften the blow for anyone who gets that gut-crushing fail today. As you anxiously check your scores and either celebrate or have a pity party, I’ve answered more of your burning CPA exam questions. The CPA Exam Q&A episode is still 1 of the most downloaded episodes of The WERKin’ Mommas podcast so as promised here is part 2 as a blog (I'll record this as an episode soon). 

In more exciting news, I recently launched the Winston CPA Monthly Coaching Program! It’s all of the in-your-ear exam advice you need plus the retired CPA exam questions to help you master those tough topics. Check it out and join the other future CPAs getting CPA exam-ready. 


I took BEC a couple days ago. Should I wait for my score or move on to the next section?

Once you have taken an exam, take a brain break for a couple days then move 👏🏽 on 👏🏽. 


On the flip side you could say you need to wait for your score because if you fail the content is fresh in your mind and you can turn around and retake it. So a couple reasons why I say move on is (1) so much of CPA exam content overlaps to another section - whether it’s something blatant like covering financial statements in both FAR and AUD or something like knowing financial ratios for both FAR and BEC. The exam you just took could have been brutal for you and you’re moving on to something lighter or easier for you to grasp. Waiting until score release also speaks to your mindset - I don’t think I passed so I’m going to wait for my failing score so I can retake. I see so many posts in these CPA exam study groups where somebody just took an exam and is basically telling us that they failed. How do you know that you failed? You really don’t know, but it says a lot about what you think about your efforts. If you didn’t study as diligently as you know you should have or you skated around or you saw a simulation that totally freaked you out, there’s some things you’ll have to change for the next time you sit. If you carry that mindset thinking you failed and then you speak that into the universe that’s what you’ll get. When you believe big you receive big. If you don’t think you can do it, you won’t and your actions will reflect that. 

The clock is ticking on getting exam credits - imagine if you waited 2-3 weeks for your score because you were afraid to move on to the next section because your mind is telling you that you failed, then score release comes around and you passed?! That’s almost a month you’ve sat waiting, anxious, and time lost where you could’ve been halfway through studying for another section. 

Now with continuous testing in place as of July 1, this whole argument can really go out the window because if you sit for an exam in July and fail in August you can turn around and retake it. When I was on the CPA exam struggle bus I didn’t have that option but knowing how hard I studied I refused to sit around and wait.  Actually, me moving on to the next section actually helped other topics make sense. Stop holding yourself back. The lack of confidence you have now as a candidate will show up in your post-exam life as a CPA. If you’re unsure of decisions or if you don’t feel worthy of working with certain clients because you feel like you don’t know enough that will hinder your career. 


So should you wait for scores? No, keep it moving. 


It’s been a long time since I graduated and now I work full-time with kids. I’m afraid I won’t have the time or energy needed to study. What should I do?

Becoming a CPA is a dream for many people. It’s a springboard to starting your own business, giving back to your community, or advancing to a new role. Since when is it ok to go on a hunt for excuses? Creating your own obstacles? We work hard for employers and take all the stress that brings in exchange for that paycheck. We have kids - that alone is a full-time job, trust I know. What you shouldn’t do is create a barrier to achieving something that’s high up on your goals list. Here’s what to do to find the time and courage to start or keep going. 

  1. Look at how your day is currently structured. If you consistently spend 2+ hours watching TV, chilling out, and not being able to account for any time in your day - you have time to study. There’s no magic formula that says you must study for X number of hours before you understand something. Find pockets of time like your lunch break, an hour or 2 before or after work, or commuting - the time is there you just have to find it and be disciplined enough to make those uncomfortable adjustments to your schedule. 

  2. Taking baby steps is OK. You might find that you haven’t looked at a statement of cash flows since undergrad but once you see it everything you remember comes right back. Spend time LEARNING - rushing through topics is wasted time and don’t get discouraged if it takes you more than once to master a topic. 

  3. Do practice questions. You need to get REPS - just like sports, you need that real-world practice. You need to get acquainted with the content - learn it, understand it, practice it - go out in the world and find an application of what you’re studying. Case in point - for FAR you must know about business combinations. There’s so much M&A activity happening right now that provides real world examples for you to study and learn without it feeling so boring. I find it fascinating to read a news article about how a company acquired another than reading further or looking at financial statements to see the disclosures and the accounting treatment. 

