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Is Copy and Paste Cheating on CPA Exam Written Communications?

Today’s reader question comes from a CPA exam candidate who I imagine would prefer to remain totally anonymous so let’s blow right past the pleasantries and get to the question, shall we?

So I just finished my exam yesterday and I am a little concerned about my communications tab. As I still had about 2.5 hours remaining going into my first simulation, I had a lot of time to write my communication. With the amount of time I had, I was able to research my topic extensively.

In my communication, I had used sentences that were straight from the research tab, without referencing it, but a most of my memo was changed and modified into my own words. However, the fact that I used some sentences and phrases word for word concerns me. I can’t actually recall how much I copied, which concerns me even more. Do you know if this is considered cheating? Has anyone copied directly from the research tab and still passed the exam?

Let me tell you, this is a new one even for me so the best way to answer is by defining what the AICPA BoE is looking for in your written communication.

The three components of a successful written communication are organization, development, and expression. This means they are looking for a structured document with clear ideas, supporting information to supplement your statements and use of standard English when conveying your ideas. Now the AICPA BoE spends quite a bit of time and effort developing questions for the CPA exam but that does not mean they are also developing components for you to use in your communication. This means that if you do have lots of time left to work on your written communication, the very last thing you want to do is copy and paste. It was my understanding that the copy-paste function was limited to research problems within simulations only as “transfer to answer” but maybe I’m wrong (stranger things have happened).

That being said, your best hope is that they don’t notice you did that. I don’t think it counts as cheating, exactly, as cheating is defined as having someone pretend to be you to take the exam or somehow smuggling in exam answers as if you’d be able to predict what questions you would get. That last one is probably rare if not impossible as not even the review courses get the EXACT questions that will appear on the exam except for retired questions released each year by the AICPA.

If you took exact phrasing from the authoritative literature, you did not complete the objective of developing nor organizing your statements; you simply took what had already been organized for you and stuck it in there. Suffice to say this is a HUGE NO NO and probably means you will not get points for this area. As I said, maybe they won’t notice and you’ll pass, it’s hard to say.

If you find yourself with lots of time left over for written communication, use it to review your other simulation answers, not to develop the Howl of CPA exam WCs. All you need is a beginning, middle and end. Your answer could be totally wrong but you will still get the points as long as you are clear and concise. You do not get bonus points for flair so don’t bother, you’d be better off going over your simulation to make sure you did everything correctly.

So the short answer is: I don’t think it’s cheating but I don’t think you are going to get the points if they pick up on what you did. Since most WCs are machine graded, the machine may be thrown off by just how perfect your answer is, raising a red flag that gets yours pulled for human review. Again, I could be wrong on this as frankly I’ve never heard of anyone doing this.

Be sure to let us know how it went once you get your score and good luck!

P.S. – don’t do that again. Seriously.