Tips for Passing the CPA Exam


Academic knowledge and mental preparation must be brought together to successfully pass the CPA exam, according to Sam Goble, Vice President of MicroMash, in a workshop for AccountingWEB presented today.

Some helpful hints for preparing for the exam included:

Be Prepared Mentally

  • Break the exam down into topics and then subtopics, master a subtopic and then move on.
  • Candidates often put too much time studying areas that they already know sufficiently well enough to pass. Don't waste time studying areas you already know. Force yourself to study what you don't know.
  • Work as many old CPA exam questions as possible. Always determine why you missed a question.
  • If you work a number of questions, always summarize your results. For each question missed, identify why.
  • Be mentally prepared to recognize that there will be questions on the exam that you will not have prepared for. Do not let the exam rattle you.
  • Read the essay first ... you may find hints or terminology in the multiple choice problems that will help when you write your essay answer.
  • Make a list in advance of material that you want to commit to memory - develop this list when you are answering old questions. This is the list you will study the night before or the morning of the exam.
  • If you don't know the answer, guess. Do not leave anything blank.
  • Schedule time to study. Too many of us procrastinate too much. This is one exam that you cannot wait until the day before to begin studying.


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Be Prepared For Logistics

  • Parking is sometimes a problem. Many students say they started late the first day. Know the logistics.
  • Be aware of what you can bring into the exam site - not much if anything. Where will you put your books etc. when you sit down?
  • Bring a lunch since there are usually 2000-3000 people all trying to grab lunch in the same 1 hour time slot.
  • You can take bathroom breaks but not during the first hour, and they are monitored.
  • Reduce the stress options. Stay in a nearby hotel the night before if you can.
  • If you don't stay in a hotel take a "dry run" one day. Leave at the time you would leave the morning of the exam so that you can judge traffic and make sure you don't get lost.
  • Take vitamins and get plenty of sleep - if you get sick - you're done.

Be Prepared For Surprises

  • Many people misread the questions which lead to careless errors. Take your time and make sure you understand the question before answering.
  • Most people are not prepared for the length of the exam -- 15.5 hours over two days.
  • Points are deducted for spelling errors.
  • The testing environment is often noisy (coughing, sneezing - papers rustling and proctors talking to each other)
  • Many first time test takers were surprised at how much they already knew. Give it your best shot - and don't be intimidated by the scope of the exam.

Follow some of these simple preparation ideas and you'll be well on your way to a successful passing of the CPA exam!

originally published, October 5, 2000


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