I failed the CPA Exam, now what?

10 min read

There is nothing more discouraging than spending weeks or even months studying for a section of the CPA Exam, only to find out you didn’t pass. Although a small percentage of candidates receive a CPA Exam passing score, the vast majority of candidates have to retake at least one exam. In fact, some of Becker’s best instructors failed the CPA Exam multiple times before finally passing.

Having to retake the CPA Exam is nothing to be embarrassed about, as the average attempts to pass the CPA Exam is at least two times per section. Becker estimates the overall pass rate to be between 45-55% in any given year, and many people have been in your shoes and go on to become successful CPAs

So, if you just received your score and it turns out you failed the CPA Exam, you actually have a few options (which do NOT include giving up)!

How to apply after a failed CPA Exam

Wondering how to apply after a failed CPA Exam? The first thing you'll want to do to get back on track to retake the CPA Exam is wait. You aren't eligible to reschedule your failed CPA Exam until a full 24 hours after receiving your scores. You may be wondering what to do after your failed CPA Exam and how to reschedule, and the next step is to check the CPA board exam requirements for retakers. You must meet the following requirements in order to retake the CPA Exam: 

  • All re-examination candidates are required to pay the CPA Exam retake fees, which include both the re-application and examination fee. Fees will vary based on the state you are seeking CPA licensure in. Make sure to double check your state's CPA requirements.
  • Receive a new notice to schedule (NTS), as your NTS is only valid for a single examination appointment.
  • The CPA Exam now uses continuous testing, which allows candidates to retake a failed exam section shortly after receiving their score. As you consider how many times you can retake the CPA Exam, you may be pleased to hear this news. According to NASBA, the only limitations on how many times you can take a section is the time it takes to receive a score, re-register, obtain the new NTS and find an available testing date.

How to pass the CPA Exam

Whether you failed the CPA Exam multiple times or only failed once, there is still hope for you. Even if you started studying for another part of the exam, you can go back and review the missed section of your failed CPA Exam. Your scores should reflect the areas of the CPA Exam you need to improve on, and that is a great place to start before moving on. If you take this approach, focus your studies on your areas of weakness. Work through these weak areas by re-watching the lectures and then reworking the related homework problems and simulations. 

Once you feel comfortable with your “problem” areas, go back and do a general review of the other topics on the exam using your textbook and lectures. Then rework as many homework questions as possible, take several progress tests and retake the final exams. Once you have done this, you should be ready to retake the CPA Exam and pass!

If you were in the 70-74 range, this approach is probably your best option as it will allow you to focus your studies on your weak areas without requiring you to relearn everything else.

Don't give up!

You may be feeling discouraged after your failed CPA Exam, but do not give up! You have time to improve your score on your failed section and pass the other sections of the exam with flying colors. If you have already started studying for another section of the exam when you receive your score, another option is to put aside the exam that you did not pass and move ahead with your studies for the other sections of the exam.

This is a good option if you are feeling discouraged about having to retake your CPA Exam. It will allow you to clear your head and regain your confidence so that you may be successful retaking the CPA Exam the second time around. However, it is important to keep in mind that if too much time elapses before you start to study again, you may need to start from scratch. If your score was well below the CPA Exam passing score of 75, starting from scratch is the best approach regardless of when you choose to retake the exam. Remember, the average attempts to pass the CPA Exam is at least two times per section, so don't feel bad if you have to start over.

Ask for help

Students often feel too embarrassed or too proud to ask for help, but don't let your pride get in the way of you redeeming yourself after a failed CPA Exam. Asking for help on topics you don't fully understand will only help you be a better student and allow you to be more successful on your CPA licensure journey. Try to reach out to fellow students, your Becker instructor, or our Academic Support team. Becker and your fellow students are all here to support you in achieving a CPA Exam passing score.

Use Becker

The best way to feel confident when you go to retake your CPA Exam is to use Becker's CPA Exam Review. At Becker, we know you're not just taking an exam - you're preparing for your future. In 2020, Becker's Exam Day ReadySM students reported successfully passing 94% of the CPA Exam sections they attempted. Our comprehensive study and coaching system that combines powerful practice tools with expert instructors is exactly what you need to help you achieve a CPA Exam passing score. 

Be proud

Remember to applaud yourself on how far you have come in this journey. The setback of a failed CPA Exam does not define you. No matter how tough this may be, it will soon pass. Just as you will soon pass the CPA Exam. Good luck! 

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