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How hard is the CPA exam?

Hi, I'm a freshman at TSU and I major in Accounting and aspire to be at CPA I want to learn as much as I possibly can because this is a huge dream of mine.

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Liz’s Answer

Just as many have pointed out, securing your CPA license is no walk in the park. While enrolling in Accounting, Finance, and Business courses can lay a solid groundwork for the examination, there's a broader spectrum of content tested that you may not encounter unless you're pursuing a master's degree in accounting. Regardless of your circumstances, the secret to acing the CPA exam is understanding the test format and investing significant time in preparation. I suggest employing a study program to ensure you stay committed to your study routine. Programs like Becker have now shifted their focus to explaining key concepts and providing a plethora of practice problems, including multiple-choice questions and simulations. Given the challenging nature of this exam, I advise you start studying immediately after graduation to retain your study habits.

P.S. A noteworthy change was implemented earlier this year in the CPA exam. The BEC (Business Environment Concepts) exam was replaced with a choice between BAR (Business Analysis and Reporting), ISC (Information Systems and Controls), and TCP (Tax Compliance and Examination). Each of these new exams integrates some content that was previously tested within FAR (for the BAR test), AUD (for the ISC), and REG (for the TCP test). I suggest choosing the area you find most manageable after preparing for the other three exams!
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Katrina’s Answer

Hi Ayanna!

The CPA exam is very, very, difficult. However, it's doable! I'd suggest being able to put in the hours to study prior to working and while you're fresh out of college because that'll keep you away from any distractions. There are so many resources and study guides that prep you for the exam so I wouldn't even be worried about it. As long as you have the passion to complete it, you will complete it! Honestly, once you become a CPA, the opportunities are also endless. You'll get job opportunities everywhere and you'll be able to have a successful career.
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Stefanie’s Answer

Hello Ayanna! Your question is fantastic, and it's impressive that you're considering this so early in your freshman year! Being proactive and starting early is definitely beneficial. As you approach the time to take the CPA exam, it's important to give yourself ample time to study between sections and consider enrolling in a review course to aid your preparation. There are various options available, including self-study modules, online classes, or in-person prep sessions. I encourage you to discover what suits your learning style best. Personally, attending live classroom trainings worked well for me as it ensured I dedicated time and fully immersed myself in a learning environment focused on a specific CPA exam section. Virtual and self-study sessions can also be advantageous for fitting around your schedule and commitments. However, I recommend committing time to a learning style that will yield the most benefits for you. Moreover, I suggest studying with the aim of passing as early as possible, especially if you plan to work while studying. As you progress, your responsibilities in work and life will increase, so completing as many exam sections as early as possible will undoubtedly be advantageous in the long run. It's fantastic to see that you're considering this as a freshman, putting you ahead of the game. I wish you the best of luck in school and when you're ready to take the CPA exam!

PwC provides an additional resource - Whether you're just starting college or wrapping up your studies, Access Your Potential Career Readiness and Digital Skills curricula are available to support your growth and help you discover your career aspirations. Register to gain access to these free programs and more here: accessyourpotential.pwc.com.
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Angie’s Answer

Hello Ayana! I embarked on the journey of obtaining the CPA certification, but unfortunately, I didn't complete it. I can assure you, it's a rigorous process. Think of it as a significant investment. It requires substantial financial commitment towards study materials and the exams themselves, unless you're fortunate to have a supportive firm to bear the costs. It demands extensive time and focus, often at the expense of leisure activities, to fully immerse yourself in preparation. It involves moments of self-doubt and revisiting familiar topics in a new light to grasp the technical language needed for accurate responses.

However, the advantages are tangible and justify the investment! If you're truly passionate about accounting and committed to the profession, I strongly advise you to pursue the exam at the earliest opportunity. This could be while you're still in school or during a brief hiatus between your education and employment. The earlier you take it on, the more seamless your journey will be. However, it's crucial to remember that this should be driven by your passion. The ones who succeed are those who desire it intensely, which is reflected in the 50% pass rate. In my personal experience, I seized the opportunity even though I was uncertain about my aspirations. I wish I had been more determined then, as I could have been a certified professional today. However, I've chosen a different route now as there are alternative certifications within accounting that one can pursue.

Key takeaways: It's a costly endeavor but absolutely worth it IF you're truly driven. If not, there are other rewarding pathways to explore.

