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Everyone fails: Here’s how to bounce back

BounceEpic fail. We’ve all been there — set out to do something great, only to come up a little short of our expectations. But that’s when the real test happens. Do we choose to throw in the towel or do we push through and use our experience with failure as motivation?

Author J.K. Rowling, who experienced some disappointments before publishing her first blockbuster Harry Potter novel, said that “it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default.”

If you’re preparing to take the CPA exam, you may be wondering about the possibility of failure. Did you know a significant number of successful CPAs don’t actually pass the exam the first time around? In fact, an average of 50% of test takers fail at least one section. The average candidate sits six to seven times before passing all four sections. So, if you’ve had a setback in one or more parts of the exam — or are worried that you might — don’t stress. You’re not alone.

Having a support network throughout your exam journey is key. You can enhance your chances of passing the exam by surrounding yourself with these three types of people who can be critical to your success. 

  1. The cheerleader

Who’s your biggest cheerleader? We all know people who are always there to offer support and show enthusiasm, even if you’ve experienced failure. Your cheerleader can make you feel better when you’re unsure of yourself and need a boost. They can get you laughing and believing in yourself again, raising your spirits so you’re ready to get back to the books. That’s a good start, but to stay on course, you’re also going to need a couple more people in your corner.  

  1. The coach

Failure is not an endpoint for the coach. Many of us consider giving up in the face of defeat, but the coach won’t let you do it. If you blow an exam section or doubt you can ever study enough, the coach tells you what you need to hear, but not always what you want to hear. And they’ll help you identify your shortcomings and offer solutions. They’ll also motivate you to keep going, even when giving up sounds like the only option. Consider asking someone who has already passed the CPA Exam, someone who’s been in your shoes, to be your coach. They’ll be able to offer insights based on their experience, which could help you optimize your exam strategy for success.

  1. The study buddy

Unlike most of the people in your life right now, the study buddy knows exactly what it feels like to be you. They have the same goal — passing the CPA exam — and they understand how much work it takes to get there. They’re juggling a demanding schedule and study requirements and going through the same emotional ups and downs. They’re uniquely suited to sympathize, share tips and experiences, and help you keep your eyes on the prize. This person, or people, may be easier to find than you think. Look around your firm for colleagues who are studying for the exam, too. Offer to be their partner for a mutually beneficial relationship. 

The CPA designation commands tremendous respect throughout the business world because of the rigor of the exam and the education and commitment necessary to pass it. If you have a cheerleader, coach and study buddy in your life, your road to passing the exam will be much smoother. You probably already know people who fit these roles, so be sure to take full advantage of their contributions. Ask them to be in your corner during your journey toward exam success.

Along with your personal support network, there are a ton of other resources to aid you along the way. The CPA Exam Blueprints outline all content that may be tested in each exam section. The Blueprints break down score weighting of each item type and provide skill levels at which tasks are tested. Keep in mind the CPA Culture of Support Toolkit also offers a wealth of resources to help prospective CPAs achieve success.

Kari Hipsak, CPA, CGMA, Manager, Firm Services – the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants


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