CPA Exam Tips for Test Day

You’ve scheduled your testing appointment, put it in the calendar, and studied for what feels like ages. Weeks later, you’re approaching CPA Exam day and wondering if there’s anything else you should do to get ready for it. Put aside those worries by going over all the things, besides knowledge of the exam material, you should do leading up to and on exam day. Get our top CPA Exam tips for test day to prepare you for your Prometric experience and to help you test to the best of your ability.

CPA Exam Tips for Test Day

Review these CPA Exam testing tips several days before sitting for the exam so you can make the most of your time and maximize your exam score.

    1. Take a test drive to the testing center.
      Driving to the Prometric testing center in advance gives you one less thing to worry about on exam day. When you take this drive, map out the best route and record the travel time. Note alternative routes or notices of upcoming construction as well. Once you arrive at the testing center, make note of parking availability. Adding this information to your exam day preparations lets you know even more about where to go and what to do before, during, and after the exam. This knowledge will equip you to stay cool, calm, and collected on your CPA Exam journey.
    2. Take a test drive of the testing center.
      Before you go to Prometric, you can see what it’s like by signing up for a Prometric Test Drive at www.prometric.com/TestDrive. A Test Drive costs $30 and is a 30-minute, real-world practice run at your chosen testing site. You will not receive actual CPA Exam questions, but you will walk through the processes of locating your test site, checking in, and completing a generic sample test. This service accustoms you to the logistics of the testing site and, in the process, eliminates unnecessary exam day stress. You can try the Prometric Test Drive before your first exam section, but you shouldn’t use the Test Drive to replace the AICPA’s Sample Test or the Exam Rehearsal found in Gleim CPA Review.
    3. Wear comfortable clothes.
      There is no dress code for your testing appointment, so comfortable clothes like sweats, shorts, and jeans are all appropriate attire. Wearing layers is also recommended, as Prometric testing centers can feel pleasantly cool or uncomfortably chilly, depending on who you are. You are allowed to have a light sweatshirt or sweater in the testing room, so bring one if you’re often cold.
    4. Arrive early.
      The point of previewing your path to Prometric before exam day is not to get you to the center on time, but to get you there early. You must arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time to avoid forfeiting all of the CPA Exam fees you paid for that section. During these 30 minutes, you will:

          • Sign in
          • Stow your belongings
          • Have your ID scanned
          • Be scanned by a hand-held metal detector wand
          • Have your picture and fingerprint taken
          • Review the security and test center policies
          • Be seated at your workstation

      Arriving early is critical for accomplishing each of these steps and making sure that you are actually allowed to test. If you arrive at the testing center after your scheduled start time, you could be denied permission to test (and you won’t be refunded). Prometric is not obligated to allow you to test if you show up late, so get there at least 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

    5. Breathe.
      When your testing session begins, push the butterflies out of your stomach and stay calm. We’ve all been there. We know the CPA Exam is truly difficult and somewhat intimidating, but you’ve studied for this, so you’re ready to pass. You may encounter one or two unfamiliar exam questions that rattle your confidence, but don’t succumb to fear. If you do, you’ll only lose your concentration and slip further into self-doubt. Instead, simply breathe, relax, and remember what you know. You’ve developed good habits from your studies, so now is the time to be cool and trust your instincts.
    6. Manage your time.
      Time management is critical for testing success, so make a CPA Exam time management system and stick to it. Specifically, develop this system before you test and apply it during practice quizzes so it becomes second nature. Total testing time for each exam section is four hours, so your system should partition that time by testlet and question. Because each exam section has a different number and arrangement of questions, you’ll need to tailor your system to your particular exam section. Generally, you should allocate approximately one and a half minutes for each CPA Exam multiple-choice question (MCQ), 18 minutes for a task-based simulation (TBS), and 25 minutes per BEC written communication (WC). Using these question time limits, your time per testlet specified will look like this:

Time Allocation per CPA Exam 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 testing 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

7. Review your resources
Every time you enter a new testlet or come to a new TBS, you should take a second to scan the resources at hand. The CPA Exam provides several helpful tools to aid you in answering its questions, including:

