There were two people who asked about this in the REG discussion for this month, and I found it worthy of a post. Time management on the CPA Exam is critical for REG and FAR. AUD and BEC? – not as much.
REG is probably the worst exam in terms of time management. They only give you 3 hours to cover 72 MCQs and two sims.
Ideally, you would have 50 minutes per sim, which only leaves you a little over a minute per MCQ. This is not reality.
In all likelihood, you'll spend about 35 minutes per MCQ testlet, 50 on your first sim and about 25 on your second sim. It took me 4x to get through REG and I was consistently left with 15-25 minutes to finish the last sim and I never fully finished it. I got close this last time…I left one tab unanswered.
You can plan all you want, but you will encounter frustrating questions that leave you seeing red because you can't get any of the answers to work out and before you know it – you've spent 5 minutes on ONE question. After you hit the 3 minute mark – you have to move on. Guess B or C and keep going. If you nit-pick every question, you'll fail for sure.
Realistically for REG…
Testlet 1: 35 minutes
Testlet 2: 38 minutes
Testlet 3: 40 minutes
Simulation 1: 50 minutes
Simulation 2: 18 minutes
…is what you will encounter, give or take. You will probably fly through the 1st testlet…the 2nd will be harder because you're doing well and the 3rd will take longer due to difficulty (if you're doing well still) and fatigue. You will hit a wall somewhere in the early 3rd testlet and you have to “push” on through it so to speak.
They key is to move on physically and emotionally after encountering difficult questions. If you keep thinking “I didn't know that last one…I'm going to fail” – you will have a self-fulfilling prophesy.
If you get into your 2nd simulation and discover that don't have near enough time to finish it, you need to score your easy points. First, write the memo. It's worth 5% of your overall grade (10% total between the two sims). Second, do the research tab. This should only take a few minutes and it's a few easy points. Take it from someone who scored 74 twice on REG – those easy points could make a difference when it's graded.
Finally, answer all of the tabs that you can. If there is a tab with some simple answers based on fact patterns that you know without reading the whole drawn out simulation case facts, answer them. If you're down to 1 minute left on the exam – don't leave anything blank. You get points for what you answer correctly – not what you got wrong.
The key is to be cool under pressure and remember: if you find your exam to be brutal – it's probably because you're doing well. Take a deep breath and work your way through it.