Angie recommends the following next steps:

Look into CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) or CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor).
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Victoria’s Answer

Hi Ayanna! The CPA exam can seem intimidating, but there are many things that you can do throughout college to prepare for the exam and make it much less challenging when the times comes to start taking it. I started taking the CPA exam during my fourth year of college and completed all four parts of the CPA exam before I started working full-time during the fall after graduating. I did a few things throughout college that most definitely made the CPA a lot less stressful and difficult than it could have been had I not prepared for it properly. The key steps I took to successfully pass the exam on my first attempt at each section include the following:

- Taking Classes During College that Cover Topics Addressed in the CPA Exam: During my time studying at UMD, I majored in accounting and also participated in a dual-degree program that allowed me to simultaneously work toward both my bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting. This program included classes that focused on the main topics covered in the CPA exam. One thing you can do even as a freshman/sophomore is to learn as much as you can in any accounting class you take. When I was studying for the CPA exam, I was able to leverage knowledge I learned in my college classes and spend more time studying topics I felt less familiar with.

- Enroll in a CPA Study Program at Least a Few Months before you plan to Sit for your First Exam: When studying for my CPA exams, I used Becker's CPA exam preparation program and that prepared me for the exams tremendously. I made sure that I mastered each lesson in the test preparation program and felt comfortable with all the material before moving onto a new chapter.

- Give Yourself Adequate Time to Prepare: I took my first of the four CPA exams during my final year studying at UMD. At this point I was finishing up my master's program and also studying for the Audit CPA exam (the topic I felt most comfortable with at the time because I had recently taken an audit class as part of my degree program). I spent my winter break studying for the audit exam and was able to pass it during my last semester of school. I then spent the entire summer studying and taking the other 3 CPA exams and was able to finish taking the exams a few weeks before I started working full-time in the fall. I spent at least 40-50 hours a week studying and I was able to pass all exams with pretty high scores. I think giving yourself enough time to dive into the exam topics is the key to success.


Best of luck on your journey!
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Doreen’s Answer

Ayanna - The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam is indeed demanding, but with the right study plan and a dedicated approach, it's certainly achievable. Earning this certification will undoubtedly distinguish you from your peers once you graduate from college. If your budget allows, I would highly recommend investing in a preparation course to benefit from their specialized knowledge. However, bear in mind that balancing the CPA preparation with college can be quite a time-consuming task. So, it would be wise to choose a time when your college workload is relatively lighter to avoid overloading yourself with responsibilities.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Ayanna !

The best and actually only way to discover "how hard" the CPA exam is would be for you to purchase the CPA Study Guide book and take some of the practice tests. This will answer the question about how hard will the CPA test be for you. I have provided a link below to where you can buy a study guide book, but I am sure you can shop around for this on line or in book stores. They may sell it at your campus book store, too. You will have to discover your own personal ease or difficulty level by preparing for the test and using the study guide for the test.

Investopedia website has a good article on what you need to know about the test and I have provided a link to it for you below. Last year's sample exams can be accessed through the link I have given below, too. You can see what you know already and which things you will have to delve more into for the exam. This was last years' exam, though, but it can give you somewhat of an idea of what they ask.

Best wishes !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

CPA TEST STUDY GUIDE https://www.efficientlearning.com/cpa/products/study-guide/https://www.efficientlearning.com/cpa/products/study-guide/
CPA EXAM INFORMATION https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/111214/cpa-exam-what-you-need-know.asp
CPA PRACTICE EXAMS (from 2023) https://www.test-guide.com/free-cpa-practice-exams.html
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Edward’s Answer

First of all, thank you for your question. It suggests forward thinking and planning. And I applaud you for your aspirations. The CPA exam is difficult. You can research pass rates, which indicate about a 50% pass rate. Planning and preparation are necessary. A prep class might be a good investment as they can help strategize your preparation and it would force some discipline (if that is helpful to you). Also, talk to your academic advisor, accounting instructor, and if your school has an accounting or business club, leadership members of that organization. I would expect an accounting instructor would enjoy speaking with you and he/she can advise on other things, like internships etc. when the time is right.
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Faye’s Answer

As others have mentioned, studying for the CPA is challenging and a large time commitment but there are many avenues to explore feasibility. If you choose to work for a Big 4 Accounting Firm in the future, they normally reimburse for your study course, and first attempt at taking each of the 4 sections. I will say, studying while starting out within Big 4 is extremely difficult as you work 45-50+ hours a week while trying to study for the exam.

