CPA Exam Prep

Updated on April 12, 2024
Article byHimani Bhatt
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

CPA Exam Preparation

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam is a four-part credentialing test for accounting professionals aspiring to attain a license. It demands rigorous practice and impressive theoretical knowledge. The right CPA exam prep tools and review materials can expertly guide you through this arduous journey.

CPA Exam Prep

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The American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) administers the Uniform CPA exam in association with the 55 US State Boards of Accountancy (BOA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). CPA Exam consists of four sections. You have to score 75 or more in each of these sections within 18 months to qualify this exam.

CPA Exam preparation is a challenging process. The best way to prepare for the exam is to start with understanding the examination process. You can then proceed to identify resources that will assist you in preparing for your exam.

The resources include official documents issued by AICPA and NASBA, online and offline study materials, review courses, videos, books, tutorials, etc. Before choosing any of them, review the exam content to ensure your learning material covers all exam topics.

Always remember that the quality of your study material directly impacts your performance. A reliable and up-to-date set of review materials will ease the burden off of your shoulders and ensure your efforts bear the expected results.  

Needlessly, CPA licensure is worth the effort. Thus, you need to be fully invested in the CPA exam success and leverage as many reliable and valuable resources as possible.  This article discusses the following:

  • Preparatory tools offered by AICPA
  • Resources offered by NASBA
  • CPA Exam review courses
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Preparatory tools offered by AICPA

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional organization that administers the CPA Exam in association with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). In addition, the AICPA offers various CPA exam prep tools ranging from sample papers to tutorial videos. 

1. CPA Exam Booklet

Becoming a CPA is quite a long and arduous journey. But, it indeed offers plenty of rewards later in life. So, if you are planning to prepare for this elite credential, check out the AICPA’s Uniform CPA Examination Booklet. It will assist you in making a well-informed decision about your future. 

The document has everything an aspirant can ask for, from exam overview and CPA application process to candidate resources and exam tips. In addition, it answers all your questions related to the profession and the CPA exam.

The CPA Exam booklet consists of the following:

  • Candidate requirements
  • Application process
  • Scoring process
  • Exam tips
  • Helpful resources

2. CPA Exam Blueprints

To start your CPA exam preparation, you must have an idea of the content and format of the exam.  Now, this is where blueprints come into the picture. AICPA arduous publishes CPA Exam Blueprints (annually or bi-annually).

The document specifies the skill sets and content areas tested in each CPA exam section. It also includes almost 570 representative task statements demonstrating what you might be expected to do on the exam. 

Blueprints are the best primary preparation resource to get an idea about: 

  • Key content areas in each section
  • Number of topics in each content area
  • Weightage of each content area
  • Nature and type of exam questions
  • Skillset tested in each section

Review each exam section in the blueprint to understand specific topics tested, the percentage of exam questions expected from them, and the skillset assessed. The skills tested in the CPA Exam are remembering and understanding, application, analysis, and evaluation. 

Please note that the AICPA CPA exam team develops blueprints. Hence, you can always rely on their correctness and authenticity. 

3. Sample Tests

The AICPA’s Sample Tests make you familiar with the type of questions and the software used for the CPA exam. The sample tests use the same software (Microsoft Internet Explorer 11) used at the Prometric test centers. 

Through their practice, you get well acquainted with the features, interface, and format of the CPA Exam. In addition, they ensure you have a good understanding of the examination process and tools before you take it.

Moreover, there is a sample test for each of the four exam sections with five testlets. The sample tests provide answers (with reasoning) for all types of questions, namely multiple-choice questions (MCQ), task-based simulations (TBS), and written communication tasks (WCT).

Exam SectionMCQ TestletsTBS TestletsWCT Testlets
AUD Exam (Auditing & Attestation)23
BEC Exam (Business Environment & Concepts)221
FAR Exam (Financial Accounting & Reporting)23
REG Exam (Regulation)23

The sample tests are a mini version of the actual exam with lesser questions. Unlike the real four hour exam, you can finish them within two hours. Hence, please note that these tests do not demonstrate your exam preparedness. Moreover, you won’t receive a score on completion.

Besides, separate sample tests are available for users with the following screen readers: 

  • JAWS (Job Access with Speech)
  • Zoom Text Magnifier/Reader
  • NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) Screen Reader

Ensure to have a good internet connection to attempt this web-based CPA Exam Prep test. Except for Apple Safari, sample tests work well on most operating systems like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. 

Though not mandatory, you can use the HD Monitor to experience testing at an actual test center. 

4. Tutorial 

The tutorial topics brief you on how to use different features of the CPA Exam software. It explains the working of question types, available resources, and how to navigate through them.

These tutorials have specific instructions on how to respond to each type of question, namely, MCQ, TBS, and WCT. You can find them under the Help icon in every sample test. However, bear in mind that the tutorials do not contain the actual examination content.

