Time management tips for the CPA Exam

10 min read

Effective time management skills are a critical aspect of passing the CPA Exam. In this blog, we’ll reveal three time management tips that can help you make the most of your time—and increase your chances of passing the CPA Exam.

The CPA Exam is given in four parts, and test-takers are given four hours to complete each of them. Four hours may seem like a long time, but the CPA Exam covers a lot of material, and it can go by quickly.

Before we jump into a few useful time management tips, it’s important that you understand how the test works. The CPA Exam uses a multistage testing format and is broken into sections called “testlets.” Each section of the exam starts with two multiple-choice question (MCQ) testlets, followed by one task-based simulation (TBS) testlet, an optional 15-minute break, and two final TBS/written communication (WC) testlets.

The first testlet you receive will be of moderate difficulty. If you do well on it, the next testlet will be harder. Perform poorly, and the testlets get easier. Strategically dividing your time between easier and harder questions is therefore critical to achieving your best score.

Use the following time management tips to help you navigate the testlets and the overall CPA Exam—and to help you figure out the best way to manage your time.

1. Move through the first CPA Exam testlet quickly

The first CPA Exam time management tip is to move through the testlet as quickly as possible. As we said, 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.

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 roughly 55-60 minutes on the third testlet.

As a general rule, try not to spend more than three minutes on a single MCQ. Not all questions are graded, so if you find one that really stumps you, try to move on quickly—it may not even count. Fifteen of the 90 MCQs for FAR and AUD and 12 of 72 questions for BEC and REG are not graded.

2. Divide your time evenly on the Task-Based Simulations (TBS)

The second time management tip is to divide your time evenly on the Task-Based Simulations. The CPA Exam includes a total of 31 Task-Based Simulations, and these count toward 50% of your overall score. Generally speaking, TBS comprises the last three testlets of each section of the exam. 

Plan to divide your time evenly between each TBS. This will give you about 12-15 minutes to complete each one. Start with the easiest ones and finish with the hardest. If you run into a particularly difficult one, save it for the very end and quickly fill it out in the last five minutes if you have to.

Try not to spend too much time on any one simulation. One of the seven TBS on AUD and FAR and one of the seven on REG are not graded, so you could be wasting your time. 

For the written communication on BEC, one of the three is not graded. You should plan to spend 12-15 minutes per written communication.

Above all else, make sure you at least get to every TBS with enough time to throw out some guesses. The CPA Exam uses a positive scoring system, so you won’t be penalized for getting something wrong. 

3. Practice your CPA Exam time management skills

The last time management tip is to practice! The best way to make the most of your CPA Exam time is to practice, practice, practice. Sitting for practice exams allows you to try out these time management tips in a risk-free environment, honing your test-taking skills and improving your confidence as you form your game plan for exam day. 


If you’re interested in learning more about effective time management skills, check out Becker’s CPE Course, Time Management for Professionals.
Becker offers industry-leading CPA Exam prep tools, including practice tests that closely reflect actual exam content and simulate real test conditions. Find out why 1 million+ CPA candidates chose Becker to help them prepare—and make the most of their time on the CPA Exam

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