Secondly, depending on the state you live in or wish to sit for the exam - another route to take is studying for the exam towards the end of completing your 150 credits. Certain states let you sit for exams once you have 120 credits so when you do complete the 150 credit requirement, you would have passed parts or all of the CPA exam. Another colleague took this approach and began studying and taking the CPA exam while wrapping up their 150 credits so by the time their masters degree was completed, they had 1-2 remaining parts of the CPA to complete. They also deferred their full time Big 4 job offer by a 6-months to complete studying before beginning employment.

Needless to say, every person have different priorities, are on different time tables and studies differently so finding a study plan that fits in with your current commitments and future plans is the first huge step to take. Take the time to research study programs based on your preferred study habits and their recommended time commitments; the rules in the state you wish to take the CPA exam in; and align all those factors with your current/future college classes and future employment opportunities to take the exam.

Best wishes on your journey and to others looking to take the CPA exam!
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Sarena’s Answer

Hello Ayanna,

Fantastic inquiry! The answer truly varies from person to person, but it's no secret that the exam can be quite challenging. As for me, I'm in the midst of preparing for the test. I must say, my classes have provided me with a robust base, but I'm still discovering new aspects and reinforcing my understanding of various concepts. It's crucial to maintain a regular study routine. Even on those days when you don't feel up to a full study session, try to at least solve some practice questions or watch a lecture to stay on track. I would also advise investing in a comprehensive prep course. Remember, with dedication and hard work, success is guaranteed! You are bound to pass if you invest the necessary time and effort!
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Keisha’s Answer

Hi Ayana! I think it is fantastic that you are interested in getting your CPA license! If you are looking to get into the Finance, Accounting or Business related fields, that is something that will definitely be viewed as an asset to your skill set. The level of difficulty for the CPA exam is relative depending on the person, but it is far from a walk in the park. 1 key piece of advice I would give you is that it is a true commitment in preparing for the CPA exam. You will have to sacrifice things you enjoy doing on a daily basis. Whether it be phone time with friends, scrolling the net and social media, tv time, hanging out, etc. Extra activities will need to drop off of your daily schedule to have enough time to study. I'd give family, friends and significant others a heads up that this is something you are pursuing if you decide to do so, so they understand. There are multiple parts (I believe there are 4) and they are not free. So if you don't pass a part, you can re-take it, but it is not free. Most do not pass all parts on the first try so do not beat yourself up if you end up having to repeat any of the parts. You can do it and good luck on your journey!
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Mayank’s Answer

Absolutely! The journey to becoming a CPA may be challenging, but it's important to remember that every challenge is an opportunity for growth. You are embarking on a journey that will not only enhance your professional skills but also your personal development.

The CPA exam is rigorous because it is designed to test your understanding of important concepts and your ability to apply that knowledge in practice. But remember, it's not just about passing an exam, it's about preparing you for a successful career in accounting.

Believe in your ability to learn, grow and succeed. Each study session, each practice question, each moment of confusion followed by understanding, is a step forward on your path to success. And every CPA who has gone before you has faced the same challenges, and they've come out the other side stronger and wiser.

Remember, success isn't just about talent or intelligence - it's about persistence, resilience, and hard work. So keep going, keep learning, keep striving. Your dedication and determination will pay off, and you will reach your goal. You've got this!
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Qian’s Answer

Hello Ayanna,

It's truly inspiring to see you pursuing your dreams with such dedication! As a CPA, I'd recommend trying to pass as many exams as you can before you start working. Balancing work and study can be quite challenging.

Firstly, ensure that your transcript meets the eligibility criteria for the exam. Once that's confirmed, start considering which class applications you'd prefer. There are several CPA preparation software options available, so take some time to research and find the one that suits you best. Generally, if you thoroughly cover each session in the chosen software and familiarize yourself with all the topics, you'll be well-prepared.

Next, devise a plan to finish all the exams within a 2-year timeframe. It's crucial to decide which exam you'll take first and aim to complete them all within 2 years.

If there are any exams left after you begin working, try to schedule them during your less busy periods.

Best of luck on your journey!
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