How to Solve Free Response Numeric Entry Simulations

October 29, 2021

These TBSs’ Present A Scenario & Ask You to Enter Information (Like Account Names) or Numbers into Specific Cells

Free response numeric entry simulations (also called fill-in-the-blank sims) are one of the five types of task-based simulations (TBSs) you will encounter on the CPA exam. Together with the written communication questions (for BEC only), these in-depth, multi-step word problems are worth 50% of the total score for the CPA exam. MDS CPA Review has prepared guidance documents for each type of TBS and for the BEC written communication testlet to help you gain proficiency with these questions and score higher on the CPA exam.

They often require you to calculate your response and may include tasks such as:

  • Tax forms or financial statements to complete,
  • Ending Inventory, EPS or other business metrics to calculate, or
  • Financial Management Ratios to compute.

The free response numeric entry TBS guidance document provides detailed instructions such as:

Microsoft Excel Free Response CPA Exam

How to simulate the exam experience (not just the exam content) during your studies

The AICPA’s tutorial video, “Using Microsoft Excel,” explains that “the full formulas, sort and filter capabilities” are available for use on the CPA exam.

  • Gaining familiarity with Excel’s formulas, such as PV, FV, and IRR, makes this tool a great time saver on the CPA exam.

Test day tips 

On the CPA exam, when you enter amounts in the answer cells, a display box opens and shows you how your answer will be formatted and then gives you the option to accept it or change it. This is especially important regarding rounding and the presentation of percentages.

  • For example, if you entered 0.04, did you mean 4% or 0.04%?

Practical study tips

Reword confusing questions or portions of questions.

  • In many cases, CPA exam questions use descriptions or different wording for commonly used accounting terms. This requires you to have an understanding of what is being asked; simple memorization of terms and definitions is insufficient.

Quick access to authoritative resources that explain how to excel with TBSs

The practice tests and tutorial videos from the AICPA are excellent resources – especially the “Help” button within the practice tests.

How to make and implement a time allocation plan for the TBSs on the exam

The free response numeric entry TBSs vary in length and difficulty, but, in general, they require more time than do the research questions and less time than do the document review questions. Easier free response numeric entry questions may need 15-20 minutes to complete, while complex ones, which have several attached documents and/or multiple steps related to each calculation, may take 25-30 minutes.

Ways to check your exam answers for accuracy before clicking “submit”

Learn ways to prevent errors from oversights and look for limiting words like, “but,” “except,” “only,” “not,” or “if”.

  • These are traps that the testers use to determine whether you quickly skim the information or read for detail.

Our How To Solve Task-Based Simulations Series:

CPA Exam Review Course

The 14-page “How to Solve Free Response Numeric Entry Simulations” document is part of the “How to Solve Task-Based Simulations” series of documents. The other simulation documents are:

Looking To Super Charge Your CPA Exam Prep? We’re Here For You!

Sign up for a free trial with MDS CPA Review to access the TBS guidance series and the BEC Written Communication document (in Bulletins in the drop-down list under your name), or reach out to us at: We look forward to helping you succeed!