2017 CPA Exam - Time Strategies

2017 CPA Exam - Time Strategies

The 2017 CPA Exam will mark a major shift in how candidates are tested, and time management will be more important than ever. Join us for this quick video laying out a solid plan of action for exam day from the Roger CPA Review team of academic experts. This 10-minute video covers:

  • Coming to Exam Day with a plan of attack for each of the 4 CPA Exams
  • Understanding how standardized breaks will play a key role in time strategies
  • Effectively reaching set goal times for each question type and testlet
  • Accounting for increased task-based simulations testing at higher skill levels
  • Making game time decisions based on whatever the exam throws your way

Roger CPA Review presents:

Hi everyone and welcome to this quick video from Roger CPA Review on time strategies for the 2017 CPA exam. Now this is a really important topic that a lot of people are asking about with this exam, how candidates are going to manage their time on exam day is going to be strongly linked to their success on the new exam.

So after closely working with the AICPA, our academic experts have developed a solid plan of action for exam day. Ultimately our job is not only to prepare our students for the content, but to prepare them for the exam in it's entirety. Including the best tactics for working through the exam structure.

So let's start with why the structure has changed, or will be changing. The new exam is switching to focus on higher order skills. It's testing at a higher level and in order to do this, we are seeing less multiple choice questions and an increase of task based simulations. Simulations meaning that they're actually simulating the tasks that CPA candidates will be expected to perform actually on the job.

And some of these task based simulations are going to be pretty complex and time-consuming. So, for that reason, it's really important that candidates come to the table with a solid plan of action, that they know what they're doing, that they're familiar with the plan when they sit down to take the exam.

So let's dive in. It's best to start by looking at the full picture. So on the new exam, each of the four exam parts is broken down into five testlets, each containing a set number of multiple choice questions and task-based simulations.

So looking here you'll see for all exams, testlet one and testlet two deliver multiple choice questions and each of these testlets, they range from 31 questions to 38 questions per section. Testlet three, across the board will include two task-based simulations.

Then for all four sections, candidates will be presented with an optional, yet standardized, 15 minute break. That will occur on the completion of testlet three for all four exams. And we actually do highly recommend candidates take advantage of this break and we'll talk about that a little bit more later.

Following the break there will be more two more testlets. Testlets four and testlets five will each include three task-based simulations. The only exception to this is BEC which will have two task-based simulations in testlet four and then three written communication problems in testlet five.

For all of these exams candidates now have four hours to complete all five testlets. So two of the exams actually increased in time so that they're now all four hours. And in order to be successful and to get all of the questions done in time it's going to be really, really important that candidates are budgeting their time wisely. This is going to take practice.

In the Roger CPA review course when student's are using our interactive practice question software, it's important that they're using the tactics that we're going to go over in a few minutes as they're approaching their practice exams and quizzes and really keeping an eye on that countdown clock to make sure that they're meeting the criteria that we're laying out so that they can be successful.

So here you'll see Roger CPA Reviews' recommendations for the amount of time budgeted per testlet. To begin, let's look back again at that standardized break because this is key. Now the AICPA has actually strategically placed the break so that it falls approximately where students should be about half way through their time, around two hours before the break and two hours after the break.

Now this is a ballpark, as you'll see in our recommendation that the breakdown doesn't always work out perfectly. So what this means is, as the test takers are approaching the end of testlet three, they've got to be looking at the clock and saying, "Okay, am I approximately at the two hour mark? Give or take." And that's really what they've got to be shooting for from the very beginning.

And so from there, our recommendations per testlet is not only based on helping candidates roughly hit that two hour, two hour criteria, but then more precisely it's designed to help candidates actually answer the amount of questions that are being presented and the types of questions that are being presented.

So, let's take a look at AUD, for example, the audit section. You'll see here testlet one and testlet two each include 36 multiple choice questions. And we're recommending 45 minutes per testlet for these two multiple choice sections. What that means is test-takers have 75 seconds per question if they want to meet that 45 minute criteria per testlet.

