When it comes to preparing for your future, there are a number of different ways that you could do it. For a lot of different professions, however, one of the top things you need to do is take certification exams. This will help you to prepare for your new career, and it’s also going to help you be able to practice. For example, in the accounting world, you may need to become a CPA in order to work in specific fields.
In order to become a CPA, you need to take the certification exam. We’re going to talk about everything you need to know about how to study for the CPA exam, some great CPA preparation tips and just what it takes for you to pass it, especially the first time. You want to make sure you know what to expect, and you definitely don’t want to fall behind when it comes to heading into your new career. Just take a look at these CPA exam tips and our CPA exam study guide to help you along.
How Long Does It Take to Prepare for the CPA Exam?
If you want to be fully prepared for the exam, you should plan to spend approximately 350 to 800 hours studying. This comes out to around 100 to 200 hours for each of the different sections of the exam. And you should make sure that you aren’t taking too much time in the process. You may want to divide the study time out over a long span of time, but you may find yourself struggling even more if you give yourself too much time.
Instead, divide each section up into a period of eight to twelve weeks at the most. If you work part-time or if you’re not working at all, you should try to stick closer to only eight weeks. For those who are figuring out how to study for the CPA exam while working full time, studying over 12 weeks per section is probably a good idea. But remember, you still want to get in up to 200 hours per section within that eight to twelve weeks.
If you give yourself too much extra time, you might not actually complete the studying that you need. On the other hand, if you don’t give yourself enough time, you’ll feel overwhelmed, and you might find yourself struggling to remember all of the material because you’re reading through it too quickly. Balancing yourself out is going to give you the best chance of success.
Keep in mind that you should focus on one section of the exam at a time, rather than trying to study for the entire thing all at once. That means you should devote eight to twelve weeks to studying for the first section and then take that exam. If you pass, you can devote the next eight to twelve weeks to studying for section two and taking that exam. If you don’t pass, you can get back to studying the same material and retake the first exam. This makes it easier for you to study the things you need to know and not forget in between when taking multiple sections.
What Should You Study for the CPA Exam?
There are four different sections to the exam but keep in mind that you will be taking each of these sections separately. The first is Auditing and Attestation, then Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting and Regulation. Each of these sections must be passed within an 18 month period in order for you to achieve your certification. If you don’t pass all of them within 18 months, you will lose credit for any you have already passed and have to start again.
Make sure that you’re studying different types of questions as well. Your exam is going to consist of multiple-choice questions as well as task-based simulations and written communication tasks. You need to be comfortable with each of these different types of questions, and you need to be able to work your way through each of them in a testing environment. Make sure you’re practicing not just what the specific rules are related to accounting but also how to execute some of the tasks and explain yourself as needed.
What is the Best Study Material for the CPA Exam?
When you’re ready to start studying for the CPA, you want to make sure that you have as much high-quality study material as possible. That means you’re going to want to look at several different types of study guides, which include some of the top manufacturers and publishers of test prep materials, like the For Dummies line, McGraw-Hill, and Wiley. Each of these publishers can give you excellent materials to work with and help you with self review for the CPA board exam.
The For Dummies line of books is made to be as simple and straightforward as possible. It’s designed to be suitable for anyone who wants to learn more about a subject and can help those with little or no financial background as well as those who are already qualified to take the exam. It’s also comprehensive enough that you’ll learn what you need to in a short amount of time.
McGraw-Hill has several books, including a set of review questions that will help you practice exactly what the real exam experience is going to be like. You can see sample questions that may actually show up on the exam and get an idea of what the real questions will look like including formatting and the types of answers provided.
Finally, Wiley has a whole series of books that include exam reviews, question packs, study guides, and lessons. In fact, you’ll get just about everything that you need to get from starting with barely any knowledge to everything you need to be successful on this exam. Plus, you can even get access to the online test bank in case you want a little more assistance along the way.
What Percentage of People Pass the CPA Exam?
The truth is that the CPA exam is difficult, and a lot of people don’t actually make it through the first time. In fact, most review courses advertise a passing rate of approximately 50%. Some have a little higher, and some have lower rates because that’s how challenging the exam is. You’ll need to work hard in order to pass, and if you don’t, you’ll know you’re definitely right around the average.
This exam isn’t a one time option, however. In fact, you can take the exam and each section of it as many times as you want until you pass. So don’t get too upset if you fail a section (or multiple sections) the first time around. And don’t get upset if you fail a few times before you finally manage to get through. You may find yourself one of the many people who struggle to get through all of the sections.
How Hard It Is to Pass the CPA Exam?
This exam is designed to be difficult so that only those who are highly qualified are able to get the certification. That’s why there’s such a high rate of people who don’t pass it on the first try. You’ll find that the more you study and the more time you give yourself to prepare, the better you’re going to feel walking into the test.
If you give yourself enough time to study and get ready for the exam, you’re also going to find that you are more likely to pass, which is another essential part of the process. The more confident you feel, the better you’re going to do because nerves will start to eat away at your confidence. Make sure you look at all of the material you can for the section you’re going to take and that you give yourself plenty of time before you need to get started.
What Score Do You Need to Pass the CPA Exam?
In order to pass the CPA exam, you need to score at least 75% on each of the sections. You will be able to move on and take another section whenever you want, but keep in mind that you need at least 75% on each of them to get the CPA certification when you are all done. You can take each of the sections as many times as you need to in order to achieve this.
