The CPA Exam Simulations are notoriously difficult for every section. There’s plenty of myths out there concerning these sims, especially with regard to which section features the most difficult versions. In reality, the most difficult sims are the ones you don’t prepare for enough. And whichever section is your weakest section, the corresponding sims will likely be the most difficult.
Like everything concerning the CPA Exam and my process in taking it, I scoured the internet for anything and everything that would help me prepare. And, since beating the four sections on my first try, I’ve been able to help thousands who failed their CPA exams, finally pass! Here are the 4 best tips that will help you prepare for the CPA Exam task-based simulations.
Understand the Material
I cannot stress this enough. The most vital aspect in being able to do well, on not only the sims, but also the MCQs, is having a true grasp of the material for each section of the CPA Exam. My reviews here on the site break down the prep courses with the judgement of how well the material is presented as huge ranking factor. The best CPA Exam review courses deliver the material in easily consumable chunks that won’t bore you to sleep! Which, we all know is easy to do when covering such engrossing topics as the bond amortization schedule table!
My best tactic to really make sure you understand the material and aren’t just memorizing facts, is to use your review course sims. There’s plenty of talk on the internet forums about the disconnect between the review course sims and the actual exam sims. Personally, I found the review course sims to be much easier than the actual exam practice tests. But, they still prepared me for the format of the sims and they truly help to check to see if you truly understand the material. So use them, understand the actual test will be harder and study daily. Daily study is key to comprehension!
Expect the Unexpected
I know that sounds paradoxical, but basically it means be prepared and understand there is likely going to be a task-based simulation that throws you for a loop or one that you are unable to finish. Trust me, it will happen. You have to realize that they can take any topic, whether it’s Acquisition, Inventory Valuations, Nonmonetary Exchanges, or filling out Govt/NFP Cash Flow statements, and turn it into a question. This hearkens back to my first tip: don’t just memorize your MCQs. Instead, know how you arrived at your answer.
Remember this too: There is a pretest sim that will be thrown out and not scored for or against you. This can be troubling for some, especially if they believed they did well on said question. But, keep in mind that there are tons of people who left the exam feeling like they conquered the sims only to find out they failed. The opposite also occurs, as plenty candidates leave fearing the worst when they actually passed. The point is these TBSs are incredibly difficult and hard to predict. To really conquer them, there’s only one constant truth: daily study will help you succeed!
First off, don’t think the research tab is only for use on research sims. You can most definitely use and benefit from it on non-research sims! But, the best way to take advantage of this tool is to use it the right way. Think of it like Google, where the more specific the search term, the better the results. And, just like in Google, you can search with words omitted in the Advanced Search of the Authoritative Literature tab. When you get your results, make sure to use the table of contents to figure where to head next in your search for the answer.
Don’t overly rely on the research tab. I know I just told you that you need to know how to use the research tab, because you do! But it’s no substitute for proper study and retention. And for some it’s not as useful for non-research sims—it’ll really depend on how you study and like I keep repeating, how often you study.
Don’t Spend Too Much Time on MCQs
This is a mistake many people make the first time they take a section of the CPA Exam. It’s easy to get hung up this portion if you’re experiencing testing anxiety or haven’t practiced with time limits. With the weight of the TBSs being equal to that of the MCQs now, it’s even more important to be efficient with your time as you move through each testlet. Don’t take that to mean you need to rush through the MCQs, however, as they still are hugely important!
All the sections are now 4 hours long and you can typically portion your time in accordance with the weight of each piece. So, for AUD, FAR, and REG the MCQs are equally weighted as the TBSs. This gives you 2 hours for MCQs and 2 hours for TBSs. The BEC section of the CPA Exam has changed the most dramatically in regards to the weights of each piece. MCQs are now just weighted 50% instead of 85%, giving you about 2 hours. The TBSs are worth 35%, giving you about 1 hour and 24 minutes. So, budget your time accordingly and use the practice tests from your review course to become used to the time constraints.
Overall proper planning and technique can equip you to pass the CPA Exam with confidence, so be sure to start preparing early and study often!