My CPA Exam Story: Achieving Success as a Working Mom
Jennifer Garcia is the mother of Olivia, 8, and Emma, 3. She graduated college from Illinois State in 2000 and worked as an auditor until 2002. She recently shared her CPA Exam journey with us, including her experience with Becker’s Self-Study CPA Exam Review:
I sat for my CPA exam in college my senior year to be grandfathered in and came close to conditioning but was not prepared for the test. I always wanted to get my CPA but life seemed to always just get in the way and not being in public accounting anymore, I didn’t feel this urgent need to do it.
While in California, I paid to do Becker and actually attend the classes. I didn’t realize it when I signed up, but I was pregnant with my first child. While in the process, my water broke at 26 weeks pregnant and I was put on bed rest in the hospital. For obvious reasons, I had to put a pause on the whole CPA process. Once Olivia was a little older, I decided to start the process again but ended up pregnant with my second child (I obviously have horrible timing). I was working as the Accounting Manager at PMB Real Estate Services in San Diego at the time and was super busy with a new baby and decided to hold off on completing the CPA process again.
In 2016, we moved to San Antonio, Texas where I got a job as an assistant investment controller with USAA Real Estate Company. When I was hired, they wanted to hire me at a Controller level but could not do so since I did not have my CPA. In May of 2016, I sent in my application to the board and they told me I needed 150 hours and I only had 141. I took three classes starting in August of 2016 and finished them in December 2016 (I got 3 A’s by the way). I purchased Becker and started the review in February 2017 and took my last test on February 14, 2018. I passed each test the first time around* and felt Becker really prepared me.
I chose Becker because I have always heard such great things about the course. I did the self-study because I am a mom, a wife and I work full-time at a very demanding job. I would get home from work and eat dinner with my family and then study from about 7 to 10/10:30 pm Monday through Friday. I spent my lunch breaks at work in a conference room studying and Saturday/Sunday I would spend 4-6 hours studying a day. I had been out of school for a long time and even though I am in the industry there is still a lot that I hadn’t done since college. Luckily I have an amazing husband who really stepped up and helped with the kids so that I could accomplish my goal. I wanted my girls to see that no matter how old you are, if you have a goal you can accomplish it. I will be 40 next month and my whole goal was to get this done before I was 40.
Studying for the CPA exam is definitely not something I could halfway do; I had to really set my mind to it and jump in with both feet. I found the lectures great and the homework all really helped. However, it was the flashcards that sort of made the lectures and homework come together for me. I would get through the lectures, homework, and simulations and then go back and read the book, practice the flashcards and then do 10 homework problems in each section. After doing all that, I would then do the progress tests to include each section I was through and when all that was done I did the Mock Exams. Peter and Tim were my favorite instructors. Even though they were very corny at times, their jokes or acronyms really stuck in my head.
I have a few coworkers that were also going through the CPA exam at the same time I was. A few of them chose a different CPA review and they both took a few sections multiple times. I found the books that they used were huge and it was almost too much information where I felt Becker really narrowed it down to what you should know. I felt like Becker really prepared me well for the exam and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to take the CPA. There was not one question on the exam that seemed unfamiliar.
I won’t lie – I did start to run out of steam towards the end but I knew I was doing this for my family and to further my career. I had amazing support from my friends, family, and coworkers. My boss was one of my biggest cheerleaders! There were times I really got in my head and felt guilty for not being more present with my children and my husband, but I had to keep telling myself that I was doing this for them. There were always huge jitters before the exam and when I was looking up my score. Before the test, I would just keep doing those flashcards and looking over what I missed on the Mock Exams.
The advice I would give anyone wanting to do the exam would be to do Becker and be realistic. The most difficult part is taking the time to study. If you don’t make the time, it will be very difficult to succeed. I started studying FAR in February 2017 and took that part on May 31, Audit I took July 31st, REG I took Nov 15th, and BEC Feb 14, 2018. I did take December off to spend with my family, which was nice and I needed that tiny break. Besides the little break, I started studying the next section as soon as I would take a test. I was glad I did the test in the order that I did. It helped breaking up the longer sections with the smaller ones. It all comes down to doing the work. If you put in the time, watch the lectures and do the work, then you can succeed.
*Becker does not track pass rates so typical results are not known.