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Author: Penny Vernon, NASBA Candidate Care Manager
Posted: July 18, 2013

AnxietyIIPart I of our Managing Test Anxiety series centered on methods available to reduce the general level of anxiety often related to a stressful event. In Part II, we’re going to focus on the stress that often sets in as candidates begin to take the Uniform CPA Examination.

As the day of the Exam approaches, anxiety levels tend to rise. This is referred to as anticipatory anxiety. Candidates often fall into what I call the “What if?” trap. They begin to second-guess themselves, calling their readiness into question: “What if I haven’t studied enough?” “What if I am not really ready?” “What if I can’t remember what I’ve learned?” “What if I fail?”

This type of thinking can lead to increased agitation, and even depression. One way to avoid this uncomfortable state is to use the positive imagery techniques I mentioned in Part I of this series to visualize yourself achieving your goal.

To enhance your ability to knock out pre-exam stress and sidestep a shaky start on the Exam, here are more tips to reduce unnecessary stress before starting the test.

Several days before the Exam

  • Read the confirmation email that you received from Prometric after scheduling your appointment to make sure that the date and time and place of your exam are correct. If they are not, or if you did not receive a confirmation, contact Prometric immediately to confirm.
  • Know where you are going. If you are not familiar with the location of the testing center, check it out ahead of time. It is ideal to go to the site in order to know the exact location, available parking and possible traffic issues. If you arrive late, you will not be permitted to test. However, in the event that you are late due to an unforeseen incident such as a car accident, obtain some documentation (police report) and email NASBA’s Candidate Care Department within five business days in order to be considered for a free retest.
  • Print your Notice To Schedule (NTS) and look at it closely to ensure that your name on the NTS matches the name on your primary ID. If it does not, contact NASBA immediately. Make sure to read the list of prohibited items listed on the back.
  • If you have not already done so, complete the tutorial and sample tests found on the AICPA’s website to become familiar with the software that is unique to the examination.

Day before the Exam

  • Put together all of the ID requirements you will need to take to the testing center. Be sure that the NTS you are taking is the current one (check expiration date) and not one you have already used. If you take the wrong NTS with you, the Exam will not launch and you will forfeit your fees. If you do not have your NTS, you will not be permitted to have access to the computers at the testing center to retrieve it. Make sure that you do not mistake the confirmation from Prometric for the NTS. The NTS is sent by NASBA. The NTS is mandatory, but the confirmation from Prometric is not.
  • Decide what you plan to wear and get it ready so that you do not have to make any extra decisions on the day of the Exam.
  • The big question: Is it better to sleep or cram? Research supports the idea that spending long hours studying the night before an examination in lieu of a good night’s sleep is counter-productive. Memory recall and concentration are much improved when an individual is rested.
  • Avoid discussing the Exam with friends and fellow test takers. This can lead to an increase in self-doubt and heightened anxiety.

Day of the Exam

  • If you experience severe weather in your area the morning of your Exam and are not sure if your testing center is open, you can try to call the testing center or check Prometric’s website for possible site closures. If the testing center is open, you are required to keep your appointment. However, if the situation is dangerous and you are unable to travel, contact NASBA’s Candidate Care Department and provide documentation of the conditions in order to be considered for a free retest. If the testing center is closed, you will be contacted by Prometric to be rescheduled.
  • Even if your nervousness has suppressed your appetite, try to eat a nutritious meal before the test. Avoid excess sugar and caffeine.
  • You are required to be at the testing center 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. Sign in as soon as you arrive. The testing centers are particularly busy toward the end of the testing window when the volume of testers is high, so you may need to wait before you are called. Use the time to do some deep breathing, stretching and positive visualization. Avoid discussing your concerns about the Exam with others in the waiting room, as this may increase your anxiety. Don’t worry, you will not be penalized for starting late if you are called to check in several minutes after your scheduled time.
  • During the check-in process, you will be given two noteboards and two markers. Try the markers before entering the testing room. If they do not work properly, ask to exchange them.
  • Once you sit down at the computer, enter your Launch Code. You have 10 minutes to move through the introductory screens. There is no time to write down any notes, and it is very easy to lose track of time. If you exceed the 10 minutes, your Exam will time out and you will need to reapply and pay to receive a new NTS.

Keep these tips in mind as you make your way to the testing center and onto your computer to get off to a good start on the CPA Exam. Stay tuned to for Part III in the Managing Test Anxiety series, in which we will discuss what to expect when faced with the unexpected during the CPA Exam.

Penny Vernon has worked at NASBA for over 15 years, serving as manager of Candidate Care for the past 10. She earned a master’s in Clinical Psychology from Middle Tennessee State University, and her research on anxiety was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Vernon was also instrumental in opening and running NASBA’s testing center in Guam, giving her first-hand experience with the workings of a testing center.

> Read Part I: Reducing Anxiety
> Read Part III: Facing the Unexpected

“Cramming for a test? Don’t do it, say UCLA researchers” Mark Wheeler 8/22/12

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"Preparing for the CPA Exam" Series

Overcoming Test Anxiety