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The secret ingredient to passing the CPA Exam

As a future CPA, you’ll need a little grit.

Do you have grit?

Angela Lee Duckworth, a famed psychologist and researcher, defined “grit” in her 2013 TED Talk as the “passion and perseverance for achieving very long-term goals.” In essence, grit represents your ability to stick with your goals day in and day out, working very hard to make your dreams a reality. Being gritty means living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

As a future CPA, you’ll need a little grit to tackle the CPA Exam. Curious to know if you possess grittiness? Keep reading to see some of the most common traits.

  • You’re a big-picture thinker. When you think about the future, you’re not worried about mapping out next week’s to-do list. You’re more interested in developing your 5- to 10-year plan and figuring out how to get there. You believe that some of the most rewarding milestones in life are those that take longer.
  • You embrace the grind. You recognize that studying for the exam won’t always be thrilling. If you know studying will help achieve your goals, though, you’ll push through knowing that the hard work will pay dividends in the future.
  • Failure is not forever. You’re resilient, especially if something doesn’t go your way the first time. You recognize that not every CPA passed all four parts of the exam on their first try. Even though you’re confident in your abilities, you recognize that a failing test score is not a death sentence.
  • You like to get outside your comfort zone. When faced with new opportunities and experiences that’ll help you with your goal, you embrace stretching yourself. Not every accountant pursues a CPA, but you’re the type of person who knows that it’ll help you go far in your career.
  • You embrace growth. For you, every day is a new opportunity to develop your skills. You view the world with a glass-half-full mentality and you will not let your shortcomings dictate your success. When recognizing that you lack the knowledge needed to pass a section, you embrace an “I can do it” attitude.

Grow Your Grittiness

Did you see yourself in the above examples? If not, don’t fret. Grit is not something you are born with; it’s a learned skill.

Developing a grit mentality is a great soft skill to help you stay motivated and grounded during potential obstacles. Here are a few ways you can grow and implement grit in your CPA Exam journey.

  • Develop optimism through a growth mindset. When you’re stuck in a fixed mindset, you increase the limitations you have in your life by viewing the world through a pessimistic lens. The good news is that you can train your brain to get away from this thinking and adopt a growth mindset. To do this, you must first learn to identify your internal fixed mindset voice and recognize that you can choose how you interpret challenges, setbacks, and criticism.

    With a fixed mindset, you may interpret them as signs that your talents or skills are lacking. However, you can embrace a growth mindset by recasting setbacks as opportunities to stretch yourself. Face your inner voice head-on by countering it with growth mindset responses. For instance, if amid a challenge your inner voice says, “What if I fail? I’ll disappoint my family,” counter this by reminding yourself that most successful people have failed. By using this technique consistently over time, it will be easier to embrace a growth mindset.
  • Challenge yourself to stay the course. Whether you want to get past your fear of public speaking, learn the latest accounting technology, or pass the CPA Exam, the only way you will improve is to prepare and practice. When you look at those around you who’ve mastered specific skills, you may forget that they first spent countless hours practicing and studying. To prepare yourself for the CPA Exam, focus your study efforts on areas of weakness and incorporate opportunities for repetition as well as immediate and informative feedback.
  • Stay passionate about your purpose. Having grit doesn’t just mean practicing persistence and hard work — it’s an avenue for achieving a meaningful goal. Adapting grittiness to your CPA Exam journey is easier when you’re motivated. To help along the way, find peers, coaches, and professors who’ll help you navigate toward your goal. Their encouragement will help you stay the course and grow your grittiness.

Interested in seeing just how gritty you are? Check out Duckworth’s Grit Scale and see where you line up with others.


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