As parents, as full-time employees, and many other titles there’s always gonna be something in the way. Something to do, something to work on,  but you have to make the time to prepare for the CPA exam. You have to want it bad enough. That’s it. That’s the motivation. That’s how you keep going. When has anything ever come to easy? Think about the Oprahs  and Bezos’ and Percy Millers of the world. Nothing was dropped in their lap - they had to go get it. And you as a future CPA need to do the same - stop scrolling social media and reading everybody’s posts about how hard studying is - put the phone down and get to work. That’s just that - I tried every shortcut in the book and none of them worked. Just get it done so you too can talk about the CPA exam in past tense. 


I’ve reached a point in studying where the content just doesn’t interest me. Should I skip those sections?

FAR was the very first exam I took. I was familiar with the content so there were some things I either skipped or glazed over - 1 of them being bonds. Even doing that I passed on the first try. I knew I did and I moved on to audit. I’ve never like audit, never had a strong desire to be an auditor, and to this day I think my audit professor gave me a mercy grade because I procrastinated on audit until my graduating quarter and also because I was always at his office hours. Needless to say I wasn’t excited to start this section. I skipped maybe 2 sections and I failed - got a 72. I was salty because I’m like I skipped TWO whole sections and still came within 3 points of a minimal passing score. I reflected on it like damn I know I could have got those extra 3 points had I put in the time to study. That thinking set my trajectory for the next maybe year - I never mentally recovered from that and it showed in the next few times I sat. 


Thinking beyond the CPA exam, that laziness carries over to your work. Don’t think you’re going to bullshit your way through exams and then you’re going to be this expert accountant. There are stellar CPAs then there are people who passed the exams and met the minimum requirements to get a CPA license. 


Can you get partial credit on simulations?

Yes, you can get partial credit on simulations. Most sims require you to answer a series of questions, calculate the interest payment expense today on a bond then calculate it again 6 months from now -the answer will be different. You might use the stated rate instead of the market rate and get that part wrong, but get other parts of it right. Even if you don’t understand fully what the simulation is asking you, take a shot at answering the question. The worst thing you can do is leave a question blank. It’s not an exam where you start with 100 points and you get minus 2 because you missed this one or minus 3 points on this part of the sim. You don’t lose points for wrong answers - you just don’t get credit. So if you think you know, if you have an inkling about what the answer is, put it there. You have 3 options: the answer is right so you get credit, the answer is partially right so you get partial credit, and the answer is wrong. 2 out of 3 chance of getting SOMETHING other than 0, I’m taking that chance. The scoring process is MOSTLY automated. Before you submit your exam or as you see your time running out and the clock has turned red, look back over your testlet and leave nothing blank.

I’ve been doing practice exams but my scores are in the 50s, what should I do?

You should not panic first of all - that does not mean that you’ll score the same thing on your actual exam. Practice exams are good for getting reps on content, working out those weak areas of your studying and helping you figure out the specific areas to study before exam day. I remember taking practice exams and having the same thing like ok a 70 is OK but that’s not enough to pass - you will have different questions on your actual exam and I sometimes went into my exam thinking  - after the first few questions like ok, I like these questions I know this stuff, then I was taking other exams thinking WTF - I don’t remember seeing this in my review course. 

If you’re studying and you feel like you’re not learning anything it’s probably because you’re not - you’re simply absorbing information. 


If you’re getting to the end of a chapter or a topic and you feel like OK I read 60 pages or watched 2 hours or videos and still getting the multiple choice questions wrong, then you need a new strategy. You have to figure out how you’re going to ingest this information, how you’re going to get yourself excited to learn it when you don’t feel like it and honestly you just have to put in the work. Don’t be that person in the CPA exam study groups asking somebody what was on their exam or how do they find time and motivation to study. If you’re at that point in the process you shouldn’t be getting ready to sit for an exam. 



You first have to get your head in the right place and figure out your why and why you’re studying and then and only then can you make real progress. If you’re tired of studying but not learning then my CPA exam monthly coaching plan will help you get on the right track. Many students use it to supplement their current review courses and tell me it’s helping me finally make sense of tough topics. 


Enroll here if you still need to pass FAR. 

~N

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©2020 by Nikki Winston, CPA.