How to pass the CPA Exam

In the beginning, you’ll be excited at the prospect of passing and becoming a CPA. Then you’ll feel discouraged and frustrated. Subsequently, you’ll wonder if there was a way to have a successful Accounting career without the CPA certification after all.

Don’t worry. As long as you don’t give in, you’ll be just fine.

The CPA Exam is like a marathon with one participant, you. As long as you get past the finish line by the allotted time of 18 months, you win. It took me 17 months from start to finish, so at the very least if you do what I did + a little extra, you’ll triumph.

Everyone gets the same medal regardless of how long it took them to finish the race. So, as is the case with everything in life, focus on yourself.


Generally, to pass the exam, you have to do basic things like:

  • Have a good Review Course.
  • Follow the recommended study guide, i.e., Lectures, Homework, Final Review & Flash Cards.
  • Devote a sufficient amount of time to studying.
  • Break up with your Boyfriend/Girlfriend and divorce your Spouse. Lol Just kidding. I actually think you can have a life while doing the exam. Read about it here.

However, on a more granular level, you need to:

  • Know what you know.

Let us say you know that 2 x 2 = 4. You have this knowledge in your head today, and you know nothing else. If someone asked you tomorrow what 2 x 2 was, you’d say 4. Why? Because you know this. All day. Everyday.

In addition to 2 x 2, they ask you, “What is 4 x 4?”. You don’t know the answer to that, so your score is 50% because you got one right and the other wrong.

Now imagine, that you thought you knew the answer to 2 x 2, but you answered 6. Then on top of that, they asked “4 x 4?”, and you didn’t know this to begin with, so you also answered wrong. Now your score is 0.

Now extrapolate that over whole content of the exam, and it’s clear that you have to absolutely know what you know and then build from there.

  • Know as much as you can about what you don’t know – Hack a Topic. 

You should strive to master everything.

But if you can’t, then you have to do what I call “Hacking a Topic.”

To “Hack a Topic,” you’ve given up on learning it, now you’re looking for patterns in the questions format. I’ve forgotten what some of mine were, but I’ll go back and update this post later.

However, you should find yours. Look at the answers to those questions, find the patterns. In BEC, I remember a particular topic whose answer always had two decimals numbers after it. In FAR, I remember one whose answer seemed to always be the third highest option.

Disclaimer: I hate that I even have to include this information, but I had to share everything I know. Hack a Topic should be a last resort. I hope you use this on as few questions as possible, if at all. lol

  • The Elimination Game

When you encounter a difficult question, start by eliminating the answer(s) you absolutely know are wrong. This statistically increases your chances of choosing the right answer.

  • Hope your guessing game is on point that day.

If you’re taking the CPA Exam, it means you’ve been getting a formal education for years. If you didn’t make good with the guessing gods in that whole time, then I really can’t help you. 🙂

Simply put, you’re gonna get at least one question you’ll need to guess on. Obviously, the fewer questions you guess on, the better for you.


  • Acing the Research Question on the TBS is a must.

You absolutely have to get the research TBS correct. It’s the one thing we know is guaranteed to appear on the exam. So, brush up your research skills. You should also consider attempting research questions first when they appear on your Testlet. If you somehow get the answer wrong, that’s not a good look my friend.

  • Read the question stem

Before you read the entire facts, read the question stem, so you know what exactly is being asked of you. You could read the facts first, then read the question stem. But the chances are that you’ll go back again to the facts to find the answer to the question. You just saved yourself some time by reading the question stem first.

Example 1:  If you see a question with some facts, and the question stem that says, “What amount should Company Y report as a treasury stock gain at December 31?” Before you go up to read the facts, quickly remind yourself what “Treasury Stock” is. If you do actually remember you would know that “Treasury Stock” is what a company records when they repurchase stock. They would debit Treasury Stock and credit Cash. You would also note that businesses don’t record a “Treasury Stock Gain,” just “Treasury Stock.” Therefore, $0 is most likely the answer in the case.

Example 2: If you’re dealing with “Stockholders Equity” in FAR and they ask you something like, “What amount should Company Y report in its income statement for XXXX transaction?” It doesn’t matter what the facts of the question state because nothing ever gets recorded to the income statement when you’re dealing with Stockholders equity.

You have to know these little-nuanced ideas, because they can be the difference between passing, failing…and saving a whole bunch of time in the process.

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