The Key To Passing Audit Section Of CPA Exam

Every CPA candidate has different strength and weakness in term with CPA exam struggle. I myself found the “AUDIT Multiple choice” section was the most difficult of all exam sections. This post is dedicated for you who got failed on the previous CPA exam because of the audit—multiple choice—NIGHTMARE—section. If this will be your first CPA exam, I hope this post helps.

This post highlights some critical point regarding the AUDIT section of the CPA Exam. Read on…


Is the Audit section of the CPA Exam difficult? You do not need to scream, I heard you say “YES”. You are not alone. The “audit multiple choice” questions are the most difficult of all four exam sections for the following reason:

  • You have to rely on words to answer the question (except for the statistical sampling and the computation of analytical procedure ratios).
  • You have to apply definitions, concepts, and phrases you give to a real-world of auditing situations.
  • And this is the central of the challenge: You have to identify “the best” answer not the correct one (all answers are correct). The best answer is the one that gives auditors the most assurance. Auditors just know the reason is good, just because they have audited and understand the concepts. Most candidates sitting for the CPA exam, including you most likely have never worked as an auditor for a public accounting firm. And here is the key: To reach the level where you can select the best answer, you must spend considerable time practicing all of the content areas. Practice and work as many multiple-choice questions as you can. Don’t choose the first answer you see. Choosing the best answer takes time. You have to read and consider each and every answer response.


And that is the only way you can say for sure that you have carefully considered all answer possibilities and that you have made every effort to select the best answer for the circumstances described. You will earn many more points by following this process. Audit section of the CPA exam requires you to apply understood-knowledge rather than merely memorized-knowledge.

It’s one of the major keys to being successful on the AUDIT exam. The next key to success is to deal with the AUDIT simulations. Read on…


The Key to Overcome Audit Simulations

Working the AICPA sample exam at is essential to your success. A single simulation sample provides a rich experience for candidates to see that it is easy to search the table of contents. Best of it: most of the AUDIT simulation work tabs provide answer choices. You’re given answers to choose from. Before selecting a choice, read the company profile information and study the selected financial information.

Think about the environment in which the company operates. Begin by opening each work tab to note what it is the examiners want you to do. Then read the content of the information tabs. This technique will save you time. Now you know what to look for when you read about the company. Don’t forget that the Resources tab may contain information that will help you solve the work tab questions.


The Key to Overcoming the Communications Tab

Most of the grading points in the communications tab are awarded for writing well, rather than content. Most AUDIT communication questions require candidates to explain a general issue to a client or to a colleague:

  • Recognize the audience.
  • Avoid the use of bullet points, abbreviations, and lists.
  • Use full sentences.
  • Avoid the use of jargon by clearly explaining any phrases
  • Define the terms in the beginning of the memo


Content is not the important factor here—writing well is. Most of the ten points are awarded for writing well. Keep your response relevant by addressing the question requirements. You can up to 10% of your total examination points in the communication area by staying on topic and by writing well.


The Key to Overcoming the Research Tab On the Audit Section

Save the research section of the simulation test let for last. If you run out of time on testlet 4 (the first simulation testlet), paste the most relevant paragraphs that you have found so far and move to the next testlet. Why? Overall, Research tabs are worth only three to four points each. Instead, move on to testlet 5, and forget what you did or did not do in testlet 4. There are many more points in the next testlet that will be easier to earn. Basically, you have the following choices: (1) Continue to spend time researching for the correct answer; (2) Exit testlet 4 leaving the research section blank and move on; or (3) Paste a semi-relevant paragraph and move on.
Here is the key:

  • Choice 1 will cost you with a risk of giving up 15 exam points of testlet 5 which usually contains some easy selection-type answers. I urge you to move on the next section.
  • Choice 2 is a better than 1. At least you have moved on to attempt the second simulation and, it is hoped, to earn the remaining 15 points. Rather than leave anything on the CPA exam blank, at least paste something there that is semi-relevant.
  • Choice 3, is the best, at least you have completed the simulation. Of course, your answer may not be the best, but you have given it a try to get the biggest point. Move on and try to earn as many points as possible.



The Secret To Pass The Audit Multiple-choice Section

Take concepts that they have learned and then apply them to real-life situations. Before you can apply concepts or begin auditing, you must possess a basic foundation of terms. Having a clear picture how a test of control differs from a substantive test is very important. Don’t rely on a CPA review materials that simply list audit procedures or audit definitions. It might help you earn as much as 30%, worst, as small as 20% of the points. You know this is just not enough to pass the exam.

There are over hundred auditing standards; teens of attestation standards, and not less than eleven statements on standards for accounting and review services. Order the free AICPA software and search the AICPA Professional Standards. Try to skim all of the various standards. I know the professional standards are difficult to read and interpret. Don’t spend time trying to memorize them. Just skim them.

Never skip any topical area that is listed on the AICPA content specification outlines. Try to learn some of the concepts. And remember, AUDIT CPA exam is mostly words-based teslet. Repetition, repetition, and more repetition is best for this type. The more times you repeat it, the longer you remember the concepts. An audio CD will help to do so, so consider to buy it.

It is told by my mentor to read each multiple-choice response as if my life depends on it. See answering these questions as serious business. Select your answer, but continue on—read the rest of the answers to validate your first choice. If you misread a question by missing a “not” or a “least likely,” you will discover this after you read all of the answer choices. You will catch your mistake.

