CPA Exam Test Day Tips

The big day is fast approaching and you’re probably filled with a combination of excitement, fear, dread, and maybe some nervous laughter. That’s perfectly normal and expected. But let’s quell some of those misgivings and go over a few CPA Exam test day tips. You’ve done the work, you know the material, now it’s time to pass the CPA Exam.

Where is the Prometric Testing Center?

Perhaps the most obvious, but often overlooked, part of the CPA Exam is where exactly your testing center is located. Back when you received your Notice to Schedule, you went to the Prometric website to schedule your exam at the nearest center in your jurisdiction. We highly recommend you make the drive to the Prometric center once or twice before your exam. Get to know the route, how long it will take, and what traffic is typically like during the time and day of your exam. You do not want to get lost on your way to the testing center or arrive late.

We highly recommend you make the drive to the Prometric center once or twice before your exam Click To Tweet

Speaking of being late, don’t do it. If you’re late, then you’ll have forfeited your time and will be forced to reschedule, which will likely include having to reapply as well. Besides impacting your wallet, imagine the frustration missing your test would produce. So on the big day, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. This will give you plenty of time to arrive, overcome any unforeseen circumstances, and ensure you can maintain a calm yet ready demeanor.

Testing Center Rules and Guidelines

Before we continue on with more tips for a successful CPA Exam test day, let’s look at the rules provided by Prometric:

  • You must place personal belongings, such as a purse or cell phone, in the storage lockers provided by the test center. The lockers are very small and are not intended to hold large items. Do not bring anything to the test center unless it is absolutely necessary. You can bring water and medicine but you must leave them in your locker. You must keep your identification with you at all times. If you leave the testing room for any reason, you will be required to show your identification to be readmitted.
  • Be aware that introductory examination screens operate under a ten minute time limit. If those limits are exceeded, the session will automatically terminate and it will not be possible to restart the exam. While there is adequate time to review the screens and respond, there is NOT time for you to leave the testing room.
  • Be sure to follow research problem directions. If you are having difficulty entering a response in the space provided, you may not be using the expected response format.
  • Report any functionality problems to the Test Center Administrator. If possible, wait until the end of the session. If you encounter a problem in a simulation, be sure to identify the TAB in which it occurred.
  • Focus on the exam and don’t allow yourself to get distracted by unimportant issues. For example, if your responses do not generate the expected color changes in pencil icons, continue testing. Report this matter at the end of the session. Also, note that the system will verify the capture of your responses.

Do Not Forget Your NTS

We cannot stress this enough because sadly, this happens to more CPA candidates than you’d like to believe. You don’t have to bring much with you, but make sure you have your NTS and two forms of identification. If you do not bring these required items, you will forfeit your exam and the fees you paid, forcing you to reapply and pay again.

Time Management

As far as actually taking the exam, this is the most important tip we can give you. Time management is crucial to success. Each test is 4 hours long. While you’re studying, as you get closer to your exam date, try to utilize the practice tests with time management as one of your goals.

It’s worth noting that the CPA Exam uses a computerized format that does not allow you to jump around between testlets and simulations. Once you finish a testlet, it’s gone. And your next testlet is determined by how well you did on the previous one.

Each section has a different number of multiple choice questions (MCQs) and simulations (TBSs). So let’s look at how long, based on the amount of questions, you should spend on the individual components for each section.

Breaking Down the CPA Exam Sections

AUD has 72 MCQs and 8 TBSs. The first testlet has 36 MCQs followed by an optional break—this voluntary pause does not stop the clock. Afterward, you’ll progress to the next testlet, which also has 36 MCQs. Next is the first testlet of TBSs, of which there are two. Following this testlet is the standardized break of 10-15 minutes that does stop the clock. After the break, you’ll face your second TBS testlest with 3 questions. Again, you may take an optional break that does not stop the clock and then you’ll take your last testlet consisting of 3 TBSs. All of this is to be accomplished in 4 hours, or 240 minutes.

Minus the standardized break of 15 minutes, that leaves 225 minutes. That gives you 45 minutes for each testlet. We recommend you try to cut that down by 5 minutes, giving yourself 40 minutes to complete each testlet. This will give you 25 minutes of buffer should any particular testlet give you trouble or should you have to go to the bathroom more than once.

So for your MCQ testlets, this gives you only about 1.11 minutes per question—that’s not a lot of time! This time constraint makes second-guessing yourself fatal. Trust in your preparation and your knowledge. If you spent the appropriate amount of time studying and truly learned the material, 9 times out of 10 your first response will be the correct response.

For the first TBS of 2 simulations, you have 20 minutes to answer each. For the next two testlets of 3 simulations, you get 13.3 minutes to answer each simulation. This may sound like tons of time compared to the amount you have for the MCQs, but that time can be eaten up quickly during the research phase of these sims.

Without getting long-winded about this, here’s the breakdown for the other 3 sections of the CPA Exam in a much more abbreviated form:

  • BEC: 1.29 minutes for each MCQ. 20 minutes for each TBS. 40 minutes for the written communication
  • FAR: 1.21 minutes for each MCQ. 20 minutes for each simulation in the first TBS testlet, 13.3 minutes for each simulation in the 3rd and 4th TBS testlets
  • REG: 1.05 minutes for each MCQ. 20 minutes for each simulation in the first TBS testlet, 13.3 minutes for each simulation in the 3rd and 4th TBS testlets
You can, within the testlet you're currently on, go back & change answers. Don't do it. Click To Tweet

Don’t Go Back

You can, within the testlet you’re currently on, go back and change answers. Don’t do it. It isn’t just a waste of time, but more often than not, whenever people change their answers they end up being wrong with their second choice. The only exception to this is if a subsequent question contains information that triggers you to remember an answer to a previous question you could not answer with confidence. This is rare though.

Research Tools

The research tools of the software for the CPA Exam are loaded with everything you need to pass the simulations. The sims are very difficult and you need to be able to utilize this tool to gather the necessary information to adequately complete the simulation. And don’t forget to use this for the written communication portion of the BEC! So many candidates fail to utilize the research tools for this piece of the BEC section. Don’t let that be you!

Take it Easy the Day Before

Make sure to relax the day before. Do something fun. And most importantly, get enough sleep. You want to be well rested and ready to crush your CPA Exam. Don’t try to cram. If you haven’t learned what you need by this point, an all day cram session the day before isn’t going to help you. It’s better to do something that will completely take your mind off of the CPA Exam. Review a little before bed, but don’t overdo it. Remember why you’re becoming a CPA. You’re one step closer.



Lead Content Writer

Duke is a professional writer with a penchant for the world of finance and accounting. He enjoys rock climbing, free diving, and cooking.

Favorite Quote: "You can never have too many knives."

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