The great news is that you do not have to be the best writer in order to do well on this particular area of the CPA exam. Here are a few tips that have helped me tremendously with written communications. See if they work for you!
First and foremost, effective time management goes a long way with written communications.
A rule of thumb is to allow 15 minutes for each of the 3 scenarios given. I would recommend that you manage your time in a way that allows you to have at least this much time for each written communication. Also, if you are aware that you do not type as fast or are uncomfortable in situations where you have to produce a writing sample on the spot, you should budget your time by allocating a few additional minutes to this assignment to brainstorm or formulate your thoughts.
So allow a minute or two to create a brief outline of the topics you want to address in your written communication. Outlines are always a great foundation for a writing assignment. They allow you to quickly organize your thoughts by listing the points you want to convey. It can also be used as a checklist to remind you of what bases need to be covered.
Within each written communication, you should have at least 3 paragraphs.
More can be added if necessary. In the first paragraph, you will essentially repeat the question, just like you would if you were presented with a question face to face and need to explain the answer clearly.
For example, if someone wanted you to explain how to tie your shoes, you would say, “My understanding is that you need some assistance with learning how to tie your shoes. I believe that I can provide you with some guidance that will benefit you in this regard”. Even though my example is oversimplified, the gist is to repeat the question in your own words (or even their words) in the introductory paragraph.
In the next paragraph, you will answer the question, to the best of your ability, using ideas that are clear and concise. Try not stress out too much about getting the answer exactly right. The most important thing to remember when cultivating your response is to ensure that you use complete sentences, appropriate grammar, and correct spelling.
In the closing paragraph, I usually reiterate the point of the memo and express my willingness to be of further assistance if needed just as I would if I were an actual CPA.
With any assignment, it is imperative that you check your work for submitting the final draft.
Again, that is why time management is crucial. Allocate enough time to read over your work to make sure that you said everything you wanted and needed to say. A quick overview also gives you a chance to correct errors and see if what you wrote actually makes sense.
My final piece of advice is to practice, practice, practice.
Read over several written communication examples. By doing this, you can get a better idea of what is expected of you and how the communication is supposed to flow. This tip, combined with the others, really served me well and took the anxiety out of written communications. Best of luck to you all–you can do it!
–Kimberly Smith, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review