  • Calculator
    The Calculator lets you perform simple calculations, just like calculators used in common software programs.
  • Excel
    Excel enables you to perform more complex calculations. The version in the CPA Exam functions a lot like the desktop version you’re probably familiar with. You can copy and paste from Excel to the answer fields or calculator and vice versa. However, please note that you will not be able to use function keys (the F1-F12 keys on the top portion of your keyboard) during the exam.
  • Authoritative Literature
    The Authoritative Literature is in every TBS testlet but is not necessary for use in every exam section. Practically speaking, the Authoritative Literature is just a distraction in BEC, so don’t spend any of your valuable testing time looking at it there. While researching in AUD, FAR, and REG, use either the Table of Contents or the Search function to quickly locate the correct information.
  • Overview
    The Overview tool is a pop-up box containing the first sentence of each question in the testlet in numerical order. Within this tool, you can flag questions or review previously flagged questions. You shouldn’t use the Overview tool until you’ve finished your first pass through the testlet, but it’s an excellent tool for maximizing your time when reviewing your answers.
  • Help
    The Help tool aids you with the most important functions and tools on the exam. It features directions and general information not specifically related to the exam content.
  • Exhibits
    Exhibits appear in every CPA Exam TBS testlet and hold the information you need to complete some TBSs. Exhibits can be financial statements, emails, letters, invoices, memoranda, or meeting minutes–pretty much anything a CPA could expect to find on the job. In most cases, you can copy the numbers from exhibits and paste them into the answer fields. Knowing roughly what each exhibit is when reading the TBS can really help you zero in on the useful information, especially when there are multiple exhibits available.

The testlet type determines the tools available.

  • MCQ testlet: Calculator, Excel, Overview, and Help
  • TBS testlet: Calculator, Excel, Auth. Lit., Overview, and Help
  • WC testlet: Overview and Help

8. Read the question carefully
Reading questions too quickly can lead to misunderstandings that ultimately cost valuable testing time and precious exam points. Avoid pitfalls by reading each question slowly and thoughtfully. Your goal is to clearly understand the requirements of the task, as only then can you choose the best possible answer option (which is exactly what the CPA Exam wants you to do). The structure and content of the question reveal the kind of answer needed. For example, MCQ stems occasionally include negative words dictating that the answer choice be an exception.

9. Speculate about the correct answer
Once you know what the question is looking for, you should have an idea of the answer. At this point, hold off on reading the answer choices and spend a few seconds theorizing about what the right response should be. This will help eliminate incorrect answer choices faster and more easily. Then, when you assess the answer options, read them as carefully as you did the question. The CPA Exam will present more than one answer that seems correct, so scrutinize each and eliminate those that are clearly incorrect. This same strategy applies to written communications. When you’re responding to a written communication, you should brainstorm and organize your thoughts immediately after learning what the scenario expects of you.

10. Respond successfully
Because you can never select more than one answer on the CPA Exam, you must choose the best answer available, even when there are two or more that seem reasonable. The CPA profession demands good judgment, so think about each answer option in a real-world scenario and consider the consequences of each potential action. It can be helpful to treat each option like a true or false question and compare them to the answer you think is correct. For CPA Exam Document Review Simulations (DRSs) and other TBSs, verify that each word or amount in your selection is correct by evaluating the specific language and nuances in each answer choice. If the question involves a calculation, use the Calculator or Excel to compute your answer, then double-check your math as time permits. For WCs, use a well-developed outline to guide the process of writing out your response, then proofread and polish it up.

11. Make an educated guess
In the event that an exam question has you stumped, resort to your back-up plan of making an educated guess. There is no penalty for incorrect answers on the CPA Exam, so answer every one, and use this strategy for educated guessing when necessary:

  1. Rule out obviously incorrect answers and distractors.
  2. Consider what the AICPA is looking for and/or the rationale behind the question.
  3. Select the best answer or guess among equally appealing options.
  4. Move on!

Believe it or not, step 4 is the most important. Getting one question right or wrong isn’t going to make or break your CPA Exam score, but spending too much time on a question can cost you a lot more points down the line. Don’t let any one question rattle you; just stay positive and push through.

12. Take advantage of extra time
If you come to the end of a testlet before using all of the time you allotted for it, spend those extra seconds reviewing and perfecting your answers. Prioritize flagged questions, or just return to the first question if you didn’t flag any. When you’re in a TBS testlet with a DRS, confirm that a blue icon with a white check mark appears next to every modifiable section. If you’re sitting for BEC, use this time to self-grade your written communication responses and improve your writing to make sure it fulfills the AICPA’s requirements. To complete a self-grading session, ensure that your responses:

  1. Stay on topic,
  2. Provide factual information, and
  3. Give only legal advice.

CPA Exam Tips for Review

The CPA Exam is hard enough to pass without extra problems to plague you. When you use these CPA Exam testing tips, you greatly reduce the number of setbacks that may jeopardize your exam success.

We have one more tip for you! Use Gleim CPA Review to prepare for the exam, and you’ll increase your confidence and feel right at home during your testing appointment. Our course replicates the Prometric testing environment and the exam functionality better than any other. We’ve programmed our test bank of over 10,000 questions to recreate the look and feel of the CPA Exam in every possible way, and our practice questions are as challenging and realistic as those on the actual exam. Our SmartAdapt™ technology ensures you’ll strengthen your weak areas by answering plenty of these practice questions, so you’ll be comfortable with both the content and environment of the exam before you sit for it. Discover our exceptional exam emulation by accessing our free CPA demo today!