Entrepreneurship in accounting field can offer numerous benefits, but the road to success isn’t without its fair share of challenges. Ask any CPA the most daunting and stressful milestone of their career, and they’re likely to respond with one answer: passing the CPA exam. The test is, in a word, intimidating.
With 14 hours of tough questions and situational conundrums, the CPA exam can present a rather daunting challenge for many accounting professionals. If you’re considering taking the exam, give yourself the best chance of success with these essential test tips.
1- Make it a Private Affair
Taking the CPA exam is an exciting milestone, but don’t get so swept up in your excitement that you tell everyone you know. This test is extremely difficult, and many find they must take and fail it multiple times before receiving a passing score. The overall pass rate for the CPA exam in 2016 hovered around 50 percent, with almost all four parts pass rates coming in at 56 percent or below. This failure can be disheartening, but even more so should you have to explain it over and over again to well-meaning family and friends that inquire after your progress. It’s in your best interest to avoid telling too many people about your intentions to take the CPA exam; it adds another aspect of pressure to an already daunting task.
2- Create a Study and Test Schedule
Every accountant understands the importance of organization, especially when it comes to scheduling tasks. It’s easy to let your professional tasks and personal tasks take precedence over your CPA Exam preparation, but without a strict study schedule, you’re more apt to find yourself entering the exam wholly unprepared. If your company or personal business already uses time scheduling software, consider using similar applications when planning out your studying schedule. Give yourself time periods during each week that you must study or use a review course; these “appointments” with yourself should be considered non-negotiable.
Also consider scheduling out the time you’ll use to take the actual test. Each exam includes multiple testlets; if you can accurately schedule out the amount of time you’ll use in each portion, you’ll find yourself better prepared when the day comes. Remember to schedule in bathroom breaks; any little thing can eat away at your time, and you want to ensure you have plenty of time for the conceptual questions at the end that will take definitively more time than the multiple choice portions. Test out your schedule with mock exams to make sure your estimations are realistic.
3- Take a Review Course
There’s no reason to forgo taking a review course. Many of those who fail the exam multiple times do so because they went in essentially blind. The right program will help you comprehensively prepare for all the tough questions the test will throw at you. The best CPA review course is one that offers practice in multiple choice questions and task-based, contextual situations. Pick a course that provides plenty of study materials, and sign up for it early; you’ll need enough time to glean the benefits of such a program before taking the exam.
4- Be Aware of Your Timeline
Once you pass your first exam, give yourself a day or two to bask in the glory of your accomplishment – then get back to work. It’s important to remain aware of your timeline; once you pass the first portion of the test, you have 18 months from the time you pass to finish the rest of the exams in order to receive your CPA certification. This may seem like plenty of time, but remember that different portions of the test are only administered at distinct times throughout the year. If you do miss that deadline, you’ll be forced to retake those portions that you already passed; rest assured, you’ll need to put in just as much effort studying the second time around if this is the case.
While the CPA Exam can intimidate even the most experienced of accountants, these test tips will have you well on your way to success and give you the resources you need to catapult your finance career.