Test Taking Strategies

This topic contains 28 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  monchikun 5 years, 1 month ago.

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    Hi. Everyone on here always talk about studying strategies but I would like to know everyone’s input on your test taking strategies. If feel like I know that materials enough to explain it or even teach it to someone, but I’m always falling sort of passing. AUD (71), FAR (73), BEC (73). I’ve concluded that I’m probably just a really HORRIBLE test taker. During the exam, I freak out because my testlets aren’t getting harder or other things pop into my head that distracts me. By the time simulations come around I’m wondering how the hell I’m ever going to pass any of these tests.

    What is everyone’s strategies when you’re sitting in the exam room. What do you tell yourself? Any advise would be great.



    very good question and Id love to see some of responses here as well. I havent taken any exams yet but i am also a horrible test taker. unless a better strategy is suggested here i plan to do this: spend 45 minutes on each testlet of BEC.. if time is left over I will double check my answers (those i wasnt sure on).. Im sure more time will be required for testlets 2 and 3, so i will adjust accordingly during the exam.

    Im taking the exam at 1:30pm on a saturday.. i knew it would be very important for me not to be tired.. ive worried and worried for a long time now (theres a lot of pressure from a lot of people) but now ive decided to not care at all.. ill take this test and give it all i got and if that gets me a failing grade.. whatever.. ill try again.



    My tips.

    1) Get plenty of sleep the night before.

    2) DO NOT stress out. You did your best when studying, time to rock now.

    3) Each MCQ will have 3 that have something in common and 1 that doesn’t. If you don’t know the answer, choose the odd one out.

    4) Take practice tests. Do MCQ’s until you want to puke. Then keep going 🙂

    5) Take the practice test on the AICPA site. Get to know the calculator.




    I agree with everything Bobkorz said. He gave alot of good advice, especially #3!!!! I will just add a couple of things:

    ** Be prepared for that question (s) that comes out of nowhere on the exam. When you get it (most of us do) take a deep breath and remember #3. If you can’t relax don’t waste your time on it especially on BEC,FAR, or REG-they are more time sensitive, mark it and go back to the next question.

    **Don’t let those questions that come out of nowhere mess with your head. This is important. I am not the greatest test tester. I remember taking FAR, first testlet was good, second testlet seemed easier, I was then convinced that I had failed. I looked around the room full of test takers and thought for sure everyone in there was smarter than me. I felt defeated. But I did that to myself. I did myself no favors that day–don’t make the same mistake. I ended up with a 70.

    For FAR, I took some advice from somebody on the forum–I marked all my calculation questions and skipped them, I did all the theory questions first, then went back and did the problems with calculations. The reasoning was that sometimes these will take up more time, so do the quicker questions to answer first so that you can have more time to answer the remaining questions. It helped, I passed with that advice. I have to say it was tough on the second testlet, because most of them were calculations.

    So, my biggest contribution is attitude. You have to study like crazy, but you also have to have confidence and not let it be swayed by a couple of crazy questions or a bad testlet or sim. This is something that I still struggle with. I try not to let things psych me out. I have to channel some Clint Eastwood and walk into Prometric with a bit of a swagger !!

    Best of luck guys!




    I go in with an attitude of beating the beast- I think they’re all beasts. I read

    the last sentence first of the multiple choice questions- then read the entire question,

    and try to figure out if there is some sort of trick. Quite often the examiners try to

    trick us. The questions with lots of calculations I mark and save for last so I don’t use

    up too much time. And then when I do the simulations I flip through all of them briefly and

    answer the ones that are the least difficult for me. That’s what seems to work best for me.



    Ooooo, I love the advice to save calc questions for last. I’m writing that down.

    The only advice I can add is, if this is your first section, be prepared for a MASSIVE adrenaline rush. Maybe you won’t have it, but I really wish I had been prepared for it. I am a good test taker, I actually enjoy them, but on my first section, I had this huge adrenaline rush like I’ve never had before. It was intensely distracting and made it very difficult to think clearly. I chalk it up to the fact that achievement tests, the ACT, even final exams in college weren’t the “be all, end all” with everything riding on them. With the CPA, there is no other grade, no quizzes, no homework grade, no extra credit. I think that knowledge (and knowing how expensive it was) was what REALLY freaked me out. My heart pounded the entire time so loud I thought others could hear it. I rushed through the MCQs because I knew the SIMs were waiting and I had no idea what to expect. I had budgeted 110 minutes for MCQs and finished them in 65. Good thing, too, since the SIMs were unbelievably impossible. I was still coming down from the rush on the drive home, and it took about 24 hours for me to remember actual individual questions (except for one particular sim that was beyond ridiculous).

    I think if I had been expecting this amazing adrenaline rush, I might have had a plan. My next section, I expect this to happen again, but I will have to tell myself that it isn’t really that big a deal and to take 30 seconds to breathe. Make sure you budget your time and stick to it. Better to leave two guessed-at MCQs than take 30 minutes to be absolutely certain about them and miss an entire SIM.

