Get Ready For Your CPA Exam
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Morgan's tips on setting out for CPA exam success.
Where to start?
Strategy should play an important role in how you approach the CPA exam, not least when it comes to deciding which of the four exam components to take first and in which order to take the rest. There are two main schools of thought on this point: one is to give priority to the exam with which you feel most at ease, while the second is to go for the one you find most challenging.
If you pick the one you are most comfortable with as your first exam, you will ease yourself into the experience while gaining a solid footing to build on later. Alternatively, if you go for the one you find the most difficult, you can console yourself with knowing that even if you don’t pass it, the 18-month timeframe for completing all of the others will not kick in. In other words, the pressure is still off. And, on the plus side, if you pass, you get to continue knowing the hardest part is out of the way.
When to take?
If you are a fresh graduate, the consensus is that the sooner you take your CPA exam, the better. This is to make the most of your study and test taking skills while they are at their best. Even if you are not a fresh graduate, the advice is to not put off your exam for too long – make a commitment to yourself to pass it and grab the bull by the horns.
Know your strengths
This is an important piece of advice when choosing which exam to take, but also throughout your revision. Take some time to give yourself an honest appraisal. Identify your strong points but also recognize your areas that need improvement, and plan everything you do from there.
Some more insight
Financial (FAR) poses a challenge in that it contains the largest volume of information. Fresh graduates might be cheered by the fact that some of their degree classes most probably contained some relevance to topics covered by FAR. Knowledge of US GAAP versus IFRS, and governmental and/or non-for-profit accounting are important in this exam.
Auditing (AUD) requires a strong understanding of US GAAP versus IFRS, and for this reason some suggest it can be beneficial to take it directly after FAR. The exam itself encompasses the entire audit process, as well as other services (such as compilations, reviews and attestation engagements), and the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct.
Regulation (REG) Regulation combines federal taxation and business law, including ethics and professional responsibilities. If tax is your strong point, REG can make a good first choice for exam order, while fresh graduates can console themselves that most university business law classes cover the business law part.
Business (BEC) poses a challenge in the breadth of material that needs to be covered. For this reason some recommend taking it after FAR and AUD to benefit most from the crossover in topics. If written communications are your strong point, you can feel reassured that 15% of the final score for BEC is based on the three written communication tasks.
So, you’ve decided on the order your exams will take. The next thing you need to do is get studying. But to make sure you maximize on the time available, you need to begin by writing out a study plan. It’s not enough to have it in your head, put it down on paper and stick to it. Even with planning you should be a strategist: leave one to two weeks clear at the end of your study plan to enable you to do one final review and go over your weak points.
Practice makes perfect
You can never study enough and complacency is your enemy when it comes to the CPA exam. Keep practicing, and then practice some more, and then some more. Every moment you spend going over material will be worth it in the end.
If you feel you are in need of an extra push, don’t despair. Morgan’s review tools have been specially designed to give you a boost in the run-up to the exams. Take a look at them here.
Learn to love multiple choice
In all four exam parts, multiple choice questions represent between 60% and 85% of your score. You don’t need to be a mathematician to realize that multiple choice revision should constitute a hefty part of your revision plan.
Focus and concentration are your greatest weapons, but so is moderation. Don’t burn yourself out hitting the books at all times of the day. Keep up a pace that combines serious study with other pursuits so that by the time the exam arrives you are still in tip top form.
This too shall pass
If at times you feel overwhelmed, never forget that this is just a temporary phase in your life that will soon be over. And, the more concentration you can give to your CPA revision now, the sooner it will all end.
Get practicing now with sample CPA exam questions.