How to Overcome CPA Exam Part Failures

By Brandon Vagner, CPA, Ph.D. & Former KPMG Manager

Learning to overcome CPA exam part failures is key, because the majority of people who take the CPA exam will fail at least one part.  You have to know how to overcome it though.

1) Try to relax!  It’s not the end of the world.

So you’ve failed a part and you are devastated right now.  I get it!  It happened to me when I failed REG.  It was an absolutely awful day when I got the score release, BUT it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my head.

Try your best to just relax for a minute, and hear me out.  If you follow my advice, you will significantly increase your chances of passing the very next try.

2) Regroup & immediately plan to retake as your next part

In my opinion, the #1 mistake people make is in their scheduling post failure.  So many people just move on to a different part for many different reasons.  Some are just tired of studying for the part they just failed.  Others, had a game plan and they just aren’t willing to adjust given a little road bump.

Trust me, you want your next part to be the part that you just failed.  Do whatever you have to do to move your schedule around and start studying again for the part you just recently failed.

I know it is going to be painful, because you had your mind set on being done with that part.  However, you HAVE to adjust your mindset and get motivated again.  The trick is getting motivated fast.  You don’t want to wait very long to kick your studying back in gear.  This is critical!

3) Get that score breakdown!

A few days after the score release you should receive your score breakdown via email if you failed.  Save it and print it out!

4) Focus hard on the weak areas per the score breakdown

Analyze your score breakdown like it’s the most important thing in the world at the moment.  That breakdown will directly impact how and what you will be studying the second time around.  The KEY is that your second round of studying will be nothing like your first.  If you already went through a full prep course review for the part you failed, then the second round of studying should seem like a breeze because you won’t be going through the course the same way.

RELATED: Discover the CPA Exam Review Course Meant For You

It is critical that you really focus in on your weakest areas.  Once you identify your weakest area, here are the steps you should take.

  • Read the associated section in your prep course study guide

    – Make sure you read to review that area first.  Don’t just go straight to the video lectures.

  • The next day, watch the video lecture corresponding to that section

    – Make sure you watch the video lecture shortly after you read through the material in the study guide.

  • Read the associated section for a second time

    – This might sound like overkill, but do you want to pass that part when you retake it?  It’s imperative that you turn this weak area into a strong area.  Reading the study guide section for a second time after watching the video lecture will significantly increase your chances of improving.

  • Hit the flashcards

    – Make a stack of all the flashcards associated with this weak area.  Everyday going forward, you need to make sure you go through those flashcards associated with your old weak area.  At this point, your weak area should be becoming a strong area.

5) Use flashcards to keep strong areas strong

On the flip side, people very commonly forget or fail to keep brushing up on their strong areas.  If you’re not using it, you’re losing it.  This might be even more true with regards to the CPA exam.  Make sure you are cycling through the flashcards associated with your mid to strong areas on a daily basis.  Don’t get over confident with those areas and completely forget about them.

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