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Let’s Hear Your Best CPA Exam Stories, Misadventures, and Unlikely Triumphs

scary cpa exam stories

Earlier this week, the Journal of Accountancy shared some yarns about the CPA exam from years ago when candidates took it with pencil, paper, and 500 of their closest friends. It was a simpler time, although I’m sure all of these CPAs would tell you that the exam was much harder then than it is now.

In any case, they’re worth reading in full if you like, but I did lift a select few lines to give you a flavor of the best they have to offer, including:

Watching a klutz:

Someone, who had obviously overslept, almost fell down the stairs in his rush to get onto the floor to be seated and started. It was a great icebreaker. The test takers on the floor roared with laughter.

A dramatic loss of blood:

The result was I passed three of four parts at the first sitting. I had failed the last part due to heavy bleeding.

Replacement footwear

I took off one oversized shoe to show them some sort of proof my story was true.

And pent-up frustration:

Roughly one to two hours into the exam, with the center as quiet as a church mouse, I recall someone scooting their chair back, standing up and screaming, “son of a b****,” and walking out!

My personal experience with taking the exam was banal compared to those, and my memories are vague. It was in early November of 2003 — the last written exam EVAH — and I took it at the Denver Merchandise Mart, a huge facility that hosts gun shows, stamp collecting expos, and the like. I spent Wednesday night — the test was on Thursday and Friday — at a nearby Super 8 which was clean enough although I couldn’t rule out the possibility that a murder had occurred there. When I arrived on the first morning, people huddled around the entrance like bums loitering outside a liquor store. Once inside, we saw the proctors milling around. They all looked like the surliest members of their respective assisted living facilities. They were so frightening I didn’t risk using the bathroom that day.

After Day 1, I met a few friends at a nearby bar for a drink, and one of them started talking about how the bubble sheet had changed on him. That is, one section of bubbles was vertically oriented and horizontally oriented in another. A surge of panic struck me like an alien parasite eating my insides. “Mother of God,” I thought. “Did I actually fill in the wrong bubbles on all those multiple choice questions?” I reassured myself that I had completed the bubble sheet correctly and tried to forget about the possibility of a massive screw-up that would set my career on the fast track to nowhere.

I have no idea how well I slept that night and Day 2 was a blur. I honestly don’t remember anything about it, only that I was so exhausted afterward I couldn’t even celebrate. I woke up the next day relieved and preceded to drink myself blind for two days straight.

Fast-forward to February, and I’m freezing my baguettes off in Iowa, working on a client located in a one-stoplight town. A friend and colleague who was picking up my mail called me and told me my passing scores — FAR: 77; Audit: 79; Tax: 81; Law: 89 — far exceeding the 300 club. Sure, I’d studied way too hard, but I was happy to have passed.

Anyway, I’m sure some of you have better CPA exam tales than that, so let’s hear them! Share them below or email them to [email protected].

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