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Guest Blogger Stephanie Chin: Tackling the first exam

Tackling the First CPA Exam

In full disclosure, I was 100% sure I’d blown it. I knew I’d rushed the exam a bit – in the days leading up I found myself on the phone with close friends asking, “Should I reschedule? It’s too soon, right?” But with the October 1st deadline looming over my head, I pushed through and decided to take it anyway.

Like Gleim recommended, I had taken my practice exam with a mask on in order to prepare for the sensation of testing with the mask. I also reached out to my personal counselor to discuss best practices for last-minute exam prep. She suggested I stop my studying Friday afternoon (my exam was Saturday at noon) to take the evening off to relax, and recommended I eat a big breakfast before my test. While I hadn’t quite taken advantage of having a counselor while I was doing the bulk of my studying, I personally found it very reassuring to have a professional to speak with and ask those last-minute questions before the exam.

Despite having taken the practice exam, I hadn’t really been able to factor in how much my nerves would play a part in the actual test-taking. The testing room was much colder than I had thought it would be, and I found myself so nervous I kept re-reading several of the questions because my brain wasn’t processing the words. Sometime around the second testlet, my stomach started growling, and by the third testlet my hands were so cold that I kept taking breaks to sit on them. During the 15-minute break, I stepped into the break room to have a snack, stretch my legs, and grab a sweatshirt.

Surprisingly, the mask and the COVID precautions had much less of an effect on my testing experience than I had thought they would. While I had only taken one practice exam with it on, once I was in the zone I found that I didn’t notice the mask at all. The only real difference was that all of the equipment was marked, so they knew what had been sanitized and what had been used. After my snack break, and now armed with a hoodie, I stepped back in to tackle the last two testlets and found myself in a much better head space.

The Gleim study guide provided a suggested breakdown of how long each testlet should take, and I used that to make sure I wasn’t going over time on anything. If I finished a section earlier than recommended, I used the time to review any questions I flagged, but only up until I hit the end of the recommended time block. Because I knew I was faster in the MCQ’s, and that the Sims were harder for me, I left myself more time than the study guide suggested for the Sims, and found this helpful in managing my stress levels. Reviewing the flagged questions and taking my time on the Sims helped make sure that I didn’t make any dumb mistakes and definitely put me much more at ease – especially once I got into the flow of taking the test.

Coming out of the exam, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I knew I’d messed up one of the testlets and just wasn’t sure in general how the rest of it had gone. I knew from the Gleim blog that different questions were weighted differently, so I could only hope that I had done well on the parts worth more. I had about two weeks until my results came back, so I used the time to relax and decompress.

And to answer the question I’m sure you’re all wondering at this point – I passed with an 80!!! And as we all know, becoming a CPA is all about whether or not you pass – it doesn’t matter by how much. It was as much a relief as it was a surprise, and I’m excited to tackle my next exam in the coming months.