Navigating the Four Parts of the CPA Exam: Tips for Success

Posted on March 15, 2023 By Mathew Berg

Whether you're an accounting graduate or a seasoned accountant looking to advance your career, passing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam is a crucial step. Although all territories have the same requirements for passing the CPA exam, additional requirements vary from state to state. International students may also require foreign transcript evaluation for CPA.

The CPA credential demonstrates your expertise in accounting and opens up numerous opportunities in finance and business. However, the CPA exam is notoriously challenging. Therefore, in this blog, we'll share some tried and tested CPA exam success tips for navigating the four parts of the CPA exam and increasing your chances of success.

Understanding the Four Parts of the CPA Exam

Before we dive into the tips and tricks, let's briefly go over the four parts of the CPA exam:

  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC): This section covers various business-related topics, including corporate governance, economics, and information technology. You'll also be tested on your communication and analytical skills.
  • Regulation (REG): This section tests your knowledge of taxation and business law, including federal taxation, business ethics, and professional responsibilities. 
  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD): This section tests your knowledge of auditing procedures, ethics, and professional responsibilities. You'll also be tested on your ability to evaluate and interpret audit reports.
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR): This section focuses on financial accounting and reporting, including the preparation of financial statements, the application of accounting principles, and the analysis of financial data.

Each part consists of multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, and written communication tasks. The exam is computer-based and administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

5 Essential CPA Exam Success Tips

Now that you better understand the four parts of the CPA exam, let's look at some tips and tricks for success.

1. Create a Study Schedule

One of the most critical factors in passing the CPA exam is creating a study schedule and sticking to it. Before you start studying, take some time to map out a plan that fits your schedule and learning style. Set realistic goals and milestones and break the study material into manageable chunks.

Remember that you must pass all four parts of the CPA exam within 18 months. Due to the limited availability of the exam (it’s given just four times a year), it’s crucial to schedule your studies accordingly. The clock starts ticking as soon as you finish the first part of the test, so plan accordingly. The best plans consider the realities of work and personal commitments and some wiggle room for the unexpected.

2. Consider the Order of the Tests

CPAs have a substantial dispute over the “optimal” order to take the test parts. It may make sense to take the exam after the corresponding college course as soon as possible so that the material is still fresh in your mind. Furthermore, some CPAs believe that the best time to study for the AUD section of the CPA exam is after finding employment in the auditing field.

Several people suggest leaving the BEC test for the last because it has the highest pass rate. It’s better to wait to begin the 18-month countdown till you pass one of the parts with the lowest pass rate, such as the FAR section. Many test-takers attempt more than one area at a time. In reality, there is no foolproof order for taking a CPA exam. You should carefully craft one that suits your needs.

3. Use Multiple Study Materials

A variety of study materials are available for the CPA exam, including textbooks, review courses, and online resources. It’s essential to use multiple study materials to comprehensively cover all the exam topics and increase your chances of success.

Different study materials have different approaches and can help you understand complex concepts better. Check out CPA exam review courses to supplement your study materials, and use a CPA exam study planner to track your progress and stay on track.

4. Take Practice Exams

Practice exams are a great way to simulate the actual CPA exam experience and test your knowledge of the exam topics. Taking practice exams can help you identify areas of weakness and adjust your study plan accordingly.

5. Stay Motivated and Positive

The CPA exam is challenging, and it’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t pass on the first try. However, it’s important to stay motivated and positive throughout the process. Remember that many successful accountants have failed the exam before passing, and it does not reflect your abilities as an accountant. Surround yourself with a support system of family, friends, and colleagues who can encourage you and provide emotional support. You can read about the questions related to CPA Exams for International Students.

Finally, taking care of yourself during the CPA exam process is important. Be sure to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet to keep your mind and body in top shape. Remember that taking care of yourself is as important as studying for the exam.

Get Your Foreign Transcript Evaluation for CPA with ERES

Passing the CPA exam is a challenging but rewarding accomplishment. By following these CPA exam success tips, you'll be well on your way to becoming a certified public accountant. However, make sure you learn about different state requirements before you start. If you're an international student, you may need to get a foreign transcript evaluation before applying for the CPA exam.

Only use credential evaluation organizations recognized by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES), such as ERES. Once all requirements are met, you are ready to attempt the CPA exam. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve your goals and advance your career in accounting. Good luck!

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