You Got a 74 on a Section of the CPA Exam; What Now?

You took the test. You’ve sat waiting for weeks in anticipation. You go to the NASBA website, put in your birth date and section ID. And after you coax your hand off the little white box, there, staring back at you in GIANT BLACK FONT is the BIG FAT, 74.

The majority of people along their way to becoming a CPA have this happen, whether on the first or the fourth exam, at least once. No one can truly understand this sinking feeling unless it has happened to them. Others will try to sympathize, but they will never get it.

After your heartbeat has slowed to a normal pace and you’ve shed a few tears, comes the big question: What now? This is not the way things were supposed to happen. This wasn’t part of the plan.

First of all, take a deep breath. Even though it may not feel like it sometimes, the majority of people do not pass all four parts of the exam the first time through. You are in good company. The following are pass rates for 2009 by section:

AUD – 49.79% BEC – 48.34%

FAR – 48.45% REG – 49.81%

That is a lot of people who didn’t pass. As corny as it may sound, it can help to look to the Internet for support. Sites like www.another71.com are created and frequented by people who are in the same boat. It helps to know you aren’t alone.

Next, figure out your new plan. I say new because it was obviously never the goal to fail. It wasn’t meant to be a really expensive pretest. Some people want to continue taking tests in the same order they had intended and re-take the failed section again at the end; some want to take it again immediately so the information is still fresh. It is up to you, and you know yourself best. It feels better to have a plan and get back on track.

Finally, change something about your studying. If you are using one review program, supplement it with another program’s book from Amazon. Maybe you learn better listening than reading; record yourself and listen to notes in the car on the way to work. Everyone learns differently, so don’t think you have to do the study program exactly how they present it.

Just remember, someday soon it will all be over and you’ll have more free time than you know how to fill. I know more people who have gotten a score between 70 and 74 than have passed all parts the first time through. Lots of people who are not as smart as you managed to do it, and you can, too.

  • Good article, Sarah!

    -Jeff