CPA PEP – 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Failed Your CPA Exam

Failing your CPA PEP exam is frustrating. However, that doesn’t say anything about your intelligence or ability. Since your grade is determined by your performance on two cases, failing your PEP exam only means you could have executed your exam strategy on the day of the exam more efficiently. It is natural to be upset and/or self-doubt for a couple of days. However, once you are ready, I have prepared 5 questions you should ask yourself to help you prepare for your re-write.

Note, one or more situations below might be applicable to you. These questions are meant to help you decide what your action plan is before your next CPA PEP attempt.

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1) Did You Miss An AO (Assessment Opportunity) Or Two Because You Did Not Have The Technical Knowledge?

This situation applies when you spotted all AOs but were not able to answer some of them because you did not know how to. Note, there is no way to know for sure because CPA doesn’t release the feedback guide for exam cases. However, you should expect 4 to 5 AOs for a 60-min case which is representative of the practice cases. That happened because you did not have the relevant technical knowledge.

Solution: Refer to the CPA Competency Map to identify technical areas you were responsible for. Identify the areas you need to work on so you can make sure you will review the Knotia textbook and/or seek out supplementary support (e.g., YouTube videos) before your next attempt.

2) Did You Run Out Of Time During The Exam And Miss An AO Or Two?

This situation applies when you spotted all AOs and knew how to answer them but ran out of time. I have mentioned in a number of posts that time management is key to succeeding in a PEP exam. Successful CFE writers have often cited time management skills as an essential component of their successes. Therefore, if you were able to figure out what you needed to answer and had the means to but simply ran out of time, you need to work on your time management before your next attempt.

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Solution: Practice writing cases in a mock exam setting. That means sticking to the suggested time limit and debrief when time is up. This will help you identify areas you tend to over-spend time on. Over time, you will get used to “letting go” of an AO for the benefit of the next AO. Remember, good enough is enough (i.e., 1 C and 1 RC is better than 1 CD and 1 NA).

3) Did You Miss An AO Completely?

This situation applies if you realized you did not spot all of the AOs during the exam. Like the first point, there is no way for you to know for sure how many AOs there were. However, if you still have a copy of the exam from when you wrote it, you can review the cases to see if you can spot any AO you did not previously. Doing this under no time constraint should allow you to spot all requireds.

Solution: As part of your debrief, make note of AOs you missed. Ask yourself why. Are you not picking up on trigger words (e.g., was wondering, unsure of)? Some AOs are more obvious than others so it will be beneficial for you to get acquainted with spotting AO quickly.

4) Are You Going To Re-Do The Module In Full Or Challenge The Exam Only?

Depending on whether that was your first or second time writing the exam, you might have the option to re-do the full module or attempt the exam only. For candidates who chose to challenge the exam only, your only material available will be the same as what you had last time. Therefore, depending on your answer to the previous three questions, that might or might not be enough. For example, if you ran out of time last time and did not attempt the last set of assignments (1 practice case and 1 integrated problem) and/or the practice exam, you will have these brand new cases to attempt. Alternatively, if you felt that re-writing the same cases won’t be beneficial to you, consider purchasing external resources. Companies like Densmore, PrepFormula and PASS offer a wide range of supplementary materials that might be suitable for your needs.

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5) Is CPA Still The Right Route For You?

I always encourage candidates to ponder this question because it is important and the answer is always evolving. This should not be something you ask yourself once in the beginning of your journey and be done with it. This should be something you evaluate routinely so you never lose sight of the why. Why did you choose CPA and not another professional designation or career? Knowing your why is powerful because it is what will keep you going even when things are hard. Your CPA journey is not going to be smooth-sailing the entire way and if you are reading this, this might or might not be the first setback you have encountered so far.

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Also, it is important to note that many circumstances can change in your life or in your family’s life. If you understand the concept of opportunity cost, you will know that you are giving up something else in order to get your designation. It could be something as trivial as the time you could have spent watching Netflix or something as significant as time with your family. Only if you know and believe in your why will you come out fulfilled at the end.