Please note that you can also use the icon while taking the actual exam at the Prometric Test Center. Precisely put, using a tutorial is like enjoying a guided tour of the entire CPA Exam software. 

5. Next Stop CPA (Podcast)

Next Stop: CPA is the AICPA’s official podcast for the Uniform CPA Exam. It features interviews with recently CPA exam qualified candidates, AICPA exams team, NASBA experts, etc. 

Here, you can avail yourself of all information related to the exam, from tips, writing methodology to queries from former candidates. By far, the podcast has launched 22 episodes.

6. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you have unanswered questions about the CPA Exam, visit the AICPA’s FAQ page. It covers details about everything, i.e.,

  • General exam information
  • Exam sections and content
  • Exam grading and scoring
  • Score review and appeal
  • Testing of international candidates

Resources offered by NASBA

NASBA is the national professional body responsible for delivering your official CPA Exam score report. It houses the State Boards of Accountancy of all 55 US jurisdictions. Being the central clearinghouse for CPA exam data, it also offers plenty of prep resources for CPA aspirants.

1. Professional Literature Request

You can place a request for access to a six-month complimentary subscription to professional literature used in the CPA Exam. Each CPA exam section consists of MCQs, TBS, and WCTs. To answer TBS or simulations, you can take the help of professional literature from an online database. 

The professional literature subscription includes the following:

  • AICPA Professional Standards
  • Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Original Pronouncements
  • FASB Accounting Standards Codification

AICPA provides sample tests of this tool, demonstrating its exact interface, format, and features used in the exam. Please note that candidates having a valid section on their NTS are the only qualified ones to apply. 

2. Candidate Bulletin

The Candidate Bulletin outlines the application and examination process of the CPA Exam. It provides a step by step process to help candidates take the exam. It covers the following topics:

  • How to apply for the exam
  • When and how to schedule the exam
  • Rules regarding taking the exam at test centers
  • Score release process
  • Exam process for international candidates

Precisely put, it makes you comprehend the mechanics of this high-profile examination. It gathers official details from AICPA, NASBA, and Prometric Testing Centres to offer you accurate information. 

3. CPA Exam Quiz

From checking the eligibility to take the CPA exam to receiving the score reports, you have to follow several steps in this taxing journey. The CPA Exam Quiz asks you a series of questions so that your journey to the title stays smooth all along. 

The unique tool is user-friendly for both international and domestic candidates. It helps you stay on the right track and not get overwhelmed by the overall process. 

4. FAQs

NASBA offers CPA Exam FAQs for candidates to make them stay updated on topics like,

  • CPA Exam Application
  • Eligibility Requirements
  • Exam Administration
  • Exam Content 
  • Exam Credit
  • Exam Scheduling
  • Score Release process
  • Exam fees

Also, avail information for CPA Exam rescheduling, cancellation, and payment.

CPA Exam Review Courses

An aspiring CPA candidate needs to dive in a lot deeper than expected to emerge as a licensed accounting professional. This is where CPA exam prep or review courses come into the picture. They can mean the difference between passing and failing the exam. 

Whether to opt for a review course or not is a decision you should make, taking into account your learning style and study habits. If you are highly disciplined and learn better by solving questions on your own, you can choose self-study. In that case too, make sure to purchase authentic and latest study materials. 

However, taking a review course will reduce your effort significantly. The courses will offer the required study material and offer all assistance to help you pass this exam. If you are still apprehensive, try taking a review course for one section. If you think you benefited, then proceed to take another course. If not, opt for self-study.

Now, there are several review courses out there in the market. This is what makes it a bit difficult to choose the right one. However, there are no set criteria for that as it is your call. Pick the most suitable review course as per your budget, timing, and learning style.

Review courses are especially beneficial for professionals wanting to refresh their memory on accounting subjects. Some of the benefits of taking a review course are as follows:

  • Efficient Study Routine
  • Enhanced focus on recurring questions
  • Save time and energy 
  • Avail CPA exam sample prep tests and practice papers
  • Get up-to-date study materials
  • Additional materials like videos, podcasts, flashcards available
  • Online and in-person classes 
  • Assistance in applying for the CPA exam

AICPA maintains a page for user-generated CPA Exam Prep Course Reviews. Several former CPAs rate a variety of CPA Prep Course Providers as per their experiences. You can always take a look and choose for yourself. 

However, bear in mind that AICPA neither endorses nor recommends any specific review course or other study materials. 

Some of the popular review courses are as follows:

CPA Exam is tiring and overwhelming but, at the same time, a rewarding and exciting examination. Hence, it is mandatory to be well-equipped with the most suitable CPA Exam prep material.

Be it picking a prep course provider or listening to a podcast, remember to make the right choice as per your comfort level. This way, you can bid adieu to all the nerve-wracking thoughts and focus on doing your best.  

This article is a guide to the CPA Exam Prep. We discuss the CPA Exam prep test, preparation tools by AICPA and NASBA & list of popular CPA Exam review courses. You may also have a look at the below articles to compare CPA with other examinations –