Taking the CPA Exam? 4 Exam Prep Tips From the Industry

Are you working toward getting your CPA license to make money as a career or a side job? Becoming a CPA can be lucrative, but you’ll need to work hard to get certified.

CPA exam pass rates are lower than you may think. In 2017, 95,654 people took the exam and only 48.3% passed. If you want to be included in the passing statistics when you take your exam, here are some tips promoted and supported by CPAs in the industry.

1. Take a thorough CPA exam prep course

No matter how good you were at memorizing information in high school, you won’t pass the CPA exam the same way. To have a chance at passing the exam you need to take a prep course.

Prep courses are specifically designed to help you apply what you learn rather than just storing information in your brain. For example, the CPA prep course from Wiley CPA tailors each review course to the individual. This prep course gives you more than 12,000 practice questions and personal support. The review courses are only 45 minutes long, making it easy to squeeze them into a busy schedule.

2. Prep more intensely for exam sections with a lower pass rate

There are four main sections in the CPA exam:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

Some sections are easier to pass than others. For example, CPA exam statistics show that the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) portion of the exam is the easiest to pass. The Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section is the hardest section to pass. In fact, most test takers don’t achieve a passing score for the FAR section section of the exam.

Focus harder during your prep work on the sections that are generally harder to pass. If you find those sections easier than expected, refocus your studies on the sections you find more difficult. However, start by paying more attention to the sections with the lowest pass rate. The top three hardest sections to pass, including pass rates, are:

  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) has a 46.79% pass rate. This CPA exam section will test your knowledge regarding financial accounting standards used by businesses, non-profits, and governments. This section will require you to perform accounting math on a timer.
  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD) has a 48.59% pass rate. This section deals with the auditing process and ethics. To pass this section, you need to have a thorough understanding of the AIPCA Code of Professional Conduct.
  • Regulation (REG) has a 47.24% pass rate. This section of the CPA exam deals with tax law and requires more than memorization. You’ll need to understand tax law well enough to apply the law to various situations.

When preparing for these exam sections, go to great lengths to make sure you understand the fine details enough to apply your knowledge in real-world situations.

3. Challenge yourself with the hard questions

It’s worth spending more time studying information related to the hard questions you might encounter on your test. Challenge yourself when you come across a hard question on a prep test.

If you don’t get the answer correct, don’t just look up the answer and memorize that answer. That approach won’t serve you in passing the exam. Your exam could have a similar, yet different question that can’t be answered by memorizing data.

Take time to thoroughly investigate the details surrounding answers you get wrong so you can understand the subject from all angles. If you encounter a related question on your exam, you’ll wish you had explored the subject in-depth.

Answering hard questions correctly will net you a higher score

Your CPA exam will consist of easy and hard questions. Some of the questions will be far more difficult than others. If you can nail the hardest questions on the test, you’ll get a better score.

Not all questions are scored with the same points. Hard questions are worth more points. If you answer several hard questions correctly, but miss some easy questions, it could even out.

4. Talk to an existing CPA who passed the exam recently

Find a mentor CPA willing to help you prepare better for your exam. While they won’t be able to tell you what will be on your test, they can provide you with strong advice for passing your exam the first time.

Stay confident and study hard – you will pass

The key to passing any exam is staying confident and studying hard. Don’t let your mind carry you into anxiety. A calm mind is better equipped to get the correct answers.

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