    Oh, also, go back and reread what Yankee said about left-field questions. That’s really good stuff. I’d say I had about three on each testlet that either used words I hadn’t seen in any of my review material, or were about topics it hadn’t touched on at all. It was literally a shot in the dark. I freaked out, and guessed as well as I could, and they obviously weren’t enough to keep my from passing. Expect them and you’ll probably be able to make a better guess than I did.


    Hustle Darling!

    I agree with @yankeeaccountant. When I took the Becker live class the instructor suggested we ” take our test”. He suggested 3 passes through each testlet. 1st pass is easy questionsons, 2nd pass is medium level questions, and the 3rd pass is for the most difficult questions. I think the idea is to have some sense of empowerment.

    I also agree that you should have a time schedule and try to stick to it and rest the night before.

    And this goes back to another forum members tradition of wearing red panties (what do the guys do?) on test day, but put on something special underclothes or otherwise. They say the worse you look the better you will do on this test, but on test day I try to put on a decent looking but still comfortable outfit (leggings, riding boots, top, scarf) and use a little makeup (gloss and mascara). I feel better when I look better and hopefully the confidence will translate to a passing score.



    Make sure to get in a good night’s sleep before the test and eat before the exam, even if you’re nervous. I was almost dozing off during one exam and had to force myself to focus and during another exam I got pretty hungry and had to really force myself not to rush through the questions.

    Take advantage of the breaks, if you can. I would take drinks of water from the cooler in the waiting room and it helped refresh me in between testlets.

    Be prepared for anything. Sometimes there are really weird questions on the exam or even simple ones that can make one get all nervous. If you sort of mentally prepare yourself beforehand that the exam is going to ask you things you may never have heard of, and that it’s ok if you feel you don’t know what some questions are asking, then hopefully the experience won’t be as stressful. I tried to do that and thought to myself before taking the exams that there are going to be really really hard problems and I just have to try my best to figure out what the question is asking and answer as best I can. Keep in mind that some questions are test questions and you may not even have covered the material they’re asking about…and that’s ok.

    Practice as many questions as you can beforehand and try to work on your pace of answering questions. You need to leave plenty of time for sims and most people can’t afford to run out of time at the end.

    Remember to BREATHE!!

    I just went back to read what the others posted and see that some of what I wrote was already mentioned (Bobkorz, Yankeeaccountant, etc.) – there’s loads of good advice on this thread…

    Good luck!



    I have 2 things to mention…

    1. Don’t even try to judge whether your testlets are getting harder or not. When I got to the 2nd set of MCQ’s, I was certain I wasn’t doing well b/c they didn’t seem harder. I don’t know if they ended up being the same difficulty as the 1st set or if they were indeed harder but just didn’t seem that way b/c I prepared well. But the questions didn’t get any longer in length and they didn’t have more calculations. Trying to judge that while taking the test will just be a major distraction and can kill your confidence.

    2. My strategy for SIMS was to start with the research question. I allowed myself 10 minutes and luckily it only took me about 5 to find it. I figured those are easy points. Then I went through the other 6 questions and answered everything that gave you a list to choose from. You have a higher probability of getting those right because you aren’t just totally guessing. Then I did the calculations for the SIMS starting with the easiest ones. I am glad I used this approach b/c I ran out of time. So the questions I left blank were most likely ones I wouldn’t have gotten correct in the first place. This approach may be too much jumping around for some, but it worked for me.



    Ugh, I’m in the same crappy boat. I am a TERRIBLE test taker. I study full time, I KNOW my $hit! The second guessing is what takes over. I do the exact same thing as you……. “oh no! My testlets aren’t getting harder…. great.. already failed and I’m only an hour into this…awesome… why am I doing this again?…. I’m hungry….dammit all to hell I’m definitely going to have to retake….. ohhh they put EXCEPT at the end of the question, crap almost missed that…. nope these definitely aren’t getting any harder… FML” <<< Word for word my brain cracked out during an exam haha. Thanks to everyone that had actual advice to give on this, I don’t have any to give regarding this but I’ll take what I can get! hah



    I am a bad test taker but am getting better because of the cpa exam, lol. For BEC I checked my answers at the end of each testlet. I highly recommend doing this as quickly as possible due to the amount of time you have. I think its also important to spend more time on the multiple choice questions because they are weighted more than the sims. I spent 30 minutes on the sims. 45 minutes would have been better because I felt rushed but I did complete them. I would not focus on whether the testlets are getting harder or not. Focus more on getting the questions right and be sure you check your answers. I actually answered one wrong the first time and because I checked it, I was able to correct it. Relax and try to have fun with the test. Trust me, if you enjoy it, you will have more confidence when taking it. Also get a good night’s sleep, make sure you have food in your belly for energy, and keep positive.



