5 ways to prepare for task-based simulations

12 min read

The CPA Exam has three question types: multiple-choice questions (MCQs), task-based simulations (TBSs) and written communication tasks. You’ll need to be comfortable with all three question types to successfully pass the exam’s sections.

Task-based simulations use real-life situations to test your knowledge and skills in a subject area. These scenario questions can be more difficult than multiple-choice questions because you need a deeper understanding of the subject to fully answer them. And the best part? TBSs make up 50% of the Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG) sections, and a considerable percentage of the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section, which makes them essential to passing the exam.



Prepare to perform your best on the TBS questions by leaning on your resource for all things CPA – Becker. Our expert CPA instructors pulled together a list of the top five strategies to perform better on task-based simulations.


5 strategies to pass task-based simulations

1. Be familiar with the format and question types

Task-based simulations come in several formats, including questions that ask you to:

  • Select a series of answers from a list of options and/or input numerical answers.
  • Prepare journal entries.
  • Review and edit documents by selecting the appropriate document revisions from a list of options.

Most task-based simulations provide a set of exhibits that you will need to review and analyze to determine the answers to the simulation questions. In the BEC section, you may be asked to write an essay response, or written communication, to a scenario that may include exhibits. Accountants and essays are two words that don’t coexist often, but if you’re fully confident with the content, you should be comfortable speaking to it in a written format.


2. Know the content and CPA Exam skill levels

The CPA Exam tests content at four skill levels: Remembering and Understanding, Application, Analysis and Evaluation. These skill levels represent the depth of your knowledge in a particular area, with Remembering and Understanding being at the lowest skill level, and Evaluation at the highest.

TBSs can cover any of the topics that are testable on the CPA Exam at the Application, Analysis and Evaluation skill levels. For a better understanding of the exam content that could be covered on TBSs, you can review the AICPA Exam Blueprint, which outlines the topics that are tested at these skill levels. For a deeper dive, head to your Becker course. We map all review topics to the Blueprint and the appropriate skill levels. This means as you work through each section’s content, you can identify which skill levels you’re most comfortable in and, conversely, which levels need extra study time.


3. Practice effective time management

It’s critical that you manage your time on the CPA Exam carefully. Start by planning – know in advance how much time you plan to spend on the five testlets of each section.

The AICPA recommends that you spend about two hours working through the MCQs in Testlets 1 and 2, and the two TBSs in Testlet 3. After an optional off-the-clock 15-minute break, you should then spend the remaining two hours working through the three TBSs in Testlet 4 and the three TBSs in Testlet 5.

You may be wondering, “do I really need to spend two full hours to answer six TBSs?” The answer is yes, you will need that much time. These questions are complex and require more analysis than MCQs. Your CPA Exam time management plan should reflect this.

Here are more time management tips for taking the CPA Exam.


4. Know the test interface

Part of the challenge with simulations is the exam interface itself. There are several components, which can be daunting for candidates who aren’t fully prepared. The interface includes a split screen – on the left are the simulation question and exhibit links; on the right are exhibits, calculator, authoritative literature and a spreadsheet.

The more experience you have navigating the simulation interface, the less anxiety you will have on exam day when you work through these complicated questions. That leads us to the last strategy for tackling task-based simulations...


5. Practice, Practice, Practice!

50% of your exam score comes from your performance on task-based simulation questions, including the written communication questions on the BEC section of the exam. This means TBSs are essential to your passing the exam! TBSs are the most comprehensive and complex questions – although you may be tempted to primarily use the MCQs to practice for the CPA Exam, MCQs are only 50% of your exam score. The key to exam success is to practice answering task-based simulations so you aren’t surprised on exam day by their complexity. If you have practiced, they won’t be a challenge for you!

The good news: Becker has the tools to help you practice. Our CPA Exam course includes simulated exams, which are a great opportunity to practice for the exam in an environment that is very similar to the actual exam. Additionally, our ExamSolver feature has over 900 instructor-led videos that review the MCQs and TBSs in mini and simulated exams, so you know exactly what you got wrong and how to improve on the upcoming test day.


The best way to pass the CPA Exam is to approach test day with as much confidence as possible. Boost your knowledge and your confidence by preparing with Becker.

Becker CPA Exam Review >

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