CPA Exam is a computerized set of credentialing tests developed to evaluate a candidate’s accounting acumen. It is considered to be one of the most gruelling professional exams. Here we discuss some vital tips and strategies to study for the CPA Exam and tackle the pressure.
Passing the CPA ExamCPA ExamThe CPA Exam assesses accounting professionals not just on their financial knowledge, but also on their ability to review and seek out key abilities. is one of the prerequisites for a successful CPA licensure. You must qualify all the four sections of this exam within 18 months with at least 75 points in each.
|CPA Exam Particulars||Details|
|Mode of exam||Online|
|Exam Partners||• American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)|
• National Association of State Board of Accountancy (NASBA)
• US State Boards of Accountancy (BOA)
|Testing Model||Continuous Testing Model (all year round)|
|Valid Testing Period||18 months (since the day you pass the first section)|
|Overall Duration||16-hour (4 sections of 4 hours each)|
|Total Sections||• Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)|
• Regulation (REG)
• Auditing & Attestation (AUD)
• Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
|Question Types||• Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)|
• Task-based Simulations (TBSs)
• Writing Communication Tasks (WCTs)
|Scoring Weightage||• MCQ – 50%|
• TBS – 50% (for AUD, FAR, & REG) 35% (for BEC)
• WCT – 15%
|Passing Score||75 points|
|Average Pass Rate||50%|
CPA Exam is undoubtedly a nerve-wracking, jittery, and time-bounded test. Hence, passing it with flying scores requires discipline, planning, and commitment.
With the right tips and tricks in mind, you can ace it with absolute confidence and earn the coveted CPA title. Who knows, you may even get lucky and pass on your very first attempt!
Top 15 Best CPA Exam Tips
1. Plan your study time
Develop a personalized study schedule to save time and prep up effectively. To design a study plan, analyze each day of the week to find the time to study.
Once you have identified the time slots to study, estimate the number of topics to be covered in a specified time limit. Divide the topics into bite-size portions and allocate them to the time slots. Practice time management by making a realistic schedule for each section.
Professionals suggest dedicating at least 120 hours to each CPA exam section. So, create an intelligent study plan. It will guide your energy in the right direction and balance your strengths and weaknesses.
Try to study in the morning. With a clear mind, you are likely to grasp information with greater ease. Also, keep revising with time and don’t cover too many topics at a time. In addition, keep a note of how much time it takes to solve each type of question. This way, you can get an idea of how to manage your time in the exam.
Working professionals should also try to set aside at least 2-3 hours daily for studies. You can use the commuting time for your studies. Nonetheless, try to find and maintain a balance between your professional and personal life.
Remember that success is usually the result of good habits. So, wake up early, study on the go, and make regular studying a habit. Also, don’t be up too late at night and follow a consistent sleep schedule.
2. Stay focused and motivated
Attend conferences and other relevant industry events (online and offline) while prepping up for the CPA Exam. You can also take suggestions from your supervisor/professor on how to learn more about CPA from outside the books.
Moreover, try to interact with your mentors, colleagues, or peers to keep yourself motivated. Steer clear of all distractions and maintain focus while studying. However, you can reward yourself with your favorite food or social media after a thorough study session.
Avoid having a fixed mindset and adopt optimistic thinking. Try to embrace setbacks as opportunities to push the envelope. In other words, analyze your failures and focus your efforts on your weaker areas. Also, develop grittiness by finding ways to keep yourself motivated all the time.
Moreover, surround yourself with people who will help you work through a hard time. Retake the failed exam section as soon as possible with a positive attitude. Also, plan to wind up your syllabus a week or 3-4 days before the exam date. This will help you manage your stress levels and ensure optimum performance.
Always remember that CPA Exam does not test your intelligence but your diligence. So, use the precious minutes before your test wisely.
3. Avail professional assistance
You can turn to an expert for help with complex topics. If necessary, you can also hire a CPA Exam Coach to set the proper timeline. Don’t hesitate in reaching out to a CPA professor or colleague for assistance.
You can easily understand topics like Audit letters and Professional Skepticism through an experienced professional. Furthermore, go online and search for blogs and websites providing help for the same.
Also, the AICPA’s podcast series Next Stop: CPA offers valuable insights about the CPA Exams. Check it out for expert prep tips and motivational content from CPAs.
4. Relax and breathe!
Press the pause button from time to time during your CPA Exam preparation. Taking a breather for your brain is essential for avoiding burnout and better performance.
Avoid studying until the wee hours on your exam day. Instead, take adequate sleep and have a healthy breakfast before heading out. This will help your mind be alert and clear.
Take a 20–30-minute break after every two-hour study session. Spend some quality time with your loved ones. Avoid being a victim of CPA Exam depression and indulge in calming activities.
Furthermore, being well-rested and well-fed will assist you to perform best on the D-day. This is perhaps the most relevant CPA Exam tip that will ensure your performance enhances multifold.
5. Take up the right review course
CPA review courses help refresh your memory on relevant accounting subjects. Also, they contain plenty of practice questions and simulations to help you prepare better.
A review course helps you focus on areas having a higher likelihood of appearing in the exam. Hence, it saves your time and speeds up the learning process. Therefore, go through AICPA’s user-generated CPA Prep Course Reviews and pick the most suitable one.
Try to recreate the CPA Exam testing environment while practicing sample questions. This will help you determine your answering speed and improve it further. Don’t skip any questions in your practice test. Also, go through every answer explanation to reinforce the understanding of your concepts.
6. Pick the best study material
Research and choose the proper study tools as per your timing, budget, and schedule. Look for only reliable sources to pick the material.
Go through CPA Exam Blueprints, Candidate Bulletin, CPA Exam Booklet, Informative Video, FAQs, Sample tests, CPA Exam Podcast, and Professional Literature offered by AICPA and NASBA.
Watch the features and functionality highlights video to know about question type, formatting and tools, and other resources. Try to review the concepts as much as possible.
7. Understand the exam content
The chief resource to learn about CPA Exam content is AICPA-designed Exam Blueprints. It contains a detailed description of the exam structure, question types, content allocation, required skills, and topics covered. All information is presented in section-by-section format.
Moreover, it also elaborates on the adaptive nature of the MCQ testlets. Besides the nature and number of questions, you can also gain a complete understanding of the testing and scoring criteria from it.
Note that the more you understand the exam content, structure, and format, the better your exam experience. This tip will ensure there are no surprises on the CPA Exam day.
Furthermore, refer to the AICPA, NASBA, and BOA websites to avail updated and accurate information related to every aspect of the CPA Exam process.
8. Don’t cram but memorize!
The CPA Exams have evolved from a memorization exam to an analytical one. Hence, avoid rote memorization as far as possible. It will take you only that far. Instead, try to understand and learn the concepts well enough to apply them.
Remember that you can keep up with the exam’s vast syllabus only through learning by understanding. In other words, relying on memorization alone will not help for an exam of this magnitude.
However, you may have to memorize information related to taxation, accounting frameworks, law, etc. For such topics, you can make your mnemonics to ease up the learning process.
Besides, the exam expects you to know the content inside-out and demonstrate your comprehension. So, space out your study time and avoid studying everything in haste.
Regular studies are the only way to avoid rote learning and last-minute preparation. Don’t try to mug up everything precisely the night before your CPA exam. Prepare well in advance. This will keep your mind relaxed and calm before taking the exam.
9. Solve plenty of sample tests
This is by far the most important tip as far as CPA Exams are concerned. No matter what you study, practicing questions similar to those asked in the exam is the only way to get familiar with the actual exam experience. The AICPA’s CPA Exam sample tests offer you a glimpse of this and acquaint you with the format and functionality of the exam software.
The sample tests by AICPA (approx. two-hour long) utilize the same testing software as that of the actual exam. Also, candidates with testing accommodations can practice with accessible sample tests.
Attempt sample tests after every 2-3 days during your regular study schedule. Start solving 1-2 sample tests daily since the start of your final week before the exam.
Don’t spend over 40-60 minutes per testlet. Instead, save at least 5-10 minutes to double-check the answers. Furthermore, plan to take the optional breaks.
10. Know your exam requirements
With CPA Exam requirements varying as per jurisdictions, this tip is very relevant in deciding on the right jurisdiction to apply. So, do your homework before submitting the CPA Exam Application.
For instance, the education requirements vary from 120 to 150 qualified credit hours. Make sure to apply in the jurisdiction which has requirements matching your qualifications. Hence, research the exam requirements of the jurisdiction beforehand.
11. Set realistic and flexible goals
Set SMART goals for yourself. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Your priority must be to get 75 points, not become a topper.
Don’t overburden yourself with rigid and time-consuming goals. Instead, start with breaking your goals into milestones. Further, divide them into measurable tasks.
Then, devote a day to prioritize these tasks. Finally, start working on them as soon as possible. Charting measurable tasks will ensure you slowly and steadily achieve all your milestones and eventually your goals.
Bear in mind that establishing realistic expectations will help you attain your dream without compromising your personal life.
12. Start prepping up ASAP!
Please note that there is no perfect time to take up the CPA Exam. Sitting for this test requires you to understand the application process, licensure requirements, and many more. Hence, start planning for the examination as soon as you can.
Ensure to begin the preparation during your sophomore year of college itself. This will smoothen your CPA Exam journey. Also, it offers you a stronghold on the fundamental concepts. This tip will ensure your sail through the CPA Exam without much exertion.
Start sooner rather than later. All in all, don’t wait for the opportunity. Instead, seize the opportunity!
13. Know your study style
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you have a short attention span? Which learning type suits you the most, namely, visual, auditory, or hands-on? Consider all these aspects and decide the most suitable study style for better results.
If possible, pair up with a study buddy and learn the material three times faster. You can also pick audio review courses and turn commutes to and from work, household chores, and weekly errands into additional study time.
Go for video lectures (live and pre-recorded), draw charts, and watch presentations. Ensure that your study method matches your learning style. Figure out how you learn and study best to retain the information in your mind for a long time.
So, use your senses (hearing, seeing, and feeling) to their fullest to study effectively for the exam. This tip will help you in life beyond the CPA Exam.
14. Use Flashcards!
Make your flashcards regularly for hard-to-understand terms. Go through them repeatedly for better understanding. Furthermore, you can choose from hand-made or pre-made flashcards by review course providers.
Irrespective of your learning style, they help in quick and more effortless comprehension. However, make ones only for complex yet important topics and not for everything.
15. Plan your testing schedule smartly
The final tip is to schedule your CPA Exam sections before you even start studying for them. Always remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Hence, book the exams in an order suitable for your routine and preferences.
Know that intelligent scheduling can mean a world of difference between failing and passing the exam. Just keep the 18-month time limit in mind.
Book your first exam soon after receiving the Notice-To-Schedule (NTS). It ensures that you get the desired date and time slot. Moreover, knowing the CPA exam date will motivate you to study.
Take a 1-2-week breather before moving on to study for the next section. Also, try to finish the all the exam sections within a year. This will help you stay on track and avoid distractions.
CPA Exam is both a challenging and rewarding test to acquire a coveted designation. However, with plenty of requirements and time limits to be met, it is okay to feel jittery at times.
Hence, you must follow the above-mentioned tips to alleviate nervousness and ace the CPA Exam. This way, you will be all set for your quest to successfully prep for the exam. Happy Testing!
A Guide to CPA Exam Tips. Here we discuss 15 tips to set you for your quest to study effectively and successfully prep for the CPA Exam. You may also have a look at the below articles to compare CPA with other examinations –