September 16, 2019

Failing the CPA Exam the Easy Way…or: How to Use Your Scores to Determine Your Next Move

Nationally, only 43% of CPA exam candidates who sit for any exam part pass on their first try and that number shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who has gone into an exam completely unprepared or totally intimidated. Failure may be inevitable but it doesn’t have to be the end, nor does it mean you should give up on trying to become a CPA.

So what do you do if you’ve failed?

There are two paths to take and your option from here depends a lot on how you did. Not all less-than-74s are created equal.


If you scored < 70: If you got anything less than a 70, give or take, you can put this exam off until later and move on to the next section if you are having difficulty grasping the information, especially if you scored in the bottom 60s or lower. UNLESS you are on a time crunch (like you have to get this one passed or you’ll lose credit on another section), blow this one off and move on to another. If you want to continue and try this one again you can but you should start from scratch, use your score report to gain insight into where you need more work, and review EVERYTHING as if you have not studied at all.

If you scored > 70: Pay your re-application fee and get a new NTS for this exam ASAP! A score above 70, while disappointing if less than 75, shows that you have an excellent command of the information and you’ll want to retake this one while the information is still fresh in your mind. DO NOT move on to another section. Use your score report to gain insight into your weaker areas but don’t obsess too much over what it tells you, keep in mind the report compares you to other candidates and you don’t care how other people did on the exam, you need to know where YOU need to do more work. DO NOT waste your time watching all of your CPA review lectures again, focus on doing MCQ/simulation practice questions and brush up on the areas you are weak in. Then, just before your exam, give everything a very quick overview one last time to make sure you have not forgotten the things you already know.

The point is that most CPA exam candidates experience failure at one point in the process, and some will experience failure repeatedly along the way. Be smart about your mistakes, learn from them and move on. You CAN pass, it’s just a matter of understanding how to overcome the many stumbling blocks you may encounter along the way.

Also see:
What Happens When You Get a 74?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Nationally, only 43% of CPA exam candidates who sit for any exam part pass on their first try and that number shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who has gone into an exam completely unprepared or totally intimidated. Failure may be inevitable but it doesn’t have to be the end, nor does it mean you should give up on trying to become a CPA.

So what do you do if you’ve failed?

There are two paths to take and your option from here depends a lot on how you did. Not all less-than-74s are created equal.


If you scored < 70: If you got anything less than a 70, give or take, you can put this exam off until later and move on to the next section if you are having difficulty grasping the information, especially if you scored in the bottom 60s or lower. UNLESS you are on a time crunch (like you have to get this one passed or you’ll lose credit on another section), blow this one off and move on to another. If you want to continue and try this one again you can but you should start from scratch, use your score report to gain insight into where you need more work, and review EVERYTHING as if you have not studied at all.

If you scored > 70: Pay your re-application fee and get a new NTS for this exam ASAP! A score above 70, while disappointing if less than 75, shows that you have an excellent command of the information and you’ll want to retake this one while the information is still fresh in your mind. DO NOT move on to another section. Use your score report to gain insight into your weaker areas but don’t obsess too much over what it tells you, keep in mind the report compares you to other candidates and you don’t care how other people did on the exam, you need to know where YOU need to do more work. DO NOT waste your time watching all of your CPA review lectures again, focus on doing MCQ/simulation practice questions and brush up on the areas you are weak in. Then, just before your exam, give everything a very quick overview one last time to make sure you have not forgotten the things you already know.

The point is that most CPA exam candidates experience failure at one point in the process, and some will experience failure repeatedly along the way. Be smart about your mistakes, learn from them and move on. You CAN pass, it’s just a matter of understanding how to overcome the many stumbling blocks you may encounter along the way.

Also see:
What Happens When You Get a 74?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

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