CPA Exam Simulation Tips
Task-based Simulations (TBSs) are one of the three question types in the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. They are real-life case studies which require candidates to generate responses and demonstrate their accounting knowledge and skills. Being the toughest of all CPA Exam questionCPA Exam QuestionThe Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam includes three types of questions, that is, multiple-choice questions (MCQ), task-based simulations (TBS), and written communication tasks (WCT). Understanding the nature of these questions and practicing them is essential in designing strategies to respond quickly and effectively. types, you may need some expert tips to effectively answer the simulations.
Simulations require you to access authoritative literature, make journal entries, research topics, or match definitions and terms. The following are the common CPA Exam simulations:
- Research-based simulations
- Document review simulations
- Journal entries
- Option list
All four CPA Exam sectionsCPA Exam SectionsThe Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam comprises four sections, namely, Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). The unique content, structure, format, and scoring of the CPA exam earn it the title of one of the most challenging professional exams. have a fixed number of pre-test (non-scorable) and operational (scorable) simulations. There are 28 TBSs in the CPA Exam (all sections), with one pre-test question in each section.
Unlike multiple-choice questions (MCQs), TBSs are pre-determined and are not based on your performance. The Item Response Theory (IRT) is used to obtain the scaled sores of TBSs. The TBS scaled scores are combined with policy weights to arrive at the final TBS scores.
Note that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) conducts the CPA Exam in association with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the state boards.
Here is the section-wise breakdown of the scoring weightage and the total number of simulations.
|CPA Exam Section||No. of TBSs||Total||Scoring Weightage|
|Testlet 3||Testlet 4||Testlet 5||Pre-test||Operational|
|Auditing & Attestation (AUD)||2||3||3||1||7||50%|
|Business Environment Concepts (BEC)||2||2||–||1||3||35%|
|Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)||2||3||3||1||7||50%|
Needlessly, TBSs contribute a significant portion of your overall score on each CPA Exam section. Also, they are one of the most complex parts of the examination. Know that if not handled properly, simulations (sims) can cripple your score.
Hence, you need a robust study plan, a disciplined routine, and a few intelligent strategies to crush them. So, follow these CPA Exam tips and answer any simulation with sheer ease.
#1 – Read the directions thoroughly
This is undoubtedly the most crucial tip to answer the CPA Exam simulations efficiently and effectively. First, read (and then re-read) the question to confirm what you are asked to do. Then, evaluate any stipulations around the answers and put them in a proper format.
Don’t be in haste to answer the question. Instead, you can spend 2-3 minutes reviewing it. Then, carefully go through the instructions. Remember that most sims use realistic workplace situations and offer access to familiar resources.
So, understand the question from every aspect and the use necessary resources. Take your time but keep a close watch on the screen clock. Lastly, ensure to answer a sim entirely before moving on to the next one.
#2 – NEVER underestimate research simulations
Give your undue attention to the research sims. Know that they play a crucial role in your overall score. Besides, make the most of the authoritative literature tool.
If the research sims are in the third and fourth testlets, give yourself 10-15 minutes to solve them. Then, move on to the fifth testlet and keep the unsolved sims for your last minutes in the exam.
Ensure to save time and make a more relevant search by scanning the subfolder list. Then, carefully go through the contents mentioned in the appropriate section to find the right subsection.
Make a fool-proof strategy on research questions, and you’re on your way to nailing the sims!
#3 – Know the available tools for help
AICPA provides several tools to help candidates solve sims easily and quickly on the exam day. These include calculators, Excel spreadsheets, authoritative literature, spell check, exhibits, and highlights.
You must learn how to make the most of them. First, choose a review course that offers these tools within the sim bank. Then, practice them on different types of simulations. This way, you will know exactly how, when, and why to use the tools.
However, don’t overly rely on them. For instance, use authoritative literature for research-based sims only after answering the other easier sims. Moreover, try to strike a perfect balance between the allotted time and the tools to be used.
#4 – Practice time management
This is perhaps the most relevant CPA Exam tipCPA Exam TipCPA Exam is a computerized set of credentialing tests developed to evaluate a candidate’s accounting acumen for both MCQs and simulations. Both share an equal part of your overall scoring percentage (except for the BEC sectionBEC SectionThe BEC CPA Exam (Business Environment and Concepts) exam section evaluates your understanding of the general business environment and your duties and responsibilities as a CPA towards it. It assesses your ability to recognize and scrutinize situations related to Financial reporting, Financial statement audit and attestation and Tax preparation ). However, the amount of time you must dedicate to each question type is not equal.
