Use these tips and say #IPassedCPA
Be inspired by these stories of CPA Exam success.
Finishing and passing all sections of the CPA Exam are big accomplishments, and these triumphs should be acknowledged. That’s why the AICPA launched its #IPassedCPA campaign last year, as a way to create camaraderie among aspiring CPAs, encourage those taking the exam, and recognize those who have passed it, one section at a time.
We spoke with accountants who recently passed the exam and then touted their achievements on social media. We also asked about their journey and their best tips for others studying or taking the exams. Here are their inspiring stories:
Joshua Gregory, a technology risk consultant at EY in Cleveland, began studying for the CPA Exam in May 2018, shortly after he graduated from Kent State University. Seven months later, after following a grueling schedule, he passed all four sections of the exam and promptly posted his #IPassedCPA achievement on LinkedIn. He expects to get his CPA license in August.
His two key tips: “Schedule the exam before you start to study for it, to maintain accountability for yourself and to keep pushing you toward that date,” he noted.
And secondly, be pragmatic. “Realize this will be a significant time commitment and there are going to be many days that aren’t that fun,” he said. “Don’t enter this process assuming it’s going to be a breeze.”
Jarisa Larsen, CPA, accounting manager at United Supermarkets in Lubbock, Texas, had a rough start when taking the CPA Exam, shortly after earning her master’s degree from Texas Tech University in 2012. She failed the first section of the exam, and at that point decided to take a break. About five years later, after accepting a job with her current employer, she decided to retake the exam. Despite a hectic schedule and family life, she was diligent in her studies and made her #IPassedCPA celebratory post in late 2018 on LinkedIn.
Her tip: “Try not to get overwhelmed, frustrated, or freaked out” when taking the exam, she said. “Just keep going and don’t panic.”
CPAs run in the family of Courtney Privette, an audit assistant at Deloitte in Raleigh, N.C., so the profession seemed like her natural path. She began studying for the CPA Exam in May 2017, the same month she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from North Carolina A&T State University. In March 2018, she passed the CPA exam, and in May 2018 she received a master’s degree in accounting from Ohio State University. That summer, she interned at the AICPA, prior to working at Deloitte.
Her advice for taking the exam: Remember that “you studied really hard and know the information,” she said. “Stay focused and don’t give up.”
Hungarian Valeria Simon, CPA, an accountant at Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, Ga., had to learn English before she studied accounting. “When I came to the United States in 2000, I had to start my life over,” she said. She first learned English at a community college, and then received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Georgia Gwinnett College. She passed all four sections of the CPA Exam in early 2018, after a little over a year of study, and on her first attempt.
Her tips: “Know if you are a morning person or an afternoon person,” she advised, and choose the session that best fits your most productive time of day. She also suggested scheduling the exam as soon as you can to maximize your chances of getting your desired time slot.
Kudos must also be given to Dastan Raimzhan, who overcame many hurdles before passing the CPA Exam in June 2018. Raimzhan hails from Kyrgyzstan, a small country in Central Asia, and knew nothing about U.S. accounting rules when he began his quest to become a CPA in 2017. But he studied hard, passed all four sections, and will be applying for a CPA license soon, after completing one year of experience as an accountant at the Safer Foundation and as a tax adviser at Block Advisors, both in the Chicago area.
His most harrowing experience came on the day of his first exam (REG): The train had shut down, so he ran about three miles, found a bicycle station and rented a bike, and made it to the exam center minutes before testing began. When he passed all four sections months later, elated, he posted his #IPassedCPA achievement on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
His tip: “Take enough time” to prep for each section, he said: “I studied about two to two-and-a-half months for each exam.”
Before he became the owner of Accounting by Matt Rubush, in Raleigh, N.C., Matt Rubush taught and translated Latin, and, among other positions, worked as a pastoral associate for a Catholic church. He went back to college in 2015 to gain a second degree in accounting. Rubush completed the exam in October 2018 after a year of study and is now applying for a CPA license.
His tip for taking the exam: “Get there early and be well rested, and don’t worry about the outcome,” he said. “Just approach it like you are already working in an accounting firm, and try to think like an accountant.”
Elissa Harvey, a mom of two and a staff accountant at marketing and advertising firm Valassis Digital in Morrisville, N.C., gave up her life as a teacher to pursue a career as a CPA. But she found the experience challenging. She failed her first two exams, partly due to scheduling conflicts, but pushed forward until she passed the CPA Exam in November 2018, more than two years later.
Her advice: “Make a study plan but be flexible,” she said. “Life gets in the way, and you have to work around life.”
Andrea White, CPA, an accountant at Miller Investment Group LLC, in Brewton, Ala., passed the CPA Exam in September 2018, after deciding midcareer to achieve this goal. She studied for the exam while working and raising a daughter.
“I was so excited,” said White said about her success. She forced herself to study daily, stuck to a plan, and used an exam review course during her preparation.
Her advice: “Know your study style before you buy a review course,” she said. “Just because [a certain course] works for everybody else, it might not work with your style of studying.”
Cheryl Meyer is a California-based freelance writer. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact senior editor Courtney Vien.