TCP CPA Exam Study Guide

TCP CPA Exam Study Guide

Your comprehensive guide with everything you need to know about TCP!

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How to Pass the CPA TCP Exam

The TCP CPA Exam Discipline section is the taxation-specific CPA Exam discipline within the CPA evolution blueprint, and it’s all about understanding advanced concepts that were tested on the REG CPA Exam. With Universal CPA Review’s TCP CPA Exam study guide, you’ll learn how to look at these advanced concepts as they relate to individual tax, property tax, entity tax, as well as specialty tax issues. The TCP CPA Exam Discipline ensures that newly licensed Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are thoroughly prepared to practice taxation on behalf of a client when filing with the IRS.

Many CPA candidates and CPA review course providers view the TCP CPA Exam as the REG CPA Exam “on steroids”. In other words, the TCPA CPA Exam discipline is going to take all of those concepts that you learned in the REG CPA Exam section and takes it up one notch further!

This page provides you a comprehensive guide of the TCP CPA Exam section, including the TCP CPA exam format, AICPA blueprint topics, question types, key areas to focus on, common TCP simulation topics, general TCP CPA Exam tips, and frequently asked questions about the TCP Exam.

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TCP CPA Exam Pass Rates

Since the TCP CPA Exam is a brand-new addition to the CPA Evolution’s Core + Discipline model, it’s still too early to determine the CPA Exam pass rates. The first CPA Exam score release for the discipline sections will come out around mid-April. As more and more CPA Exam candidates test for the TCP Exam as their chosen discipline, there will be a lot more information provided related to the TCP CPA Exam pass rates.

TCP CPA Exam Structure

It is critical to understand the structure of the TCP CPA Exam discipline so that you have a clear path to understanding if this is the right CPA Exam discipline for you. We will go through all of the relevant information that you should understand so that your mind will be at ease and you can focus on efficiently and effectively solving the multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations you see on exam day at the Prometric Center.

How Long is the TCP CPA Exam?

You will have a total of 4 hours to complete all five testlets. You will have an option 15-minute break after you complete your 3rd testlet and the break will not count towards your 4 hours. The computer will ask you whether you would like to take a break or continue with your exam. We recommend utilizing the break to collect your thoughts and stamina as you will be approximately 2.5 hours into your exam by the time you finish the 3rd testlest. Once the 4-hour clock expires, your exam will automatically be closed and submitted, and any questions in progress will be submitted as is. You will get partial credit for the simulation you are working on when time expires. We have another article that outlines how the CPA Exam is graded. To learn more, feel free to check it out!

TCP CPA Exam Question Types

The TCP CPA exam consists of 68 multiple choice questions and 7 task-based simulations. Your score will be calculated based on a weighted combination, with multiple choice questions making up 50% of your score while your task-based simulations will make up the other 50% of your CPA Exam score.

Multiple choice questions

Will consist of one or more paragraphs and full of qualitative and quantitative information. There will be four answer choices to choose from, and you will have to select A, B, C, or D. Not every single multiple choice question will be considered in the calculation of your score. Similar to the Core CPA Exams, we anticipate that the AICPA will include various ungraded pre-test questions. 

Task-based simulations

Will consist of a prompt, exhibits, and then one or more tasks that you must complete. These tasks consist of dropdowns, calculations, etc. Of the four simulations, one will be a pretest and will not count toward your score.

TCP CPA Exam AICPA Blueprint

While Universal CPA Review aligns with the AICPA blueprint for the TCP CPA exam, you should still be familiar with the TCP blueprint. The AICPA blueprint is essentially an outline of all the different topics that can be tested, the skillsets required for each topic, and the weighting of each topic.

A. Individual compliance and tax planning considerations for gross income, adjusted gross income, taxable income and estimated taxes

B. Compliance for passive activity and at-risk loss limitations (excluding tax credit implications)

C. Gift taxation compliance and planning

D. Personal financial planning for individuals

A. C corporations

B. S corporations

C. Partnerships

D. Trusts

E. Tax-exempt organizations

A. Formation and liquidation of business entities

B. Tax planning for C corporations

C. Tax planning for S corporations

D. Tax planning for partnerships

A. Nontaxable disposition of assets

B. Amount and character of gains and losses on asset disposition and netting process

C. Related party transactions, including imputed interest

Impact of CPA Evolution

As part of the CPA Evolution (effective January 1, 2024), the TCP CPA Exam is one of three discipline sections that you can choose from as a CPA Exam candidate. TCP will include much of the old REG Exam content and as well as new content areas that you will need to have mastered on exam day. 

