November 21, 2018

Let’s Hear Your Best CPA Exam Stories, Misadventures, and Unlikely Triumphs

scary cpa exam stories

Earlier this week, the Journal of Accountancy shared some yarns about the CPA exam from years ago when candidates took it with pencil, paper, and 500 of their closest friends. It was a simpler time, although I’m sure all of these CPAs would tell you that the exam was much harder then than it is now.

In any case, they’re worth reading in full if you like, but I did lift a select few lines to give you a flavor of the best they have to offer, including:

Watching a klutz:

Someone, who had obviously overslept, almost fell down the stairs in his rush to get onto the floor to be seated and started. It was a great icebreaker. The test takers on the floor roared with laughter.

A dramatic loss of blood:

The result was I passed three of four parts at the first sitting. I had failed the last part due to heavy bleeding.

Replacement footwear

I took off one oversized shoe to show them some sort of proof my story was true.

And pent-up frustration:

Roughly one to two hours into the exam, with the center as quiet as a church mouse, I recall someone scooting their chair back, standing up and screaming, “son of a b****,” and walking out!

My personal experience with taking the exam was banal compared to those, and my memories are vague. It was in early November of 2003 — the last written exam EVAH — and I took it at the Denver Merchandise Mart, a huge facility that hosts gun shows, stamp collecting expos, and the like. I spent Wednesday night — the test was on Thursday and Friday — at a nearby Super 8 which was clean enough although I couldn’t rule out the possibility that a murder had occurred there. When I arrived on the first morning, people huddled around the entrance like bums loitering outside a liquor store. Once inside, we saw the proctors milling around. They all looked like the surliest members of their respective assisted living facilities. They were so frightening I didn’t risk using the bathroom that day.

After Day 1, I met a few friends at a nearby bar for a drink, and one of them started talking about how the bubble sheet had changed on him. That is, one section of bubbles was vertically oriented and horizontally oriented in another. A surge of panic struck me like an alien parasite eating my insides. “Mother of God,” I thought. “Did I actually fill in the wrong bubbles on all those multiple choice questions?” I reassured myself that I had completed the bubble sheet correctly and tried to forget about the possibility of a massive screw-up that would set my career on the fast track to nowhere.

I have no idea how well I slept that night and Day 2 was a blur. I honestly don’t remember anything about it, only that I was so exhausted afterward I couldn’t even celebrate. I woke up the next day relieved and preceded to drink myself blind for two days straight.

Fast-forward to February, and I’m freezing my baguettes off in Iowa, working on a client located in a one-stoplight town. A friend and colleague who was picking up my mail called me and told me my passing scores — FAR: 77; Audit: 79; Tax: 81; Law: 89 — far exceeding the 300 club. Sure, I’d studied way too hard, but I was happy to have passed.

Anyway, I’m sure some of you have better CPA exam tales than that, so let’s hear them! Share them below or email them to [email protected].

Image: iStock/LuminaStock

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Elijah Watt Sells Award Recipients Make the Rest of Us Want to Puke

The AICPA announced the winners of the Elijah Watt Sells awards yesterday. For you mere mortals, this is an award for the 10 highest cumulative scorers on the CPA exam.
Glancing over the recipients we notice that two Big 4 firms (KPMG and Deloitte) enslave employ five of the recipients. A couple of recipients work in industry and a few more work for smaller, local firms.
This leads to the obvious question of why the hell P. Dubya and E&Y were totally shut out? Grant Thornton and BDO were also blanked. Are the honchos at the Radio Station and Big D giving the worker bees more time to study? Are P. Dubs, E&Y, et al. cutting out the bonuses for passing and thus destroying anyone’s motivation for passing? Are those of you looking to pass already choosing between eating and sleeping (and maybe sex) so studying just isn’t happening? Sells was a Big D founder so maybe the whole thing is rigged? Thoughts anyone?
Oh and congratulate the recipients while you’re at it (without vomiting on them).

We’re Here to Listen to Your CPA Exam Stories Because We’re Solid Like That

Cpa_exam.jpgOkay, so the purpose of the Elijah Watt Sells post was not to make any of you feel like you’re lesser accountants. We just figured that a good portion of you were hung over today and the story of 10 individuals that got vomit-worthy scores on the CPA exam would get you past the nausea and running to the bathroom to lose that 3 am breakfast.
Now that you’re feeling better, we want to appeal to the rest of you. We want your CPA exam horror stories. Not because we want you to send you running back into the bathroom to sob in the stall. Not because some people we know passed all four sections in one sitting and don’t have any good stories. No, no. We want your stories because we here to listen to you. Besides, they’re probably funny now anyway. Aren’t they? Even if you’re still mortified or pissed off, this your opportunity to vent about it.
Sooooo, did you run out of gas on the way to the exam site? Did your computer crash with 10 minutes to go and you had to re-take the entire exam? We’re you caught cheating?!? Or watching porn? Impress us…