The CPA Exam: A Triathlonic Challenge

By Karen Vergara, CPA

Earlier this year, I decided that it was time to challenge myself with a new goal – train and finish my first sprint triathlon. Now, this comes from someone that once ran a 5K and vowed to never do it again! I was going against my own previous declaration. However, the process of training and finishing the triathlon reminded me so much of my journey of taking the CPA exam that I realized the same skills athletes use to train for their races are also the same skills students and young professionals can use to study and take the CPA exam.

1.   Surround yourself with individuals who care – your support system which includes family, friends, co-workers, etc. will be crucial to your success in crossing the finish line. I started with having a conversation with my husband and closest family relatives explaining the journey I was about to take. Most were very supportive and understood this goal was important to me and even offered to help in different ways. There will be those who will question your motives and even discourage you, but it is important that you learn how to tune out those voices and gather strength from those who care.

2.   Be consistent and disciplined– without a doubt your schedule will get in the way of studying. If you get yourself into a routine, it will be easier to manage the long hours you will spend studying for the exam. Create a calendar and schedule how many hours you will study per day or per week. You must compromise with yourself and others. Unfortunately, you may have to skip parties, gatherings or even time off.  I remember I had to stay home for a 4th of July party studying for one of the exams while all my friends were having a blast without me. You may regret not having fun with your friends for a few hours, but you will regret getting a non-passing score even more.

3.   Imagine crossing the finish line – There will be days that will be harder than others. You may come across some material (e.g pensions and leases) that will make you want to quit. Write out your name with the CPA credentials at the end and keep it in a place where you will see it before you sit down to study. This will help you visualize the finish line.

 4.   Give 100% – The odds of you passing the CPA exams are approximately 50/50. However, what matters most is that throughout your journey, you have given 100%. You want to put in your best effort and despite the results, be proud of how far you have come. More than likely, if you have given your best, you will pass the exam.

5.   Trust your training – your brain acts almost like muscle and just like any other muscle, the more you work it out, the stronger it will get. At some point, you will feel like there is no way you can store any more information and that you will begin to forget what you practiced in chapter 1 when you are currently studying chapter 11. But believe me, on the day of the exam, everything will come together and you will be surprised at how your brain can recall information you studied weeks before.

The process of taking the CPA exam can be difficult, at times gruesome and stressful, but there is no better feeling than accomplishing something you worked so hard for. Don’t forget that after it is all done, you will deserve a good celebration with your closest friends and family. Although you won’t get a shiny gold medal, you will finally be able to say, I’m a CPA!

Karen Vergara
Hispanic Business Initiative Fund