• Taking the CPA Exam Blog

    5/13/2015 Samantha Gilson

    It was exhausting. It was awful. In the end, it was worth every ounce of effort.

    In late February, I took my final CPA exam. I had saved audit for last, thinking that my work as an auditor would help me in the exam. My original intention had been to take it in early January. I wanted to stick with my goal of taking six weeks between each exam, as I had done with the first three. (This may sound fast to some, but my Dad, who is a CPA, studied for two weeks and passed all of his exams the first time!)

    When early January arrived, I had easily put in 100 hours of studying, but I didn’t feel prepared. I couldn’t seem to get through the review chapters quickly enough, and I decided to push off my test date to give myself another 6 weeks. Even though this period overlapped with the first month of busy season at work, I was still studying at least 20 hours a week. My schedule was drowning me, but when I walked into my exam, I felt confident that my hard work would pay off.

    I may have walked in feeling confident, but I became increasingly anxious as the test went on. By the end, I was so nervous that I answered questions faster than I knew I should because I couldn’t sit still long enough to think them through. For days, my mind raced with all the questions that I was sure I had gotten wrong.

    I was so certain I had failed that I began studying again. I was terribly disappointed. The night before the results were set to be released, my heart pounded as I tried to fall asleep. I awoke in the middle of the night and checked my scores. The NASBA website took minutes to load; the page finally popped up: 90! I blinked, I squinted, I refreshed the page...still 90!

    My firm sends out an office-wide email whenever one of us completes the exams. Nearly all of my colleagues sent warm, congratulatory emails. I was grateful to hear words of excitement from any of my friends or family, but it was that much more meaningful hear them from my co-workers who had been, or were going through, the CPA exam process.

    Anyone who has experienced this process knows just how much hard work goes into it; in reality, the certification would be meaningless if it were easy to obtain. Although the process is torturous, I’m glad that’s the case; the effort that I put into studying is what has left me feeling that passing is really an accomplishment.


    4/22/2015 Phil LaRosa

    Hi everyone. I wanted to give an update on my CPA exam process since my last blog entry. At the beginning of January I sat for AUD and felt confident after the exam. I should be getting my results back in a few weeks and look forward to the results!

    In this blog entry I wanted to talk about a very important subject in starting the CPA Exam process, which is deciding where to sit. For me, deciding where to sit required a large amount of research and time. This integral step requires the candidate to do extensive research on state requirements regarding class and credit hours requirements.

    So, where did I decide to sit? I decided to sit in Virginia because I was very familiar with the Virginia Board of Accountancy Website. Additionally, I was aware of all the state requirements I needed to become a CPA candidate.

    How do I know if I have enough credits to sit for the exam? If a candidate is worried about not having enough credit hours to sit for the CPA exam, the AICPA website shows the credit hour requirements for every state.

    How do I know if I have taken the appropriate classes to be able to sit for the CPA exam? If you are worried about the classes required to sit for the CPA exam, each individual state board of accountancy website will show the breakdown of specific classes required to sit for the exam.

    When should I apply to sit for the CPA exam? I recommend that candidates apply to sit for the CPA exam, in their respective state, as soon as possible. It takes time for each jurisdiction to receive an applicant’s college transcripts and application to sit. My application process took a few weeks from start to finish. I suggest that if an applicant has some free time, especially during tax season, they apply immediately.


    3/26/2015 Amanda Ramsey

    Hi Everyone! Since the last time I blogged, I found out that I passed my REG portion of the exam. Now just one more test to go, and then back to school! The last portion my exam (AUD) is set for February 7th (right in the heart of tax season), so hopefully that won’t cause any issues. I know a lot of possible candidates are concerned with the order of their exams. Since I decided to take the Becker study program, the order of my exams was chosen for me. Although, I won’t say that is a bad thing. In fact, following Becker’s schedule forced me to take FAR well before I wanted too, but imagine the relief when you find out you’ve passed. I would certainly suggest following the same schedule as ANY review course you are taking. Now, if you are doing self-study, I would suggest taking the exam in which you feel best about first (ie. you do tax work at your daily job than take REG or just completed an Auditing course in school than take AUD.) There is a great chance you will pass that exam on your first try, and NOTHING helps get the momentum going better than finally seeing some progress. On a final note, ONE exam a testing window is all I would suggest. With the amount of material that needs to be covered, you do not want to push yourself too hard. And let’s face it, exam fees are expensive! You have 18 long months to complete your exam so take your time and make sure you only have to take each exam once.