Now, we used to, in the old exam, suggest 90 seconds per multiple choice question. Unfortunately, if test-takers us that much time they'd actually run out of time. They wouldn't be able to answer the rest of the task-based simulations in time. So with this, the two testlets being 45 minutes each, that leaves 30 minutes for testlet three, which has two task-based simulations and that's in order to meet the two hour mark before the break.

Now, looking at these testlets, one through three for BEC and FAR, you'll notice that these sections actually have less multiple choice questions, which means a little bit more breathing room. And that means that per question, candidates can bring their time up as high as about 84 seconds with the BEC exam, which has the least amount of multiple choice questions.

Also, because there's more breathing room on the BEC exam, we actually recommend allowing up to 50 minutes for the two task-based simulations in testlet three. Yes, this will shift the break to fall about 20 minutes over the two hour mark, but note that in the case of BEC and the way the questions are distributed in this exam, this is acceptable.

REG testlets one through three will also run over the two hour mark by about six minutes using our recommendations. Which, again, is alright based on the allocation of questions. After the break all the rest of the testlets, testlets four and testlets five are task-based simulations, with the exception of BEC with the one section on written communication.

So we talked about the times that candidates should keep in mind for multiple choice questions, but let's talk about task-based simulations. In general, task-based simulations should take 15 to 20 minutes for candidates to complete and this is your general task-based simulation.

However, with the focus on higher order skills and the inclusion of more complex task-based simulations such as the new Document Review Simulations, more time is going to be required for some of these TBS.

So we're looking at closer to 20 to 25 minutes for these more complex task-based simulations. These problems are going to be more difficult, in other words, requiring more brain power and are going to overall be more time consuming. They're more complex, including several components, and often full documents for candidates to sift through. We can also expect that these particular questions are going to be testing those higher order skills, such as evaluation and analysis.

On the other end of the spectrum, we're looking at the research problems which should only take about 10 minutes for these problems. This actually helps balance out the time because as the questions are being presented, the AICPA has looked at the entire exam and each exam is created to have a balance so that those questions that shouldn't require as much time, like your 10 minute research questions allow for more wiggle room with the more complex task-based simulations and then, of course, finding that in between stage.

So as test takers are sitting down to take their exam, they're going to have to look at each testlet as a whole. It's nice because as you're in a testlet you can switch back and forth between the questions.

So let's look at testlet four, for example, three task-based simulations. The test taker is going to be able to see all the questions that are included within that testlet and they can say, "Okay, this is going to be a 10 minute question, this is going to be a 25 minute question, I really should shoot for being within the 15 minute on this one." And that's going to help them budget their time and then keeping these overall times per testlet in mind.

So saying, "Okay, I'm at testlet four, I have 60 minutes to complete this, here's how I'm gong to budget my time." And they're going to have to be making some game time decisions so that they can prioritize accordingly.

To aid in this tactic a great tip is to write down goal clock times at the beginning of the exam. For example, the clock starts at the four hour mark and begins counting down. If the goal is to finish the first testlet within 45 minutes, the candidate should write down the goal time of three hours and 15 minutes, that's 45 minutes into your time for testlet one. Then two hours and 30 minutes for testlet two, and so on.

Having these written down at the very beginning helps keep your eye on the prize throughout and know that you're within the appropriate amount of time so that you can reach the goal accordingly.

And last, as mentioned before, it is highly recommended that candidates take that optional break. Getting up, walking around, getting the blood flowing is a great way to rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul for optimum performance on the second half of the exam.

Having that break is something that has been strategically placed by the AICPA, not only at the approximate halfway mark, but it has been proven to be a necessity. And if we are requiring our CPA candidates at this higher level, it's going to take a lot more out of them and that break is going to be necessary to come back revitalized. It's a free break, doesn't count against anyone's time, so we highly highly recommend it to take an advantage of.

And that completes our Roger CPA Review recommendations for time management on the 2017 CPA exam. We hope you picked up some great tips and wish you all the best on your CPA exam studies.