Tips for Success - Part 2

Joe started a "Tips" series to help encourage our users as well as help them pass the exam. This is the second in a series. For the first 5 tips, visit our article here.

(6) - On the CPA Exam is there any penalty for incorrect answers? Answer—No, your grade is based solely on the point value of the questions that you get correct. Therefore, never leave any answer blank. If in doubt, eliminate as many answers as possible and then make your best guess.

If you see a question that you do not know, never panic. That does you no good.

Look for any clues within the question that will help you eliminate some of the answers. Look for answers that cannot possibly be correct. Obviously, on multiple-choice questions, you can expect to get 1 out of every 4 questions correct purely by guessing –that’s a lot of potential points. However, if you can eliminate one or two of the answers, then your chances of success improve dramatically. You cannot turn a 50 into a 75 through educated guesswork but you can gain several points and that might well be the difference between passing and failing. No one can possibly know all the answers—a bit of good guessing is something everyone needs to do.

 (7) – Everyone knows that you need a grade of 75 to pass each part of the CPA Exam. Everyone also knows that it is a waste of time to score more than 75. Once you pass no one cares what your score was. I often joke with people who make 76 that they clearly studied way too hard.

However, when I talk with people who are preparing to study for the exam, I often recommend that they shoot to make an 85. Every time they sit down to study, their goal should be to make an 85 on the work they are doing. That gives them some cushion if they have a bad day at the exam site or if they happen to get some especially tricky questions.

If you aim for 75, there is absolutely no margin for error. So, when you cover accounts receivable or contract law or capital budgeting or substantive audit testing, tell yourself “on this topic, I want to learn enough to make an 85—that is my one and only goal.” Then, even if you are a bit careless during the exam or if you get some questions that seem to come from Mars, you should still have enough knowledge to pass the exam. And, in the end, that is the only real goal. Be thrilled with a 75 but prepare as if you need an 85.

Bonus point: never talk about passing the CPA Exam. That is too vague and doesn't give you much of a goal for today. Instead talk about passing the portion of the exam that you are currently studying: "I want to know enough to pass accounts receivable" is a legitimate goal for today. "I want to pass inventory" is a good goal for tomorrow and so on. Eventually, when you can pass enough topics, you will definitely be able to pass the CPA Exam.

 (8) - I am a big believer that it is hard to accomplish much when you are studying unless you (1) break things down into manageable segments and then (2) set goals for those segments. “I want to go through all of the Inventory questions in CPA Review for FREE over a three-hour period on Monday and Tuesday evenings and shoot to get 85 percent correct” is an excellent goal. It defines specifically what you want to do. It establishes when you are going to do it. It sets a high standard (85 percent correct) that will push you to do well.

A new week will soon begin. Here’s what I want you to do as you look into making this new week a total success. I want you to set goals for your CPA exam study FOR JUST THE UPCOMING WEEK. Plan it out—right now!!! How many hours do you want to study? When are you going to be doing that work? What exactly are you going to do?

I want you to start the new week with a challenging plan already in your hands. I think having a defined plan is always the opening key for success. Next Sunday, you can plan the following week but, for now, I want you to put your entire focus into accomplishing as much as possible THIS WEEK.

(9) - Some time ago, I lost 25 pounds. To be successful at this endeavor, I found that I needed to become aware of my progress (or lack of progress) every single day. So, at the end of each day, I weighed myself and wrote the weight down in a computer file. Then, I thought about why my weight was up or down from the previous day. I was making myself aware so that, during each day, I was thinking about how I was doing.

Try an experiment. At the end of each day, write down how much time you spent preparing for the CPA Exam. Think about your day and give your preparation a grade: outstanding, good, okay, poor, awful. You are working to make yourself more aware of your current opportunities to prepare.

Give yourself a small reward for every “good” day and a bigger reward for every “outstanding” one. Too many people wind up at the end of each day with the lament “I don’t know where my time went!!” That is purely a lack of awareness. You want to get to the point where, as you go through your day, you are thinking “what grade have I gotten so far today” and “how can I use the rest of the day to get that grade pushed up.”

 (10) - If you read my Facebook posts or my weekly email lessons, it is easy to come to the conclusion that my strategy for success is “work until you are absolutely exhausted and then push yourself to work some more.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I certainly believe in setting work goals. I do believe in working consistently rather than running hot and cold. Most of all, I believe in being very efficient with your time and in your studies. Do it right; don’t waste your time.

However, over-studying is just as bad for you as understudying because it leaves you incapable of going on. You can literally exhaust yourself. Therefore, I have two tips for you today.

First, make some time every day for yourself. For 15-30 minutes, each day, you need to play: sing, dance, lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling, walk in the woods. Do whatever you feel like doing. Everyone needs to recharge their batteries and they need a little of that every day. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life (and the CPA Exam) that you miss your “YOU” time.

Second, take at least one whole day off from studying every week. Never study seven days a week; you will eventually grind to a halt. Mark your calendar “NO CPA EXAM TODAY” and then plan what you are going to do on that day to make yourself feel really good.

If you are finding it difficult to study, if you are no longer able to accomplish what you want to do, it may not be that you need to push harder. It may simply be that you need to recharge. Take some time off, daily and weekly, solely for that purpose.

(Break time – is there someone you know who needs a bit of encouragement? Can you take a moment to hand out some positive energy to another person? When you pass out energy, your own energy grows.)

See Tips for Success--Part 3


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