master cpa simulationsOh, the dreaded task-based simulations. How they’ve tripped up many a CPA Candidate.

In the first of two parts, we lay out exactly how you can master CPA simulations and get higher scores on the FAR, AUD and REG sections.

Step 1: Know What You’re Dealing With

In the simulation testlet of the CPA Exam, you receive a set of questions related to scenarios you’ll encounter as a CPA. Based on the  scenario, you must answer questions/problems using spreadsheets, researching the authoritative literature, writing memos and by other means.

You can think of  simulations as mini “case studies.” The AICPA likes to think that they “create a more robust, authentic experience for candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.”

Well, that doesn’t make them any less terrifying … Let’s take a step back and look at these simulations. What are they really, at their core? They’re short paragraphs of content with a few questions that ask you to predict an outcome based on the scenario described. Where have you seen this before?

Yes, word-comprehension problems!

If you’ve taken a standardized test in the U.S., you’re likely familiar with these types of questions. If you’re an ESL candidate, you need to dedicate ample time in your study plan for practice questions and mock exams.

Step 2: Budget Your Time

(Hat tip to our friend Bryce on this one.)

Because simulations are word-comprehension problems at their core,  they often eat up a lot of your exam time with reading and analysis (see Step 3). So to master CPA simulations, you  need to budget your time well.

Here’s a good rule: SIMS are worth 40% of your score, so devote 40% of your exam time to them.

  • AUD and FAR are 4 hours, so 40% time equates to about 95 minutes.
  • REG is 3 hours, so you have around 75 minutes for each simulation.

To master CPA simulations, you should spend roughly 14 minutes for each simulation in AUD and FAR (7 SIMs total) and about 12 minutes per simulation in REG (6 SIMs).

Use these guidelines in your many mock exams!

Step 3: Read The Scenario & Problems Closely

This step may seem obvious but it’s absolutely critical, especially in a timed, high-pressure environment like the CPA Exam.

You’re allowed to have scratch paper (or, to be more precise, noteboards) during the exam, so use it — jot down the numbers/elements you need to remember from the scenarios.

This way you won’t have to toggle between tabs, chance losing your place or, worse, lose your concentration.

Step 4 : Get Comfortable with AICPA’s Database

To master CPA simulations, you must learn to look up information in the Accounting Regulations and Standards. Yes, you have to know how to Google stuff …

In all seriousness, this is a very real part of a CPA’s job. That’s why it’s essential you practice in a simulated exam environment.

Once you register for the CPA exam, you receive six months of free access to AICPA Authoritative Literature. Make the most of it by practice searching the AICPA Professional Standards and FASB Pronouncements. You’ll need your exam section ID to register.

When you gain access, don’t overlook the “search within” function. It lets you quickly drill down to the content you need within the literature. This will help to master CPA simulations on exam day.

Next Time …

In part 2 of How to Master CPA Simulations we’ll cover how to use the “tabs” to your advantage, where to start first and how best to practice for SIMs.

Stay tuned and sign up for our weekly CPA pop quiz to the right.