The benefits of being a certified public accountant are abundant; yet, the act of obtaining the certification can be described as an arduous journey. Certified public accountants have a little more leverage in the job market, as some tasks impermissible for accountants to complete can be done by CPAs. In other words, the CPA designation is a point of recognition for the hard work accountants undertake to pass the Uniform CPA Exam, and it is a marker of an accountant’s ongoing commitment to the profession by completing required continuing education each year.
The CPA exam is issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Taking the exam right after college is ideal because the content is still fresh in the mind, but if you missed that window, it is not too late! To get the hands-on practical experience required for certification, rather than sitting for the exam, some gain experience working under a CPA first. Since both approaches to the certification requisites are analogous, Vault takes a proactive approach at helping their staff prepare to sit for the four-part exam. Below are some guiding points to make studying for the Uniform CPA Examination the most effective for those balancing work and life alongside test preparation.
Build out a Healthy Time Frame to Study for Each Section
Candidates should give themselves at least six weeks to get through the material for each of the four sections: Audit and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment & Concepts (BEC). In addition to the six weeks for each section, Vault staff Kristen McNulty recommends that full-time employees with other obligations build in an extra two-week-review-period for each section just before taking the exam. She also believes, “looking at the big picture and how much material you have to go through can be overwhelming. Break it down. Commit to ‘x’ number of chapters to get through each week, even if some weeks that is one chapter.”
Select Test Dates That Coincide with Your Study Plans
AICPA allows candidates to take the test in parts; although, candidates must finish and successfully pass all four parts within an eighteen-month-period. With that in mind, McNulty offers her wisdom, “start with a section you are familiar with. I used to be an auditor, so I started with that section. It makes it easier to relate to something you’ve done in practice.” She also recommends scheduling sections of the exam that full-time candidates are most comfortable with during the busy time of the year, so that when things slow down in the workplace, studying for harder parts of the test can take forefront.
AICPA will soon eliminate the testing windows on the first of July 2020 and replace that practice with year-round testing. This re-emphasizes the importance of scheduling parts of the exam during the slow season in the workplace. This way, if a candidate receives a failing score on their initial attempt, they can schedule a re-take for the same section right after, while the content is still top of mind.
Be Methodical but Stay Practical
As a full-time worker and CPA candidate, McNulty does not sugar coat the dedication and time that goes into studying, “you have to say ‘no’ to a lot of things, which isn’t fun. If you share about the exam with people around you, they’ll understand and hopefully they’ll be able to support you in your commitment.” So, while sharing goals with loved ones and colleagues help promote candidates’ accountability and give them a support system, McNulty also believes in giving herself a grace period. This grace period can be used up when family or work obligations get in the way of study time. Having built-in that extra layer of time will come in handy when candidates lose a day or two on account of life.
Everyone Learns, but Not Everyone Learns the Same Way
Whether you do better waking early to get an hour of reading done on the elliptical or stay up a little late curled up in bed with a textbook, candidates should really gain a firm understanding about what time of the day they’re most productive and less absorbed in other tasks. Studying somewhere you enjoy is right up there with the time of day candidates choose to study. While some enjoy the lively atmosphere of a coffee shop, others may do better in a quiet corner at the library.
Similarly, although some candidates may flourish with independent study, others may need some peer-to-peer interaction. Buddy up with other CPA candidates and work in symbiosis to teach and learn from each other. This is an especially good study method when each study buddy brings a different strong suit to the study table. However, “If you find that you are still not retaining the material or grasping the concepts, a tutor is a good option,” acknowledges McNulty.
Eliminate the Surprise Factor & Take the Practice Test
Equally important to familiarizing yourself with the functionality of the digital exam is being ready to answer questions posed in various formats: multiple choice questions (MCQ), task-based simulations (TBS), and written communication tasks (WCT).
Keep Calm and Study On
“Everyone wants to see you succeed,” says the optimistic CPA candidate McNulty. Overall, this journey is not easy, so Vault leaders encourage the CPA candidates on staff to make S.M.A.R.T. goals and hold them accountable while also cheering them on.
Uniform CPA Examination Blueprints
This document gives you both a foundational understanding of each test section along with an exhaustive look at each of the four section’s content areas.
What Does It Take to Become a CPA?
This PowerPoint gives candidates a brief overview on how to become a CPA. The bulleted summary includes links to information on passing scores, state requirements, and testing centers.
Tool to Help Candidates Start on the Right Path
This quiz helps candidates understand the steps, process, and variables essential to be eligible to sit for the exam.
CPA Exam Sample Tests and Tutorials
Find sample tests in each of the four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination along with tutorial videos on the exam software.
Testing Windows to Be Replaced by Year-Round Testing
See details concerning the effective date, stipulations, and other information regarding the upcoming transition from testing windows to year-round testing on this webpage.