The CPA Exam is a true rite of passage. No matter how many years have passed, most CPAs can recall the long nights and weekends they dedicated to studying for the exam, or the way they felt when testing day finally arrived.
But for some CPAs, an unexpected twist made their exam extra memorable. We asked young CPAs to share memories of funny and surprising things that happened when they took the exam or during that heart-stopping moment when they learned their results.
A foreboding sign?
As he strolled up to an expo center at the county fairgrounds in Spokane, Wash., preparing to take the CPA Exam, Dan Gunther, CPA, vice president of enterprise risk management at Northwest Farm Credit Services, spotted the first casualty of that morning’s test.
“There was a poor girl vomiting into a garbage can outside the front door of the building,” he said. “This scene certainly helped create a sense of doom. It was more evocative of a gladiator entering an arena than simply walking into a professional testing center.”
After several grueling hours, Gunther emerged. He found out later he passed.
“I don’t know whatever happened to that young lady, but hopefully she is enjoying the fruits of that effort as much as I am today,” Gunther said.
Unexpected road trip
“During my last attempt to pass my final section (FAR), everything went so wrong,” recalled April Sherman, CPA, CGMA, a manager in the Professional Ethics Division–Public Accounting at the AICPA.
She was scheduled to take the exam in Raleigh, N.C., within the last few days of a testing window, but a virus had attacked the center’s computers.
“If the computers could not be fixed before the window closed, I would have to wait a month until the next window opened,” she said. “I did NOT want to do that.”
Sherman called testing centers across North Carolina and found one in Charlotte where she could take the exam the next day. She drove almost three hours with a migraine to take the test in a room that was so cold her fingernails turned purple.
“I somehow managed to focus and finish,” Sherman said. “I felt like I had conquered a beast.”
Weeks later, she got the good news—she had passed. The date printed at the top of the letter also happened to be her birthday, which sweetened the accomplishment. “I jumped for joy at the mailbox,” she said.
Honey, you’ve got mail
Kevin T. Muldowney, CPA, a senior associate at David M. Muldowney Jr., CPAs, found himself awaiting results from the final portion of his exam, BEC, at a very stressful time in his life. He was in the throes of busy season, and he and his wife were also expecting their first child. Muldowney had already failed BEC twice and knew if he failed again, he would have limited time to prepare and retest.
One March evening, he was working late at the office. His door opened and in walked his dog and his wife, who was seven months pregnant. She was holding an envelope with a familiar address.
“Anxiously, I rip it open to find that I passed,” Muldowney said. “I found out later she had steamed it open at home, saw that I passed, closed it back up, and hopped in the car to hand-deliver it.”
Instagramming before Instagram
These days, many CPAs who pass the exam are quick to share the happy news on Instagram and other social media channels. Melisa F. Galasso, CPA, a senior manager in the audit professional practices unit at Cherry Bekaert LLP, who took the exam in 2003, was ahead of her time.
“I took the exam pre-Facebook. But we did have digital cameras,” said Galasso, who is a graduate of the 2014 AICPA Leadership Academy. When she received her exam results in the mail, she took pictures “of each step in the opening process” to share with her family.
“I had passed all four parts,” Galasso remembered. “I remember this incredible weight being lifted.”
Fourteen years later, Galasso still has the digital photos of the day she received her scores and her certificate from the state board. “It was one of the proudest moments in my life,” she said.
Samiha Khanna is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article, email associate editor Courtney Vien.
The Edge e-newsletter, is dedicated to providing tips and tools of interest to young professionals, including articles on building career resiliency, networking for success, and de-prioritizing the immediate to focus on the important. Watch for it in your inbox. Subscribe at spr.ly/EDGENL.