US CPA Exam A little caveat to begin with – I won’t call this a ‘tip’ or a ‘success mantra’ for passing your exams. All I am doing is giving my wisdom and hence a few or all of my exam strategies might or might not work for you. If you feel like some of these strategies are not suitable for you then stick to your belief and don’t get demotivated or inundated after reading this.
For instance, had I said that I made sure to read the textbooks thoroughly twice during the last week of my exam, you don’t necessarily have to follow that exact same thing in order to succeed.
It might not be ideal for you to re-read the textbook twice before your exams! So, it depends from person to person and I am just sharing my experience with you all such that you can get inspired and able to find yours! With that all out of the way, here we go:
- Ideally I was not big on taking breaks between the exams hours. But the optional break of 15 mins really helped me to recollect my thoughts and complete the remaining testlets well on time. So, I would definitely recommend utilizing that 15 mins to rejuvenate yourself.
- I always targeted (and successfully able) to complete the first 3 testlets with approximately 2 hrs remaining which really helped me to do the remaining TBS testlets very proficiently. Even when practIcing at home, I generally followed the designated timings of 1-1.5 mins per MCQ and 15-20 mins per TBS. Obviously there are some questions which will take more time but also there are questions which will take lesser time So it kinda average outs
- I have used the authoritative literature on a couple of TBS (apart from research questions) and it kinda helped me to validate my answers which in a way you can call as a legalized cheating. You can only do this if you have enough time up your sleeve and you have some doubts on any particular SIM.
- You need to be thorough with the concepts. There will be questions (specially SIMs) which might look alien to you if you are not well versed with the key concepts. Listening to Becker’s lectures, attending live Simandhar classes and also pondering through youtube helped me in shaping my learning curve
- I would practice the MCQs and SIMs by mixing them up from multiple sections (if not all!). It helped me to retain the huge material and also gave me a sense of answering the questions during the actual exam. Practice is the key and virtue!
- Don’t just answer the MCQs but learn from them by reviewing all the four options thoroughly and why one is right and the other three are wrong. That way you can always anticipate 3 more different questions from one MCQ. So, in a way you are practising 4 MCQs from 1 single MCQ!
- Do practice all the 3 simulation exams from Becker. They are really well designed and a good mock experience before your exams. Don’t worry about the scores you get in those exams. However, make sure to review each and every question in detail.
- For working professionals like me, it was super important that I would chalk out my study plan well in advance and would stick to it at all costs. I simply used the study planner in Becker which is very nice
- I made sure to incorporate studies into little things in my daily life organically. Be it listening to lectures while exercising or driving or working (just like you would listen to music and not necessarily have to pay minute attention to the lyrics), making sure to practice at-least a set of 20-30 MCQs everyday religiously (over and above my actual study time), utilising my weekends and holidays to full extent and taking a day-off if my mind wants to wander a bit away from studies. Being a full time working professional with a formidable work pressure during month and quarter-end closes, things like these helped me immensely to train my subconscious mind to be focused on what I want.
- Caffeine, protein shakes, almonds and walnuts were my best friends during the gruelling study hours and I also made sure to exercise daily to boost my brain health. As they say – a fit brain is generally able to learn, think and remember better!
- For me ‘one paper at a time’ strategy worked pretty well. Having said that, I know there are people for whom a combination of 2 papers works too. So it depends who you are asking.
- I learnt a lot from my failures. I started my CPA journey back in 2016, cleared one paper (REG) and then flunked 4 times (thrice in AUD and once in BEC). My credit for REG also got expired.
- After losing all my hope, I left studying for CPA in 2018. Then right after moving to Hyderabad (after joining Amazon) I thought of restarting my journey again with Simandhar Education in 2019. Whatever strategies I shared, all stemmed from things which I learned and experienced all this while.
- Also, one thing I must mention about exam strategy – obviously you can get inspired from other people’s strategies just because they tasted success and cleared the exams.
- But you must also be considerate of the fact that you are a different person with a different mindset, circumstances, opportunities and responsibilities. So, simply incorporating per se 10 different people’s strategy might get your mind convoluted or overwhelmed. Know yourself, know your priorities, learn from your mistakes, get inspired from people and make a strategy that works for you which you can also share with others once you clear the exams 😊 Good-luck, cheers and peace!
Jitendra (Jiten) Agarwala
Simandhar Education is India’s No.1 training provider for US CPA, US CMA, Enrolled Agent IFRS and HRCI professional courses.