My CPA Exam Story: Making Sacrifices for the End Goal

Dory Pluger started studying for the CPA Exam in September 2016, and successfully completed all four parts on the first try* by August 2017 using Becker’s Self-Study CPA Review, as well as CPA Exam Final Review. She took the sections in the following order: REG, AUD, FAR, BEC. She shares more of her experience below:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am in my mid-30s and decided a few years ago it was time to take my career to the next level. I started working in accounting while working on my bachelor’s degree in 2003. Although my undergraduate major was mathematics, life took me down the accounting path. I loved every second of it. Accounting took my love for numbers and puzzles and allowed me to apply it to the real business world. After over 10 years in the industry, it was time to get serious and acquire my master’s degree and CPA certification.

How did you manage your time with studying, work and life? What did your study schedule look like?
Juggling working full-time and studying for the exams was a challenge. The scheduling feature in the Becker materials helped keep me on track. Only once did I fall behind and took an extra week on material. I learned quickly how hard it was to catch up if I didn’t keep pace with the schedule. So I stayed vigilant. My study schedule usually consisted of 1 hour before work and 2 hours after work every day. On the weekends I would spend 10-12 hours studying each day. Mondays were my day to rest, although I usually still would get an hour done in the morning. However, I gave myself Monday evenings to have a nice dinner with my boyfriend and relax. Between exams, I gave myself a full week off before starting the next one. I didn’t want to take too much time and lose my study habits, but a week off was enjoyable.

Any tips for getting motivated and focusing?
It takes dedication to stay focused and motivated. I would go stir crazy all the time, but I just kept reminding myself, it is better to put the time in up front, so I didn’t have to retake any exams.

What was your biggest challenge in preparing for the CPA Exam, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was pushing forward after each exam. I wanted to be able to relax, but I did not want any exams to expire before I completed them all. I would see my boyfriend go on weekend adventures to the mountains with our dogs and friends and wished I could be there with them. However, it was easier to have all distractions out of the house when I needed to study, so I had to accept that this was my sacrifice. It would pay off in the end.

What advice would you share with someone preparing for the exam? Any tips that helped you?
The Becker schedule is the most helpful tool to keep you on track and ready for each exam. I used the regular materials and the Final Review. So I made sure my schedule gave me three weeks of review after finishing the regular course. This gave me two weeks for the Final Review materials and practice exams and one final week to jam out as many multiple choice as possible. If there were any topics I was still struggling with at this point, I would re-watch the full lecture on it. Usually that was all I needed to round out my understanding.

Why did you choose Becker for your CPA studies?
I had heard Becker was the most comprehensive study material there was. If I was going to tackle something as difficult as the CPA exams, I wanted the best materials to prepare me for it. The cost is a lot upfront, but knowing how thorough the materials are now, I would spend it again in a heartbeat. I had tested a few free trials on other materials, but none of them came close to the Becker materials.

Anything else we should know?
Studying for the CPA exams is by far the hardest thing I have ever accomplished. I enjoy school greatly and have always excelled in classes. Although I performed quite well on these exams, it was not an easy task. In one year of studying for the exams, I worked harder than all of my undergraduate and graduate schooling combined. For anyone contemplating starting the exams, just be ready. It will not be easy, but with perseverance and dedication, you can make it through and it will be worth it. But you have to be willing and ready to make the sacrifices needed.

Learn more about preparing for the CPA Exam with Becker here.

*Becker does not track pass rates so typical results are not known.

Molly Mattison