CPA Exam Failure Recovery

My Journey To Retaking And Recovering From Failing The CPA Exam

Start Implementing These Proven CPA Exam Retake And Failure Recovery Strategies Today!

NOTE: If you are ready to make the same transformation as I did then I strongly urge you to download my free Recover From Failure Checklist. Click the button below:


By Bryan Kesler, CPA

So you failed the CPA Exam, what do you do now?

It's easy to look at your peers who haven't failed and compare yourself to them.

Maybe you have a creeping thought in your head that you "aren't smart enough" to pass the CPA exam.

I know the feeling because I experienced everything you are experiencing MULTIPLE times.

There were many days that I was this close to giving up instead of retaking the section I failed.

Praise God I didn't! More on that later...

In the meantime, read on to discover the exact steps I took to recover from failing the CPA exam all the way up to passing my section retakes in a blaze of glory!

And most importantly you can replicate these steps to help you find the motivation to keep going and learn from your mistakes as you retake the CPA exam.

Why Did I Fail The CPA Exam?

I began studying for the CPA exam my final semester of graduate school before starting work at a regional firm in Missouri. I started using Becker (biggest mistake of my career), and decided to sign up for all 4 parts at once (2nd biggest mistake of my career!).

My line of thinking was that I am a "relatively" smart guy with a higher than average GPA so I figured taking the CPA exam would be a breeze...

Things were going great and I thought that my $3,300 investment in Becker was totally worth it!

I had watched the BEC videos, done the suggested multiple choice, gone thru 15 neon yellow highlighters and made notes just like I did for all my college accounting courses.

Test day came and things were still going according to plan and I felt fairly confident walking out of the Prometric center. 5 weeks later...

FAILED. Got a 71 on score release day...

Am I Smart Enough To Pass The CPA Exam?

Failure is never easy and it hurts you mentally and physically...

Failing the first section of the CPA exam totally ruined my confidence...

Remember when I said earlier that signing up for all 4 parts at the same time was a HUGE mistake?

Here is why...

Instead of taking BEC again when it was fresh in my mind, I had to take AUD and FAR within a month.

So with my confidence at an all time low, I had to scramble to study as fast as I could for both of these sections with the pressure of getting them done before starting work full time!

The end result... 2 FAILs.

Got a 70 and 67 respectively...

There went my whole summer that I could have spent traveling the world and doing fun things...

Should I Give Up On The CPA Exam?

Unfortunately the downward spiral did not end there...

I began working August of 2008 while simultaneously studying for REG.

Instead of going out to happy hours with my new associates, I was home studying.

So after a couple months of studying I went to the Prometric center and felt confident again!

FAILED. I got a 72.

So instead of focusing on work during my first busy season, I tried to multi-task and take REG again.

FAILED again!

Got a 70...

To make matters worse the financial crisis was in full swing and my firm had lost a lot of business...

I was a casualty of one of the 20% that were laid off after busy season with only 9 months of experience under my belt and no CPA.

How I Recovered From CPA Exam Failure

After failing 5 times in a row and getting let go from my first accounting job a light bulb clicked on in my head.

I realized that nothing in life comes easy and that if I truly wanted something I would have to work harder than I have ever worked.

So job searching and studying became my full time jobs for the next 2 months.

I created a STRICT CPA Study Playbook based on hours and hours of asking other successful CPA candidates used and research on the internet.

I was nervous...

I had never been an efficient studier, but by forcing myself to stick to this strict study system I immediately started noticing some HUGE changes.

The day came to take REG for a third time.  I was not expecting much based on my previous experience, but I went into the exam with a positive outlook...

A month later I got my results, 83!!!!

That weekend I took BEC, 77!!!

To top it off I got hired for a great accounting job at a commercial real estate company :)

(Take this free CPA exam study personality quiz that will help you create the same study playbook I used to find success - click here)

At my new job, I knew it would be a challenge to learn my new responsibilities and study at the same time.

I was signed up to take AUD 3 months after I started my new job and things didn’t go as planned...

I failed AUD with a 72, twice in a row!


NOTE: If you are ready to make the same transformation as I did then I strongly urge you to download my free Recover From Failure Checklist. Click the button below:


I Failed The CPA Exam While Working Full Time Using Becker CPA Review

The challenge of going from being unemployed and having all the time in the world to working full time + studying full time is extremely challenging and unfortunately I did not adjust my study plan appropriately.

As I said at the beginning of this post, the #1 BIGGEST mistake I did was buying Becker CPA review course.

Becker claims to be the best CPA Review course that will work for EVERYONE, and they do a great job of marketing, but that is the problem.

They spend all of their money on marketing and then poor college kids like us fork out $3,300 for their review course which ends up not working. I am living proof of this...

Yes, I did pass 2 sections of the CPA exam with Becker, but it was only after I had my back against the wall and practically "unlimited time" on my hands, since I was unemployed.

Now looking back at my CPA exam journey I can clearly see now that Becker did NOT cater to my learning style.

How Do Your Retake A Section Of The CPA Exam?

The key to passing the CPA exam is to identify the CPA review course that is going to cater to how you learn best.

Some people learn best by watching classroom lectures and absorb the material by auditory learning, others learn better by reading and performing multiple choice questions, and even others learn best by flashcards and self-teaching.

