Biggest Mistakes to Make on the CPA Exam

Biggest Mistakes to Make on the CPA Exam

While taking the CPA exam can certainly be a daunting task, there are ways to make sure that accounting students not only do well on the test, but avoid some of the of the most common mistakes in taking the test. Taking the CPA exam requires more than just a working knowledge of the material; it also involves making sure that common errors are avoided.  Consider these points to increase the odds of success during the test:

  • Computational errors.  Knowing how to do a situational problem and getting the right answer are two different things on the CPA exam.  Even with the best theoretical knowledge, the wrong numbers entered into the calculation will yield the wrong answer.  Accuracy is a key component of the exam.  Be sure to work carefully to avoid mistakes that can cause lost points.
  • Not watching the time.  Since there is a limited time allotted for the test, having a test taking strategy is critical.  While test takers can go back through a single section, once that section is submitted it is locked and can’t be reviewed.  Though it is frustrating, the reality is that there is so much information that it is highly likely there will be questions that simply can’t be answered.  Once you’ve have thoroughly worked through a question and answered it, quickly moving on to the next question – one that the test taker is familiar with – provides the best opportunity for competing the exam or test section within the allotted time.
  • Poor reading comprehension.  The supporting text of a question, whether multiple choice or situational, needs to be read carefully to make sure that you understand what the test writer is looking for.  Failure to understand what the test writer is looking for can lead to incorrect answers and a failure of the exam even though your calculation(s) make be correct.
  • Inadequate preparation.  There are four sections on the exam – Auditing and AttestationFinancial Accounting and ReportingRegulation and Business Environment and Concepts– and each of these requires a good deal of preparation, usually up to about 450 total. Going into the exam without adequate preparation, especially if there have been new topics announced for the exam, is a critical mistake in exam preparation and can lead to disappointment. If you know for a fact you have not prepared adequately but still plan on sitting for the exam, basically you have decided to pay a hefty price for a practice exam because you will almost surely fail. Adequate preparation is key.
  • Not knowing the solution, only the theory.  The CPA exam is much more than simply being able to offer theories.  In fact, a good deal of the exam is based on the candidate’s ability to offer a solution to the problem that is presented.  Not practicing solutions and only reviewing theories leaves a gap in test preparation.  As a result of each section of the exam having such a high fail rate, needless to say, there is no room for gaps in your preparation.
  • Poor grammar and sentence structure.  The bottom line?  The CPA Exam is about accounting and also requires writing skills to prove your ability to effectively communicate. Additionally, failure to proofread can cause issues on the test.  As a business professional, candidates are expected to be able to communicate their ideas clearly, effectively and without error.
  • Not understanding the computerized test and tools provided.  While there are databases, search features and spreadsheets provided on the CPA exam, they are not Microsoft products. One of the biggest mistakes of CPA test takers is a lack of familiarity with those tools, causing a loss of time, reduction in momentum and computational errors.

Clearly, there are many mistakes that can be made when preparing for the CPA exam.  Consider these items carefully and prepare to meet all of the challenges that the exam provides.  With adequate preparation, every CPA candidate has a good chance of success, especially when a quality CPA Review Course is utilized.

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