October 31, 2020

Psst, You Don’t Have to Take the CPA Exam This Year If You Don’t Want To

depressed man

For more than 11 years I have spent the last three or four months of every year urging CPA exam candidates to schedule their exams lest they miss out on desired dates. Now that I think about it, it’s actually been closer to 13 years, as I started in CPA review way back in 2007. Yeesh, how time flies. But yeah, the last quarter of the year is typically jam-packed with procrastinators trying to cram in one last section before the clock strikes midnight on January 1 and it can be difficult to get the dates and/or locations you want. This has always been the case and no doubt will be the case this year as well, perhaps more than ever with Prometric and exam-takers still catching up from the Coronavirus closures earlier this year.

You don’t need me to tell you this year has been an absolute dumpster fire. Most of us are hanging precariously from the last shred of mental stability we have, serotonin left the building back in April, and there’s really no place to hide. Yeah, it’s bad. This isn’t really news to any of you.

Earlier this year, we encouraged you to get the CPA exam done with and gave you a schedule that would help you get it done in just six months. And that’s still a good suggestion for many people. There are just four CPA exam score releases left for 2020 and for people who do better when they have a goal to work toward, keeping their sights set on knocking out a few exam sections might be a kind of comfort in uncertain times (God I’m sick of that phrase).

But for others, just getting out of bed is a Herculean task. What I’m about to say is for those people. The ones who cry at “we’re in this together” commercials. The ones who have withdrawn from friends and family so deeply that they barely know how to interact with human beings any more. The ones who don’t even turn on the lights in the evening because a light switch is just too much effort. The ones who stare at the wall wondering when we’re going to wake up from this collective nightmare. You know who you are. know who you are because I’m one of you. So to y’all, listen up.

You don’t have to take the CPA exam this year. Seriously. Nothing bad will happen, the world will keep spinning, and the exam will be waiting for you on the other side. I’m going to repeat that in case you missed it: YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE THE CPA EXAM THIS YEAR.

It’s that simple. Don’t take it. Don’t stress over missing out on some arbitrary goal you set for yourself in the past when things were very different and the future looked, well, less like something you sift out of a dirty litter box. Who gives a shit if you can’t schedule the dates you want, let some other sap worry about that.

It can be difficult to simply say “fuck it” and let the cards fall where they may but if there was ever a time to do exactly that, it’s now. The only consequence of not taking the exam this year is that there’s no chance for you to be licensed before the year is over. So what. You have your entire life to be a CPA.

So that’s it. Just don’t take the exam. That’s my CPA exam advice for 2020. If you manage to get it done, good on you. But if you’re one of the many who are currently wandering through life like a lost NPC with bad pathing, go ahead and give yourself permission to simply not give a shit about it for now. You have enough to worry about.

Now go take a nap.

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14 Comments

  1. Whoever wrote this or believes it is a complete idiot. If you want to have success in life, in any scenario, you have to go after it and work for it. It’s about priorities. Fine, pursue the cpa exam “later”. Those lackluster CPA’s can audit bank reconciliations their entire career and drool all over their work papers.

    1. Lucky you that you’ve never struggled with mental illness or let your oh-so-important job affect your well-being to the point that you shut down completely. I hope you’re not a manager, you Kool-aid chugging troglodyte. Believe it or not someone’s mental health is more important than a couple letters after their name. You probably expect people to show up at the office if their dad dies huh. Gotta get those billable hours in!

  2. Yup, I took it twice. It’s quite an experience…roots to becoming an introvert. Did very well as a Accountant without a license. No regrets.

  3. Mental wellbeing is so important during these times. But I would encourage a reconsideration. . As an accountant for 40+ years, our work has a rhythm that is calming and satisfying. Preparing for parts of the exam can also be that way with the right mindset. And experience with the real test questions is invaluable! I took the exam multiple times and finished it off at my own pace, figuring out what I needed to polish up on each time. I recommend to go ahead, do your best, and embrace the challenge. You can only gain experience and pride in yourself for accomplishing what may have first seemed overwhelming.

    1. This is a positive way to look at it, and I’m sure many people who have been struggling this year did find comfort in the routine — work, study, those “normal” things that give them a sense of purpose. And you’re totally right, working toward goals and achieving them can be just the thing to keep someone moving forward. This piece was meant more to speak to the people who are having a really rough time, it can be hard when you’re a driven person to struggle mentally, which leads to an endless loop of negativity as you tend to beat yourself up for “giving up” rather than giving yourself permission to put your mental health first.

      My hope is most candidates have been able to stay focused on their goals and push through any difficulties this year has brought, but I wanted those who haven’t been as strong to not feel so bad about it and remind themselves that they come first, the exam will be there when they’re in a better state of mind.

      1. I am one of those people. I found the title and beginning of the article fine, although I really did not like the wording at the end. I found “go take a nap” as very insulting. Many of these commenters have had the privilege of not suffering from mental illness or issues. It does not discriminate so wait until you get your chance and realize if taking naps and relaxing solved everything, people wouldn’t have mental issues.

  4. This article literally made me cry, it’s exactly what I needed to hear. I’m only 23 years old and literally graduated college last December, started my first accounting job in January, just to have all of this happen. I’m just trying to begin my adult life and get it on track for the first time, but the pressure of feeling the need to become a CPA soon and take at least one test before the end of 2020 has just been weighing on me. Thank you so much for writing this.

  5. Taking your advice because of the obvious challenge of becoming a CPA when you’re not resident in or close to the locations where the exams can be taken. Really look forward to the time when you can sit for the exams from virtually anywhere (to cut out most of the currently huge costs of travels, accommodation, time, etc)

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