Study Plan for TCP

At a high level, your timeline will consist of working through each module in Universal CPA Review’s CPA review course. Each module has been designed to cover certain blueprint topics. Each module will have a video lecture, study guide, multiple choice questions (with video explanations), and possibly a task-based simulation (if applicable).

There are a variety of different strategies you can take for each module, but the general approach is to watch the video lecture, and then work through the multiple choice questions, and watch the video explanations. You can utilize the study guide (textbook) to review what you learned in the lecture. For the task-based simulations, you can work through them after completing the multiple-choice questions, or you can revisit the simulation during your cumulative review. 

We recommend doing cumulative practice tests on a weekly basis at a minimum (typically on the weekends). This means that if you have covered material from Chapters 1, 2, and 3, then you should perform a cumulative practice test over all 3 chapters at once. This will not only help with retention of the information, but it will also help you learn to get comfortable with seeing topics in no particular order. Watch our video tutorial on how to set up a cumulative practice test and why they are so important!

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TCP Exam Study Tips (General)

Looking for some tips specific to the TCP CPA exam? Here is a list of tips we put together to help you pass TCP:

1) Imagine yourself as a tax advisor

In the Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP) section, understanding tax implications and strategies is key. The AICPA doesn’t just expect you to navigate through tax forms and calculations; it values your ability to interpret tax outcomes and provide strategic advice. As a CPA specializing in TCP, you’re compensated for your expertise in analyzing and advising on tax matters. Adopting the perspective of a tax advisor will deepen your understanding of these complex issues. Universal CPA Review’s explanation videos are great tools for developing this advisory mindset.

2) Grasp the significance of each calculation

Similar to other sections, TCP is filled with calculations you must master. Instead of rote memorization, focus on the purpose and impact of these calculations. Understanding the rationale behind tax calculations, like deductions and credits, and their effects on taxable income can make remembering the procedures easier. Universal CPA Review helps demystify these formulas, emphasizing their practical applications rather than just the mechanics.

3) Pay attention to every detail in questions

Missing details can lead to incorrect answers, especially in TCP, where nuances can significantly impact tax outcomes. Ensure you understand every piece of information provided in the question. This thoroughness is crucial for accurate tax planning and compliance calculations. Universal CPA Review’s explanation videos can guide you in effectively analyzing question details.

4) Develop and use a mental map

Navigating through TCP questions involves complex decision-making. Universal CPA Review includes mental maps for key topics, offering a structured approach to tackle tax scenarios efficiently. These maps are invaluable for both multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations.

5) Leverage Microsoft Excel

For TCP, Excel is a powerful tool for organizing tax data and performing calculations. Transferring question data into Excel can reduce errors and save time. Given full access to Excel during the exam, proficiency in it can significantly enhance your performance.

6) Prioritize practice questions

Effective TCP exam preparation involves engaging deeply with practice questions. Universal CPA Review’s bite-sized lectures introduce concepts, but the real learning happens as you tackle multiple-choice questions and review explanation videos that elucidate the calculations and tax principles. This hands-on approach is designed to enhance your ability to apply knowledge practically.

TCP Timing Strategy

Earlier in the TCP CPA exam guide, you learned the format of the TCP CPA exam. The exam includes multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. You will have a total of 4 hours to complete the exam, but how much time should you spend on each question so you can complete the exam within the allotted time?

Multiple-choice questions 

We recommend spending 105 minutes on the two multiple-choice testlets. Since there are 68 multiple-choice questions, you will need to average about 1.8 minutes per question. You will spend more time on difficult questions, but less time on the easier questions. It’s very important not to spend too much time on a particular question! If you don’t know the answer, give it your best shot, and then move on! You can also skip them and come back to the MCQ at the end of the testlet.

Task-based simulations 

The next 60 minutes can be spent completing the 7 task-based simulations. This means you can spend an average of 15 minutes per simulation.

