simulations

Friendly Reminder: Stop Talking About CPA Exam Specifics on the Internet

So, imagine my joy and pleasure when I received the following email from the AICPA this morning: Dear Ms. Gonzalez, In order to ensure that exam content is kept secure and to maintain the integrity of the CPA Exam, we regularly take a look at what candidates are saying on social media and in web […]

Breaking: That Confusing Simulation Question on the CPA Exam Is Meant to Be Confusing

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Curious CPA Exam Candidate Wants the Scoop on Simulations

I’m digging deep in the mailbag for this one, only because you kids have been awfully quiet lately (a sure sign that we’re in a blackout month). If you have a CPA exam question, comment or complaint for us, please let it launch. Come on, you’re going to be sitting around for the next 2 – 3 weeks waiting for your scores, might as well.

Adrienne,

I was wondering if you could go over what the simulations entails in FAR. I understand that the multiple choice contains 30 questions, and that there are 3 testlets. However, does the break down for the 7 simulations include more than one part.

For example, I know you will have a problem say leases, maybe a research question…but is that 1 simulation or is that 2 of 7?

Thanks,

Recent Grad…miserable studying…

Let’s defer to the good ole AICPA on this one, you can never go wrong getting info straight from the source. From How the CPA Exam Is Scored:

In addition to multiple-choice questions, the AUD, FAR, and REG sections also contain task-based simulations. Task-based simulations are case studies that allow candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by generating responses to questions rather than simply selecting the correct answer. Task-based simulations typically require candidates to use spreadsheets and/or research authoritative literature provided in the Exam.

Well that’s not very helpful, is it?

In FAR, you’ll encounter 7 task-based simulations, of which 6 will be graded. You don’t know which TBS is pre-test so you have to go into it as if they are all graded.

Assume that each of your simulations will be on a different topic and will only require you to complete one tab. You may see more than one research question so be sure to get in some practice in that area (and access your free 6-month subscription to the authoritative literature if you haven’t already – note that you must have a valid NTS to sign up for this).

In previous versions of the exam, one simulation consisted of several tabs. You’d have to get through two of them in 45 minutes a piece and hope you filled in enough tabs to pass. In the latest incarnation of the exam, however, you will receive more varied topics. This works in your benefit as you have a better chance of getting TBS problems on areas you feel comfortable in, whereas in the old exam you had to hope and pray you didn’t get a simulation on a topic you didn’t study well or suck hard in, as you were just about guaranteed to bomb it.

Then again, in the old exam you could blow the sims and still have a chance to pass. Nowadays, however, you don’t have that luxury as simulation problems carry a heavier weight point-wise.

That said, you’ll want to do the tutorial on the AICPA’s website. While review course materials can come close to simulating the actual exam environment, the CPA exam remains the intellectual property of the AICPA, therefore no review course can copy simulation problems exactly. But since the AICPA provides that tutorial, it has the exact look and feel of the questions you will see on the exam.

How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?

Quick answer: easier actually, in my opinion. I didn’t take the exam this year and I am not taking it next year nor any year after that so perhaps I’m wrong.

A few nights ago, a CPA exam candidate was bitching about studying so I threw in my whining about digging into new CPA exam content for next year. Cry cry, we all have it rough.

Long story short, since I was stuck shuffling through new content anyway she asked an easy 2011 question.

Can you tell me if FAR will be that much harder in 2011? I don’t think I’ll get my NTS in time to schedule for 2010


How many of you are in that boat right now? I’ve seen quite a few of you making plans to knock out two exam parts this year that have just put in your applications; I’m truly sorry to be the one to break this to you but chances are you aren’t going to get in this year. It’s good to be realistic going into this, anyone could lie to you and say in 4 – 6 weeks you’ll have an exam date. Even if you do get approved to sit right now you still have to wait for payment coupons and NTSs, by the time all that is in your hand all the exam dates will be taken. Don’t trip, next year it will be easier and here is why:

Simulations: Big ass simulations are broken up into little parts so you can totally blow a few of them and have several different topics coming at you instead of just two. So if you’re not so hot on pensions, you still have 5 or 6 other chances to do well on simulation problems. In 2010, if you didn’t study the indirect method you better hope you don’t get it or else you’ve blown it. For candidates who have sat this year, you’ve likely already seen them testing out the new format.

Written Communication: You get a spell checker in written communication AND you only have to do essays once (unless you fail BEC). Come on, written communications are easy already, you don’t even have to be right you just have to rite good. In 2011, you won’t have to write 6 different essays in 3 sections but just 3 in 1. That’s a win. Throw in the spell checker and I really wonder why some of you are scrambling to take BEC this year so you don’t have to in 2011. Is writing that bad? Get used to it, you’re going to be writing a lot of unnecessary emails and it’s an important skill to have. You can’t protect the public interest if ur writin liek this. Point being, FAR won’t have written communication for those of you morally opposed to writing anything.

