Get up early and other advice for the CPA Exam

Featuring Elizabeth Pittelkow, CPA/CITP, CGMA, director of accounting and compliance, ArrowStream


Video transcript:

My most vivid memories of the exam are studying for the exam. I studied for about nine months leading into the month that I took the four parts. I took the first computer exam. There was a lot of anxiety with my colleagues and friends about how hard the CPA Exam was going to be computerized versus in the room that you hear about with people taking it with their calculator. We were studying really hard, I took my note cards everywhere with me. I took them to class, I took them on the bus, I took them to family functions. I had these multicolored note cards with me at all times and that was my biggest memory of studying for the exam were the note cards that I took everywhere.

I took several practice exams before taking the actual exam. I didn’t pass any of the practice exams, so I think that built up my anxiety, but I told myself that I studied really hard and I was going to go in and just do the best that I could the day of the exam. I woke up really early. My dad has always taught me to get up really early before a big event. We both got up in the morning and he took me to the exam. I at the time was staying with my parents in Indiana and he had prepared breakfast for me. I had two eggs in the morning and ham and I felt like I had this big protein shot and I was ready to go. When we started driving to the exam, because of where my parents live in Indiana there is a one-lane bridge that had collapsed overnight so it was one of those all-things-coming-together and just creating more anxiety and stress. We had to go another way that took an extra half an hour to get to the testing center, and fortunately because we had left enough time in the morning to get there early we arrived just on time and I was not turned away from the testing center. But I was rushed in to the exam center, and I had a little bit of anxiety in the beginning because it was such a rushed morning with the drive, but I was able to get past that and take my exam that morning.

I recommend that people do have note cards or study materials with them at all times because you never know when you are going to have that downtime to be able to just reference quickly and memorize something quickly that will help you on the exam. I also recommend scheduling study time, especially if you’re in school or if you’re working, that scheduling that time is really important that you have it like a meeting set up on your calendar that you are going to study for this specific time and that you actually do it because it will get you in a really good habit of building study skills and it will give you extra time so you’re not cramming right before the exam.

When I found out I passed the CPA Exam, I went out for celebratory dinners and we talked about just what an excellent milestone it was to achieve that we had passed the CPA Exam. I was so excited about my results I put them on my wall. I still have them on my wall and it’s a great reminder of just the CPA profession and how much I love accounting and this milestone that I achieved early. 

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