CPA Exam Time Management System

Time Management System for the CPA exam

Managing your time well during the CPA Exam is critical to success. You have a limited amount of time to complete each CPA Exam section, so to make the most of it, you must develop a time management system and commit to spending a designated amount of time on each question.

CPA Exam Timing

The only help you will receive with timing during your actual exam is a countdown of the hours and minutes remaining. When there are less than 2 minutes left in an exam section, the exam clock will begin to include the seconds. By this point, you should be doing your final review. Each of the testlets on the exam is independent, and there are no time limits on individual testlets. Therefore, you must budget your time effectively to complete all five testlets within the 4 hours allotted.

The key to maximizing exam time is becoming proficient in answering all types of questions in an average amount of time. When you follow this time management system, you will have between 2-17 minutes of total extra time (depending on the section) that you will be able to utilize as needed.

CPA Exam Time Management System

The table below shows how many minutes you should plan to spend on each testlet for each section. Remember, you cannot begin a new testlet until you have submitted a current testlet, and once you have submitted a testlet, you can no longer go back to it.

            Time Allocation per Testlet (in minutes)

Testlet  Format AUD  BEC  FAR  REG
1 MCQ  45  38*  41*  47*
2 MCQ  45  38*  41*  47*
3 TBS  36  36  36  36
15 MINUTE BREAK  (not  counted  toward  total  time)
4  TBS  54  36  54  54
5  TBS/WC  54  75  54  54
Total Time    234  223  226  238
Extra Time    6  17  14  2
Total Time Allowed    240  240  240  240

*rounded down

Introduction Screens

When you sit for a section of the CPA Exam at the Prometric testing center, you will begin the exam by entering your Launch Code on the Welcome screen. If you do not enter the correct code within 5 minutes of the screen appearing, the exam session will end. Next, you will have an additional 5 minutes to view a brief exam introduction containing two screens: the nondisclosure policy and a section information screen. First, accept the policy statement, and then review the information screen. Be sure to click the “Begin Exam” button on the bottom right of the screen within the allotted 5 minutes. Failing to do so will terminate the exam, and there will be no option to restart. These initial 10 minutes, along with the 5 minutes allowed for a post-exam survey, are not included in the total exam time (240 minutes).

Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)

Two MCQ testlets are standard across all sections. Each testlet contains half the total number of MCQs for that section (36 per testlet for AUD, 31 per testlet for BEC, 33 per testlet for FAR, and 38 per testlet for REG). Based on the total time of the exam and the amount of time needed for the other testlets, you should average 1.25 minutes per MCQ.

Task-Based Simulations (TBS) and Written Communications (WC)

The final three testlets presented in AUD, FAR, and REG will contain eight TBSs total: two in Testlet #3 and three each in Testlets #4 and #5. BEC will have four TBSs in two testlets, then a final testlet of three WCs. We suggest that you allocate approximately 18 minutes to answering each TBS. On BEC, budget 25 minutes for each of the WCs (20 minutes to answer, 5 minutes to review and perfect your response).

The exam screen will show hours:minutes remaining. Focus on how much time you have, NOT the time on your watch. Using the times in the table above, you should begin each testlet with the following hours:minutes displayed on-screen:

cpa exam time management system


Next, develop a shorthand for hours:minutes. This makes it easier to write down the times on the note board you will receive at the exam center.

cpa exam time management system

If you feel you may run out of time for a particular question before you’re able to determine the answer conclusively, make your best educated guess so that you can stay on schedule.

CPA Exam Time Management System Practice

Applying your CPA Exam time management system during your studies is as important as answering practice exam questions. Gleim CPA Review features the largest test bank of practice exam questions on the market that simulate the actual CPA Exam testing environment better than any other course. Begin to master your time management today by accessing our free CPA Exam questions.