Time Management Tips for the CPA Exam

10 min read

The CPA Exam uses a multistage testing format. If you do well on one testlet, the next testlet will be harder, so time management is key. Here are some tips to keep you on task when you sit for the exam:

Move Quickly Through the First Testlet

  • The first testlet is at a level of moderate difficulty. Subsequent testlets—at the same or slightly more difficult level—are then chosen automatically based on your performance on the previous testlet. So you should plan to move more quickly through the first testlet, so that you have more time to tackle the more complicated and point worthy questions that come in testlets two and three. You might plan to spend 40-45 minutes on the first testlet and allow say 55-60 minutes on the third testlet.
  • The degree of difficulty varies throughout the test so you should be careful about spending more than three minutes on any one multiple-choice question because they are not all graded. Fifteen of the 90 MC questions for FAR and AUD, and 12 of 72 questions for BEC and REG are not graded.

Divide Your Time Evenly on the Task-Based Simulations (TBS)

  • It’s important not to spend too much time on any one simulation because one of the seven TBS on AUD and FAR, and one of the seven on REG are not graded. The time allocated to the simulations needs to be divided evenly amongst each TBS. So, if you’re allotted 90 minutes total, which would be 12 minutes each.
  • For the written communication on BEC, one of the three is not graded. You should plan to spend 12-15 minutes per written communication.
  • Since TBS can be worked in any order, you should start with the easiest and end with the hardest. If you run into a particularly difficult section, let it go for the moment. Then, with the last 5 minutes of the exam, quickly fill out anything not attempted.
  • The exam uses a positive grading system, so you are not penalized for guessing or errors on spreadsheet type questions that carry through.
  • It’s a disaster not get to a TBS because you have spent too much time on one that contributes nothing towards your score. Don’t blow your time budget on an easy TBS that could be the one that is not being graded.

Practice Your Time management Skills

  • Make sure you practice your time management skills by completing Becker’s two Final Exams. This practice will give you confidence in your game plan come exam day.

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