• Nikki Winston, CPA

I am SO glad I failed the CPA exam.


Said no one EVER...except me. And let me tell you - those fails are GUT. WRENCHING. How do I know? Because I had 9 of them. I studied so hard and battled with confidence over anxiety on many exam days yet I still kept hope alive that somehow I’d pull off a 75. When you get that score notification it’s real. It says FAIL in all caps then breaks down what you did well and what you didn’t, relative to other candidates.


For me it got to the point where before I opened my score notification I could tell by the size of the attachment. Plus if I could scroll the attachment, that meant it was 2 pages and the 2nd page was telling me HOW I failed. If I couldn't scroll, that meant I passed!


Here’s why I’m so happy about failing the CPA exam so many times:


It deepened my domain expertise. Like I said, those FAILS hurt. I dug into the concepts even harder the second, third, (and fourth time with REG) because I didn’t want to feel that feeling again.


I will say it again, passing the CPA exam is the beginning, not the end. You’ll have to now show what you know. All those formulas and components you were trying to master? Now you gotta go out and do it. But that’s the goal right? To be an expert in our field. Studying for the CPA exam is a GRIND and the preparation is the part of this whole process that matters most. Your diligence in finding the right answer, reading the questions over and over, these are the distinguishing factors that set your apart from your peers.


I discovered how resilient I truly am. To give something your all and it’s still not enough?! Losing sleep studying, working late and still studying, being a Momma and studying, cooking, cleaning, homework, PTA meetings, turmoil at the office, and trying to find myself somewhere in all of that. I’ve exchanged exam struggles with both my CPA and non-CPA friends, many of the latter quit after a couple fails. I quit a few times too - at least temporarily because I felt I didn’t have the time or I’m just wasn’t getting it. I also knew that I needed to try harder because there were times when I took shortcuts. Many of my fails were largely due to me skipping content or skimming through something that I didn’t feel like learning. Understand that I was running on fumes at this point with working crazy hours, my family, household, I had a LOT going on. Still I owed it to myself to dig deeper and get it done. I was always thinking ahead telling myself that I have to learn this if I want to be that go-to person on complex accounting matters.


Let me tell y’all: Any life experience that leads you to rediscover who you really are is worth the pressure and pain endured to get there. Tweet this awesome quote!


“Trust the process” is the golden rule. Cutting corners is not the move. When I barely passed or failed, it wasn’t due to effort. It was because I skipped concepts that I didn’t think were worth the time trying to learn. Turns out that all the stuff I skipped was all the stuff that was tested. I struggled early on because I was tired of the 90-page chapters and endless videos. My focus was on getting done in 6 months and I thought I just needed to know high-level concepts and I could fill in the blanks later. WRONG.


I appreciate those 9 failing scores now. Had it not been for them, I wouldn't have been able to experience the exuberance of being a Certified Public Accountant. I don't know that I would have found this fire in my gut to help other candidates pass. It's a journey that no one should go at alone. The process can be as long or as short as you need it to be - and it depends on how hard you're willing to work for it. There’s a lot to be learned in this process - about accounting of course. But also about yourself.


If you've failed an exam, be in your feelings. That's totally OK. What's not OK is to stay there, wondering why it happened to you and doubting your ability to beat the exam. Figure out where you went wrong - did you run out of time? Did you see concepts you didn't recognize? Were you overwhelmed by the questions? The key is to get back at it and dig deeper this time. I teach my CPA students how to master the material and share strategies on what to study but also how to study. I'm happy to share some pointers with you on how you can do better next time.


I hope you found some motivation from this post. As a courtesy to you, I want to send you some study tips to help you on your CPA exam journey. Send me your score notification and I'll review it and share some pointers on what to study. Upload it to my Score Notification folder and I'll email you some study materials to work on your weak areas. Don't worry, nobody else has access to this folder and it's only for me to send study materials to students. I want you to be successful, you can do this. Happy studying!


~N

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©2020 by Nikki Winston, CPA.