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Author: Ryan Hirsch, NASBA Multimedia & Video Services Manager
Posted: October 4, 2012

Passing the Uniform CPA Examination can be a challenging and time-consuming process. However, you have the ability to achieve this goal if you adequately prepare and strategize before sitting for the exam. In this article, Part I of our three-part series, “Preparing for the Uniform CPA Examination,” we will provide you with helpful tips to guide you through the process of preparing for the exam. Part II is about taking the exam, and Part III illustrates the next steps after completing the exam. Below are five tips to help you prepare for your testing experience:

Tip #1: Utilize a CPA exam Review Course

Of all the examination tips and strategies from current CPAs, one of the most common recommendations is to take a review course. Candidates who have passed the CPA exam say a good review course can mean the difference between passing and failing. A good example is David Bryant. Bryant failed the CPA Exam three times before passing. He believes the difference was the addition of the review courses, crediting the review courses with “…making studying efficient, by focusing on areas that have higher likelihood of appearing on the actual exam, and spending less time on areas that probably won’t come up in the exam.”

Tip #2: Review Study Material On-the-Go

When studying for the CPA exam, it is almost impossible to review the material too much, say most CPAs. In fact, Tom Vucinic, CPA, suggests taking advantage of every spare moment you have in a day to study or review. “Whenever you have free time—whether it is on a bus, in between classes or eating lunch – take out your flash cards and review the information. The more times you review concepts, the easier they are to remember and understand.” An easy way to employ Vucinic’s advice would be to download exam review materials on your phone, tablet or other mobile device. That way you always have the material at your fingertips, allowing you to study anytime, anywhere.

Tip #3: Understand the Exam is a Marathon, not a Sprint

With four different parts spanning over multiple test periods, many successful CPAs advise new candidates to think of the CPA exam as a marathon rather than a sprint. Aparna Sathi, who passed the Exam in 2010, reflects on her perspective during the exam process. “For me, hard work and diligence go hand-in-hand. For me, it means this: Each time I take a study break, diligence is that tiny voice in my head that tells me that in order to pass, I MUST get back to studying,” she said. “One of the most important things to remember is that CPA exam is not about intelligence, it’s about diligence.” Mental toughness and dedication to studying often help candidates feel better prepared once they reach their testing dates.

Tip #4: Remember: Every Exam is Different

Consider this: In 2011 alone, more than 95,000 sections of the CPA exam were taken by candidates, many of whom had previously failed. This means that it is highly likely that you may fail one or more sections at some point in this process. Though some candidates fail by a significant margin, most candidates fail by only a few points. The important advice to know here is that it doesn’t matter how many points you were short of passing when it comes to re-taking the exam. Bradley Bateman, who passed the CPA Examination in 2011, explains why. “If you take a test for the second time, it will be completely different [than the first test]. Study everything again as if you are taking the test for the first time and pay special attention to your weak areas.” Many successful CPA exam candidates suggest that even if you only need to score a few points higher than your previous examination score, study as if you are taking the test for the first time.

Tip #5: Adopt Good Sleep Habits

Preparing for and passing the CPA exam can be a long process, so when embarking on this phase of your life, it is wise to try to consistently get a good amount of rest. Making sleep a priority as part of your routine lifestyle can play a significant role in your journey to passing the exam. While many know that it is important to get a good night’s rest before any big event, research has also shown that an unusually long duration of sleep before a big event can actually be disruptive to your sleep pattern and cause you to feel even more fatigued throughout the day. So, avoid this pitfall by incorporating good sleep habits into your daily routine at the beginning of this process.

Hopefully you will find these tips helpful on your quest to successfully preparing to take the CPA Examination. Be sure to check out Parts II and III, where we provide additional test day tips and advice regarding what to do after taking the exam. If you have any questions regarding the exam process, please visit the Exams section of our website.

> Read Part II: Test Day
> Read Part III: The Next Step

“Passing the CPA Exam Is Not About Intelligence” Aparna Sathi 5/10/2010
“8 Tips for Passing the CPA Exam” Bradley Bateman 3/30/2011
“Tips on How to Pass The CPA Exam” Tom Vucinic
“I Finally Passed the CPA Exam!” David Bryant 12/19/2008
“Fatigue and Excessive Sleepiness” 2011
“CPA Exam Performance: All Jurisdictions” NASBA 2011

Other Suggested Reading

"5 Tips for Passing the CPA Exam" Andrew Lee 4/9/2010

"Conquer CPA Exam Studying" This Way to CPA

"Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Bulletin"