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“Mindset is everything,” when it comes to studying for CPA exam

Written on Nov 11, 2021

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager 

Courtney Arrington knew she couldn’t let failing a section of the CPA exam throw her off her goal of attaining the license. 

“The first step is having the right mindset about it,” Arrington said. “And understanding that the journey is yours, it's not always going to look like your peers.” 

After Arrington, a 2016 graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University, failed a section she began to look for help for those struggling with the exam. She said most of what was available focused on finishing the CPA exam within a short timeframe or how to get a high score.  

“There wasn't really anything where people were said “This is really hard. Here's where I messed up. Here's where I've made mistakes,’” she said. “I just wasn't finding a lot of that.” 

That’s when Arrington began sharing her story on her blog, The Accounting Struggle. She thought sharing her journey while taking the exam would resonate with others, and she eventually recorded videos on YouTube because she had so much to say. She now shares her content across a variety of social media channels and said the response to her content has been overwhelmingly positive.  

For those struggling, Arrington said it’s not helpful to compare yourself to others who passed every section on the first try. The CPA exam is known for being tough and although failing a section is disappointing, it happens to many candidates who go on to be successful CPAs. 

Being strategic about studying is essential, she said. Consider your unique learning style and look at different studying software to determine what makes the most sense for you. And don’t be afraid to try other methods of studying if you aren’t getting the results you want. 

“It's embarrassing to say, ‘I've been failing at this,’” she said. “But sharing my experience makes it so worth it when people tell me, ‘This video really motivated me to keep going, I was honestly just going to stop. And now I see that I should continue my journey.’” 

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