The CPA Exam: Getting it Scheduled

by Mitchell A. Franklin, CPA, Madden School of Business at Le Moyne College – July 7, 2017
The CPA Exam: Getting it Scheduled

For those taking the CPA exam, there is no such thing as a stress-free experience. As we move through 2017 and students are taking a newly changed exam, the stress only increases for the current exam cohort. When working through a stressful experience such as the CPA exam, success is based on more than just getting through content; it’s about having the emotional readiness and confidence to be successful. A high level of confidence reduces stress, and a low level of confidence increases stress. The proper sequence in scheduling parts of the CPA exam can build the confidence needed to maximize the probability of exam success.

Which Part to Take First

In addition to the pressure to pass all four parts of the exam, there’s the fact that once the first part is passed, the clock is running to complete the additional parts before the credit is lost. So it’s vital to select the right part of the exam to sit for first.

Before you begin to study and set an exam preparation plan, carefully examine the content of all exam parts and think about your college experience. You should start with the part that has the content that comes easiest to you. Then schedule the remaining parts so that the one you think will be hardest is your final section. By sitting for the easiest part of the exam first, you have the greatest chance of passing that section. This will help you develop an “I can do it” attitude. You’ll feel good about yourself and become motivated and emotionally prepared to tackle the next part which might be slightly more difficult. By the time you reach that last and most difficult part, you’ll be confident, you’ll know how it feels to pass, and you can fully focus on getting the part done without the burden of thinking about the remaining parts to follow.

There is little value to starting with the most difficult part of the exam as some may suggest. This can result in failure and lost confidence, and it can significantly delay completion of the exam. There is not one concrete hard or easy part; it depends on your background and experience.

If you have been unsuccessful at a particular part more than once, move on to another part, pass it, build confidence then go back to re-attempt the previous part.

Pre-Exam Activities

Take the day or two prior to sitting for the exam to do something fun and unrelated to the exam. Going into the exam room relaxed will help you focus on the task at hand in a more confident manner. Exam­ples of pre-exam activities include going to a museum, seeing a fun movie or anything that will take your mind completely off of the impending exam.

Emotional Readiness

The CPA exam is not easy, and there is much more to exam success than simply being good with the material. You not only need the technical and critical thinking competence to meet the demands of the exam, but also the emotional readiness.

Mitchell A. Franklin

Mitchell Franklin, CPA, Ph.D., is program director and assistant professor of accounting at the Madden School of Business at LeMoyne College. He is a member of the NJCPA Content Advisory Board and can be reached at

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This article appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.