October 3, 2019

How to Pass the CPA Exam

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The average CPA spends 300–400 hours studying for the CPA exam. How can you make sure that time isn't wasted? Get tips on passing the CPA exam the first time around.

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How to Prepare for the CPA Exam

Preparing for the CPA exam is just as important as taking the exam itself. If you don't study enough, passing the exam can become a real challenge.

Here are some tips that may help:

  • Know When to Start
    Consider waiting until graduation to start studying. That way, you can give the exam your full attention. If you work for an accounting firm, they may offer an incentive bonus to pass the CPA exam by a certain date.

  • Commit to Studying
    Cave out times when you are alert and can stay focused. If possible, study at the same time every day to get into a regular routine.

  • Limit Distractions
    Studying should be done on a daily basis. Try to limit procrastination and distracting activities, such as the TV and your cell phone. You may want to warn friends and family as well, especially if you'll have to decline social invitations to complete your study time.

  • Choose the Right Study Materials
    Research available review courses to find one that matches your learning style. If you benefit from visual aids, you may want to purchase books and online reading courses. There are online class reviews that may be beneficial for auditory learners.

  • Plan Efficiently
    Spend the first 15 to 30 minutes of each study session reviewing what you already learned. If you just graduated college, majored in accounting, or work in an accounting firm, you may get by with fewer hours of studying. Focus on the material that you need the most help with first.

Once you pass your first section of the CPA exam, you have only 18 months to pass the other three. If you don't, you will have to retake the first section. Make sure to plan your time so that you can pass the exams on the first try.

Passing Scores

In order to pass the CPA exam, you'll need to score at least a 75 out of 99 on each section. Scores are calculated using a combination of your scores from the multiple-choice and task-based questions.

The four sections are:

  • Audit and Attestation
  • Business Environment and Concepts
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Regulating

Typically, CPA candidates spend the most amount of time studying for the FAR exam, as it is the most in-depth and complicated exam out of the four sections.

In fact, the FAR exam has the lowest average pass rate of 46.7%. The highest pass rate is the BEC exam, with an average rate of 59%.

Each section of the CPA exam costs an average of $208.40, for a total of $833.60 for all four exams. If your state requires you to take the ethics exam, this costs an extra $150–$200.

Prepare for Exam Day

It is normal to feel anxious before your exam. Prepare ahead of time to make sure you are ready to take the test.

  • Know Where to Go
    Take a test drive to the exam center or do an online map search. This can prevent you from getting lost or feeling rushed on the day of the test.

  • Gather Your Documents
    Make sure you have your NTS (Notice to Schedule) and two forms of non-expired ID ready. At least one form of ID must have your picture, and both must have your signature.

In order to get your CPA license, you'll need a bachelor's degree with at least the minimum required accounting courses completed. Check with your state board to find out the specifics for your state, and make sure they are completed before taking the exam.

  • Review Last-Minute Notes
    Take some time to review your study materials and go over any last-minute topics that you think may require a refresher.

  • Eat a Healthy Meal
    Eating a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates will give your body and mind the energy it needs to power through the CPA exam. Avoid sugary or processed foods that can make your energy levels crash after a few hours.

  • Get a Good Night's Sleep
    Do something relaxing the night before the exam to help you wind down. It is recommended to get at least eight hours of sleep the night before the test.

Bottom Line

While there's no guarantee that you'll pass the CPA exam the first time, these tips can improve your chances. Spending ample time studying and properly preparing for the exam will give you the best possible chance at succeeding.

More from CreditDonkey:


CPA Exam Application Process


CPA Exam Pass Rate


How Hard is the CPA Exam?

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