My CPA Exam story: how I stayed motivated

10 min read

Lecture, notes, flashcards, MCQs, repeat. As you complete the seemingly endless cycle of preparing for the CPA Exam, you may experience feelings of exhaustion, frustration and even self-doubt. Remember: you can do this! Here’s the story of Kristen Cournane, a Becker student who overcame these feelings and passed all four parts by staying motivated throughout her exam prep.

Read as Kristen shares her experience studying for the CPA Exam and her best advice for others embarking on the journey.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. Why did you decide to become an accountant?

When I began college, I was nearly certain that I would pursue a career in medicine. Upon discovering that a biochemistry major simply wasn’t for me, I took an Accounting 101 class at the recommendation of my mom, who is a CPA herself! I found it to be true that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and I immediately fell in love with the art and science of accounting.

Countless doors started opening for me – I joined and maintained executive board positions in on-campus business clubs, networked with other accounting students and became fascinated with all social aspects of professional development.

I very quickly learned that accounting is not just math, and it is by no means monotonous. Becoming an accountant is an opportunity to challenge yourself both intellectually and socially. It was upon that realization that I dedicated myself to succeeding in this profession.

How did you manage time with studying, work and life? What did your study schedule look like?

Studying, working part-time, going to school full-time and maintaining a social life was definitely not an easy task, but it became more manageable when I promised to make the most out of every minute of the day.

After classes or work, I would head straight to the library—no excuses! I committed myself to studying for a minimum of 3-4 hours each day. When I had more time, I would study more, and if I had an obligation for work or class the following day, sometimes I would have to stray from my daily goal. Studying should be flexible, but it’s important to set some sort of standard to hold yourself accountable each day. Using an Excel sheet to track your study hours can help you to be visually aware of your study progress.

After you’ve met your allotted goal for the day, try to add another half hour, and then close the book. Take a walk, call a friend, watch TV or the best activity of them all, sleep! It’s incredibly important to unplug from your studies once in a while and come back to your materials the next day with a clear mind and well-rested eyes.

Any tips for getting motivated and focused?

Staying motivated while studying for the CPA exam can be difficult, but you must remember one thing—this is a temporary investment for a lifetime of benefits. Sure, a year or two of pushing yourself to study is not going to be on your list of greatest memories, but you will thank yourself in the end for making the sacrifice. 

What was your biggest challenge in preparing for the exam, and how did you overcome it? My biggest challenge was overcoming the menacing feeling of self-doubt. Some days I would sit down in my usual study spot and be hit with a wave of “Am I really smart enough to do this?” Trust me, you are. I’m a firm believer that everyone is capable of passing these exams if you tackle the Becker study materials with the right sense of determination and confidence. Remember, you can only fail if you stop trying.


What advice would you share with someone preparing for the exam? Any tips that helped you?

Have you ever heard of this Latin quote: “repetitio mater studiorum?” Me neither— but Google says that it means “repetition is the mother of all learning.” When it comes to studying for the CPA exam, this quote could not hold truer. Notice how the Becker materials, especially the multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and mock exams, are available for you to repeat over and over again. Personally, I took each mock exam three or four times, worked through at least 30 progress tests, and re-wrote all of my lecture notes prior to taking each part of the exam.

Why did you choose Becker for your CPA studies?

Luckily, my employer provided me with Becker. If I had the choice, I would choose Becker all over again. Becker provides a comprehensive package of resources to match just about anyone’s study habits. Whether you’re a note-taker, lecture-listener, flashcard-flipper or all three, Becker provides its students with the opportunity to personalize their CPA exam studying experience. My favorite part of the Becker experience was learning from a fantastic group of lecturers—Mike Brown, Angie Brown, Peter Olinto and Tim Gearty not only teach you what you need to know to pass the exams, but also cheer you on and make you laugh along the way. I am incredibly thankful for Becker and would recommend this program to anyone who wants to succeed in passing the CPA exams!

Are you ready to prepare for CPA exam success? We’re ready to help you along the way! Get started.

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