Andrew Knapman Opinion Students

Writing a CPA PEP exam? Get ready with these five insider tips

Your CPA exam is just days away. Here is how CPA student blogger Andrew Knapman prepares 

Author: Andrew Knapman

TORONTO, April 20, 2018 – So you’ve signed up for the Chartered Professional Accountant Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) and made it to your first exam. Or perhaps you have progressed through the program already but have been struggling with the frenetic, panic-induced four hours you have to face every three months.  

Yes, CPA exams are nothing like any exam you have taken before. Don’t expect any thumb twiddling, daydreaming or calmly waiting for the final 30 minutes to be done so you can leave. CPA exams are intense and stressful. If you aren’t prepared when you go into one, they will probably chew you up and spit you out. 

Luckily, including CPA PREP, I’ve been through more CPA exams than you can count on both hands, and I’ve developed a knack for getting through them without too much panic. Here are my five tips for ace-ing these things. 

Stop studying

This might sound like backwards advice, but I’ve found that studying right up until exam day only adds to my stress levels. If you have read any of my prior posts you will note that I dedicate a huge amount of time to simply studying throughout the course, as well as getting ahead of the course content. 

However, a few days before the exam I generally put down the books. Sure, I might skim over my notes once or twice to ensure I haven’t missed something, but all my learning will have been done in the prior weeks. The final week is really time to de-stress; it’s not a time for learning new things. The day before the exam and the morning of the exam I won’t read my notes at all as I find at that stage it just makes me stress more and more.  

Eat and rest properly

Some people think that late night study sessions are a good idea in the days leading up to the exam to maximize knowledge. While I wouldn’t dismiss this throughout the course, I certainly would not be doing this in the days leading up to the exam. I make sure to get a good night sleep before exam day and I also plan my meals for the night before and the day of the exam. 

The night before, I generally eat a light dinner that won’t leave me uncomfortable the next day, and for breakfast I will eat slow-release carbs like whole grain toast and protein such as eggs or yoghurt. This should keep you full and your mind engaged throughout the long exam. 

For the exam itself I tend to take energy snacks like cheeses, chocolate or energy drinks in case I need a sudden pick-me-up. I see a lot of people with coffee before the exam starts, which is generally a bad idea, as you will undoubtedly crash during the exam. 

Learn to type quickly

I’m naturally a pretty quick typist at around 70 WPM. Most people my age or younger are as quick typists as well. Assuming you type 50 WPM, that essentially means I type 40 per cent faster than you and can get my thoughts down in the exam that much faster also. 

This won’t be a big deal in the Core exams since they’re mostly multiple choice, but come the electives and the CFE, when essay writing takes precedence, fast typing gives me a major advantage. If you feel you never have enough time in the exam and you know you are a slow typist, it might be worth taking some typing lessons to give you that little extra. On that note, I highly recommend using a laptop you are comfortable with, as I know that I type far slower on a laptop I’m not used to using. 

Be comfortable

I know a lot of people really care about their appearance in public but now is not the time. Wear whatever makes you absolutely comfortable to the exam as you want the fewest number of distractions when it starts. I generally wear sweat pants and a sweater, even if I look like I’m ready for a night of Netflix. 

On that note, I’ve found CPA exam rooms to be unusually cold, so bring a jacket just in case. There’s nothing worse than shivering for four hours while you’re trying to think — and trust me, they won’t change the temperature just for you. 

Don’t discuss possible exam material with peers

With apologies to my fellow exam participants, I won’t be talking to you before an exam other than to wish you good luck. I find discussing course material or basically anything about the exam to be a huge stress-inducer right before taking it. What good is it to learn that I don’t know something this late in the game? 

Come catch me after the exam if you want to discuss it; beforehand, I just want to find my zen.

Andrew Knapman lives in Vancouver, B.C. and is a student in the CPA Professional Education Program through CPA BC. The views expressed in this guest blog are his own. Connect with Andrew through his LinkedIn profile and follow him on his journey to becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant through future blog postings on Canadian Accountant.

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