Not every one has this talent, but, do your best to visualize the situation—audit planning usually indicates that the auditor is in the office preparing to audit the client. During a planning stage, auditors are thinking about what they plan to do. They have not yet begun the fieldwork where they visit the client’s premises to obtain detailed documents. During planning the auditor has the client’s most recent interim financial statements. If they are a continuing auditor they also may have last year’s audit documentation. Try to get the picture. I know this isn’t easy for you never been there. During the planning phase, auditors are simply preparing a plan to audit—they are not yet auditing.

Write down key words for each question. The act of writing will help you formulate the correct answer. From time to time, try to visualize the given case and think. Don’t be in a hurry to select an answer. A slow, well paced approach is better than hastily selecting an answer just because it sounds good.

Internal control processes and the various types of written communication that an auditor uses, such as communications to the audit committee and several types of audit reports are not fun to study. Most candidates have trouble earning these points because they don’t try hard enough. Several of my colleagues have said that they failed audit because they did not read the audit communication materials twice. Don’t try to memorize all of the various audit reports. Instead, read it twice, else you will go crazy and never be successful. Simply read these reports for a basic understanding of the presentation. You will not be called on to prepare an audit report from scratch. You will be given answer choices. Keep it simple, read for a basic understanding, then practice the multiple-choice questions to test whether you can apply what you have learned.


What’s the Recipe to Become the High Degree of Success?

The recipe contains equal parts of: hardworking + quality instruction + quality materials + savvy exam approach = Great Degree Of Success. How? Establish a disciplined study plan, and work as many questions as you can. As you work questions, learn from answers to the questions that you have. It’s okay for getting a question wrong during practice. It’s only practice. By keep practicing and practicing, you will remember and get used to it. By doing so, you, too, can be successful!

Author: Lie Dharma Putra

Putra is a CPA. His last position, in the corporate world, was a controller for a corporation in Costa Mesa, CA. After spending 15 years as a nine-to-five employee, he decided to serve more companies, families and even individuals, as a trusted business advisor. He blogs about accounting, finance and tax, during his spare time, and helps accounting students (around the globe) to understand the subject matter easier , faster. Follow him on twitter @LieDharmaPutra or add him to your circle at Google Plus Lie+

15 thoughts on “The Key To Passing Audit Section Of CPA Exam”

  1. Great tips on the exam, I’m studying Becker right now for my exam (tomorrow) and freaking out a little about the auditor communication. I was expecting to pull some information from the research tab in case I was asked a question I didn’t know, but my Becker software doesn’t let me use the whole AICPA code… can we on the exam?

    Wish me luck!

  2. Hi Putra,
    I found auditing simulations are very difficult! I unpassed auditing twice with score 73 and 69. The score review shows that I had strong performance on MC on both tests and had weak performance on simulations. On my exams, it seemed that it requires real experience to solve the problems. I study Becker and went through 3 times simulations provided by Becker and they are very much related to those MC. If I can do well on MC and I will do well on the simulations. But on the real exam, simulations are entirely different. They are like real cases. I am getting nervous because auditing is the only one left and I don’t want to lose the credit for other sections. Any advice? Thank you. Cheng

  3. Its amazing that you and I share the same frustration. I excel on the multiple choice but perform poorly on the simulations. Likewise, I have worked the becker simulations over and over but they are much different the actual simulations on the exam. It appears that you almost need experience as auditor to perform well. Before I retake the exam, I will supplement my becker review with some materials out of my graduate school text book. Let me know if you find something better. We will pass this module.

  4. Thank you so much! I am a month away from taking Auditing for the first,and hopefully the only time. I have already passed the other sections.

    The only exam I had to retake was Regulation, and that was simply because I went blank on the simulations,and I didn’t finish them. My husband was very sick at the time and my mind was scattered. I really didn’t try hard enough to set aside the anxiety.

    I got a 72, and if I can give *anyone* a tip, it’s to do everything you can on the simulations – don’t leave ANYTHING unfinished. I took it again in October and thought I had failed again, but this time I tried to keep my head and plow through the simulations as best I could even though I felt on the verge of panic like the time before snd felt as if I didn’t know what I was talking about. I passed with an 83. I was utterly shocked.

    Good luck to everyone!

  5. cpa is pointless certification unless accountants can set their own rates, corporations will take advantage of you. CPA’s earn what? 45k-70k on average! I know people who didn’t even go to college making 80K+ without getting masters and 1 year of experience. What is an accounting degree worth? 35k!! LOL

    CPA’s should as a group be earning 70-80K WITHOUT 10 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE as most companies require. 100K with 10 years of experience!!! mind you

    1. What career or field pays a salary of $80k+ per year for an high school education with less than a year experience? Please tell me.

  6. CPA salary sucks.
    CPA = certified by the US.
    Therefore CPA’s should be paid based on government payscale!
    $30-35/per hour for 1-5 years experience
    $35-50/per hour for 5-15 years experience

  7. I failed AUD this Aug 2010…I used cpaexcel and gleim. Apart from becker what other study materials are good?

  8. I’m studying for the auditing section of the CPA exam. I’m currently taking the Becker CPA review course and to be honest, I’m struggling with identifying the “call of the question.” I’ve gone through the homework and now I’m trying to study the MC questions but having difficulty with answering the questions. Yes, the wording is truely confusing. Any suggestions??? Even if it means taking it over and over, I need to do this and I want to do it!!!!! Please help!!!!

  9. I am appearing for Audit on 2/28/2011. i borrowed the becker . Now i have done all MCQ . but i find i don’t have simulation. Where i can get the simulation for practice or can i buy now ??????

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