CPA Exam Tips & Tricks

December 11, 2019

How to Achieve Your Goal of Passing the CPA Exam

The CPA exam is considered to be one of the most difficult exams around, and passing it is only one step in becoming a licensed CPA. How, then, can a person map a plan to successfully pass the exam and obtain that license?

CPA Exam Tips From The Scorers, Themselves 

Five top CPA exam scorers, each an Elijah Watts Sells Award winner, explained their exam strategies to the Journal of Accountancy, beginning with identifying and overcoming challenges.

Their recommended steps were:

Begin Preparing As Early As Possible

Using the exam Blueprints as topic guides, study time while in college can be directed toward the exam by highlighting topics covered on each portion of the exam. After graduating, follow up with a CPA exam review course to help cover topics not emphasized in classes, recent changes to the exam and personal weak areas.

Map A Routine

Each person must find the study routine that works best, whether that’s a certain number of hours per day or a number of topics per week. One top scorer suggested using the topic weights to determine the portion of study time to dedicate to each topic.

Don’t Try to Take Shortcuts

Even topics that you think you know should be reviewed to make certain you are prepared for the exam.

But Don’t Get Hung Up On One Question or Topic

Spending too much time on one question means that there isn’t adequate time for other questions.

Take Breaks

Burnout, tired eyes and poor mental focus make study time unproductive.

Plan Your Test Strategy

What topics are more difficult for you? How good are you at memorization? Decide the order in which to take the four parts of the exam. One award winner advised, “When you take your last exam, you’ll be more tired. Save the easiest for last.”

What Are the Biggest Mistakes Made Before Taking the CPA Exam?

Amber Setter, a coach for CPA exam candidates, points out mistakes many CPA exam candidates make – and how not to make them – in Going Concern. Many candidates fail at least one portion of the exam, and the level of difficulty combined with the rate of failure causes many people to become discouraged and lose hope of becoming a CPA. People who are committed to accomplishing their CPA goal may run into difficulties because of some of the pitfalls below:

They Are An At-Risk Candidate

These are candidates “who had a non-traditional path to the exam,” such as transferring from a different industry or having other major commitments (like raising a family). An at-risk candidate needs a long-term perspective and a realistic study plan with enough time to overcome weak areas. 

They’ve Never Failed Before

Organized, dedicated over-achievers who have a track record of passing exams can be blown away by a failure. Although the temptation to give up is great, the candidate must accept the fact that failing the CPA exam is normal, commit to achieving the goal and move on to success.

All Work & No Play Makes For Poor Performance

Making time to care for yourself is crucial to accomplishing a long-term goal.

They Say “Yes” to Everyone But Themselves 

Those who typically say, “yes” to everyone must learn to say, “no” sometimes to accomplish a large goal, like passing the CPA exam.

Accounting Books In A Library

CPA Exam Tips From An Accounting Professor

Gregory P. Tapis, an accounting professor at Missouri State School of Accountancy, decided to take the current version of the CPA exam to better understand what exam candidates experience and to be able to develop lesson plans that more effectively prepare students for passing the exam. 

Dr. Tapis shared two important lessons he learned:

Don’t Underestimate the Difficulty of the Exam

As he shared with the Journal of Accountancy, “Some professional examinations focus on a plethora of topics but lack depth. In contrast, the CPA exam focuses on a plethora of topics and is comprehensive in depth. This requires candidates to memorize and understand a tremendous amount of material.” The level of difficulty of the exam is one reason that the CPA license is so highly respected.

A Significant Amount of Preparation Time is Required to Pass the Exam

The low pass rate prompted Dr. Tapis to commit to a plan of intensive preparation, so he used a professional review course, watched videos and practiced with thousands of multiple-choice questions and several task-based simulations. He spent more time on his weak areas and less on those topics that are within his areas of expertise.

CPA Exam Review Course

Bring It All Together to Slay the Beast 

Combining the insights from the Elijah Watts Sells Award winners, the CPA exam candidates’ coach and the accounting professor can provide direction for making a realistic plan to achieve the goal of passing the CPA exam. An important part of these successful plans is the use of a professional CPA exam review course. See how MDS CPA Review can help you pass the exam!