My CPA Exam Story: 13 Failed Sections…and then Becker!

10 min read

It’s the moment every CPA Exam candidate dreads: a score that falls below 75.

It’s also a moment many exam takers will encounter, with the American Institute of CPAs® (AICPA) reporting passing rates below 50% for three out of the four sections in Q1 of 2018.

Scott Stacks would encounter this moment 13 times before adding the CPA designation to his name.


After receiving his master’s degree five years prior, Scott realized how important a CPA license would be for his accounting career and began his studies. Those

studies would span the course of more than six years.

He recently shared the tips he learned through the experience in hopes of helping other candidates who might feel deflated or discouraged after a failing mark, as he once did.

1. If you fail, study for that section like you’ve never seen the material before.
Scott recommends students take a failed section during the next testing window – but to study as thoroughly as if they’ve never seen the material before.

“One mistake I made with BEC is that I received a 72 one time and thought ‘Oh, I almost passed. I only need to study a little bit here and there,’” he shared. “That is wrong! Don’t do that. Always treat each section like you are studying it for the first time.”

2. Break up your studying.
Over time, Scott learned to always take one full day off each week from studying. He also took frequent study breaks to have a fresh mind – roughly 5 minutes per every 30 minutes of study time.

3. Believe in yourself.
Scott described the experience of failing sections “absolutely deflating,” and said he felt extremely discouraged, bordering on depressed. However, he never doubted himself even when others did.

“What pushed me was that most of my scores were in the upper 60s to low 70s range,” he said. “I knew that if I could just do a little better then I would pass the Exam.”

4. Consider the true cost of CPA Exam Reviews.
Over the course of his CPA Exam studies, Scott used three different providers and a local review course before finally making the leap to Becker Professional Education.

“I easily spent around $10,000 and took 6 plus years of my life, which is much more costly than the money, trying to pass the Exam without Becker because ‘Becker was too expensive,’” he said. “Looking back, I wish I had made the investment upfront.”

5. Use all of the tools that Becker provides.
Scott attributes his success to the learning resources that Becker provided.

“I believe using all the Becker tools together was the big reason why I passed,” he said. “Listening to the audio while commuting to work and back was huge. I fell in love with Tim and Peter! The flashcards helped me immensely and the textbooks and questions were helpful as well.”

All in all, Scott says he considers his perseverance to successfully pass the CPA Exam the ultimate victory of his professional life.

“It didn’t matter that I failed passing the CPA Exam a combined 13 times!” he said. “What matters is that I finally passed all 4 sections and am now a licensed CPA.”

Get started with Becker CPA Exam Review here.

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