CPA Exam Retake Strategies: How to Bounce Back After a Failed Attempt

CPA exam preparation - Vishal CPA PREP

The CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam is one of the most challenging professional exams in the world. It tests your knowledge of accounting, auditing, taxation, and business concepts, and passing it requires dedication, hard work, and skill. Unfortunately, not everyone who takes the CPA exam passes on their first try, and many candidates need to retake the exam multiple times before becoming certified.

If you have failed the CPA exam, you are not alone. According to the American Institute of CPAs, the pass rates for the CPA exam range from 45% to 66%, depending on the section. However, failing the exam can be demoralizing, frustrating, and expensive, as each retake can cost hundreds of dollars in exam fees and study materials.

But failing the CPA exam does not mean that you cannot become a successful CPA. With the right retake strategies, preparation, and mindset, you can bounce back from a failed attempt and pass the exam. In this article, we will discuss some CPA exam retake strategies that can help you pass the exam on your next try.

Understand Why You Failed

The first step to bouncing back after a failed attempt is to understand why you failed. There are several reasons why candidates fail the CPA exam, including:

  • Lack of preparation
  • Lack of focus
  • Time management issues
  • Test anxiety
  • Poor study habits

Understanding the reasons behind your failure will help you create a better study plan that addresses these issues.

Reevaluate Your Study Plan

Once you understand why you failed, you need to reevaluate your study plan. You may need to make changes to your study habits or schedule more study time to improve your chances of passing the exam. Consider the following:

  • Adjusting your study schedule to allow for more study time
  • Using different study materials or courses
  • Focusing on the topics you struggled with the most
  • Incorporating practice exams into your study routine

Work on Your Test-Taking Strategies

Your test-taking strategies can also impact your performance on the CPA exam. Consider the following:

  • Answering the easier questions first
  • Managing your time during the exam
  • Reviewing your answers before submitting your exam
  • Eliminating obviously wrong answers
  • Not second-guessing yourself

Manage Test Anxiety

Test anxiety can be a significant obstacle for many CPA candidates. If you suffer from test anxiety, consider the following:

  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation
  • Visualizing yourself successfully completing the exam
  • Taking care of yourself physically by getting enough sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet
  • Avoiding negative self-talk

Take Advantage of Retake Policies

Most states have a retake policy that allows candidates to retake the exam if they fail it. Take advantage of this policy, but make sure you use the extra time to prepare adequately. Consider the following:

  • Using the extra time to address the issues that caused you to fail
  • Scheduling your retake as soon as possible to keep the material fresh in your mind
  • Focusing on the topics you struggled with the most during your previous attempt

Seek Support from Others

Finally, don't be afraid to seek support from others. Studying for the CPA exam can be a lonely and stressful experience, and having a support system can make a significant difference. Consider the following:

  • Joining a study group or finding a study partner
  • Seeking advice from a mentor or CPA who has passed the exam
  • Talking to family and friends about your experience and seeking their encouragement

In conclusion, failing the CPA exam is not the end of the world. Many successful CPAs have failed the exam before passing it, and there are strategies that you can use to bounce back after a failed attempt. Understanding why you failed, reevaluating your study plan, working on your test-taking strategies, managing test anxiety, taking advantage of retake policies, and seeking support from others can all help you pass the exam on your next try.


1. Can I retake the CPA exam if I fail it?

Yes, most states have a retake policy that allows candidates to retake the exam if they fail it.

2. How many times can I retake the CPA exam?

The number of times you can retake the CPA exam varies by state. Some states allow unlimited retakes, while others limit the number of retakes within a specific timeframe.

3. Should I use the same study materials for my retake?

It depends. If you feel that your study materials were effective, you may want to continue using them. However, if you feel that you need a fresh approach, consider using different study materials or taking a different review course.

4. Can test anxiety be overcome?

Yes, test anxiety can be overcome with practice and relaxation techniques. It may take time, but with effort, you can manage your test anxiety and perform better on the exam.

5. Is it common to fail the CPA exam?

Yes, it is common to fail the CPA exam. The exam is notoriously challenging, with an average pass rate of only 50%. However, many successful CPAs have failed the exam before passing it, so don't give up if you fail on your first attempt.

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