TCP Simulation Topics

While you could see a simulation on just about any topic on the TCP blueprint, the list below represents topics that you should focus on during during your TCP preparation. Simulations on these topics are included in the Universal course. Since it is likely that each simulation will have multiple exhibits, we have included multiple exhibits for most simulations in the Universal course so that you can learn how to navigate through exhibits in an efficient manner. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather, it is intended to provide you direction and guidance and where you should focus your time and efforts.

Navigating Complex Tax Scenarios:

This type of task-based simulation might involve analyzing a detailed taxpayer scenario involving multiple income sources, deductions, credits, and potentially applicable penalties. Candidates could be required to calculate the taxpayer’s total tax liability, considering various tax treatments and strategies to minimize the liability legally. This simulation tests the ability to apply tax code knowledge practically, requiring an understanding of how different elements of a tax return interact and affect the overall tax outcome.


Evaluating Tax Implications of Business Decisions:

Candidates might encounter simulations that present a business contemplating a significant decision, such as expansion, acquisition, or restructuring. The task would involve analyzing the tax implications of each option, including considerations for corporate structure, capital gains, deductions, and potential tax credits. This simulation assesses the candidate’s ability to integrate tax planning with business strategy, emphasizing the importance of tax efficiency in financial decision-making.


Tax Research and Position Justification:

In this simulation, candidates could be presented with a complex tax issue requiring research within the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), Treasury Regulations, and relevant tax rulings or court cases. The task would then involve writing a memo or preparing a document that justifies a particular tax position or advises on the tax treatment of a specific item, referencing the researched authorities. This type of simulation evaluates the candidate’s research skills, ability to interpret tax law, and effectiveness in communicating tax positions clearly and persuasively.

How hard is the TCP CPA exam?

The bottom line is that the CPA BAR exam is very difficult to pass, but with the right approach, you can pass the TCP exam on your first attempt. With the Universal CPA course, you can be one of the many Universal students who have passed BAR on their first attempt, or passed BAR after adding the Universal course as a supplement to their existing review course. With the bite-sized video lectures and step-by-step explanation videos, you will be able to learn the previously AICPA released multiple choice questions at the depth that is necessary. Rather than memorizing information like other courses encourage, you will truly learn the intuition behind these complex topics. 

BAR CPA Exam - Frequently Asked Questions

While there is not a set amount of study time that guarantees a passing score on the TCP CPA Exam, it will take you roughly six weeks to get through the TCP CPA Exam study material assuming a 20-hour-per-week study schedule. Every candidate will move through the material at a different pace. We generally suggest you plan for 100 to 125 hours of studying when you develop your initial study plan. This number might be lower if you have already taken other sections and have a good approach in place.

Like all CPA Exam sections tested, TCP is certainly NOT easy. My advice is to apply the same level of effort and rigor that you did when preparing for any of the other CPA Exam sections while preparing. If you do this, then you will successfully pass TCP. 

We recommend taking TCP after FAR. If BAR is your chosen CPA Exam section, we recommend starting with FAR as your first section as this will lay a solid foundation for attacking TCP. For more information on our recommended CPA Exam order, you can learn more HERE. 

There are 5 testlets on the TCP CPA exam. Testlets 1 and 2 have 25 multiple-choice questions each. Testlets 3, 4, and 5 will contain 2-3 task-based simulations each 

This amounts to a total of 68 multiple-choice questions and 7 task-based simulations. 

It is still too early to determine CPA Exam pass rates for the TCP CPA Exam. Please check back at a later date as CPA Exams are submitted throughout the 2024 calendar year. 

You will have 4 total hours to complete the TCP CPA exam. You will have an option 15-minute break after testlet #3 which does not count towards the 4-hour total. 

Multiple-choice questions will account for 50% of your score,  while task-based simulations will be what the other 50% of your CPA Exam score will be weighted on. 

This is one of the hardest questions about TCP to answer. We anticipate that the AICPA will test advanced financial reporting, entity analysis, and management accounting topics particularly heavily on task-based simulations. This is why it’s so important to think like a business owner as you will be better prepared for any type of simulation that the AICPA gives you!

Like the BAR CPA Exam discipline, the TCP CPA Exam contains a lot of overlap with previous CPA Exam versions. The majority of the previous REG CPA Exam content was shifted into this new discipline section.

Check Out Our Guides for Other CPA Exam Discipline Sections!

If you are planning to learn more about the other CPA Exam discipline section options,  check out our detailed guides for the ISC and TCP CPA Exam sections! 


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