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Get started with your Rigos course today; you won't regret it!
All students enrolled in any Rigos program receive free software containing previous questions and answers. Previous exam question-and-answer software is especially useful for the multiple-choice questions. The computerized answers are complete and explain why one answer is the best and the other is less correct. Our software has many useful features including timing, scoring and bookmarking. The computerized questions and answers are distributed according to the chapters of our textbooks. This allows you to immediately refer to the theory of the subject if you miss a question during your studying.
The purpose of this is to introduce the student to the nature of and difficulties related to answering the various types of CPA exam questions. The multiple-choice and task-based simulation questions have unique characteristics and pitfalls; the candidate should therefore learn different solution approaches to be fully prepared for the CPA exam. You should study and use this information and the recommended solution approaches during your homework and final pre-exam review. If you gain experience by applying the approaches discussed below to numerous old exam questions, you will be prepared to pass the CPA exam.
I. Objective Multiple-choice Questions
A. General Comments and Pitfalls
1. Format and Time Management: Every question in the testlet counts the same and there is no subtraction for wrong answers. All levels of testlet difficulty (A through C) are represented. The more difficult the testlet the higher the relative weight given for correct answers. Be careful to manage your time as you proceed through the testlets. Some of the C level questions may take 4 to 5 minutes. If a particular question is giving you difficulty, either skip it or make your best educated guess and mark it.
2. Try a True-False Approach: For some questions it may help to use a true-false analysis for each of the four alternatives. This is especially useful for negatives (see item 4 below). Ideally you will end up with a 3-1 split; the odd man is usually the right answer.
3. Preferred Answer Objective: Look for the best answer alternative. This may mean the most nearly correct or conversely, the least incorrect answer. There is often some truth in each alternative. The best alternative must be completely correct. Watch out for incomplete definitions. Appreciate the difference between the command adverbs “may” and “shall”/“must”.
4. Negatives: A few questions have negatives in the facts, the requirement of the question, or the alternatives. This means that the correct choice is the worst, least helpful, least likely, or most false alternative. The candidate must reason very carefully through the alternatives and reverse the normal logic. The “true-false” approach discussed in item 2 above is often very helpful. If looking for the negative, the false or incorrect alternative is the best choice.
5. Absolutes: Be on the alert for sweeping exclusionary words such as “all,” “always,” “none,” “never,” “under no circumstances,” or “solely.” Such broad words are in the question for a reason. Ask yourself, “Is there any exception?”
6. Nonsense Theory: Occasionally the CPA will create answers to represent a nonsense principle, concept, or theory such as “consumer expectation theory.” A good rule of thumb is that such an alternative is always wrong unless you have seen it in the Primer Series texts.
7. Be Selective: More facts or theory may be given in the question than is necessary. Red herrings are often in the facts to support one of the wrong alternatives. Also look for seemingly meaningless detail because such a reference may provide a necessary fact required for the application of a controlling legal rule. If dates are given, they are usually necessary for the correct conclusion.
8. Analyze Modifiers in the Alternatives: Many answer alternatives begin with the conclusion ( e.g. “This statement is true,” or “This is the best course of action.”) The conclusion is then followed by a conditioned or limiting modifying word (“because,” “since,” “if,” “only if,” or “unless”) and a statement of a supporting authoritative reasoning or rationale.
a. “Because,” “Since,” or “As”: These conditional requirement modifiers indicate the following rationale is usually the reasoning necessary to satisfy the right conclusion. The reasoning must be consistent with the facts given in the question. The reasoning must also resolve the central controlling issue in the question.
b. “If” and “Only If”: This limiting modifier indicates the following rationale need only be possible under the facts; it is not required to be totally consistent as in “because” or “since.” As such, the “if” modifier can - and usually does - go beyond the question facts to create a more compelling factual argument to support the conclusion. “Only if” is similar except it creates an exclusive condition to be satisfied. An “if” or “only if” modifier also requires you to reason through the other three alternatives to be sure there is not a better “if” or “only if” argument.
c. “Unless”: This conditional modifier usually has a rationale following that addresses more of the required reasoning than the other modifiers. This “unless” reasoning must be necessary for the application of the controlling principles. If there is any other reason or way that the result can occur, an “unless” alternative is incorrect. Again, you should reason through all the other alternatives to be sure there is not a better “unless” argument.
9. Remember Your Default Rules: Some topics on the CPA multiple-choice questions are very difficult “C” level questions. The time necessary to analyze and answer these questions may not be efficient since often there is no certainty even after the effort. If you can reduce the choice down to two alternatives, you should consider the following default rules. They provide a logical, educated basis for a calculated guess.
a. Longest Alternative: Everything else being equal, the longer alternative in a narrative question is more likely to be the correct answer than a shorter alternative. A correct answer must contain all required information and reasoning necessary for the best choice. This concept favors the more detailed alternative; this is usually the one with the most words.
b. Precision: Everything else being equal, the more precise the alternative in a narrative question the better. Vagueness is never encouraged in accounting. The three incorrect alternatives in such a question will contain distracters to create confusion.
c. Not Unrelated Subject: An alternative that includes another subject in a narrative question is usually wrong. Only infrequently do questions crossover between subjects and almost never is the alternative which refers to the other subject the correct answer.
10. Calculation Questions: More data may be given than is necessary. Dates are very important. Apply current pronouncements and statutory rules unless the question specifies to the contrary. Always watch for red herrings and extraneous numerical data. The correct numerical answer is rarely a number given in the fact pattern. If guessing, avoid the high and low values; a middle value is the default rule because it has a better chance of being the correct answer. “None of the above” or “some other number” is almost never the best alternative; this would reward mistakes.
