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Five keys to passing the CPA Exam

September 29, 2010

Passing the CPA exam will not be easy, but if you follow these five important rules, you will significantly increase your chances.

1.    Make a study schedule. You must make a detailed schedule of your CPA exam study plan. Once you know how much time you have before the test, schedule what you will study every day of every week. Hint: you’ll want to periodically schedule up to a week of review time of previously studied materials. Believe me, if you get to the end of your course and haven’t looked at chapter 1 in over a month, you’ll have a very tough time remembering it.

Another hint: structure your schedule in a way that allows you to finish one to two weeks before your exam date. You will need this time to (again) review material you have forgotten along the way, focusing in particular on your areas of weakness.  

2.    Schedule time off before the exam.  It is a very good idea to have at least one day completely free before the exam to CRAM. I took all four sections in a 10-day period, but I structured them in a way that allowed for lots of last-minute studying:

•    FAR: Tuesday.  I had the previous weekend and Monday to study.
•    BEC: Thursday.  I had Tuesday after my FAR test and all of Wednesday to study.
•    REG: The following Tuesday.  Again, a weekend to study and all of Monday.
•    AUD: The following Friday.  I had Tuesday after REG to study, plus Wednesday and Thursday.

Sure, I had to dip into my paid leave bank at work, but it was a small price to pay for some very valuable cram time.

3.    Study your multiple choice questions (MCQs)!   Everyone studies and learns differently. However, MCQs should be a significant part of every candidate’s study routine. For FAR, REG, and AUD, multiple choice questions make of 70 percent of your score, and 100 percent of your BEC score. As you grade yourself, make sure you read the explanations for questions you missed and understand the answers. Hone in on your weaker areas and continue to practice until you consistently score well (at least 80 percent).  
4.    Commit to passing the CPA exam.  This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. Before I began studying for the CPA exam, I made the choice that I was going to pass on my first try, no matter what. There were plenty of obstacles along the way, but I found ways around them because of my commitment to pass. Everyone encounters problems; find solutions! Not passing is not an option.  

5.    Use current, quality review materials. Passing the exam is one of the most important accomplishments in your career, so it is worth investing some money in a good CPA review course. Make sure your study materials are not outdated and that they have a good reputation. A good course will help you to focus on the most important areas, explain subjects clearly and concisely, and include plenty of practice multiple choice questions.
Andrew Lee is a CPA in Vancouver, Wash. His website,, is a resource for those studying the exam. For more CPA Exam prep advice, check out our special report in the latest digital issue of Accounting Today.

Comments (2)
Posted by KCHANDY | Tuesday, October 05 2010 at 5:26PM ET
Posted by KCHANDY | Tuesday, October 05 2010 at 5:26PM ET
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