6 Tips to Pass the CPA Exam on Your First Try

6 Tips to Pass the CPA Exam on Your First Try - Vishal CPA PREP
There is no limit to the number of times you can take the CPA exam. But that doesn’t mean you want to spend months taking the CPA exam over and over. Passing the CPA exam on your first go means you can move onto the next CPA exam and start your career as a CPA sooner. Here’s everything you need to know to pass your CPA exam the first time. 

What Is the Pass Score for the CPA Exam?

To pass your CPA exam, you need to score 75 or higher out of 100. This is the pass score for all four of the CPA exams. If you score 74 or lower, you fail the CPA exam. A score of 75 is just as much of a pass as a score in the 90s or even a perfect 100. You’re the only one who sees your CPA exam score, so it’s only the pass or fail that matters. 

6 Tips to Help You Pass the CPA Exam in the First Attempt 

In my time as a CPA tutor, I’ve noticed that it is the small things that set CPA exam candidates up for success. If you’re doing these things, then you are maximizing your chance of passing the CPA exam the first time. 

Create a Study Timetable 

A study timetable breaks CPA study materials down into manageable chunks. It spreads your CPA exam prep across a number of study sessions rather than cramming your brain full of information that doesn’t stick. A customized study plan, like the ones I create for my students, ensure you are not studying too much or too little. It will hold you accountable rather than making you feel like you are falling behind. 

A good CPA exam study timetable will make sure all topics are covered. It will also provide time for topic revision and general revision. 

When I create custom study timetables for my students, we pick their exam date to maximize the amount of time they have to study and to reduce the waiting time for the CPA exam results. From there, we work backwards to create a study timetable that covers all the CPA study materials and fits into their schedule. Each of my students have different needs, some are working full-time, some are parents, and some are both. So I create customized study plans to fit around their life instead of making them change their life around to fit in study. 

Test Your Knowledge 

Don’t wait until a few weeks before the CPA exam to start taking practice tests, start early on. All of my CPA study materials include examples and practice questions from the very start for several reasons: 

  • It helps students to understand what they are learning (as opposed to memorizing information)
  • It gives students insight into the types of questions they’ll encounter in the exam 
  • It identifies any areas of difficulty or misunderstanding early when it is easy to correct 
  • It helps students apply their knowledge in real-world examples 
  • It gets students used to different ways the question may be asked in the CPA exam

It is easy to be unaware of the gaps in your knowledge when preparing for a CPA exam. Regular testing and working through examples help you to spot misunderstandings and knowledge gaps and correct them. If you wait until a few weeks before the CPA exam, you’ll have to unlearn the incorrect knowledge and learn the correct method. 

2 weeks before the CPA exam, I ask my Group Zoom Tutoring students to book Private Zoom Tutoring sessions with me so we can assess their progress. It is difficult to gauge individual knowledge and progress in a group setting, even though I keep my groups small (maximum 10 students) so this allows me to spot any weak areas. We do testing and create a 2-week CPA revision plan to get your exam ready. 

Apply For Accommodations If You Need Them 

If you need accommodations for the CPA exam, then apply for them. Failing to apply for the accommodations you need is putting yourself at a disadvantage. 

You can seek accommodations for any medical conditions that would affect your ability to take the exam. Common reasons my students receive CPA exam accommodations are anxiety, ADHD, and dyslexia. A great way to know if you would be eligible for CPA exam accommodations is whether or not you received exam accommodations in high school. If you did, you are likely to receive accommodations for your CPA exam. 

Use Your Exam Time Wisely 

Managing your time during the CPA exam will make a huge impact on your success. CPA exam skills are a large part of my CPA exam mentoring because poor time management during the CPA exam can undo all of my students’ study and preparation. Here are my 3 tips for using your exam time wisely: 

  • Add a time limit to your practice CPA tests so you can practice working to a time limit
  • Prioritize the questions worth more points so you aren’t losing too many points if you run out of time 
  • Use the clock in the testing center to make sure you aren’t spending too long on one question 

Students come to me for CPA exam tutoring, but I am a CPA exam mentor and coach who teaches students how to approach a question. That includes how to read the question to understand what is being asked and tips and tricks to help you become more efficient when answering multiple choice questions. For an exam like FAR, you have 4 hours to answer a mix of multiple choice and task-based simulation questions. We practice answering multiple choice questions so that you can pace yourself in your CPA exam and not  

Take the Exams in the Right Order 

If I had a dollar for the number of times I explain to new students that they failed their CPA exam because they took the wrong one first, I’d be a millionaire. It’s a common mistake because nobody talks about the fact that there is a right order to take the CPA exams. I took my exams in the wrong order when I was doing my CPA exams 10 years ago, and guess what, I failed some exams because of the wrong order. 

Some of the CPA exams build upon knowledge taught in other CPA exams. For example, In FAR, we learn how to value items on the Balance Sheet, such as Cash, A/R. A/P, & non-current assets. On the AUD exam, we are "auditing" cash, A/R. A/P, & non-current assets. FAR provides the foundation for the AUD exam. 

The order for the CPA exams that I recommend is: 

  • FAR
  • REG
  • AUD
  • BEC

Find a CPA Exam Tutor 

“But Vishal, of course you’d say that, you’re a CPA exam tutor.” I am a CPA exam tutor, so it may seem like I am biased but working with a CPA tutor really cuts down the time you spend figuring things out on your own. You don’t need to spend any of your precious study time researching information, finding resources, or hunting down practice tests because your CPA tutor provides it all for you. That means you can study for your CPA exam effectively in a shorter amount of time. I like to say there are no bad students, only bad (or unsuitable) instructors. You are here reading this article because you are motivated to pass your CPA exam so you have what it takes, you just need to find the right CPA tutor to support you. 

If you really want to maximize your chances of passing your CPA exams in the first attempt, find a CPA mentor and coach. A CPA mentor will help you prepare for the exam by teaching you time management strategies for the CPA exam, help you to apply for accommodations, and practice exam skills. This is where you get all the extra tips and tricks like which exam to take first and how to use your study time effectively. 

If you’d like to learn more about my CPA tutoring and mentoring, my services page explains how it all works and answers frequently asked questions. I’d also recommend joining my free Facebook study group for more free tips to help you pass your CPA exam. 

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