What Order Should I Take The CPA Exams?

Upon deciding to take the CPA Exam, it’s crucial to first understand what are the different parts of that make up this rigorous test. This can help you develop a game plan of sorts and take the exam in an order you feel comfortable with. For me, the order that worked best was FAR, AUD, REG, then BEC. Although this order is largely a matter of personal preference and can vary depending on your level of comfort with any of the given material, I’ve given some tips and suggestions below on why this order of exam scheduling worked for me and why I think it helped me to pass:

Get the hardest/longest part out of the way first

For me, this was FAR. Tackling FAR first was by no means easy. FAR has the most potential material and topics that can be tested, and my time allotted to preparation for the FAR exam was the longest. Because of this, many people have deemed FAR the hardest exam. When I received my study materials in the mail, my FAR book was as big as REG & BEC combined. It was definitely a daunting task to open to page one of a book that encompassed a majority of the technical accounting skills I had learned in college, covered in one giant text. Yet recently graduating and having just taken a number of courses that covered the same material, I felt this timing for taking and studying for FAR first would be easiest. With only an 18 month time frame to pass all four exams, you definitely do not want to be crunched with time, having left FAR for last. Also having that “first exam” motivation to help sit down and study during those times when there was nothing I’d rather be doing less was crucial to getting through all of my preparation. The last added bonus is passing on your first attempt and having the peace of mind that you’ve conquered this behemoth exam section!

Play to your strengths

Another good piece of advice in determining test order was to take the sections I felt most comfortable with earlier on. After passing FAR, I found the Audit book to be the next longest. Having interned in audit, recently completing an audit course before graduation, and not being mentally prepared to face tax rules in REG or being 100% sure what was actually in BEC, this exam was the logical next choice for me. Much of the material was a refresher, and although still a daunting amount of material, and by no means easy, I found audit to be a nice break after FAR.

Remember your time frame

When I sat down to study for my final exam, BEC, I only had 2.5 weeks until my scheduled exam date. While this worked for me, and BEC required the least amount of time to prep for, you have to keep in mind what exam you’re about to take during these crunch time periods. Had this been FAR or AUD, I would have had to reschedule the exam.  Also keep in mind outside commitments which would prevent you from studying at night or on a weekend when scheduling.

Overall, the order in which you take the exams comes down to person preference; there’s not right or wrong order to take them in. While the above order (FAR, AUD, REG, BEC) worked for me, you may find that due to your time frame, areas of study at your university, or another factor, a different order suits you better. Good luck!

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