I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “living paycheck to paycheck”, and if you’re like me in college, you might be living it right now.  The good news is, it’s temporary! In my role as a coach, I have the pleasure of working with people to help them pass the CPA Exam. Instead of living paycheck to paycheck, I find myself living score release to score release.  I’m so invested in my client’s process & their success, I am counting the days until they receive their results. I can’t wait to celebrate with them when they pass their exams.

But that isn’t always the outcome.  Sometimes, we come up short. You may experience this along the way on your journey to CPA, too.  This recent quarter, I had two clients receive what is- in my opinion- one of the hardest pills to swallow…the dreaded 74.  That experience inspired me to write this blog post and share with you how I help my clients bounce back from a 74 and answer the question “Where do I go from here?”

A part of me wishes that the CPA exam would just do away with the 74.  I think to myself “Really? One point away? If It’s not a 75 it might as well be a 70, at least it would sting less”.  You might be thinking the same thing. My goal here is not to say something profound and magically make you feel better in an instant.  Nothing I say will take the sting away, believe me…I’ve tried!

You’re allowed to be angry/ irritated/ annoyed/ pissed off/ sad/ mad or all of the above.  In fact, that’s normal. One of the first suggestions I make to my clients who get bad news is to find a safe, healthy way to express their feelings.  For many, that means hitting the gym for a good sweat-sesh, some prefer kickboxing or getting out in nature, and others need a fun night out with friends to get their mind off things.  

Believe it or not, there is good news in your 74.  It means you’re extremely close to a passing score and closing the gap between a 74 and a 75 is easier than you may think.  

Here are my recommended next steps if you’re one of the candidates who received a similar score.  First, examine the following two scenarios to see which one applies to your situation. The general approach is to reapply and schedule a retake of that exam as soon as possible.  In some cases, I even recommend dropping the exam you’re currently studying for and picking up where you left off with the failed exam. Here are two different scenarios to evaluate in deciding the best next steps:  

Scenario 1:  You’ve taken your exam towards the end of the testing window, let’s call it March 10.  You receive your score around March 19th and did not pass.  For a 74, I would recommend dropping what you’re doing and rescheduling that same exam on or around April 1.  Spend the next two weeks reviewing areas where you were weaker, take practice exams and make sure you’re rasising your scores in the weaker areas.

Scenario 2:  You sat for this exam early in the window, let’s say January 20.  You receive your scores and did not pass, but are not eligible to sit for this exam again until April 1.  In this case, if you’ve already scheduled and started studying for a new exam, I would probably keep moving forward with that plan.  Once that test is complete, I would plan to retake the exam that you failed. You still have an opportunity to gain some efficiencies and build on the knowledge you had before.  Even after switching gears, you won’t be starting from square one.

Treat this time between the score release and your next exam as deep-dive review time, not a cram session over everything. Take practice exams to evaluate where you’re struggling with the material.  Dig into those areas to improve your understanding and raise your scores. Practice the TBS’s until you’re comfortable with the format & ready to confidently conquer the exam.

Finally, if this failure impacts your future testing plans, get creative!  Consider a change to your testing order to accommodate the retake (i.e. taking an exam that requires less study time that will more easily fit into your schedule).  Don’t let this failure hold you back or derail your plan completely. The most important thing is that you keep your head up and keep going. You’ve got this!

If you have questions about your CPA Exam plan, let us know! We’d love to help.  

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