IFRS Just about everything you’ve learned in 2010 will still be relevant in 2011, especially in FAR. No one is throwing out GAAP (even our super excited friends at the AICPA who can’t wait for IFRS!) and some areas of FAR aren’t impacted by IFRS at all. It appears throughout FAR but you shouldn’t be too freaked out by it because you don’t have to be an IFRS expert to nail the material. Just read, learn and pass. It’s really simple. The questions will likely stay mild until the AICPA Board of Examiners figures out whether or not this was a good idea a few quarters down the road. Conservatism dictates they’ll take it slow with international content until we’re actually 100% on this convergence thing so don’t freak out, IFRS makes a lot more sense than cost accounting ever will.

Not bad right?

Here’s where the old timers chime in and tell us all about back in the day when you didn’t get a calculator and had to walk uphill both ways to get to an auditorium in the middle of nowhere for a 17-day marathon of CPA exam testing. In the dark. With no scratch paper. Commence telling us about the “Before Time” please.

How Simulations are Changing for the 2011 CPA Exam

As most of you already know, the CPA exam is changing and our last two testing windows are quickly approaching. If you are concerned about the impact of IFRS on CPA exam content, get FAR done this year. If you absolutely hate written communication, knock out BEC in 2010 as it will contain them in 2011. A few topics will be moving around and for an overview of everything that’s changing starting January 1, 2011, check out the updated Content Specification Outlines for all the gruesome details.

The biggest and most obvious change will be a shift in the thinking of the CPA exam itself
Whereas we have always considered the CPA to be a world-renowned designation and GAAP the be-all-end-all of accounting rules, we now must recognize the global nature of capital markets and future CPAs will be expected to demonstrate a working knowledge of international standards in financial reporting and auditing.


For 2011 simulations, we’re expecting that the AICPA Board of Examiners will continue to use a similar format (you may see tabs that you recognize if you’ve already taken exam parts and done some simulation problems) but instead of getting 2 large sims, you’ll get 7 task-based simlets (6 in Regulation).

Contrary to popular rumor, BEC WILL NOT CONTAIN SIMULATIONS
Blame that on the folks who don’t read but BEC will only contain written communications (3, of which 2 will be graded) and will go from 90 multiple choice to 72. You’ll get an extra 30 minutes to complete this part, which will be taken away from Audit.

The Unknown
It’s difficult to say at this point what candidates should expect come January 2011. Will research still be worth 1 point and therefore easily blown off if you’re running out of time? Will simlets require extended journal entries that can take quite a bit of time to put together? The honest answer is that we don’t know.

The AICPA used to have a tutorial at cpa-exam.org but since they redid their website, these tutorials have moved to their main page and can be found here. The cpa-exam.org site is still down and, presumably, will not be brought back now that everything is stashed on the AICPA’s website.

So our guess is that the new format WILL be available in tutorial form from the AICPA before January though we haven’t seen anything to date. When the research function changed in mid 2008, they made it available for practice at least one window prior to the new function appearing on the exam and 2011’s simlets should be no different. We’ll let you know if we spot the new format available for practice so stay tuned and better knock out some exams while you can, there are only four testing months left before everything changes!

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.

Three Myths About Simulation Questions on the CPA Exam

6 years after the advent of the computerized CPA exam, candidates are fairly used to simulations by now (just in time for them to change) but they can still be a source of fear and apprehension for candidates just starting out.

Let’s start with debunking some popular myths. Remember, all of this information is current to the 2010 CPA exam and will be changing in 2011. Since it doesn’t make sense to repeat myself, I’m talking about what to expect for the next two windows of 2010.


Only one simulation is graded. Only one written communication is graded but both simulations are definitely graded and there is no progressive difficulty like there is with MCQ. If your second simulation feels harder than the first, it doesn’t mean you’re doing better, it probably means you got screwed on a simulation that covers the one subject you blew off when you were studying. This will get easier next year as more, smaller “simlets” make your knowledge of a broad range of topics more vital to the scoring process than your intimate knowledge of two topics is now.

Research is an important tab. It actually isn’t. It isn’t worth too many points so if you have to save anything for last, it’s research. If you have time left over, by all means, knock yourself out.

Written communications are sometimes hand-graded for correctness. Actually they don’t care at all if you are right, you just have to address the issue you are presented with using keywords and write good English use proper business grammar. It’s easy, you’re supposed to be doing this all the time via e-mail and if you aren’t, maybe you should start practicing. Caleb, this means you with your IDKs.

We will dig into the details onCP 2011’s new “simlets” on Friday.

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.