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All About the 4.5th Section of the CPA Exam: Ethics!

We covered Ethics before but since this is the last in our daily columns this week on the CPA exam, it’s a good way to wrap things up. Once again, if you are looking for CPA exam tips, tricks, hints or just have an idea for a topic you’d like to see addressed here, get in touch with us.

Last time we talked about the ethics exam, we suggested the following:

Speak to your state society of CPAs to find out if they offer some kind of ethics exam support. Helplines exist but you’ll never find them if you don’t look.

Because the ethics exam is open book, not timed, and allows potty breaks (unlike, say, FAR), take your time and don’t rush through it. You have more than 1.5 minutes to read through and answer the questions, take advantage of this fact.

If all else fails, try to find a lifeline. The CalCPA Education Foundation gives you a “lifeline” if you have unsuccessfully attempted their ethics exam three times.

A few more things to keep in mind:

If possible, choose the Online version of exam materials in searchable PDF form so you can search for keywords that will answer the questions. It beats flipping through a book and is often cheaper than the book version of the exam anyway.

Don’t take the ethics exam too early or you may have to take it again. If you decide to take the ethics exam before you have completed all four parts of the CPA exam, be sure you know how long your score is good for (probably a year max). You don’t want to have to take it twice so wait until you are at least 3/4 of the way through the exam or completely finished to tackle ethics.

Though review courses don’t have coursework on ethics, there are tons of resources available that consist of tips from others who have taken and passed the ethics exam. Start with the CPAnet forums, plenty of candidates and would-be CPAs have shared their experiences and many are happy to help if you have specific questions about how they did it.

Hope that helps and thanks for joining us for this week of CPA exam goodness!

>75: What am I Supposed to Do With This Ethics Exam?

Editor’s note: Welcome to latest edition of >75, our weekly post on a question related to the CPA Exam. Send your questions to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer as many of them as possible. You can see all of the JDA’s posts for GC here and all our posts related to the CPA Exam here.

If you are in an ethics exam state and trying to figure out how to pass it (first of all: fail), don’t worry, I’ve got some advice. An email from a reader who prefers not to expose his unethical-ness comes to JDA thusly:

I’m having trouble passing the ethics exam, I’ve failed twice. How can I pass it?

First of all, I’m going to ignore the fact that this question — by itself or to a casual observer not in public accounting — is pretty fucked up. You shouldn’t need help with this. I can understand needing an explanation on how to get your foreign degree evaluated (I still don’t quite get it) but this should be easy. However, for the purposes of this post, I’ll disregard that part.

For starters, the ethical thing to do would be a Google search on the ethics exam, not posting Craigslist ads offering to pay people to take it for you. But if you’re like most public accountants trying to get a license, you copy off of your coworkers. I shouldn’t have to tell you that. If I do, it probably means you’re not cut out for this line of work.

There are other things you can do. Some state societies of CPAs have resources like tips or even experts you can consult to help you. Again, this shouldn’t be hard, it’s supposedly your first mandate in public accounting.

It’s open book, there’s no timer and you can bring a weapon to wherever you’re taking the test (unlike the CPA exam itself). Why are you making such a huge deal out of this?
Abacus said the Wisconsin ethics exam, while being tough, just needed some diligence to get through. What’s scary about that?

If you absolutely run out of ideas, some ethics exams have a “Lifeline”. Here in California, if you bomb three times, you can call CalCPA’s Education Foundation and they might give you a hint or two along with three more chances to pass.

Give it enough time and understand the subtle nuances of the questions, don’t just try to barrel your way through it and you might pass this time. Good luck.