Many of my students come to me because they have failed one or more of their CPA exams and realize that they need the help of a CPA tutor. Usually, all they need is a little support to gain a better understanding of the CPA study materials. Here is my advice to students who fail the CPA exam.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to pass the CPA exam or how many times you fail. All that matters is the accreditation in the end. I like to say to my students that you only fail if you throw in the towel. There is no limit to how many times you can take the CPA exams.
Another thing I want all my CPA exam candidates to know is that your employer or future employers don’t know how many times you attempt the CPA exams or your CPA exam scores. All they see is your accreditations once you pass the CPA exams. Failing a CPA exam will not negatively impact your career, giving up after failing a CPA exam will.
What to Do After Failing Your CPA Exam
There are a few things you should do after failing a CPA exam.
Bring Your Results to Your CPA Exam Tutor
Analyze your exam results with your tutor. This will allow you to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. Failing a CPA exam does not always mean that you have a gap in your knowledge. Sometimes, people answer a CPA exam question incorrectly because the wording of the question confuses them.
Your CPA exam tutor will be able to look at your score and your results and tell you what the best course of action is. I advise my students to do one of the following after they fail their CPA exam (depending on the results):
- Retake the exam straight away – People don’t always fail their CPA exams because they lack the knowledge. A “near miss” (like a score of 73 or 74) where the student lost points because of misunderstanding questions would lead me to recommend the student retake the CPA exam straight away. If the testing window is still open, then that may mean testing in the same exam window.
- Retake the exam in the next testing window – Retaking the CPA exam in the next testing window gives a student more time to address gaps in knowledge or understanding. The extra time is spent studying the CPA study materials and taking practice tests to check retention.
- Start studying for another CPA exam and retake this CPA exam later – There is a correct order to take the CPA exams to maximize your success. If you take the exams out of order, you may not have the foundational knowledge you need to answer the exam questions.
Work on Your Strength and Weaknesses
Don’t just focus on your weaknesses when studying to retake the CPA exam. The next CPA exam will have different questions and may even word questions in a different way than your previous CPA exam. This can lead to you getting a question wrong that tested knowledge that you got right in your previous CPA exam.
Create a study timetable that will revise your strengths (based on your previous CPA exam results) and focus on your weaknesses.
Often, when students come to me after failing their CPA exams it is not because they lack the knowledge, it is because they didn’t manage their time well in the exam. That is why exam time management is a large part of my CPA exam mentoring. We practice working through multiple choice questions and I provide a framework for how to allocate your time during the exam.
Hone Effective Study Skills
CPA exam candidates that start working with me after multiple failed attempts at their CPA exams often tell me that they spend a lot of time studying. I believe them and I understand why they are frustrated they can’t pass their CPA exams. The problem that they have is they are not studying effectively.
Effective CPA exam preparation is not about memorizing your CPA study materials or a textbook. You need to understand the accounting concepts in the CPA study materials so you can apply your knowledge to answer the CPA exam questions. That is why a large part of my CPA exam tutoring focuses on developing effective study skills. Your custom CPA study timetable will focus on preparing for one exam at a time and use short, regular study sessions rather than long periods of study.
Here are some tips to help you study effectively:
- Cover one topic per study session to prevent overwhelm or confusion
- Test knowledge with practice questions and examples in each study session
- Stay focused while studying rather than trying to multitask – you may need to leave your phone in another room to limit distractions
- Make a note of anything you don’t understand so you can ask your CPA exam tutor
Ready to Retake Your CPA Exam?
It’s okay to be disappointed when you fail your CPA exam, but don’t wallow in your feelings for too long. When you’re ready to retake your CPA exam, contact me for a free session and I can help you prepare for your next attempt. You can also join my free Facebook group for support and free CPA study tips – you don’t have to work with me to join.
You have a bright future ahead of you with a rewarding career as a CPA and I am excited to help you pass your CPA exams and get started. If you want a CPA exam tutor who will support you and encourage you in addition to providing you with CPA study materials that help you to understand accounting concepts faster, then I am your guy. I am a CPA tutor with 10 years of experience in preparing students for their CPA exams. Big 4 accounting firms (and some smaller ones) trust me to help their employees pass their CPA exams and get certified. Start here by booking a free session.