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5 Best Tips for Passing the CPA Exam

If you want to become a successful accountant, getting your CPA certification is a must. But don’t expect it to be a cakewalk. You’ll need to eat, sleep, and breathe the exam to conquer it. 

Try These 5 Tips to Improve Your Odds of Success

The CPA exam is made up of four individual sections: Financial Auditing and Reporting (FAR), Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). Each section has a time limit of four hours and uses multiple-choice questions and simulations to assess your knowledge.

Tips for Passing the CPA Exam
Tips for Passing the CPA Exam

Technically, the CPA exam is one test, but it’s easier if you view it as four tests. Each section is taken independently, and you’re required to pass all four within an 18-month window. (The clock starts ticking after you pass the first section.)

National CPA exam pass rates generally hover somewhere around 50 percent, making it one of the world’s most challenging professional credentialing exams. And while it’s easy to become intimidated by the fact that there’s a high rate of failure, you shouldn’t let this hold you back. Instead, it should serve as motivation to embrace the challenge and surpass your peers.

The right preparation makes a world of difference. By planning and implementing proven principles, you can dramatically increase your odds of success. Here are a few of our favorite tips:

  • Take as Soon After Graduation as Possible

If you’re planning on becoming a CPA out of school, it’s wise to take your CPA exam as soon after graduation as possible. (The longer you wait, the more you get out of the test-taking habit.) 

Test-taking requires particular brain “muscles.” And if you aren’t actively training these muscles, they weaken over time. Thus, you can greatly increase your odds of passing the exam by studying and sitting for it while you’re still in that frame of mind. 

  • Learn According to Your Strengths

We all have our own unique learning styles and preferences. Rather than trying to succumb to someone else’s approach, leverage what works for you.

If you’re a visual learner, take lots of notes, make flashcards, watch video training, and create memorable charts and graphs to anchor knowledge in your mind.

If you’re an auditory learner, listen to audio lectures and podcasts. Absorb the information audibly while following along with books and outlines.

For the hands-on learner, studying in groups and taking live exam prep courses can provide the stimulation needed to engage with the material effectively.

  • Take a CPA Exam Prep Course

When studying for the CPA exam, there’s arguably nothing more valuable than an exam prep course. More importantly, you need to take an exam prep course from the right provider.

There are a lot of prep courses available online. However, only a few have a track record for helping people pass the test. Wiley CPA, for example, has helped more than 500,000 candidates earn their CPA designation. 

You should definitely work with the exam prep provider that you’re most comfortable with, but take track record into account. This ensures you get the information needed to be able to succeed.

  • Plan an Exam Strategy

As the old saying goes: A failure to plan is a plan to fail. This is true in life, and it’s certainly true with the CPA exam.

Proactively planning for your exam will dramatically increase your chances of experiencing a positive outcome. Not only should you create a study schedule, but you also need a schedule for when you’ll take each exam (down to the date) and a strategy for how you’ll tackle each section as efficiently as possible.

Plans can change, but a detailed approach will help you focus in the days and weeks leading up to the test.

  • Keep Goals in Perspective

Finally, always remind yourself of your why. In other words, why are you studying for the CPA exam? Why do you want to become a CPA? What’s on the other side? 

An ounce of perspective can reframe your entire approach and provide that little bit of extra motivation you need to be successful. 

‘Winging It’ Doesn’t Work.

The CPA exam isn’t a ninth-grade pre-Algebra class. You can’t study the night before and get a passing score. To excel, there must be an intentional plan from the very start. In addition to following the suggestions outlined in this article, meet with existing CPAs, and ask them about their experiences. Sometimes firsthand accounts and suggestions can help put you over the top.

Read also: Why Do I Need to Hire a CPA?

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