First of all, as many of you know the format of the CPA exam is changing in 2011 and while written communication will be moved out of AUD, REG and FAR and put in BEC only, as far as we know the basic premise of written communication will not be changing with the new exam.

If written communication has you in a panic, here are some tips on how to conquer it:

Stick to standard business letter format Even if you haven't taken a creative writing class (not necessary), drafting a standard business letter should be fairly easy for you if you've ever answered an e-mail in a professional setting. You don't get points for flair when it comes to written communication so don't try to be fancy; keep it short, simple and to-the-point.

Avoid bullet points and numbered lists These are a definite no-no for essays - if you use any kind of list in your essay you will NOT get credit for your work!

Remember that you don't have to be right, you just have to be on topic Written communications are still mostly machine-graded (though some are pulled and reviewed by human eyes) so it doesn't even matter if you are right, you just have to stay on topic. Use topic keywords in your essay but be careful not to copy the text of the question word-for-word or you may lose points.

If you've written a concise business letter that sticks to the topic at hand, your essay will then be graded for organization, development and expression.

  • Organization: Ensure your document has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Start with an overview where you describe the purpose or intent of the document. Ensure that your following paragraphs support this overview, and lead into each other well. Summarize the key points of the document in the final paragraph.
  • Development: Demonstrate knowledge of the subject by providing details, examples and definitions.
  • Expression: Your writing must demonstrate a command of standard professional English, including correct use of grammar, punctuation, spelling and word usage. The CPA Exam software includes a basic word processor that features a spell check function. Be sure to pay attention to this valuable tool.

Remember: you are not expected to be a literary genius or Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, your job is to draft a mock response to a client using good grammar and punctuation. That's it. If you have insight into the area you are writing about that's excellent but be careful not to show off as this will get your essay thrown out and mean abandoning 10 easy points on your exam.