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Conquering the CPA Exam, One Step at a Time

One of our favorite sources of CPA exam info, This Way to CPA, has put together a very helpful list of suggestions for candidates trying to conquer the CPA exam. Just a few of the tips (many of which we have shared with you here previously):

Know your strengths. Confidence is good, but so is honesty. Know where you’re good – and where you need to improve. From there, you can design a study plan that works harder for you.

Write out a plan. What are you going to study, how are you going to study, and when? Maybe it’s all in your head, but it can’t hurt to write it all out to make sure you stick to the plan.

Use the free stuff. You can spend a lot of money getting ready for the exam. Which is perfectly fine. But don’t overlook the totally free tutorials, sample exams and other tools provided by the AICPA. After all, we make the test.

Our favorite was “get a lucky charm or something,” which shows us that the AICPA is not above superstition. That probably should be taken as an admission that the exam is part crapshoot, part dedication but we’ll save postulating on that for another day.

For where to find the “free stuff,” check out our previous comments on the topic and get to clicking.

Head to This Way to CPA for the rest of the tips but remember that all candidates are not created equal. Some can do better with a study buddy or the support of like-minded individuals while others prefer to isolate and be miserable (or make others miserable with their miserableness).

Some of these tips may or may not apply to your personal needs, which can only be determined by you and not any CPA Review Swamis out there or random folk on the Internet who have never stared into your bitter little 10-key-pounding heart. So my first suggestion would be to look long and hard at your own personal needs before you go looking for ways to improve your experience and succeed.

Free CPA Exam Resources for Candidates from the AICPA

Note from AG: We know it’s busy season and the last thing you’re thinking about is the exam but just in case you’re one of the lucky ones who has nothing else to do but sit for BEC for the fourth time and have a question for us, get in touch. I’ll cover anything from how to prepare to what to do on test day but sorry, I am not available to take the exam for you.

If you are a CPA exam candidate and haven’t, at a minimum, tried a quick Google search to gather everything you need to know to conquer the exam, you probably deserve the 50 you’re going to get when you bomb research, do simulations wrong or blow off multiple choice because you don’t realize that the exam is on a plus point basis. But for those of you who have done your due diligence and are still feeling a bit lost, This Way to CPA has put together a decent list of items you must check out.

First, the CPA Candidate Bulletin. This handbook covers everything from scheduling to application and includes contact information for the state boards of accountancy so you know who to pester when your application takes 10 weeks. This is a good place to start and a must-read for anyone even considering taking the exam. Reading through this will help you put together a framework of what to expect when you start testing, and will help you ask better questions when you start looking for a review course or additional guidance.

Second, while the actual content of the CPA exam is proprietary and guarded closer than the gold bars that may or may not be in Fort Knox, the AICPA publishes a comprehensive list of topics covered, and also gives you an estimate of how many of those types of questions will appear on your exam. Check out the Content and Skill Specification Outlines, which have always been readily available on the AICPA’s website, for this information as well as a breakdown of skills tested in the CPA exam.

Third, while most review course software is good practice, since the exam is property of the AICPA, no review course is allowed to copy the exam environment exactly. That’s where the tutorial comes in. You can do 5 practice questions (including sims) for each section and familiarize yourself with the exact exam environment as it will look when you take it. This way you aren’t thrown by that weird pencil icon and can practice flagging the many multiple choice you will probably have to go back and guess on. The AICPA recommends all candidates use the tutorial before exam day, no exceptions.