How to Solve Research Simulations

June 8, 2021

Research simulations 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.

What You Can Expect With Research TBSs On The CPA Exam

Research TBSs present a brief scenario or question and ask you to determine where the authoritative guidance can be found regarding the scenario or question. You are required to search the authoritative literature and enter a correctly formatted response. You may:

  • Select one or more types of authoritative literature to search,
  • Do a general search, an advanced search, or use the “Search Within” tool, and
  • Refine your search to match exact words or phrases.

The research TBS guidance document provides detailed instructions such as:

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

  • Using authoritative literature during your studies will help you to become familiar with each authoritative source.
  • Learning how to successfully identify the best keyword(s) to use in your search can make your search process faster.

Time-saving test tips 

Try to balance thoroughness on any one question with the goal of answering all questions.

  • If you find yourself putting too much time into one TBS, make educated guesses, flag the question for review, and move on.
  • If you have time left after completing all of the TBSs, return to the one(s) that you flagged.
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Practical study tips

During homework, combine general accounting knowledge with the keywords in the scenario to improve your search.

  • Search for “Cost of Goods Sold” to find “inventory-related expenses.”

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 research TBSs vary in length and difficulty, but, in general, they require less time than do any of the other types of simulations. Therefore, it is recommended that you allocate 7-10 minutes per research question.

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

The instructions for research questions on the CPA exam indicate the manner in which a correct answer should be formatted. A checkmark indicates that your answer meets the formatting requirements but not whether your answer is correct. 

  • Use the formatting requirements as a clue to choose the correct part and sub-part of your response.

Our How To Solve Task-Based Simulations Series

The 14-page “How to Solve Research Simulations” document is part of the “How to Solve Task-Based Simulations” series of documents. The other simulation documents include:

  • How to Solve Journal Entry Simulations
  • How to Solve Option List Simulations
  • How to Solve Free Response Numeric Entry Simulations
  • How to Solve Document Review Simulations
  • How to Solve Task-Based Simulations: General Guidance
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Conquer Task-Based Simulations With MDS!

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!