How Study Habits Influence Your CPA Exam Score


As I study for the FAR exam (comprised of 31 sections), I think back to “the plan” I had in preparing for my first exam, BEC. I watched the lectures, made a few notes here and there, and watched them all again. While I was watching the lectures, everything made complete sense. “I got this” I thought to myself as I began to work through the practice problems.

I was actually quite surprised when the scores on the practice problems did not reflect the level of knowledge I believed I obtained during my studies.

I continued working through the practice questions and the Task Based Simulations until my scores consistently stayed at or above 80%. I remember him saying on one of the TBS’s, “I made this one harder than you will see on the test, so if you saw a problem like it, you would know how to work it.” I told myself, “Oh, he probably makes all the questions harder than the exam for that very reason.” Foolishly thinking that the exam would be easier than the practice questions, I reasoned with myself that if I were making 80% to 85% on my practice questions, I could score a mid to high 90’s on the actual exam.

I disappointingly made a 67 on that first exam.

I heard stories of individuals who had to take an exam two, three, or even four times before passing but I did not think I would be one of those people. But I heard many success stories of those who have passed the exams on their first try. Everyone responds differently to test taking. Not passing was not a failure for me, but a chance to learn and be better prepared for the next exam. I knew I had to do better, near perfect, on my practice questions to be able to successfully answer the exam questions. I decided to change up my way of studying.

To make sure I understood the concepts, I would watch the lecture for one subsection of the section, and immediately following, do all the practice questions for that part.

I did not get all the answers right the first time, but the information was fresh on my mind and made it easier to recall. Roger says, “It’s not just about getting the right answer; it’s about knowing why the other answers are wrong.” The key, as is repeated throughout…is practice, practice, practice. Repetition of the questions truly helps the concepts become easier to understand.

When you get to a question you know the answer to, continue to read all the answers, maybe even state why each answer isn’t the correct one, and why the one you chose is the best answer.

When you come across a question you don’t know the answer to, instead of clicking on the Explain Answer, click on the link that takes you to that section of the textbook and re-watch the lecture, or re-read the textbook on your own…sometimes you can make better sense of concepts when you read it yourself.

Whatever works for you, keep doing it…again and again and again…

You’ll find that recognizing the way you learn best and changing your mode of studying to correlate to that will definitely improve not only your CPA Exam score, but your overall understanding of the material.

– Donna Elish, guest blogger for Roger CPA Review

Do you agree with this article? Comment below and let us know what your best study practices are to improve scores on the CPA Exam!

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