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How to shorten the learning curve for the CPA exam?

Many candidates get frustrated if they don’t immediately understand a topic. Just remember, there is a “learning curve” for the CPA exam. Just like anything else, it takes time to get better and more knowledge about a topic, right?

The learning curve will be different for everyone, but there are ways you can get to “mastering a topic” more efficiently. Here are a few tips:


1) Think like a CPA – If you are studying for FAR, think about the journal entry you would be if you were the CFO or how you would present the event if the financial statements. If you are studying for REG, think like a Tax professional. How would you prepare your client’s tax return or how would you advise them on a specific tax situation? If you are studying for AUD, what would you tell the partner if he asked you where there could be a material misstatement? If you are studying for BEC, how would you run a business and how would you navigate the risks?

Universal CPA uses mental maps to help you think like a CPA. Think about how you execute a task that you’ve completed 10+ times. Whether you know it or not, there is step by step approach you take to successfully achieving the task, even in high-stress situations or a time crunch. The same approach needs to be learned for the CPA exam, and that is why you will have a mental map for each topic. Below is an example of a mental map:

2) Understand the big picture in MCQs – You have a 25% chance of getting it right if you guess. Could you get it right if you had to write in the answer? Understanding the big picture and repeatable steps to solving an MCQ is extremely important. That is why Universal has explanation videos for every single MCQ. Listen to a CPA at Universal explain it to you, and then see if you could explain it to someone else like your mom or dad (yes, they will take the time to listen!).

Here are a few examples of MCQ videos that you can expect to find in the Universal platform. Watch them and see if you can explain the answer to your parents as the dinner table tonight! Visit the Universal YouTube channel for more free content.

3) Practice the simulations – Simulations represent 50% of your score. At least spend time getting familiar with the types of tasks you have to complete and how to work through multiple exhibits. Simulations are also another opportunity to learn the big picture and see how multiple topics come together. Just like MCQs, Universal offers detailed video explanations for every simulation. We want you to see the big picture so that you can quickly process the task on exam day and successfully navigate yourself to getting it correct!

Here are a few example simulation videos that you would find in the Universal platform. You can check out a simulation on how to master net present value (BEC exam), cash to accrual (FAR exam), data visualization (BEC exam), and allocating joint production costs (BEC exam).

4) Understand and write out journal entries – Understanding journal entries and how they impact the income statement and balance sheet is crucial to passing FAR and AUD. If you can understand the journal entry and even write out a journal entry for a specific transaction or event, then you are well on your way to understanding how the financial statements will be impacted.

Below are a few examples of journal entries that you will learn and need to master for the CPA exam. Visit this link for a a list of 100+ entries that each have their own storyline.

5) Complete cumulative practice tests on a daily or weekly basis: Cumulative practice tests are a great way to keep the information fresh. In addition, by doing random practice tests on cumulative chapters, you’ll become comfortable with being able to quickly breakdown a multiple choice question, think through the mental map (steps to completing), and then solve it! This is extremely important because when you go through a review course, you typically practice only MCQs or simulations related to that specific module. Do you think the exam will group your questions on a module by module basis? Absolutely not!!! Universal CPA has you covered with customized practice tests!


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