October 16, 2018

exam strategies

Four Time Management Tips for the CPA Exam

The subject of time management can be a sore one for CPA exam candidates, mostly the ones who have taken and failed at least one part knowing this was largely due to blowing too much time on a particular section or dedicating too much time to one component, like MCQ, and not nearly enough on simulations.

In order to combat this problem, it’s critical to set yourself a little countdown clock on your scratch paper as soon as you sit down at the computer to make sure you are leaving yourself plenty of time when you need it most.


Always allow 45 minutes for each simulation – Be sure to do each written communication first as only one is graded but you don’t know which and it’s an easy 10 points if you at least manage to scribble something down, even if you don’t have time to get through all the simulation tabs you can still pass if you have done the communications. It’s a crapshoot but stranger things have happened.

No more than a minute and a half on each multiple choice question – Add up the number of MCQ in a testlet and count up, writing the time you should be finished on your scratch paper. Let’s say you’re taking FAR and started at 10 am; you will need 45 minutes for each testlet if you are going to have 45 minutes left over for each simulation. So by 10:45, you should be on testlet 2, by 11:30, you’re on to testlet 3. That leaves you plenty of time for the sims. For REG, you’ve only got about 1.25 minutes per MCQ as you’ve got 3 hours total to get through the entire thing. If you’re doing well on time, go back and check the MCQ you marked for review (if any) otherwise trudge on to the next part and never take a break! You don’t have time!

And remember: never leave any questions blank! GUESS! – If you get it wrong, it’s wrong. If you get it right, you’re smarter and/or luckier than you thought and are that much closer to your CPA. The exam is a plus-point basis exam meaning you don’t lose points for wrong answers, you can only add points as you go.

If you’re short on time, forget the research – If you are running out of time on the simulations, try to complete as much as you can in each tab and blow off the research, as yet it isn’t worth much. This may change when CBT-e hits in 2011 but for now, it’s not worth it if you don’t have the time. You’d be better off reviewing your written communication if you only have two or three minutes to spare.

You learned all about time management when studying for the exam so take that knowledge into the testing center and knock ’em dead!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.