How I Passed the CPA Exam for Free

As an entrepreneur of a start-up who left a steady income job, my money needs to go a long way if I want to give my business the best chances at survival. Therefore, I tried my luck to take the CPA exam for free and guess what? It worked!

The CPA exam fees already come at a hefty price tag (fees in MA as of 2019):

Application fee  $195.00

Auditing and Attestation Exam (AUD)  $208.40
Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)  $208.40
Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)  $208.40
Regulation (REG)   $208.40

Registration fees*
4 exams   $177.00
3 exams   $157.00
2 exams   $137.00
1 exam   $117.00

*Each registration is valid for 6 months. If you register for all 4 you must pay for all 4 exams up front with the $177 registration fee. If you miss any exam, you forfeit the exam fee, so only register for exams you know you will be able to take within the 6 month time frame.

I registered for the FAR exam first (you must register for at least 1 exam with the application fee). This is the hardest section to pass and I’ve read stories of people saving this one for later and missing the 18 month window to pass all exams before they start expiring. Don’t let your exams expire, take FAR first! The 18 month clock starts ticking after you pass your first exam. After I passed FAR, I studied for REG, and registered for the remaining 3 exams when I was ready to sit for REG. This allowed me to stretch the 6 month registration testing window to take 3 exams and save money. Give AICPA 5 days to register for the next section, I was able to get an acceptance in 2 days, but had to drive to a different state to get an available time slot before the testing window closed for the quarter. The testing windows close at the end of each quarter after the 10th of the month through the end of the month.

I went to the local library and rented out McGraw-Hill’s 2,000 Review Questions for the CPA Exam. Every 10 questions or so answered, I referred to the answer and explanation key to review, and took notes on everything I got wrong. After the 500 questions, I reviewed my extensive notes multiple times (2-3 times). Then I found CPA Review for Free and their question bank with explanations, did most of those, took notes, and reviewed notes again. You can pay for their premium version which is the most inexpensive option I found for CPA prep online and shows you stats of questions answered, timing, and where to improve for $37/month. Lastly, I took the AICPA’s sample test, which is the only place I was able to get some experience on task based simulation (TBS) questions. I made sure I knew how to solve these TBS questions in the practice set within 15 minutes each. I had to redo them several times to get there and look up accounting discussion boards to figure out answers.

The REG exam contained many more questions on principal-agent duties/rights and Circular 230 than I studied in my materials, so know those topics well. Search for real AICPA exam questions or task based simulation questions and you can find some valuable gems on the internet to aid your studying for free.

Some valuable links for free questions:
Questions start on page 10:

For topics where I struggled understanding, I listened to YouTube videos on Bluetooth while driving or doing mindless tasks. I passed the exams on the first try using free resources, reviewing my notes multiple times, researching topics that were unclear, and practicing close to 1,000 questions for each section. There’s no shortcut to passing the CPA exams except to study hard the first time so that you don’t have to take them again.

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