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        A Little Perspective on CPA Exam Stress

        March 20, 2018 By Dorothy Dickmann

        Blog Details

        As a newly declared accounting major, the CPA exam loomed over my future as a threatening rain cloud, seemingly hundreds of miles down the road.

        The fear started to set in little by little, as I delved into recruiting and worked through my internships. It was fueled by talking to professionals, who almost always volunteered, “Whatever you do, finish the CPA exam before you start work full time,” as their first piece of advice. Nothing I didn’t already know (thanks, Professional Development!), however, witnessing young professionals (both in my corporate and public internships) struggle with studying for the CPA Exam while working full time drove the point home: I wanted to pass ASAP.

        Now, I’m a reasonable person. I know the Auburn MAcc statistics. The program has outstanding pass rates, and a little bit of Googling yields evidence that most CPA candidates fail to take their Exam preparation as seriously as we do here.

        During the first round of tests (FAR and AUD), I was the person in the program saying things like, “It’ll be fine! Trust Becker! Trust your undergrad education! People pass this test while having way more responsibility than we do!” If you say it enough you start to believe it, right? Sort of.

        No matter how much perspective I tried to have, the process still proved a little scary and quite stressful. It’s not even close to the end of the world if you don’t pass the first time, but still—no one wants to fail!

        The worst part is the unknown: the CPA Exam is unlike any test you have taken prior. That’s a good thing, though. It covers material you learned in class (unlike the GMAT) but unlike university tests, the CPA Exam takes multiple factors into scoring (not just number of questions correct). In this way, the Exams play a mental game with us. We all know the field attracts those of us that lean Type-A. High achieving accounting students are used to studying so that when we sit down in front of a test we’re confident in 90% (or at the very least 80%) of our answers. You won’t feel that way with the CPA Exam.

        Upon opening Becker, I was overwhelmed. As I started to work through, I got more overwhelmed. Then less overwhelmed…then a little more.

        CPA Exam preparation is a rollercoaster—one minute you’re crushing questions, feeling like a rock star, and then one module later, you get almost everything wrong.

        I took the first FAR Mock Exam and was pleasantly surprised (“maybe I actually know what I’m doing!”). A few days later, two days before the Exam, I took the second practice test. My score went down. By almost 10 points! Cue the stress.

        I logically knew that the odds were in my favor, but still felt nervous walking into the test, and nervous walking out.

        I didn’t feel great about how the test went. Maybe I failed, maybe I passed. I hadn’t the faintest idea. I knew there were some questions I certainly got wrong, some I didn’t feel confident about, and surely, I was clueless and got some wrong that I thought I got right. I walked out of the Exam, crossed the street, got myself an ice cream cone from Toomer’s, and tried (semi-successfully) to put it out of my mind.

        NASBA released all Q1 scores at the same time, so one month after sitting for the first exam, we got both scores back. The week leading up to score release had me pretty wired, (lots of, “why can’t they just give us the scores NOW?!”) and the day before, we were all refreshing NASBA’s twitter feed every couple of hours.

        Lo and behold, after all of that worry and stress, I passed! Both! With a comfortable buffer between me and a 75.

        So, when you find yourself freaking out about the CPA Exam, remember this: your undergrad education here at Auburn prepares you well. I got A’s and B’s in my accounting classes, and faithfully worked through the Becker review course. I didn’t feel great walking out of either FAR or AUD, but when scores released I made it out unscathed. You can too!

        Studying for the CPA Exam is not my favorite thing to do, but it isn’t ruining my life, either. Knocking two exams out made me realize that I don’t need to worry so much. I will not be unreasonable and tell you not to freak out (you will, regardless), but don’t let CPA stress rule your life!