How I passed the CPA after 3 Years of studying
Deciding between ACCA & CPA
My journey started in 2014 as a final year accounting student at the University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI). At that time I was considering which professional designation(s) I should pursue. Initially, I thought that I would do the CPA based on a presentation that Duane/CPA tutors & Consultants did as part of our Association of Aspiring Accountants club. Considering the global influence that the US has on information technology I believed that the CPA paired well with the CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor – designation for IT Audits). This was another certification that I was interested in based on some research I had done earlier in that year.
I was also thinking that I would pursue the CISA in the future after I got some financial auditing experience. However, during my research I found out that most US accountancy state boards (the entities that license CPAs) implemented a requirement of 150 credit hours. This effectively requires the equivalent of a Bachelor and a Master of Science degree in order to become licensed as a CPA.
Based on the CPA exam’s 150 credit hour requirement I applied to ACCA in June 2014, as I was not keen on having to do another degree in a profession that weighs professional certification over degrees. Further to this, during my time as an undergraduate student I made sure I did Financial Management I & II courses so that I would get the full seven (7) exemptions from ACCA.
However, as noted in the picture above, I only received four (4) exemptions. This was unacceptable as I had specifically done those courses in order to complete ACCA in the shortest time possible. After emailing ACCA and calling several people after two months I decided that I would do the CPA exams.
Qualifying to do the CPA exams
After completing my CPA evaluation (see my article on the CPA which describes the evaluation process), the state board emailed me to say that I was not eligible to take the CPA exam (see picture below). This directly contradicts the experiences of my peers. Despite this, I followed it up and got to do my first exam as the evaluator indicated that there was an issue with my evaluation.
The first exam was Business Environments and Concepts (BEC) in 2015, which I had passed with a 79. I then followed that up with passing Auditing and Attestation (AUD) with 82. Although I seemed to have great momentum, I had unsuccessful results until a year later.
Further to that, at that point my first paper had expired, and I only had credit for AUD. In a desperate bid to prevent AUD from expiring, I did three papers within the span of one month in June 2017, the results of which are as follows (1) Regulation (REG) I failed as I got 71, (2) Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) I also failed with 72 and (3) BEC which I passed with 81. After that, I decided that I would focus on the hardest paper REG, which I passed after two additional attempts.
Passing Regulation (REG) in June 2018 was the most pivotal moment as it relates to my exams. It was at that point that I realised that I would finally complete that CPA, despite my previous challenges. At that point I had credit for BEC that was expiring on 3-Jan-2019. My plan therefore was to do AUD in September then finish with FAR in December. When September came, I sat AUD and got a 74. Learning from my mistake in 2017 I opted to focus on only one paper for December, this paid off as I passed FAR with 79.
Sitting my final paper
My final paper was Auditing and Attestation (AUD). Although I had previously passed it, I only had about three weeks of preparation. Additionally, based on when my BEC paper was going to expire (3-Jan-2019) it meant that (1) I had to go a testing centre that was two hours travel from my uncle’s house in Orlando, Florida (2) I had to stay overnight at a hotel in early January 2019.
Several challenges ensued as follows (1) We (my uncle was assisting me in getting the bus) had missed the greyhound bus (we were at the correct station, but we were waiting in the incorrect area) (2) On the day of the exam the hotel that I had chosen advertised as a “bed and breakfast” hotel, but they did not have any breakfast ready in the morning.
Despite all that I passed the exam with a 77 so I was finally finished with the exam portion of the CPA.