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Five Really Simple Facts About the CPA Exam

Five.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
The CPA exam is full of myth and legend due in large part to the fact that you’re not supposed to discuss what’s actually on it. Of course everyone does and rumors fly around firms (“I heard IFRS is being tested in simulations…” “Tim in tax was thrown out of Prometric for wearing a hoodie to the exam…”) until they’ve been transformed into CPA exam nightmare tales based entirely in fiction. Knock it off, kids, let’s stick with the facts.

Of the two communications, only one is graded. Lucky you, you don’t know which one. Candidates get all bent out of shape over the communications but all you have to do is write a standard business letter. You don’t even have to answer the question correctly, you just have to stay on topic! Easy ten points, don’t blow it and do the communications first.
The research portion is only worth 1 point so if you don’t have time, blow it off. Yes, I said blow it off. If you’re crunched to complete a simulation, this is the last thing you want to spend your time on. Skip it unless you have lots of time.
The CPA exam is NOT graded on a curve, your score is not a percentage and is on a “plus point” basis. This means if you don’t know an answer, guess. Never leave a question blank, everyone starts with 0 points and earns up from there. More difficult MCQ earn you more points when answered correctly and no, the AICPA doesn’t reveal the secret psychometric formula that it uses to determine this.
There are no “easy” multiple choice. You only get moderate or difficult. Every exam starts moderate and MCQ testlets will get more difficult if you are doing well or stay the same if you’re bombing. So yours could be moderate, difficult, moderate or moderate, difficult, difficult or if you really didn’t study: moderate, moderate, FAIL. Sorry, made that last one up. You get the point.
14 – 16% of the exam isn’t even graded. Outrageous as it may seem, the AICPA loves pre-testing things that you have never learned just to scare the shit out of you. Actually, they’re testing new questions and gauging candidate reaction so good for you if you know XBRL but sorry, you’re not getting any credit for it. If you get bizarre MCQ, now you know why.
Thanks to my day job, I guess I’m some sort of CPA exam expert so I encourage Going Concern readers who are interested in CPA exam content to get in touch with us and let us know if there’s something you’d like to see us cover on this subject. Good times, kids, good times!