We have had the pleasure of working with Diana Weng during her studies in the Fisher School of Accounting’s 3/2 Program at the University of Florida (UF). During her time at Gleim, she worked closely with CPA candidates, and as a successful CPA candidate herself, she identified closely with their struggles.
Diana is now an Accounting PhD candidate at UF, and last year she published an article titled “The Tradeoff between Relevance and Comparability in Segment Reporting.” She has taught Financial Accounting and Reporting 2 (A.K.A. Intermediate Financial 2) twice at UF and enjoys mentoring others along their CPA journey. We asked her if she has any new advice that she’s picked up along her way for current CPA candidates.
Many people feel intimidated by the process of setting long-term goals, especially when some of the things they’d like to achieve are gated behind requirements they don’t yet meet. But when asked about her tips for students looking to pursue a career in finance and accounting, Diana’s advice was simple: “Go for it.”
I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In years after it was popular, and I remember thinking at the time that it would be overrated, but I decided to give it a chance. It was life-changing. One thing that really surprised me was that on average, men will apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, and women will apply only when they meet 100% of the qualifications. What shocked me was that I knew that I was one of those people who would only go for an opportunity if I met all the requirements, and I could not believe so many people would go for opportunities without meeting the requirements.
[…] After that point, I made changes. If I needed more money than my research budget had remaining, I asked for more. If a friend was applying to graduate school but did not have the required amount of experience, I encouraged her to apply anyway. If a friend was applying for a job but did not have the stated education or experience, I encouraged her to apply anyway. I got the research funds. She got into graduate school. She got the job. We are 100% qualified. Go for it.
The CPA Exam is difficult and time consuming, which can discourage many accountants. But Diana has helped hundreds of CPA candidates achieve their goals and witnessed first-hand how their perseverance and discipline allowed them to do so.
For anyone interested in becoming a CPA, two key ingredients are perseverance and discipline. The challenge of four lengthy exams may seem really daunting, but perseverance and discipline will get you through.
[G]etting across the finish line requires us to hold ourselves accountable and to pick ourselves up when we are down. […] Even after a long day of work, we sit down and study because we told ourselves we would. That is why the CPA license is worth getting. It has meaning because it is not easy. At Gleim, we had quite a few customers really struggle with getting through the material, but because they never gave up, they are CPAs today.
The CPA Exam demands that candidates evaluate and analyze scenarios while under the pressure of a four-hour timer! Candidates should expect to be challenged during both their studies and their exams. It’s easy to become frustrated, but CPA hopefuls need to learn to manage their discouragement and stay focused.
We asked Diana if she had any specific tips for CPA candidates to overcome the difficulty of the exam. She had two great pointers to share:
1. If you are really not understanding a section, sometimes setting it aside and coming back with a clear head helps.
If you have been studying for a while, say for more than an hour, Gleim recommends taking a break to clear your head. Ideally, CPA candidates should take a 15-minute break for every hour or so of studying. Get some exercise, get a snack, or meditate. If you are still struggling, move on to another topic and return later to get a fresh look.
2. Expect that you will get a lot of questions to which you do not know the answer. […] When you are studying, work on developing the thought process of “Why is the accounting/auditing/tax/etc. [question written] the way that it is?” and that mindset will help you get through these questions.
You don’t need to prepare for the unexpected, but you should have a strategy in place to manage your stress if you’re thrown a curveball. If you learn all of the content on the CPA Exam Blueprints, you’ll be able to secure a passing score with confidence. But even learning 100% of Blueprint content doesn’t guarantee you will know the answer to 100% of CPA Exam questions, and that’s actually by design.
The CPA Exam has some questions that are “pretest” questions. These questions can be multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, or written communication tasks. Pretest questions are used by the AICPA to collect data to assess the quality of the question and to collect scoring information for later use when the questions become operational. They do not count toward your exam score. You will never know if a question is a pretest question. We recommend answering every question as if it were counting toward your score. Apply your question-answering strategies; do your best, and move on!
Don’t let struggling with a topic deter you from achieving your goal of becoming a CPA. You may need to make sacrifices now, but the payoff will be well worth the dividends you’ll earn from investing in your career. In the words of Diana Weng, “Go for it!”
We appreciate Diana taking the time to talk to us about her thoughts and experiences both at Gleim and at UF. You can read more about other candidates like her through our Candidate Spotlight series or the Customer Reviews on our site. To learn more about the CPA Exam, check out our free CPA Exam Guide!