    1/29/2015 - Justin Riley

    As many of you prep to begin the process of taking the CPA exams in the near future, I am sure there are many unanswered questions that continue to stir in the back of your head as they did for me.  One question I had was which test would be the best one to start with?  In my opinion there are three strategies to consider when deciding the order of the exams.  It will be up to you to decide which strategy will best work for you.  There is not a right or wrong way to approach the exams.  The best advice is to take the exam that you feel most comfortable with.  Hopefully my strategies will help you in your decision to give you the highest probability of passing the exams on your first try.


    The first strategy is to take FAR first.  FAR consists of the most material and will mostly take the longest time to prepare for.  It is generally talked about as being the most challenging section as well.  The strategy behind taking FAR is getting the hardest and longest section out of the way first.  This will leave you with shorter and “easier” exams to finish with.  Let me also say that all the tests will be challenging and take dedication in order to pass.  Another thing to keep in mind is the 18 month time frame which starts once you pass your first exam.  Many people try to avoid leaving FAR until the end because it will take the most time to prepare for as a previously stated.  By getting FAR out of the way you limit the risk of burning up a good portion of the 18 month window if you take it first.  This will make it less stressful knowing the smaller exams are the only ones left.  These are the main reasons why taking FAR is the most common test to take first.


    The second strategy is taking one of the shorter exams first such as BEC or REG.  By taking one of the shorter exams you will feel less intimidated and overwhelmed by all the material.  This will hopefully make studying for the first test less stressful and lead to an overall more positive outlook for the CPA process.  The shorter exams are said to be less comprehensive as well.  By passing your first exam you will gain confidence and feel much more motivated to start studying for the next exam.  Staying confident and sticking to your prep schedule is key to being successful.


    The third strategy is taking the exam with the content you are most familiar with.  If you are still in school or just finished school, taking an exam that you most recently took a course in or did well in during college may also be a good test to start with.  If you are more familiar with a topic or have a topic you particularly enjoy, studying for the test with that related area will come much easier and will make the process more enjoyable as well giving you a better chance of passing.


    With these options in mind, the most important thing is to choose the strategy that you think will make you the most successful in the exam process.  Take the test that you feel most confident in first and the thrill of passing the test will only make the process more enjoyable making you eager to move on to the next exam.  I chose to take FAR first.  I recently got my results back and missed the passing mark by 8 points.  As disappointing as it was, it is important to learn from failure by recognizing what areas you need to improve on and most importantly keep a positive attitude.  Getting discouraged will only set you back and keep you from reaching the end goal.  If you do not pass a test it is not the end of the world.  Now I feel better prepared and will have more confidence knowing what to expect and how to adapt my study habits in order to get a passing score.

    1/13/2015 - Samantha Gilson

    Four Steps to the (Second) Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

    Every moment in life requires you to make a decision, so naturally, I have made my fair share of mistakes.Sometimes the consequences are short-lived, like the few times I had orchestral conductors turn to me in the middle of a performance, wide-eyed with rage at my musical mistakes or missing my flight on my first ever business-trip as a summer intern.But decisions with life-altering stakes, like career or education, require careful consideration. If you knew me before my senior year at the University of Michigan (Michigan), you might guess that I’d end up in an orchestra hall or doing research in a lab, but never that I’d be a CPA candidate.And yet, here I am, one month into my career as an Audit Associate, and I’m confident that choosing this career path is the (second) best decision I’ve ever made.My improbable path can be broken down into four steps that can be helpful for anyone making a big decision:

    1. Explore Everything: I’ve been playing French horn since age nine. I attended Michigan with a performance scholarship, graduating from its rigorous Bachelor of Music Performance program. 
    I chose Michigan instead of a music-only conservatory, seeking a college where I could explore any field. I even dabbled in ecology courses and research, working in an insect lab in Jerusalem and writing a paper on a mammal called the Brazilian tapir that was published on the University’s Animal Diversity Web. When you search “Brazilian tapir” online, my paper is one of the first search results to appear. 
    Even in my last semester, I knew it wasn’t too late to explore. So, on a whim, I signed up for an accounting course and fell in love.

    2. Forge Your Own Path: Conventional wisdom for new graduates is that it’s time to either get a job or go to graduate school. Forget that. I loved accounting, and with only one introductory course under my belt, I needed more undergraduate credits to get into a graduate program to earn my 150 credits. I took the courses, studied for the GMAT, and was thrilled to be accepted to Michigan’s Masters of Accounting program.I “went my own way” once again when it was time to select a job offer. Nearly all of my classmates accepted offers from large firms where they interned, but I declined mine. Choosing a more niche-oriented firm gave me the friendliest culture, the nicest colleagues, and more responsibility from day one.