I personally fell into the category of self-teaching, which is why Becker was a TERRIBLE choice for me to use because their entire focus is their 3-4 hour lectures plus spending hours highlighting the text.

My dad passed the CPA exam back in 1984 (he was an Elijah Watt Sells winner... so jealous!) and during a phone conversation after my Becker license had expired, he mentioned that he thought the course he used to pass back in 1984 would work better for me...

That course was Gleim CPA Review System... It was a night and day difference!

I was learning and retaining the material in a much more efficient and effective manner, because I was spending minimal time on lectures and focusing more on multiple choice questions and learning from my mistakes.

I was also utilizing the multiple choice analytics to identify my strengths and weakenesses.

I also implemented what I call a Final Review Study Funnel which you can read more about here that helped me truly understand the material instead of just memorize.

So what happened next?

After failing Audit twice in a row with Becker while working full time, the end result with Gleim was that I PASSED AUD with an 87, a 15 point increase!!

Key takeaway: Please don't go out and buy Gleim JUST because it worked for me.

You need to identify your study personality and then find the specific course that is going to fit you.

Take My Free CPA Exam Study Personality Quiz Here To Learn More <-- Click Here

How Do I Know Which Course Will Match My CPA Exam Study Personality?

So how do you determine how you learn best and how do you identify the review course that is going to cater to your learning style?

Well thankfully I have been able to work directly with all of the various review course companies and they have been gracious enough to provide me with full access of each of their courses for me to review and help you determine if the course will fit your learning style.

Use the link below to see if you are using the best course for you...

Refer Here To My Top 10 Best CPA Review Course Comparison

If you have any further questions, please email me at bryan@cpaexamguide.com and I will be more than happy to personally help you pick the right course for you.


NOTE: If you are ready to make the same transformation as I did then I strongly urge you to download my free Recover From Failure Checklist. Click the button below:

CPA Exam Failure Recovery Checklist

How Many Months Do You Have To Pass The CPA Exam?

So after 23 months of struggling to pass the CPA exam and 7 failures, I FINALLY had a review course that worked for me...

BUT keep in mind that once you pass a section of the CPA exam you only have 18 months to pass all four parts and there are only 4 windows in a year...

With only one part to go, I was fast approaching the deadline of losing BEC and REG...

With only 2 more windows to go before the deadline, I knew I had to pass the monster known as FAR as soon as possible or I would never pass the exam.

I only had 3 weeks to study for the largest section of the exam before the window closed.  I crammed like no one has ever crammed before and walked out of the exam guaranteeing that I had scored a 50.

I had lost all hope... The morning of 5/27/10 came and I could not bring myself to open up the FAR book to start studying again...

I just had to know the results before I could find any motivation...

I was sitting in my cube unable to focus on work clicking refresh on the NASBA page every 10 seconds...

The moment that will now be ingrained in my mind for the rest of my life is when I refreshed around 10 am and an 83 flashed on the screen!!

It only took 2 years and 7 failures before I finally passed the most difficult test known to man!

So for all of you who are struggling to pass your first part, do not lose hope! Buckle down, make sure you have the right review course and get into a rhythm by developing your own strict CPA study system and stick to it...

Most importantly set goals and rewards for yourself! If I can pass the CPA exam then you can too!!

Failed The CPA Exam Multiple Times? Do This.

Failing a section of the CPA exam can be one of the most mentally destructive moments in your life. 

Unfortunately most of us fail multiple times before finally passing! The statistics show that 80% of CPA candidates fail at least one section of the CPA exam.

I was one of those statistics. I failed the exam 7 times before I was finally able to join the CPA club (and I learned more about myself from failing than passing)!

What I need you to understand is that the CPA exam is NOT an IQ test.

You are NOT stupid if you fail a section of the CPA exam (trust me that is what I told myself and it was a huge reason that I continued to fail...)

The AICPA designed the CPA exam to mess with your head so that only those who are mentally prepared to handle failure actually succeed.

What I need you to do right now is clear your head and remind yourself why you want to become a CPA.

What will you be unable to accomplish without becoming a CPA?

After failing for the 4th time in a row I realized that something was seriously wrong.

I didn't have a REASON to become a CPA other than it was just the next logical step in my career so of course I wasn't motivated to actually put in the time required to pass!

When I turned the focus on becoming a CPA so that I could provide for my future family, could skyrocket my career so that I wasn't stuck at a dead end job, and the fact that a CPA would provide me with job security in an uncertain economy, EVERYTHING changed.

I began to take studying seriously.

I was more determined to be organized and study efficiently avoiding busy work.

If you are ready to make the same transformation as I did then I strongly urge you to download my free Recover From Failure Checklist.

Free Resources To Help You Recover From CPA Exam Failure

Did you find my Journey inspiring/helpful?

My entire blog is devoted to sharing my personal experience in taking and PASSING the CPA exam.

So please take a look around and shoot me a note!

Ultimate CPA Exam Guide - Experience the Free CPA Exam Coaching that I personally used to pass the CPA exam and more importantly have successfully taught to over 7,500 CPA candidates!

CPA Exam Review Course Comparison - Make sure you aren't using the wrong review course.

Motivating Your Accounting Class To Take The CPA Exam - if you are an accounting professor and need help motivating your class on the value of becoming a CPA.