Jeff is the author of a blog called Another71. I asked him to tell you about his blog, the CPA exam and his story.
Education: BS in Accounting, some grad school
Work Experience: 7 years in the accounting profession including work in public accounting and in the Finance department of a Fortune 500 company.
Employer: Currently a Senior Analyst with a publicly-held utility.
Life: 30 years old, married with 3 children (and #4 on the way)
“I started the CPA Exam journey three years ago with limited enthusiasm – which led to little to no success. One of the things that many aspiring CPAs don’t realize early on in the exam process is that passing the CPA exam isn’t as much “inspiration as it is perspiration.”
Maybe Thomas Edison was on to something.
CPA candidates with a 4.0 undergraduate GPA walk into their testing center, but stumble out limping, dejected, wondering what just happened to them. Just the same, candidates with less-than-impressive scholastic achievements walk into that same testing center and score a 90. Why? One candidate studied their tail off, while the other…well…didn’t.
In the past, I tended to be the candidate who somehow thought I could walk in and “give it the old college try” and somehow leave with a 75. My lack of motivation to make the sacrifice and study hard was partly due to my reason for taking on the exam in the first place. I didn’t have a real pressing reason to pass the exam other than proving to myself that I could.
I was a marginal student in college and escaped with an accounting degree. I watched my peers land Big 4 (back then it was Big 5) jobs while I worked for a small tax firm in a bad part of town. After working through two tax seasons I went to work for a small privately-owned company as a staff accountant. They didn’t really care if I was a CPA or not. It might have affected getting promoted one day, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker if I didn’t pass the exam.
My sole motivation for wanting to be a CPA was to avoid regret. What good reason did I have for not taking the hard path and passing the exam as I was capable of doing? It was hard enough hanging my head in job interviews when the fact that I wasn’t a CPA was raised.
Even so, this still wasn’t enough to get me to buckle down and do it right. I didn’t want it bad enough…not yet anyway.
I hit the breaking point in March 2008 when I received notice I had failed Business Environment and Concepts for the third time with my third straight score of 71. I woke my wife up that morning with the “sorry honey, I didn’t pass” speech that she had heard many times before. She was growing just as tired of the whole exam process as I was.
I had become a career CPA candidate. I was a guy who was perpetually “studying for the exam”, which soon lost its novelty to my friends and family members. I was just going through the motions.
Finding myself at a crossroads and very much ashamed of my failures, I could either get mad and quit or get mad and make passing the exam my obsession.
No more lazy excuses, blame, pity, or looking for a quick fix. The only way to pass the CPA Exam is to work really, really hard at it. I knew this all along, but I hadn’t acknowledged this fact up to that point. I had gone through ten sittings of the CPA Exam and had passed two parts. Oh, and by the way – my Financial Accounting and Reporting credit was expiring in a month.
Enough was enough.
I started getting up early. I stayed late at work. I studied over lunch. I lived at a coffee shop on Saturdays. I passed the CPA exam six months later.
Even though I resolved to never fail another Exam section again, it didn’t exactly work out that way. I finally passed BEC, but I scored my second-straight 74 on Regulation and lost my Financial Accounting and Reporting credit in the process. One more point and I would have been a CPA. Instead, I was back to where I was in March with two sections passed.
I studied with a vengeance and scored a 92 on Regulation two months later and then re-passed Financial. Having to study FAR again after passing it was also a test of my resolve. FAR is widely regarded as the toughest exam and I didn’t really want to go through it again (who wants to study Governmental Accounting again? Bleh…). I told myself to “shut up and study”…and I did.
I needed a vehicle to vent my frustration and track my progress (and it ended up being a great means of accountability for studying also), so I created a blog and bought the URL for another71.com. After three straight 71s on BEC, I couldn’t think of anything more fitting.
What began as an obscure little blog has become a small beacon of hope for those that find themselves in the same situation that I was in. I can tell you that taking 14 sections of the CPA Exam does not do a lot to boost one’s ego. You only hear about your co-worker or classmate who passed the exam on the first try and aced each section, scoring in the 90s. No one wants to admit that they studied their heart out and scored a 60 (or worse).
My site exists to remind people that quitting the CPA exam is never an option.
Are you coming up short on the Exam because you’re not putting in the time? Work harder.
Do you know the material but are a bad test taker? Practice being a better test taker.
Is studying seemingly impossible due to family constraints? Get up an hour early, study over lunch, study two hours after the kids go to bed and throw away your TV.
If passing the CPA exam was an ordinary accomplishment, it wouldn’t mean anything. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment that requires an extraordinary sacrifice.
If you’re struggling, keep moving forward – no matter what. Three years from now when you have the letters ‘CPA’ after your name, these momentary setbacks will be a distant memory. If you quit – it could very well haunt you the rest of your professional life.
As the father of three young boys, I could not look them in the eye and tell them to never quit if I myself had thrown in the towel and walked away from the CPA exam. For me, it wasn’t just a test of my accounting knowledge…it was a test of my character. If you know of someone who is struggling with the CPA Exam and at their wit’s end, then maybe they can benefit from my site or identify with my story. I know that I’m not alone because I routinely get e-mails from people who are having a tough time with the exam as well as balancing work and family life while trying to study.
As the great philosopher Bono once said, “There is no failure here sweetheart…just when you quit.”
Keep Moving Forward,