    3. Follow Love and Family:My father is a CPA. His encouragement, and passing down the accounting gene, helped me realize that no matter how long I spent trying to ignore his career advice, following in his footsteps could be a good idea after all.Plus, I took my first accounting course with my now husband. It was fun to sit next to him in class every day, and that definitely contributed to my positive feelings about accounting. (Remember how I said that my career is the second best choice I’ve ever made? Marrying my husband is the first.)

    4. Understand Why A lot of non-accountants don’t understand my enthusiasm for the field. I think they imagine that we just add numbers all day for no particular reason. Fortunately, the accounting faculty at Michigan emphasized the purpose and importance of accounting. As an auditor, I’m energized to know that I am responsible for keeping clients honest and rule-abiding. We serve an essential role for society.
    Nothing is more motivational than understanding the big picture of why you do what you do. Now, as I spend nights and weekends cramming for my third CPA exam (I passed my first and am anxiously awaiting the results of the second), I remind myself that every minute spent studying is a step closer to concretizing the career that I’m so excited about. Samantha Gilson is an Associate at Johnson Lambert, LLP


    1/6/2019 - Philip LaRosa

    Hello everyone! My name is Philip LaRosa and I am a staff accountant at Bond Beebe. I currently work in our Bethesda, Maryland office and have been working for almost a year and a half. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with degrees in finance and accounting, but most importantly 150 credit hours. After graduating I went on a couple vacations and started with Bond Beebe the following September. This is my first accounting job out of college and has been an incredible experience so far and has provided me with tremendous amounts of knowledge in such a short time. I started the CPA exam process back in July after completing my first busy season. I sat for FAR and thankfully passed.  I have scheduled to sit for AUD at the beginning of January before the busy season picks up, and where available study time will be at a minimum.

    I am very excited to share my CPA exam process with everyone and hopefully my experience can be a helpful tool to all those who are working full-time and studying for the CPA exam.



    11/19/2014 - Amanda Ramsey

    Hi Everyone! My name is Amanda Ramsey and I am a staff accountant currently working for Ryan & Wetmore, PC. I work in the office located in Tyson’s Corner, and have been here for about three years. One of those years I spent as an undergraduate intern. I graduated from George Mason University with my undergraduate accounting degree in December of 2012. Unfortunately, I did not remain in school to get the 150 credit hours, so I will be jumping back into a Master’s Program following the completion of my exams. This will probably be one of the most difficult parts of getting my license, as I am just a little removed from the school atmosphere. I started my journey this past May and have sat for two parts of my exam (BEC & FAR) and passed both! I will be sitting for my REG exam in late November of this year. I look forward to blogging with all of you throughout my journey and I am excited to hear about other’s journeys as we embark on the beginning of the rest of our careers!


    11/13/2014 - Justin Riley

    Hello everyone!  My name is Justin and I am currently in the process of taking the CPA exam and would like to share my journey with you along the way!  Hopefully through my experiences, both good and bad we can all learn together and make the process of studying and taking the exams as easy as possible.

    First I would like to introduce myself a little.  I graduated from the University of Scranton in 2013 with a degree in Accounting.  Knowing I would be a few credits short of the 150 credit hours I decided to stay at Scranton for an extra year and get an MBA with a concentration in both accounting and finance.  After graduating, I then started working for Baker Tilly in their DC office and have been working there for three months now as a staff accountant.  This is my first job in accounting out of college and it has been a great learning experience at Baker Tilly in just the few months I have been there.  Now that I have finally started my career and began working, the next goal is to sit for the CPA exam and become licensed as a Certified Public Accountant.

    I always knew I wanted to take the exams throughout college but it always felt like that wouldn’t happen till years later.  Well those years went by fast and here I am today studying and actually taking the tests.   I just finished the process of studying for FAR which is the first section I am scheduled to take in the coming week.  So I am in review mode and trying to remember all that I can before the big day.

    I am excited to be able to share my experience with everyone and hopefully you will find my advice and insight both helpful and reassuring.  Studying and taking the CPA is not done overnight and takes time.  I will share both the struggles I am experiencing and the positive events throughout my process.  For those who are also in the process of taking the exams I hope you can relate to what I am experiencing and for those of you who plan to take the CPA in the future I hope you can get a sense of what to expect and how to better prepare once you plan to start the process as well.  

    11/3/2014 - Lauren Pecor

    Are you an accounting student who is thinking about taking the CPA exam? Maybe you’ve already graduated and decided to become a CPA, but do you know what it takes to add those three letters to the end of your name?  My name is Lauren Pecor, and my goal in contributing to this CPA blog is to guide you through the CPA exam journey by way of my personal experiences.