Each of the scores on the sections is rated between 0 and 99, but keep in mind that the number of questions you get right compared to the number of questions asked will not give you the percentage that you’re looking for. That’s because you’re going to have different questions that are weighted in different ways. If you get 60 questions correct out of 100, that doesn’t mean you have a 60%, for example.
The only way to know if you got a passing CPA exam score on your test and whether it was a pass or fail is by getting the report back from the testing facility. They will be the ones to tell you what your percentage was and whether you have passed or you need to take the test again.
15 CPA Exam Preparation and Study Tips
There are plenty of things that you should be doing when it comes time to take your CPA exam or at least to prepare for it. You want to make sure you have all of the opportunities possible to get a good score and to advance on each of the different sections. We’re going to take a look at several of the CPA exam tips you should be doing to improve your chances along the way.
Take your exam right away.
As soon as you finish college and meet the requirements is the best time to take the CPA exam because you’re fresh on the information. You’re going to know it better at that moment than you will at any other time, and that’s going to help you when it comes to studying. You won’t need to study quite as much that way, and you’ll have a better understanding of the material.
Set aside plenty of time.
Remember, you’ll need to study between 100 and 200 hours for each of the different sections. You definitely don’t want to find yourself cramming in as much studying as you can at the last minute. Instead, you want to make sure that you space out your studying and have enough time to get it done.
Don’t stretch it too much.
On the other hand, you don’t want to give yourself too much time to study. Aim for between eight weeks and twelve weeks to get all of your studying done for each section. That means 100 to 200 hours divided over a period of eight weeks. It’s going to mean putting in a lot of time, but it’s going to be easier for you in the long run.
Schedule one exam at a time.
You’ll need to pass all of the different sections of the CPA exam in order to get the certification, but you can space them out however you want (as long as you pass all of them within 18 months). Don’t schedule all of them at the same time. Instead, schedule one and pass that before you schedule the next.
Flashcards are great because you can take them with you anywhere. Plus, you can use one of the many apps that are out there for creating them on a mobile device or write them out by hand. If you don’t’ want to create your own, there are plenty of decks available for purchase that you can use to help you with the basics and even some of the more advanced topics.
Give yourself a break.
Don’t spend every waking moment studying for your CPA exam. Two hundred hours over eight weeks is over three hours each day, but make sure you’re taking some time to walk away from your studying as well. You need to be able to get other things done and just relax, or you’re going to burn yourself out.
Don’t skip too long.
You may find yourself feeling burned out and unable to study for a day. That’s okay if it happens once or even twice, but if you find yourself skipping multiple days in a row or unable to study for an entire day or more each week, then maybe you should look at rescheduling your exam. Taking too many days off is going to hurt your ability to get through the material.
Let your job know.
You will already be working in the field when it comes time to take the CPA exam, so let your employer know. They may have materials available, or they may be willing to help you in some other way. Not to mention you might get the test paid for, or you might get some time off to help you study. Once you pass, you may even be eligible for a raise or a promotion.
Create a schedule.
Don’t just plan to study every day. Plan for exactly when you’re going to study every day. Then plan for what you’re going to study every day. This will make sure you get through all of the material and that you don’t miss anything. It’s also going to help you feel more confident that you’re working on things the right way. You can even plan around your peak times of day when you’re most productive.
Use practice tests.
Practice tests are great for helping you gauge where you’re doing well and where you’re struggling. Take one when you first start practicing, so you have a baseline, and then one periodically throughout your study period to make sure you are progressing and so you know where you need to study. You’ll also want to take one right before your exam, so you know you’re prepared.
Give it a try.
You don’t have to feel 100% confident walking into the exam on test day. But you do need to actually walk in there and try. Remember, you can retake the exam as many times as you need to, so trust that you’ve done everything you can to prepare and walk in there and take the exam. If nothing else, it will help you get a feel for what it’s like, so you’re more prepared next time.
Don’t be ashamed to fail.
If you fail a section once, twice, or even several times, or if you fail multiple sections several times, don’t worry. Most people do. So, you want to make sure that you let it go, learn from the mistakes, and get back to practicing. That way, you can set yourself up better the next time around.
Get a buddy.
Get someone that can help you, whether it’s someone from your work, someone you went to school with, or someone else entirely. Having someone to help you study or to answer the questions that you might have while you’re studying is going to make the entire process a lot easier for you.
Check your qualifications.
Make sure that you actually qualify for the exam before you sign up for it. Chances are you’ll be rejected if you don’t actually qualify, but you don’t want to pay for the exam and go through the entire process if you can’t actually be certified. It’s going to be a waste of money and time for you.
Practice every question.
There are three different types of questions on the exam, so make sure you know how each of them works. Multiple choice questions should be the simplest ones to understand, but written communications and task-based simulations can be difficult for anyone. By practicing for these types of questions, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed on test day.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Study for the CPA Exam
Getting ready for your CPA exam is going to take you a lot of time. In fact, studying for all of the different sections could take you up to 850 hours if you want to do it comprehensively. Make sure you’re giving yourself about 100 to 200 hours and about eight to twelve weeks per section, so you have enough time to study but not too much where you get overwhelmed.
Before you know it, you could be getting your CPA certification, as long as you’re diligent about the CPA exam tips and tricks we’ve discussed above.
Want to know how much it cost to take the CPA exam? Then check out our post on that here.
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