5 tips to excel at task-based simulations for the CPA Exam

6 min read

With the launch of CPA Evolution, the CPA Exam content has undergone significant changes, including requiring candidates to choose from one of three Disciplines and phasing out written communication tasks. But regardless of how the exam has changed, both multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and task-based simulations (TBSs) remain pivotal to your exam success. 

We understand that task-based simulations are complex and may seem intimidating, but to help you get Exam Day Readysm, we are sharing our five best strategies to clinch them.

What are task-based simulations on the CPA Exam? 

Task-based simulations are case study questions based on real-life situations including examples of information, communication or data and presented with a series of questions based on them. They are designed to test your knowledge and skills in each subject area. These scenario questions can be more difficult than multiple-choice questions (MCQs) because they demand a deeper understanding of the subject matter to sift through the information provided and apply your knowledge. 

How important are task-based simulations on the CPA Exam? 

Tackling TBSs efficiently and accurately is essential to passing each section of the exam. For a bit more context, let’s look at the CPA Exam format. 

Each section of the exam is divided into five specific testlets – two testlets are MCQs, and three are task-based simulations. Your score on all sections of the CPA Exam is weighted 50 percent on MCQs and 50 percent on TBSs. The only exception is ISC, which is weighted 60 percent on MCQs and 40 percent on TBSs. 

To better understand the CPA Exam content, let's break down each exam section by MCQs and TBSs: 

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD): 78 MCQs and 7 TBSs 
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR): 50 MCQs and 7 TBSs 
  • Taxation and Regulation (REG): 72 MCQs and 8 TBSs 
  • Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR): 50 MCQs and TBSs 
  • Information Systems and Controls (ISC): 80 MCQs and 6 TBSs 
  • Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP): 68 MCQs and 7 TBSs 

How challenging are the new CPA Exam task-based simulations? 

The CPA Exam tests content at four skill levels (listed from easiest to most difficult):

  • Remembering and Understanding 
  • Application 
  • Analysis
  • Evaluation (used on the AUD only) 

Unlike multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations are pre-determined and the questions do not change based on your performance on the exam. 

What types of task-based simulations appear on the new CPA Exam? 

TBSs on the new CPA Exam may include situational background information, memos, emails, financial documentation, charts or other sources. The most common types of TBSs are:

  • Research-based simulations — These require you to review authoritative literature to find relevant information. Simple research tasks may require you to find and quote code.
  • Document review simulations — These offer background documentation and realistic source documents, such as bank statements, invoices and memos. You analyze keywords, phrases and paragraphs and suggest any necessary edits. 
  • Journal entry simulations — These provide financial documentation for you to analyze and determine what data, if any, must be entered into a journal. 
  • Open response simulations — These may include lists of options or matching or fill-in-the-blank. 

5 key strategies to ace task-based simulations

Our expert CPA instructors have put together an updated list of their top five strategies to help you perform your best on every type of TBS on the new CPA Exam. 

Read all of the directions for each TBS carefully and thoroughly. 

It’s easy to mis-read or skip steps when you’re reading the directions for your task-based simulations, but this will lead to losing valuable points. Taking the time to read the directions carefully to ensure you understand the directions and answer all parts of the TBS will be worth the extra seconds of time spent. 

Be familiar with the format and question types. 

With Becker’s CPA Exam Review, you’ll be able to practice each type of TBS and focus on the ones that are most challenging for you personally. Becker’s review of TBSs for each exam will keep you familiar with questions and the exam interface itself. Most of the TBSs include a split screen with questions and exhibit links on one side and exhibits, calculator, authoritative literature or a spreadsheet on the other side. The more you practice with Becker, the less anxiety on exam day. 

Know the content for the task-based simulations and the CPA Exam skill levels 

It may seem obvious, but while MCQs focus on making sure you know and remember the information, the TBSs focus on making sure you know how to apply it in day-to-day operations. So it’s important that you go beyond memorization and understand how the concepts work in application. 

Becker’s CPA Exam Review offers comprehensive instruction through our textbooks and SkillBuilder videos to make sure you fully understand all the topics you’re likely to encounter following the AICPA’s new CPA Exam Blueprint. As you work through each section’s content, you can identify the skill levels where you’re most comfortable and where you need to spend extra study time. 

Perfect your pace as you plan your time management 

It’s easy to let time get away when you’re working through task-based simulations, so it’s critical that you manage your time on the CPA Exam carefully. Know in advance how much time you plan to spend on each of the five testlets for each CPA Exam. 

Remember that TBSs are more complex and require more analysis than MCQs, and your CPA Exam time management plan should reflect this. Learning some CPA Exam time management tips is beneficial, but Becker goes a step further and helps you plan your exam day strategy for how much time to spend on your testlets. 

Practice, Practice, Practice! 

As we mentioned above, half of your exam score comes from your performance on TBSs, making them essential to passing each exam. The key to success on the new CPA Exam is to practice answering TBSs so you aren’t surprised by their complexity. If you have practiced in a realistic testing environment and honed your skills, TBSs should not be a challenge. 

Get a 14-Day Free Trial of Becker's Exam Review

Even though task-based simulations may seem daunting, Becker has the tools you need to be Exam Day Readysm. Our CPA Exam review includes over 7,000 MCQs, 400 TBSs, plus expert instruction and resources from our experienced educators to make sure you have the knowledge and confidence to pass the exam. 

Try it for yourself! Get a 14-day free trial of our leading exam review and find out why over one million CPA candidates have trusted Becker!

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