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8 Top CPA Exam Mistakes [and How to Avoid]



The CPA Exam is a formidable hurdle in your accounting career.  With a first-time pass rate of only about 30% on each section, the level of difficulty is obvious. 

The good news, though, is that about 75% of all candidates (first-time and re-exam) sitting for each examination eventually pass.  I believe that the first time pass rate could be higher if candidates would be more careful.


Here are eight top mistakes and failures that many candidates make on CPA exam:

1.  Mistake: Failure to understand the exam question requirements

2.  Misunderstanding the supporting text of the problem

3.  Lack of knowledge of material tested, especially recently issued pronouncements

4.  Failure to develop proficiency with practice tools such as electronic research databases and spreadsheets

5.  Inability to apply the solutions approach

6.  Lack of an exam strategy (e.g., allocation of time)

7.  Sloppiness and computational errors

8.  Failure to proofread and edit


  • These mistakes and failures are not mutually exclusive.
  • You may commit one or more of the above items.

How to Avoid Those Mistakes

  • Take the time to read carefully the exam question requirements.  Do not jump into a quick start, only to later find out that you did not understand what information the examiners were asking for.  Read slowly and carefully.  Take time to recall your knowledge.  Respond to the question asked.
  • Apply an exam strategy such as allocating your time among all question formats.  Do not spend too much time on the multiple-choice testlets, leaving no time to spend on preparing your simulation responses.
  • Upon completion of any written communications requirements, proofread and edit your answer.  Answer questions quickly but precisely, avoid common mistakes, and increase your score.

Remind yourself that when you decrease the number of common mistakes, you increase your chances of successfully becoming a CPA.

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