11 CPA Exam Study Tips That Can Save You

cpa exam study tips

There are many people reading this who have already sat for at least one section of the CPA Exam. However, there are many people who are getting ready to sit for the CPA Exam the first time and don’t know what to expect. These CPA Exam Study Tips are what I have learned both from personal experience as well as through talking to thousands (actually tens of thousands) of other candidates.

1. You will find that the exam questions are not as “wordy” as the questions you have practiced in your study software and will likely leave the testing center feeling like the actual exam was easier than the practice questions you worked.

2. It will be the fastest 3 to 4 hours of your life. You’ll be exhausted.

3. You cannot be a perfectionist on your exam. If you get stumped and sit there stubbornly for 10 minutes trying to figure something out, that’s 8 minutes that you just cheated yourself on the simulations or written communications.

4. If you’re stumped and can’t get the numbers to work out, choose B or C. Why? You have a 30% chance of getting it right. A and D are correct 20% of the time.
(This is based on my own research doing samples of CPA Exam practice questions and is not official whatsoever, and is mostly anecdotal). If you didn't have a plan for guessing before, you do now 🙂

5. Take your breaks. Go into the bathroom and (literally) do jumping jacks to wake up.

6. Don’t forget your NTS (Notice to Schedule) and two IDs that are SIGNED. One needs to be a picture ID such as a driver’s license and the other can be as simple
as a signed credit card. Don’t make the mistake of having all of your credit cards say “See photo ID” on the signature line like I did. It might be a good idea to make
a copy of your NTS and stick it in your vehicle’s glove box so that you know you have it with you.

7. Don't take all day getting started. After the facilitator at Prometric gets your computer up and running and you sit down, don’t assume that you have all day to start writing mnemonics on your two “noteboards.” One candidate who reads this site sent me an e-mail saying that he sat for BEC and decided to write out all of his formulas before beginning the exam.

He found himself locked out due to time expiration. Why? You have approximately 10 minutes to sign in to your computer. READ THE SCREEN. Not
only did he not get to sit for his exam that day, he forfeited his exam fee and he had to wait until the next testing window to take the exam. Talk about a nightmare exam

8.When you get to the simulations, leave nothing blank. If one minute is left on the exam clock and you have a tab with a bunch of blanks, fill in something – anything.

A wrong answer and a blank answer give you the same number of points: zero. You may get lucky if there’s a drop-down menu for the answers and you guess correctly.

Video: The NINJA Study Framework

(Click here and I'll send you the NINJA Study Planner, Free Study Notes, and other Free Downloads).

9. Practice the Research tab (FAR/AUD/REG) prior to your exam. This is very important! You will spend 10 minutes trying to figure it out on the exam if you don’t.
Click here to view the sample exam and tutorial.

10.Get at least six hours of sleep the night before the exam. Don’t cut out sleep or you will pay severely two hours into your exam when you will crash. If you’re a coffee drinker, drink your normal amount of coffee but don’t pound a gallon of it 15 minutes prior to the exam. You’ll be squirming through Testlet 1, praying for a restroom break.

11.Relax. People take this exam every day. (Actually, they can take it eight months out of the year). Give it your best shot. To use a sports cliché, leave it all out there on the field. You may be tempted to get lazy and rush through your third testlet because you’re bored to death or because you think you’re doing miserably. Don’t. Focus
while you’re in there. Stay alert and work your tail off. The extra focus and extra attention to detail on the final 5-10 questions of Testlet 3 could be the difference
between a 74 and a 75.

12.Take a few days off and enjoy life after your exam. It’s in the examiners’ hands now and there’s no amount of worrying or second-guessing that can change anything.
After a break, attack your next section (unless you’re done).

13.On Score Release Day, if you end up south of a 75, you can either continue studying the new section you just started or if you’re only a week or two into it when scores come out, you can hit your failed section again. I always recommend starting from scratch and re-studying, so it probably makes sense to continue your progress with
the new section. Ultimately, it comes down to your own exam philosophy. You will have to weigh that decision and determine what is best for you.

To Your Success,


Jeff Elliott, CPA (KS)

Another71.com & NINJA CPA Review

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