Your primary objective in preparing for the CPA examination is to pass. Other objectives such as learning new and reviewing old material should be considered secondary. There are six attributes of CPA exam by far. The six attributes of examination success discussed through out this post are essential. You should study the attributes and work toward achieving/developing each of them before taking the examination.
Attribute#1. Knowledge of Material
Two points are relevant to “knowledge of material” as an attribute of examination success:
First, there is a distinct difference between being familiar with material and knowing the material. Frequently candidates confuse familiarity with knowledge. Can you remember when you just could not answer an examination question or did poorly on an examination, but maintained to yourself or your instructor that you knew the material? You probably were only familiar with the material. On the CPA examination, familiarity is insufficient; you must know the material. For example, you may be familiar with the concepts in accounting for leases (SFAS 13), but can you compute the present value of an annuity due under a lease agreement and record entries for the lessee and lessor? Once again, a very major concern must be to know the material rather than just being familiar with it. Knowledgeable discussion of the material is required on the CPA examination.
Second, the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination tests a literally overwhelming amount of material at a rigorous level. The CPA examination includes material from the following courses:
- Auditing (including Auditing with Technology and Audit Sampling)
- Intermediate Financial
- Advanced Financial
- Governmental and Not-for-Profit
- Business Law
- Accounting Information Systems
Furthermore, as noted earlier, the CPA exam will test new material, sometimes as early as six months after issuance. In other words, you are not only responsible for material in the above courses, but also for all new developments in each of these areas. This text contains outlines of accounting topics from FASB pronouncements, financial accounting courses, cost accounting courses, finance courses, etc. Return to the original material (e.g., FASB, your accounting textbooks, etc.) only if the outlines do not reinforce topical areas you already know.
Attribute#2. Commitment to Exam Preparation
Your preparation for the CPA exam should begin at least two months prior to the date you plan to schedule your seating for an exam section. If you plan to take more than one section, you should start earlier.
Over the course of your preparation, you may experience many peaks and valleys. There will be days when you feel completely prepared and there will also be days when you feel totally overwhelmed. This is not unusual and, in fact, should be expected.
The CPA exam is a very difficult and challenging exam. How many times in your college career did you study months for an exam? Probably not too many. Therefore, candidates need to remain focused on the objective—succeeding on the CPA exam.
Develop a personal study plan so that you are reviewing material daily. Of course, you should schedule an occasional study break to help you relax, but don’t schedule too many breaks. Candidates who dedicate themselves to studying have a much greater chance of going through this process one time. On the other hand, a lack of focus and piecemeal preparation will only extend the process over a number of exam sittings.
Attribute#3. Solutions Approach
The solutions approach is a systematic approach to solving the questions and simulations found on the CPA examination. Many candidates know the material fairly well when they sit for the CPA exam, but they do not know how to take the examination. Candidates generally neither work nor answer questions efficiently in terms of time or grades. The solutions approach permits you to avoid drawing “blanks” on CPA exam questions; using the solutions approach coupled with grading insights (see below) allows you to pick up a sizable number of points on test material with which you are not familiar.
Attribute#4. Grading Insights
Your score on each section of the exam is determined by the sum of points assigned to individual questions and simulation parts. Thus, you must attempt to maximize your points on each individual item.
The number of points assigned to a multiple-choice question varies depending upon its difficulty level, easy, medium, or hard. In other words, you will receive more points for correctly answering a hard question than correctly answering an easy question. Multiple-choice questions are organized in 25- to 30-question testlets, and each testlet includes questions from all of the content areas of the particular section.
With respect to the multiple-choice testlets, the CPA exam uses a form of adaptive testing known as multistage testing. Using this technique the average difficulty of subsequent testlet(s) is determined by how the candidate has performed on the previous testlet(s). Therefore, if you get a testlet with a preponderance of very difficult questions, do not become discouraged. It may mean that you performed very well on the previous testlet(s). In addition, since the number of points assigned to hard or medium questions will be greater than the number of points for easy questions, you have an opportunity to accumulate a large number of total points on that testlet.
Simulations will include more extensive scenarios and a number of requirements. For example, the requirements may involve calculations, form completion, research, or written communication. The points assigned to the requirements will vary according to their difficulty.
Most of the requirements will be graded by the computer. Only those that involve written communication will be graded manually. The simulations will make use of a number of commonly used tools such as spreadsheets and electronic research databases.
The functionality of the word processor and the spreadsheet will not be exactly like Microsoft Word and Excel. You should complete the AICPA CPA examination tutorial and sample exams to become familiar with the functionality of the tools you will use on the exam. You will need to become proficient in the use of these tools to maximize your score on the simulations.
Attribute#5. Examination Strategy
Prior to sitting for the examination, it is important to develop an examination strategy (i.e., an approach to working efficiently throughout the exam). Your ability to cope successfully with the examination can be improved by:
- Recognizing the importance and usefulness of an examination strategy
- Using previous examination experience to develop a personal strategy for the exam.
- Testing your personal strategy on any example examinations under conditions similar to those at the test centers (using similar tools and databases and with a time limit)
Attribute#6. Examination Confidence
You need confidence to endure the physical and mental demands of 2 ½ to 4 ½ hours of test-taking under tremendous pressure. Examination confidence results from proper preparation for the exam, which includes mastering the first four attributes of examination success. Examination confidence is necessary to enable you to overcome the initial frustration with problems for which you may not be specifically prepared.
A good CPA Exam study manual, when properly used, contributes to your examination confidence. If it is systematically outlined, it will provide you with a sense of organization such that as you sit for the examination, you will feel reasonably prepared (it is impossible to be completely prepared). If yours now isn’t provide these aspect, consider to combine it with a better study manual!
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