B. Approach to Multiple-Choice Questions
1. Interrelationships: Different sequential questions may use the same fact pattern. The computer program may thus appear to repeat the facts even though it is a new question.
2. “Mask” Down: In a pencil-and-paper format, a good rule of thumb is to lay a mask over the alternatives, read the facts carefully, and try to determine the correct answer before you look at the options. This is more difficult to do in a computerized testing environment. However, it is still a good mental practice to consider the facts and four choices separately because the alternatives may cause you to misread the facts. This intellectual “masking” technique will usually facilitate a more thorough understanding of the question-answer structure.
3. Adopt Writer’s Position: It may help to put yourself in the shoes of the question’s writer. Concentrate on the question and/or the fact pattern to determine what the answer should be. Then search for that answer among the alternatives. Even if you see the answer you guessed or calculated, you should still consider the other alternatives to make sure none seem more correct.
4. Disagreement: If your favorite answer is not one of the alternatives, check your math and the logic of your approach. If they both seem correct, pick the most reasonable choice. This is usually the alternative closest to your computation.
5. Test Tutorial: Before you start the actual exam questions, go through the tutorial at least once. The present value tables can be accessed by hitting the EXHIBIT key.
6. First Time Through: Go through every question in the testlet in order. The first time through, every question should be put into one of three categories.
a. Sure of Answer: If you are reasonably certain, answer the question and move on.
b. No Clue: If you have no clue or if it would take too long to work, skip it. Do not get frustrated by the skipped questions or spend more than one minute before finally deciding to skip it. Hit the NEXT® key at the bottom of the screen.
c. Unsure? Mark It: If you have some idea, but are unsure which alternative is correct, make your best educated guess. Answer the question, but MARK it so you can come back and go over it again, if time permits. Don’t get “bogged down.”
7. Second Time Through: After you have gone through the whole testlet, go back to the beginning.
a. Do Skipped Questions First: The second time through, work the skipped ones first. Do not get hung up, and remember your default rules (longest narrative answer or middle value in a calculation question). Delete the SKIP command and then hit the NEXT® key.
b. Do Marked Questions Last: After the skipped questions are completed, go through the marked questions to determine if you see anything new. The questions you have completed may have jogged your memory or otherwise given you good reason to believe an answer change is warranted. If the uncertainty is still present don’t change your first judgment. It is probably your best shot at the correct answer.
II. TASK-BASED SIMULATIONS
20% to 30% of the exam will use a question-answer format focusing on work-related situations. Three testlets with 8 task-based simulations are expected for each section except BEC which will now have 4 task-based simulation questions. Relational case studies may require research, but the necessary research databases will be given on the screen. We believe that many of these initial questions will be adaptations of previous questions involving pull-down screens. An example would be matching a list of items to another list or picking the best reason for a given outcome. Spreadsheets are likely to be used to test financial statement format. Short essays - say a memorandum to a senior partner or drafting an audit opinion - will be required in most simulations.
A. AICPA Website Tutorial
The AICPA has created a hands-on tutorial to help you become familiar with new simulations to be used. In addition to this review course it is important that you use this AICPA resource. The AICPA is not going to license this software so this is your only source. The tutorial will go over such items as:
1. Format: A review of the new exam’s format will be included. Also a thorough demonstration of the navigation functions on the different screens which you must use will be covered.
2. Task-Based Simulation Questions: The AICPA tutorial will familiarize candidates with the multiple-choice and task-based simulation questions that are included on the computerized exam.
3. Research Sources: The AICPA will likely expand the form of testing and research databases. As the exam expands the additional research source databases will be added annually. While we will report these to you, you should also monitor the AICPA website.
4. Sample Test: The AICPA has a sample test on their website. This contains sample multiple-choice questions and a sample simulation for each of the sections. Candidates are strongly advised to go online and take this exam at least once to become thoroughly familiar with the format.
B. Database of Information
You will be given financial accounting, auditing, or taxation databases to complete the simulations.
1. Included: The financial accounting database will include certain portions of the Financial Accounting Standard Board (FASB) Original Pronouncements and Current Text. The auditing database will include certain portions of the AICPA’s Statements on Auditing Standards (SAS). The taxation database will include certain portions of the federal tax code and Publication 230, but not the tax regulations. Additional items will be added. The databases given on the screen include all the research information that is necessary for completion of the case study simulations on the exam.
2. AICPA Availability: After registering and receiving approval, candidates may receive a 6 month subscription to all FASB and AICPA professional literature for a small cost. This is strongly recommended for all candidates. Go to NASBA.
C. Calculation Simulations
There will continue to be basic calculation style questions. The simulation format allows the AICPA to require you to place the correct number in the correct place on a financial statement or spreadsheet such as Excel or Lotus. Again the AICPA website is the best place to become familiar with these formats.
D. Communication Simulations
1. Description: Written communication is expected to be very similar to the traditional essay questions and will be a part of almost every simulation. The candidate may be required to draft an opinion letter or a report to management on the application of a FASB standard. An example is a memorandum to a client or CPA firm partner explaining the application of an accounting principle. Other examples include writing an audit opinion, a written explanation of an accounting change, or a tax analysis detailing the difference in treatment between tax and book income for a corporation (Schedule M reconciliation).
2. Writing Skills: Candidates should type answers in the simulations that are clear, concise, and well organized around an identifiable thesis statement. Up to 10% of the score is given for writing skills. Numerous paragraphs each developing one major supporting idea shows organization. Do not abbreviate and try to express as many technical terms as possible in your answer.
Positive mental attitude is the key*
*This inspiration and 8 positive mental attitude statements are from the wisdom of Professor Wayne Borkowski, all-time high national gold medal winner (96.2%) and Past-President of the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants.