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Taking the CPA Exam can be intimidating; after all, it’s a very difficult process to go through. The 2014 CPA Exam Pass rate statistics tells us that on average, the pass rate is just under 50%, according to the AICPA.

But that also means that there are 50% of people who are passing the exam. In order to help candidates along that process, here are some key tips and tricks to doing just that. Compiled here is a list of 10 little-known facts about how to pass the CPA Exam. Hopefully this will give you that little extra boost you need to realize your CPA dreams as the New Year approaches.

1. When to Take the Exam 

In light of the 2017 CPA Exam Changes that will be taking place in Q2 of 2017, many CPA Exam candidates are looking to take the exam before those changes go into effect. Here are our recommendations if you are a candidate in any of these 3 scenarios:

  • Eligible to sit NOW: Take the CPA Exam now. Start studying ASAP for ample time to pass before 2017.
  • Will be eligible to sit in 2016: Get as many parts done before the changes go into effect. Take the more heavily impacted sections in 2016. Our suggested exam part order is BEC, REG, AUD, and then FAR.
  • If you’ll be eligible to sit in 2017: Stay informed and prepare accordingly! No matter when you sit, we’ll ensure your success with our updated materials and software that will enable you to take the 2017 CPA Exam with confidence!

2. Write Out an Exam Timing Schedule and Follow It

This is probably one of the most helpful pieces of advice you can use during your exam process. Write out a schedule of how long each testlet should be taking you, from the moment you started the exam to the end. Figure out exactly how far along you should be and make sure you keep on track. This is very helpful as you have to remember to leave time for your simulations at the end of your testlet. Here is an example of scheduling your time during the exam: AUD (4 Hours – 3 Testlets and 7 Simulations)

Time (in hours counting down)
4:00 – 3:15    Testlet #1 (1.5 minutes per question)
3:15 – 3:10    5 Minute Bathroom Break To Breath
3:10 – 2:25    Testlet #2 (1.5 minutes per question)
2:25 – 2:20    5 Minute Bathroom Break To Breath
2:20 – 1:35    Testlet #3 (1.5 minutes per question)
1:35 – 1:30    5 Minute Bathroom Break To Breath
1:30 – 0:00    7 Simulations (Approx. 13 minutes each)

By listing out your time, you are able to get an idea of where you are at during each point of the exam. For example, if you’re at 1:45 and you haven’t even finished Testet #2, you know that you need to start picking up the pace if you want to give yourself time for those simulations. Practice writing out your schedule and perform a mock final exam on your CPA review course to see if the schedule helps you finish your exam on time.

3. Getting a Review Course is 100% Required

As you probably have heard, taking on the CPA Exam alone, without any study material, is pretty much like putting on a blindfold, being turned around a couple of times, and then handed a dart to attempt to throw onto the board. Chances are, you’re going to miss the mark. Therefore, you want to make sure you do ample research on which CPA Review material you would like to take on. Pick one that will help you retain information and provides the necessary study support materials that help you learn best.

4. Keep it on the Down Low

Unfortunately, when you begin to tell others you are taking the CPA exam, your friends and family may want to become “involved”. Find out when you’re taking the exam, what part, how many sections you have passed, etc. Therefore, if you are up to explaining why you canceled your CPA Exam section or why a 74 is not considered a passing grade, go ahead and let everyone know. But, if you would prefer not to add the additional pressure of everyone wanting to know if you passed or failed the exam, you do not need to divulge this information. Keep it to yourself. That way, if you decide you’re not ready to take on AUD next week, its okay, you’re allowed to change your mind. If you failed FAR twice, nobody needs to know this and you can continue on preparing to pass the exam.

5. Don’t Study Using Only Multiple Choice Questions 

If you decide to take on a CPA Review study course, mostly likely you will be sifting through tons of multiple choice questions, finding yourself just guessing on 60-70% of those questions. This tactic will NOT help you come exam time. Instead, focus on trying to learn the actual material and topics being taught. Each exam has simulations provided at the end of the test. These simulation questions are basically a summary of all of the topics you have learned throughout your CPA Exam section studying.

