CPA Facts: How Hard is the CPA Exam?

So why are the CPA exams so difficult?

The CPA exams have a fail rate of 50 to 55 per cent and they are widely considered to be the most difficult professional exam that there is. And that includes the bar exams for attorneys and the board exams for doctors. There are three specific reasons why passing the CPA exams is so difficult. Why so many people fail multiple times and why many candidates eventually just give up and never actually become a CPA.

Three reasons why the CPA exams are so difficult.

The first one is retention. Learning all the concepts and rules alone is staggering. There are literally hundreds of different topics that the exams cover, and many of them are difficult and calculation heavy. But not only that, you have to learn them over several weeks and then remember everything that you’ve studied well enough to actually pass on exam day. This was one of my biggest stumbling blocks when I started studying and I figured out a way to overcome this once I tried out my own methods.

The second challenge is your actual study methods. What do you actually do when you sit down to study every day? Is it effective? Do you have a specific plan you follow? And are you making progress? When I talk to other CPA candidates about how they study. They all tell me the same thing. You know, I start out streaming the video lecture a kind of zone out. Then I try to read the chapter or skim the chapter. Then I try out a few questions and I can’t really get any. I don’t know what it’s talking about. So I go back to the video lecture, you know, and then it’s an hour through your study session and you kind of give up for the day. And then the next day, the very same thing happens again. So I hear that over and over and over. And I know that’s how it is because that’s exactly how my first three months were. So this was another huge struggle for me. Every day I would jump around to different resources in my review course. And as time went on, I just felt more and more overwhelmed. When I sat for FAR that first time and saw the exam in person, a few things jumped out at me and I knew exactly how to study from that point on. And after trying out my own ideas for studying, I literally studied less each day, I had a clear plan for every single study session and I knew that I was making progress each day. And so the study process itself was a lot easier to deal with mentally because of that.

The third challenge is just literally not having enough time in the day. So most CPA candidates work full time, usually in the very demanding field of public accounting. And there are people in your life that want to see you after work like family and friends. And so fitting in three to four hours a day of CPA study is literally not possible for most people. And on the other hand, that’s about how much you need to study to pass the exams in, within the timeframe. So how does that work? You literally don’t have that much time, but that is how much time it takes to study.