How To Pass The CPA Exam On Your First Try

Pass CPA Exam First Try
Everyone prefers to get difficult things accomplished on the first try, and the same attitude applies to the CPA exam. Studying for the exam is a huge commitment of time, and we’d all prefer to pass all four tests on the first attempt. It’s tough, but with proper planning and enough effort, you can do it. Use these tips to pass the CPA exam on your first try.

Create a plan and stick to the weekly time requirement

Now, it’s easy to say “make a plan to study for the CPA exam and stick to it”, which is a lot like saying: “train for six months and run a marathon.” Both goals involve hundreds of hours of time, and studying for the CPA exam will require over 400 hours of preparation. But if you’re going to study 20 hours a week for 20 weeks, make sure that you can reasonably fit that into your schedule. Also, I recommend that you spend a few more hours each week early in the process, which means that you won’t have to rush to catch up at the end. Avoid cramming at the end, because most people can’t retain information well if they’re rushing.

Take a CPA review course

I worked as an online tutor for CPA candidates, and nearly everyone needed a review course to get through the exam. Review courses, like the Becker CPA review, are constantly updated for changes in the exam’s content. I tried studying using only review books, and it just wasn’t effective for me. The review course also provides structure, so you’re more likely to keep your studying on track each week. A review course allows you to study using audio, videos, online live instruction, flashcards — whatever works for you.

Consider hiring a tutor — one hour at a time

If you’ve been using your review course and there are concepts you simply cannot figure out, find an online tutor. I would recommend asking friends who have taken the exam recently if they used a tutor, and I would check online reviews. A good tutor should be willing to meet with you for an hour at a time, so that you can go over the most challenging concepts. If a tutor asks you to commit to more than an hour, find someone else. A good tutor is able to generate repeat business.

Find people in the accounting industry

Nothing is better than learning by using real world examples, and people who work in the accounting industry can provide lots of examples for you. As you study, keep notes on difficult subjects and run those concepts by someone you know. Say, for example, that you’re having trouble understanding inventory turnover ratios. A manager who works with inventory can give you some great examples that explain why inventory turnover is critical for managing cash needs.

Practice test scores

Before you take a certain test, make sure that your practice test scores are 5% higher than the percentage you need to pass. So, if passing the auditing and attestation (AUD) test requires a 75%, you should be getting an average of 80% on your practice test. My experience has been that CPA candidates with those levels of practice scores pass the tests they take.

Passing the CPA exam on your first try is an accomplishment that you can sell to a potential employer. It shows that you take your career seriously, and that you can commit to a difficult task. Use these tips to pass the CPA exam on your first try.

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  • Ken

    Ken Boyd, a former CPA, is the author of 4 Dummies books on Accounting, including Cost Accounting for Dummies. He blogs and produces video content at