How to Know When You’re Ready to Sit for the CPA Exam


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In the past, there really wasn’t a metric for how to know when you’re ready to sit for the CPA Exam. The old adage was, “If you’ve put in the hours, you’ll pass the Exam.” But nobody could tell you exactly how many hours you needed.

Similarly, it was also hard to know whether or not you’d completed enough study hours to sit for the CPA Exam. Some people could pass a section with 90 hours under their belt, while others needed over 200. And there was no way to tell which boat you’d be in.

Times have definitely changed, and study materials are more advanced than ever. Individualized and adaptive learning are becoming more mainstream. And today’s CPA Exam review market is full of products that do more than make you read a book or watch a lecture.

These changes all come with good reason: there’s plenty of evidence out there showing that an individualized, adaptive approach is a significantly more efficient way to learn than the traditional one-size-fits-all linear model. But even with all these updates, it can be difficult to realize when you’re ready to sit without taking some time to evaluate your progress.

CPA Exam Metrics Identify When You’re Ready to Sit

Really, anyone is ready to sit for the CPA exam (provided they’ve completed enough study hours to be proficient on all the testable areas). But the real questions we’re trying to answer is: how do we know if we’re ready to sit… and pass?

There are some great tools out there to give you a good idea. While none are guaranteed, they give you a much better understanding of where you are in your study process than the guess-and-hope model. Use these 4 methods to help you decide if you’re ready to sit for the CPA Exam.

  1. You’re Doing Well on Multiple-Choice Questions AND Task-Based Simulations

Multiple-choice questions are a good indicator of topical understanding, but make sure you’re feeling solid on task-based simulations too. Don’t get caught in the trap of not trying the simulations — and definitely don’t rely on only reviewing the simulations’ answers.

Tackle each task-based simulation like it’s the actual Exam, and fill in the answers as best you can. Then compare your answers to the correct answers. When you start to feel solid on simulations from all the testable areas, it’s time to sit for the CPA Exam.

  1. Your Review Materials Tell You You’re Ready

One of the best objective benchmarks for exam readiness is if you have study materials that keep track of how you’re doing. For example, Surgent CPA Review features ReadySCORE, which keeps track of how you’re doing both overall and by topic area. Students who receive a ReadySCORE of 75% or more pass 89.7% of the time. Moreover, those who achieve a ReadySCORE of 85% pass nearly 100% of the time. This takes the guess-work out of knowing if you’re ready for the exam.

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  1. You’re Passing (Or Almost Passing) Independent Review Exams

After taking all of the review exams your study materials offer, hop onto the AICPA’s website and take the sample test. The AICPA’s Sample Test offer questions very similar to those you’ll find on the Exam. Additionally, these questions are also different from the ones in your study materials. If you score a 75 on of these exams (or very close to it), you’re likely ready to sit for the actual exam. On the other hand, if you score well below a 75, you may want to consider delaying your CPA Exam date.

  1. You’re Comfortable with the Exam Format

First, you shouldn’t go into the CPA Exam without first knowing what the exam format is like. Similarly, you need to know where your tools are located and how to accurately manage your time. And finally, you should know how to navigate Excel since it’s the spreadsheet tool used on the exam.

Likewise, you should also know how to work through simulations. Your review materials should accurately portray the format of the CPA Exam so you can test the feel and functionality before exam day. Be sure to do research on the available review materials to ensure the practice exams simulate the real exam.

Review Your Review Materials

The best way to accurately prepare yourself for the CPA Exam is to find review materials that work with your individual learning needs and cater to your strengths and weaknesses. Also, look for materials that simulate the CPA Exam and provide plenty of practice through multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. This is the best way to ensure you’re ready to sit for the CPA Exam.

How to Know When You’re Ready to Sit for the CPA Exam Summary

  • Gauge your understanding of the MCQs and TBSs
  • Rely on your CPA review course’s metrics to tell you when your scores are high enough
  • Take the AICPA’s Sample Test

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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