    So who am I? I’m currently a Senior Accountant at Aronson LLC, a mid-sized regional public accounting firm in the DC metro area. Before starting my career at Aronson in January 2013, I attended The Pennsylvania State University, where I completed a B.S. in Accounting, a minor in International Business, and 150 credits by December 2012. I completed the 150 credits in 4.5 years, and, yes, I started work 16 days after I graduated college. Somehow Christmas, New Years, and the move from Pittsburgh to DC fit in those two weeks.  I think it goes without saying that I left myself no time to study for the CPA exam before starting work.

    What about now? I’m currently in the process of taking the CPA exam. Although I would highly recommend taking as many parts as possible before starting your full-time job, I hope that by the end of this CPA adventure I can say I worked as a full-time auditor while working to obtain those three special letters at the end of my name. I’ve passed AUD (Audit), taken REG (Regulation) pending my score, and am currently studying for BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). I hope to schedule the BEC exam for the end of November, just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving, worry-free.To sum it up: I’m an experienced auditor on the road to becoming a Certified Public Accountant, and I’m here to {hopefully} help you through your CPA exam journey. Let’s do this!




    The Greater Washington Society of CPAs is proud to announce that we will be launching a Taking the Exam Blog, written by current exam takers.  The blog will be launching in November, but you can still help.  If you are taking the exam and would like to write about, please contact Brian Calvary (  if you have questions about the Exam you would like to see addressed on the Blog, email Brian as well. Watch this space for Blog entries starting in November 2014!

  • Take A Closer Look

    The “Take a Closer Look at CPAs” series highlights the wide range of opportunities that a CPA career can provide. GWSCPA hosts these regular forums for college students in DC to give you a chance to hear from CPAs in different areas of practice. Upcoming:  Partners in Local Firms Recent briefings included: Life at the Big Four Accounting Firms Federal Government Career Opportunities CPAs in the Entertainment Industry CPAs as the CFO CPAs who started their own Firms.

  • Scholarship Fund

    The deadline has been extended to Friday, February 27, 2015.

    The Scholarship Fund of the Greater Washington Society of CPAs was established in 1963. Since it's inception, the fund has awarded more than $300,000 to accounting students attending institutions of higher education located in Washington, DC. Consider making a tax deductible contribution to the fund this year when you submit your membership renewal... or today. Checks may be made payable to GWSCPA Educational Fund-Scholarships mailed to Attn: Amy Fielder 1140 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 606, Washington, DC 20036.

    Students attending the universities listed below on a full time basis and meet all other criteria are eligible to apply for an award from the GWSCPA Scholarship Fund. These schools offer either a BS or BA degree in accounting or have graduate level programs that qualify for the 150 (semester) hour requirement for graduates to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination.

    For 2015, the GWSCPA Scholarship Fund will award up to four awards ranging from $3000-$4000 each. This includes two special named awards-the past President's Award and the Sue Marcum Memorial Award. Washington, DC college students who meet the application criteria are invited to apply for a scholarship award from the GWSCPA Scholarship Fund. Students must be attending a university located in the District of Columbia, meet the application criteria, and submit a completed package by application deadline.The deadline for all applications for the year is February 20, 2015.The application document is available here: 2015 Scholarship Application

    Please complete this application – all required fields must be completed in order to be considered. Attach your resume, transcript, recommendation letter and, if applicable, proof of registration for the upcoming semester. Based on your application package, you may be invited for an interview as part of the application process.

    Return Completed Forms to:

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    Questions? Contact us at 202-601-0569 or


    Schools eligible for GWSCPA’ Scholarship Fund:

    • American University
    • Catholic University
    • Gallaudet University
    • George Washington University
    • Georgetown University
    • Howard University
    • University of the District of Columbia

  • Recent Scholarship Recipients

    • 2014
      Brian Furao--American University

    • Heidi Friedrich--American University
    • Ibrahim Elmi--Howard University

    • Christina Montesi--George Washington University


    Adriene Davis--Howard University

    Oluwaseun Ogunbamise--George Washington University

    Equilla Clark--Howard University

    Lorraine Pascual--American University


    Joseph Burns-- Howard University

    Yuliya Gekhman --American University

    Mark Dissen-- George Washington University

    Anna Merkoulova-- American University


    Christine Curley-- Georgetown University

    Matthew Casey-- George Washington University

    Nadia Farooqi-- George Washington University

    Jeffrey Goldfond-- George Washington University


    Rachel Bryan-- George Washington University

    Chris Kearney-- Gallaudet University

    Emily Stovicek-- American University


    India Clark-- Howard University

    Yuriy Kushnir --American University


    Kendra Oates-- Howard University

    Elizabeth Hershman --American University


    Wesley Bullock-- Howard University

    Siobhan Gillan-- American University


    Peter Drummond --American University


    Ashley Kurtz-- George Washington University

    Andrea Smith-- Howard University



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