    I have always been told to take a test like you studied for it. Meaning, on the weekends I drink a redbull before I study. I am a lot more focused and have more endurance, therefore, I drink the redbull before the test. Also, I normally drink coffee in the morning but I have really bad stomach issues on test day so I skip the coffee…TMI…I had a lucky head band that I wore on my last 2 tests and I passed. My dog chewed it up 2 days ago so I was sad but logical me knows it isn’t really good luck. I agree totally with the ‘Just Breathe’ method. When you are studying and don’t know the answer don’t just pick something. Ya you know you don’t know it but if you can develope your deductive reasoning skills, I truly believe you will start passing. If you study with that attitude, you will take the test with that attitude. Test taking is a developed skill. I am not naturally a good test taker either but I do think I have become better throughout this process. Good luck to everyone testing this weekend! Keep me in your thoughts too! I have FAR tomorrow!! EKKK!!!



    @akb9874, THIRD TIMES A CHARM!!!!! Good luck! you got this!



    @akb9874, good luck, you can and will pass!!



    Thank you everyone. @peanut, that’s exactly what goes through my mind too during the exam. What I hate most is when I hear Cindy Simpson’s voice saying DON’T PICK ‘A’!!! ONLY PICK A IF YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE ITS THE RIGHT ANSWER.” Ugh! So every ‘A’ answer I pick I always second guess myself. I quickly lose confidence after doubting myself so many times.

    Good Luck @akb7894!!!



    Thanks everyone!! I studied pretty hard this time but I still don’t understand the Governmental/NFP junk. I don’t understand why that is such a huge thing on this test. How many CPA candidates actually go into govermental or NFP…UGH!!



    I didn’t read all posts so I am not sure if anyone has already mentioned this. For me, one of the biggest issues is time management. I always figure out at what point on the exam clock I want to be finished with each testlet by. I write this time line down on the scrap paper before I strart each exam and stick to it. It has helped me keep from getting too consumed in the questions and getting behind on time.



    LOL!! @peanut! My brain is having those EXACT same thoughts when I’m taking the exam. All I can say is…make sure you EAT before the test, and make sure you take food & a beverage (preferably RedBull) with you in case you get hungry during the test. You are not allowed to bring food in the testing room, but you can keep it in your locker and can eat during a break. Pack a Redbull, just in case you suddenly break down in fatigue… I am a compulssive gum chewer so I make sure I have gum in my mouth while taking the exam.


    For people who are nervous while taking exam, ask yourself these questions right before the exam: Is there a gun pointed at you while you taking the test? “NO” Will your life REALLY deponds on it? “NO” Can you re-take it or is this the end of the world if you don’t pass? “Yes and No.” My point is once you downplay the importance of a passing score you will feel relaxed and calm…


    Redbull? If I were to drink a RB b4 the exam I would be taking a brerak every 10-20 minutes cuz that thing makes me pee like crazy..lol

    But yeah, eating well and drinking liquids before an exam is always good since it keeps your brain hydrated…I like Gatorade cuz it does not make me pee….

    Most of the time I’m in panic mode when I first start and feel like my heart is about to jump out of my skin..



    It’s definitely a good adrenaline rush!! If you don’t drink RB often, then I would not recommend it, you never know how you will react haha



    ill take a few shots before i go in.. calm myself down



    @rezaking LOL! are you serious?



    Absolutely. pop an adderall, take 2 shots… does great things for me while taking tests.



    @rezaking, send me some of that adderall lol



    i dont have ADD.. doctors hand that stuff out like candy. all you need to say is that you have a hard time focusing. haha i only take it when i have serious studying to do and nothings more serious than the CPA right now



    Hey, serious business here, I was wondering about this yesterday….

    I’m not a big drinker. I love a margarita plenty, but I cut myself off at two, mostly because I have trouble controlling other areas of my life and I don’t want to add yet another thing to struggle with, cuz I sure do love me a good margarita. Anyway, my sister drinks two shots of vodka every time she has to sing. She says it calms her down. After my first experience with AUD, I wondered if a shot of vodka would help or harm me.

    Anyone else have any experience with drinking just a little bit right before the test? I would think it might make it harder to recall.



    what i said above works for me.. but dont do it unless you know your limits (dont want anyone failing because of me).. adderall or ritalin mixed with a few shots doesnt exactly work for most people.. im used to it because ive done it many times (im horrible at test taking).. the adderall increases my thought process and helps me remember things much quicker than normal and the alcohol calms me down.. put the two together and good things happen.. im not a big drinker either but this exam is so hyped up by everyone that im actually kind of scared.



    To Bobkorz, his third advice:

    Each MCQ will have 3 that have something in common and 1 that doesn’t. If you don’t know the answer, choose the odd one out.

    Does this also apply to calculation questions as well? This would make sense for a good majority of concept questions (even though I struggle a lot since all four look to be in the same category to me sometimes), but I was wondering if there was more to that than what I can see. Can anyone give me an example if so? This would definitely be useful to me!!

    Also, OT, but do new users or new posts normally have trouble posting immediately? I’ve tried to create a topic but no one can see it except me. Even stranger is that even though I see the thread on my profile, the username next to the thread of who created it is blank! Help for this would be appreciated as well. 🙂

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