So, make a fixed time goal and stick to it during your study sessions. Divide your time according to scoring weightage. TBSs have 50% scoring weightage in the AUD, REG, and FAR. So, allocate 50% of your time to it (around two hours).
Since sims are more challenging than MCQs, try to finish MCQs within 90 minutes. This will help you focus the remaining 150 minutes on solving simulations.
In the case of BEC, dedicate more time to sims as compared to written communication tasks (WCT). This is because the number of sims is more, and they are more complex than WCTs. However, you should give absolute attention to every question while attempting.
#5 – Solve as many simulations as possible
Practicing simulations is another universal CPA Exam tip, the relevance of which cannot be overstated.
Use your CPA Review Course, AICPA-produced sample papers, or other reliable mock tests to practice sims. Make yourself as familiar with TBSs as possible. Besides improving your technical knowledge, it will acquaint you with the layout, question format, available resources, and working of the exam software.
Prepare yourself for different types of simulations. Learn how and when to use the available tools. If possible, create an exam-like environment. For example, place a timer on your desk and solve at least one TBS testlet every day.
This way, you can get an idea of time management, recurring questions, and improvement areas. Ensure that your review provider displays simulations just like the actual exam. Also, go through the answer explanations of each TBS.
It will reduce your anxiety level on the exam day and make you attempt the questions with ease.
#6 – Expect (&accept) the unplanned!
Irrespective of how effectively you prepare, there will be an out-of-the-syllabus sim. Hence, don’t worry and focus on what the question is asking you to do.
Attempt the simulation with absolute diligence and swiftly move on to the next one. Always remember that there is one pre-test TBS in the test. So, don’t spend too much time on a tricky question. It may turn out to be a pre-test question that may not eventually affect your score.
#7- Go from “Easy-to-Difficult!”
The best way to make the most of your exam time is by solving the easy simulations first. Start with the TBSs you are confident of, and then move on to the difficult ones.
This may help you maximize your score in case you run out of time. Also, it may boost your confidence level as you proceed to the tougher sims. Dealing with a tricky question at the beginning itself may baffle you up. Besides, it may keep your mind occupied till the end.
Know that starting with a simple TBS can make a world of difference in your overall performance. So, go easy on yourself and crush the sims like a pro!
#8 – Search for relevant keywords
Skim through the TBS carefully and choose keywords which will aid your search. This helps you pick the most accurate and correct answer. Then, connect the dots to ensure what precisely the question is all about.
You may come across multiple simulations related to the same concept. However, the key here is to look for specific terms and quickly deduce the gist of the question. This way, you can draft to-the-point answers and avoid repetitive information.
#9 – Keep calm & ace TBS!
Needlessly, TBSs are challenging, nerve-wracking, and quite stressful. Hence, attend to them as calmly as you can. Never let one or two tough sims affect your overall exam score. Instead, give your best to the easy ones and try to earn maximum points.
As long as you are familiar with its format, layout, and types, simulations must not frighten you. Maintain a positive attitude throughout the exam to ensure excellent results. Don’t forget that you know what to do. So, go ahead and give your best!
#10 – Attempt ALL simulations!
This is the final and most important tip to ace the simulations in the CPA Exam. You must not skip any question. If you don’t know the answer, enter your best-educated guess. Scan every testlet after completion. It will ensure that you don’t miss out on any questions.
If you come across a TBS that you don’t have any idea of, connect an answer choice related to the concept in the question. If possible, give it a quick review after answering the other simulations.
As they say, “Something is better than nothing.” Hence, give the best possible answer you can think of at the moment.
Simulations are an inevitable part of your CPA ExamCPA ExamA Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a US state board-issued license to practice the accounting profession journey. They demand immense patience and practice to ensure excellent performance. But, needlessly, they are one of the trickiest parts to conquer.
However, you will do just well with the right strategy and a positive attitude. So, keep the tips mentioned above in mind, and you’re good to go!
A Guide to CPA Exam Simulation Tips. Here we discuss all aspects of the CPA Exam Simulation and the 10 best tips to ace them. You may also have a look at the below articles to compare CPA with other examinations –