Therefore, in your review course, make sure to tackle ALL the sample simulation questions as well as perform the mock final exams as provided. These two tasks will stimulate your brain to really think about what is being taught, instead of memorizing what the multiple choice questions are. By taking on the sample simulations, you are figuring out a new way to process this material. Therefore, when a difficult multiple choice question arrives, you can utilize the skills you learned in the simulation to help you answer the multiple choice question correctly on your actual exam.

6. Figure Out If You Are a Morning, Day, or Night Person

This advice will be extremely helpful to you when you are planning the times to take your CPA Exam. For those who are morning people, they can take the test at 8:00am, right after a fresh cup of coffee, and be ready to attack the exam. Others may prefer to take the exam around 5:30pm to ease their nerves. Whatever time is best for you, that is when you need to schedule your exam.

7. It’s Okay to Schedule Your Test…Last Minute

Most people think the best thing to do is schedule your test as far out as possible. This way it forces you to study because you know you have an exam coming up, whether you like it or not. But, as always, things in life come up, and most people just go into the exam, having not finished the material, and come out with a 74 or less. Instead of going down this path, have an overall goal of when you plan to take the exam in your head first. Then schedule the exam when you are actually ready to take it.

Note: This tip will only work if you live in an area that has multiple Prometric testing centers. If you only have one testing center near you, then it’s more likely that your time slots will get filled up. However, if they do get filled, most of the time people wind up canceling their exam 5 days out and slots will reopen. Just keep checking the availability in your area to make sure you get your desired time and date.

8. Reward Yourself for the Little Triumphs

The more time you spend studying for the CPA Exam, the less time you have for everything and everyone else in your life. Therefore, squeeze in some time to actually breath and have a little fun. Use this time as a reward for when you complete milestones in your study material or even pass a part of the CPA Exam.

If you are planning on knocking out 3 sections of the study material for BEC this week and by Saturday you are finished with the material, take Sunday off. Don’t look or even think about your study material and go out and enjoy your day. This will help you stay motivated to take on the next chapter or the next exam. You can even plan bigger rewards for when you pass a section of the exam, like take a short weekend trip to the beach, etc. It’s completely up to you, but make sure you’re not just completely miserable.

9. Just Because You Don’t Feel Confident During the Exam, Doesn’t Mean You’re Going to Fail!

Think positively! One way to ease your mind during the exam is to remember that the AICPA includes pretest questions on the CPA Exam. So, if you’re really struggling with one of the questions, it could possibly be a pretest question  that  won’t count against your score. Also, always keep in mind that the better you are doing on the exam, the more difficult the material becomes. If the material seems more challenging, then you’re answering the questions correctly.

10. And Finally, Remember the Clock is Ticking

Once you passed your first CPA Exam, remember that your clock has started to count down. You have 18 more months from the time you pass your first exam to finish the remaining 3 parts. 18 months sounds like a long time, but it will come sooner than you think. You have to remember that you have off months throughout the year where nobody is taking the exam. For example, if you pass your first exam in Jan 1, 2015, you have from Jan 2, 2015 – June 30, 2016 to pass the remaining three parts with 6 of those months that are “Black Out” months.

We’re sure by now you have heard plenty of horror stories surrounding this topic of losing a CPA exam section because of timing. Most people think that 18 months is a long time, so they start working full- time and by the end of those 18 months, they have only passed two parts and are trying to balance work with passing the remaining sections before their deadline is up. And, you DO NOT want to lose a section. That is probably the worst feeling knowing that you passed it already and yet have to take it again. So for the last little-known fact, keep an eye on your timing and make sure you knock out those CPA exam sections faster than the 18 months can go by!

We know that everyone studies differently and hope that everyone finds some of these tactics useful. We continue to wish everyone the best of luck on their CPA Exam journeys!

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