I started hearing about how difficult the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Examination was in my junior year of college. While I was pretty sure I would end up being a CPA, I started my University education with the idea that I would be an accountant, just an accountant. At that time I thought a CPA was an accountant with a label; I did not understand the significance of the letters. As I worked harder and harder to get through the four years of education that earned me the right to sit for the examination, I began to realize that it really is a significant professional defining factor; one worth the effort.
That effort is no small change either -- four years of specialized education -- each year built on the previous one and becoming successively more difficult. I selected a university that was known for its ability to train students to successfully complete the two and a half day, four part examination…on the first attempt. You may not understand the power of that statement. The statistics that had been maintained on first time successes indicated that only 10 to 15 percent who take all four parts pass it the first time. That is the sentence that made me realize how difficult my choice was becoming. This University actually used the current national Certified Public Accountant Examination as their final examination of those underlying classes in the senior year. That was and remains incredibly intimidating.
The national examination is offered twice a year: May and October; good for the January or May graduates. Things got so bad, that at the beginning of the second and last semester of my senior year, I seriously thought about dropping out. The work load was just breaking my spirit. Somehow, I managed to tough it out and completed all the requirements. My confidence was building when I passed three of the four parts of the final exam that year. I knew if I just kept studying through the summer, I had a good chance of passing all four parts in October. That’s how I spent every free waking moment until just weeks before the exam date.
The folks I worked with didn’t make it any easier either. The CPA certificate is issued to a person who has passed all four parts of the exam with a grade of 75% or better and has two years of experience working for a public accounting firm in selected activities. It was made very clear that if you were unable to pass the exam within the work experience period, chances were good that you would be let go. So I was working hard to get the written part out of the way as soon as possible.
It was the middle of September when I got the Jury summons; it required me to report to the county seat for two weeks. If during the two weeks, I was selected for a trial I would be free to go back to work, after completing that service. I looked at it like a gift. Two weeks that I could have uninterrupted review work to refresh my knowledge just before the exam which would take place the second week of October. So I notified my employer and got ready for final review.
The first couple of days were uneventful; I just sat in the huge room and studied. Some people had been called but not much. Then I noticed something big was going on. The juror pool was 300 strong and I noticed that groups of 50 people were being called methodically, every 30 to 45 minutes. I was not yet selected but the scuttlebutt indicated that there was a really big case about to start and the jurors would come from the pool I was in. I thought it would be really cool to be on an important case. I packed up my study materials and started to watch what was happening. Within the next hour another group was called. I was in it.
It was big all right, an organized crime guy that was finally up on charges that very well could stick. The importance of it didn’t register right away. Actually it registered when I found myself sitting in jury seat number 9 and all the attorney challenges had been made. It wasn’t final yet, but I was beginning to realize that I was sitting on the jury for the biggest trial in recent history. An organized crime trial; my mind was racing with incidents from the Godfather. I started to understand; I was sure I didn’t want to do this and my mind scrambled for an acceptable way out. The judge was talking to the attorneys, everything was in place it seemed only one more question before everyone on this jury was on and ready to be sequestered until the trial was done. Oh, Lord, I need a good excuse but what?
The question to the jury: Is there any reason why anyone on the jury cannot sit for this trial that is expected to run for ten to twelve weeks?
I almost jumped out of my seat; waving my hand I asked to be excused. I approached the bench to ask to be excused since the trial would still be going on when I had to take the CPA exam. The judge asked a little about it so I explained how the whole thing worked and how hard I had been studying. He responded almost instantly that I could be excused and I was greatly relieved; then the defending attorney commented that they offer it twice a year don’t they? You could sit for it in May next year isn’t that so? My mind was going crazy..oh, no….I’m ready now. Don’t make me sit through this and study for another year.
Yes, they offer it twice a year. What else could I say? The judge nodded and said very well, you are juror number 9. I could swear my life passed before my eyes but I accepted my fate. Juror number 9 it is. Just as I was ready to turn and return to my seat the prosecuting attorney asked that I be excused and the judge agreed. I guess he thought I was not able to give the case the attention it deserved. The emotional roller coaster was over. I was never so thankful in my life.
So on October 7 I began the three day exam; 21 hours of testing. The only thing allowed in the testing room is a pencil and eraser, no calculator, no phone, no book, nothing. It was grueling and while I thought I gave it a good shot, I was not entirely sure that I passed all parts. I wouldn’t know until late December or early January. There was nothing to do then but wait and see.
December started with a lot of activity since it is year end for a lot of companies and that means lots of work for auditors. I was quite busy and thankful that I didn’t have a lot of time to worry about the results of the exam. Two weeks before Christmas I went shopping with my mother. It was a good way to take my mind off the job pressures and ready myself for the upcoming holiday. We were happy that we took care of most of our gift list and wouldn’t have to fight the crowds again this year. I dropped her off at the house and watched her walk up the front steps to the door, backed out of the driveway and went home. I wouldn’t know until several hours later that an electrical fire in the house destroyed everything in the house, killed her pets and even the gifts we just bought were gone.
She stayed at our place until the house was rebuilt. It took a long time for her to feel comfortable there again. It was probably good that I was sent on several out of town assignments and not there to add any more pressure to the situation. During the third week of January I was in a suburb of Boston on assignment; that’s when I got the news.
I had called home to see if everything was alright and I could hear my mother in the background saying: did you tell her? I thought she was talking about her house problems but no...it was just one piece of paper with four lines on it; theory, practice, law and auditing and four numbers…all higher than 75 printed by a computer and hand-written on the diagonal across the face of the document, was the word SUCCESSFUL. Could anything be sweeter?
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