Top ways to fail the CPA Exam

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Many students fail the CPA Exam. In fact, the AICPA reported that only an average of 53% of students passed the four sections of the CPA Exam in the first three quarters of 2022. You don’t want to be a part of the 47%!  

If you’re starting on your journey towards CPA licensure, or even if you’ve already failed a section, you may be looking for tips and tricks to ensure your eventual success on the exam. We’ve shared plenty of resources with strategies for passing the CPA Exam. Another great way to prepare to pass is to learn from the mistakes of other test-takers. 

This article will explore four common mistakes made by candidates who ultimately fail the CPA Exam


Common mistakes made by CPA Exam candidates 

  1. Procrastination 

As the British writer Edward Young once said, “procrastination is the thief of time.” Unfortunately, time is of the essence for CPA Exam studies – you only have 18 months to sit for and pass all four sections. Whether you procrastinate on scheduling or studying for the CPA Exam, you’re setting yourself up for failure.  

Becker’s Senior Director of Product Development Angie Brown, CPA, shared, “I like to tell students that the number one reason that people don’t pass the CPA Exam is because they don’t take the exam.” CPA Exam dates are available year-round, but don’t let ample availability be an excuse for putting off scheduling your exam. If you don’t have an official exam day on your calendar, you won’t be able to properly create your study plan. No study plan? Poor preparation! That leads us to the next common CPA Exam mistake. 


  1. Not creating a realistic study schedule 

You’ll spend over 400 hours (about 2 and a half weeks) of your life studying for the CPA Exam. One of the biggest mistakes made by CPA candidates is not creating an effective study schedule that helps to manage those hours within your testing window.  

Most importantly, that study plan needs to fit into your work-life situation. You know your situation better than anyone – be sure to complement your personal and professional life with your CPA Exam studies. For example, if your plan entails studying in the evenings and you know you’re not a night person, you’ve already failed. You’ll also want to consider any big upcoming personal or professional obligations before creating your study schedule. It would be hard to focus on FAR if you have another big commitment close to your exam date.  

Give yourself as much time as possible to study for the exam, without forgetting to watch your CPA Exam lectures, complete practice questions and MCQs and take mock exams.  


  1. Not taking practice tests 

The only way to walk into exam day without surprises is to understand the test's format and functionality beforehand. Becker’s simulated exams reflect the real CPA Exam experience, with the types of questions you’ll see on the exam, written by Becker’s team of experts

Each section of the CPA Exam is four hours long – which can be grueling if you’ve never taken that long of a test before. The best way to prepare to sit for a 4-hour exam is to practice with exams that are just as long. This helps build your stamina and gives you ample opportunity to get comfortable with the exam's structure.  


  1. Only using multiple-choice questions while studying  

Multiple-choice questions (MCQs) are a quick way to practice the exam’s content, but it shouldn’t be the end all be all. Many students completely lean on MCQs, but in the end they aren’t properly prepared. Here’s why: CPA Exam scores are based 50% on MCQs and 50% on task-based simulations (TBSs), so only studying MCQs leaves a student unprepared for 50% of the exam.  

Also, the CPA Exam tests at four levels of difficulty. MCQs only cover the two lowest skill levels, while TBSs cover the higher skill levels.  If you don’t practice the TBSs, you won’t be prepared to tackle the most difficult questions on the exam. 


Most students fail the CPA Exam, but the students who prepare with Becker usually don’t. Keep these tips in mind and use our review tools and you’re already ahead of the game.  

Explore Becker CPA Exam Review > 

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