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How I Managed to Pass REG in the Middle of Busy Season

Did you pass all four parts of the CPA exam on the first try? Well, lucky you.

It was score release day. I'd passed AUD, BEC, and FAR –- REG was the last piece. The worst piece. The bane of my existence. To this day, my shoulders clamp up a little if you ask me about the order of lienholders in bankruptcy, and do not get me started on Peter Olinto.

My coworkers and I were stalking the NASBA website – hitting refresh. Again and again and again.

…and again and again and again and again.

Then the scores dropped.

“I PASSED!” my coworker screamed. “I PASSED. I PASSED! I PASSED! I'm DONE!”

Cheers heard 'round the audit room. #AuditorProud

“Leona, what about you?”

The whole audit team turned to look at me.

I hit refresh. The score popped up. It felt like a spin kick to my spindly ribs -– I felt my cold black heart slip right down into my stomach. “73.”

73! 73?! 73. Fucking REG.

That cold dead silence heard 'round the audit room. #BusySeasonProblems


Not only had I failed. I'd JUST BARELY failed. Then I had to announce that I'd JUST BARELY failed to the entire audit team.

On a Friday, too. Thanks a lot, Bastards of NASBA. My weekend was wrecked anyway because we were all working both days. I'd tried to pass my last section  before the start of my client's busy season. It didn't work. (Fucking REG)

Once the awkward silence wore off a little bit, I slithered out of my desk chair and slunk off to the bathroom to cry. How in the fuck was I going to manage to retake REG? (Fucking REG) I would have rather failed spectacularly than JUST BARELY. A 73 hurts. Gah –- if only I'd studied that Alternative Minimum Tax calc more closely.

About 36 hours into my REG-induced “I-Hate-Accounting-and-Peter-Olinto-and-NASBA-and-Alternative-Minimum-Tax-and-My-More-Successful-Coworker-but-Especially-Peter-Olinto” tear-laden rampage, my Russian mother-in-law came to visit. She pulled me aside, took my face in her hands and said, “Listen to me. Stop acting like a crazy. Stop questioning what you did – this wrong or that wrong. So what if fail? In year, all you'll remember is that you passed, so get it done. Then Enjoy. Your. Life.”

I realized that she was right. So after a day or so of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to retake REG at the start of the next testing window. Busy time at work? Oh well. I'd get through it. At least I'd get two miseries out of the way at once (busy season and studying AGAIN for REG, which as ya'll know, was miserable enough the first time). I implemented the following changes to my routine:

1. Power ballads. I started listening to "Eye of the Tiger" on repeat on my drive into work because obviously.

2. Studying on the run. During that busy season, I woke up at 5:45 to hit the gym before work because I never knew how late I'd be working. I'd drag my Becker notes along with me to the gym and study during the workout. This was the worst because I'd usually spend that time on the stairmaster reading A Dance with Dragons. (Spoiler: everybody dies.) Luckily for all of you who've failed the exam recently, you'll pass the exam before George RR. Martin releases Winds of Winter, so the studying won't cut into your Game of Thrones time. Trust me.

3. Notecards. The second time around, I basically memorized one section of REG at a time. I'd make a small notecard and stick it under my computer keyboard at work, pulling it out to look at it every fifteen minutes or so while I was working to keep the information fresh. Sounds like a stupid idea, but every little refresher counts when you're strapped for time.

4. Talk to the boss. My boss already knew that I'd failed REG because –- hi -– I announced my 73 (Fucking REG) to the entire team and then hid in the bathroom for the rest of the afternoon. My boss was a compassionate human and sometimes allowed me to run through multiple choice questions on my laptop when we were waiting on PBCs. I'd always ask if it was okay, though, and only if there wasn't other work to do.

5. Skip group lunches. Team lunch trip to Qdoba? Nope. Not unless you count Peter Olinto as a lunch date. Which I don't. I'd rather lunch with any other human being. Except Tim Gearty. I packed a lunch and while my coworkers were out, I spent the time running through multiple choice questions on my laptop.

6. No more days off. We worked seven days sometimes but usually six. I knew my day off -– if I had one –- was for studying. (Fucking REG) I'd spend the day wrapped in a blanket with my notes and highlighter and my Becker book spread out across the floor of the office. I could have taken a day off or given myself a break, but, ugh, I did not want to experience another 73 and then risk AUD expiring on me. 

7. Scheduling the exam. I struggle with severe anxiety disorder and panic attacks. I took REG in the morning the first time to get it over with, but my nerves were awful. When I thought about retaking REG, I'd start shaking. One way I manage my anxiety is through exercise, so I decided to schedule my retake exam for the afternoon in order to hit the gym beforehand. The day of the test, I hit the treadmill and listened to “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat because obviously. It definitely helped calm my nerves, and once I got to Prometric, I could relax a little and focus on passing REG once and for all.

I managed (finally) to squeak by REG with a 76, which is pretty close to maximum efficiency of 75. I'll take it. The firm reimbursed my exam expenses and paid me my $5,000 CPA exam bonus for passing all four parts within the first year. It was the most glorious feeling, especially when I knew it was safe to burn all of those miserable REG notecards. (Fucking REG)

If you're like me and failed a part and now have to retake it, don't despair. It's not you -– it's Fucking REG. Check out some Going Concern style CPA exam advice and be sure to check out this article about what to do when you fail, depending on your failing score.

Anyone else take the exam during busy season? How did you handle it? Talk it over.