The Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) portion of the CPA exam is notorious for being difficult. Many people consider it the hardest of all, and its comparatively low pass rates reflect that. That’s why we’ve put together our best FAR CPA exam tips to help you study and prepare to pass the test and become a CPA.
The FAR section is one of the four parts of the CPA exam. It consists of five testlets: two for multiple-choice questions, and three for task-based simulations.
You have four hours to take the exam, with a 15-minute scheduled break and other breaks in which the test clock continues to run.
The test is structured to get more difficult as your performance improves, weighting your questions accordingly (higher score for higher difficulty). For more on the scoring and format, check out our comprehensive overview of the FAR section of the CPA exam.
Use these FAR CPA exam tips to help you maximize your chances of passing the first time around. Studying the right material, planning your time management strategy in advance, and plenty of practice, can all help make the FAR section a little less daunting.
1. Choose the right study materials
How hard is the CPA exam? Truth is, it’s a very difficult test, and the FAR exam is the hardest part.
Want to know how to study for FAR?
First, you will need a highly organized, focused study plan. The best study materials are usually available through one of the various CPA review courses on the market. Research the best available CPA review courses, and choose one that fits your learning style and budget.
There are a few core features that a good CPA exam review should have to best prepare you to pass the FAR section:
FAR multiple-choice question bank
Two of the five testlets that make up the FAR exam contain multiple-choice questions. These account for 50% of your grade on this section.
It’s best to choose a course of study that gives you access to a large multiple-choice question bank. The best courses contain huge repositories of questions from previous exams.
Practicing these questions can help you better understand what kind of content you’ll need to memorize for the FAR exam, as well as getting used to how the questions are presented.
You’ll only have about one minute to answer each question, as it’s a timed exam. So the more familiar you are with the presentation and required knowledge, the easier it will be to move through the multiple-choice questions quickly.
FAR task-based simulations
Task-based simulations make up the other 50% of your FAR exam score. These questions are designed to demonstrate your ability to apply accounting knowledge in a real world context.
You’ll be presented with scenarios that you’ll have to address and troubleshoot, applying the principles you’ve been studying.
You can receive partial credit for TSBs even if you’re not one hundred percent correct, so you should avoid leaving any of these questions blank.
Leading up to the exam, you’ll want to practice TSB questions extensively. Most CPA review courses provide a large database of example tasks, plus feedback on your performance to help identify weak points and study more effectively.
FAR updated for CPA exam blueprints
The Board of Examiners with the AICPA periodically publishes updated CPA exam blueprints.
Updates can include new content, adjusted skill levels, changes to the number of items on the test, and the addition of new reference materials.
A good CPA review course will update their material regularly, so you’ll be covering everything you need to know for the latest version of the FAR test.
FAR study software
Most CPA exam review courses are almost entirely digital. Ideally, the software should be intuitive and easy to use, so you can study efficiently without worrying about where to find things.
As you compare different CPA exam review courses, you should be able to download limited trial versions to test out the software.
Here are some things to look for, to make sure it is right for you:
- Do you like the dashboard and user experience?
- Can you quickly view and access important features?
- Do you like the style of the video course presenters and are they credentialed?
- How long does the software last? Is there a cutoff after which you’ll have to pay to use it?
- What customizations are available?
- How is your progress tracked?
- Are there practice tests?
- How does the software measure test readiness?
- Are there bonus features, like a CPA exam coach, that you want?
You want to make the right choice as you shop online for a CPA exam review. The right study materials could make all the difference.
2. Train your time management skills
Not sure how long to study for the FAR? Looking for FAR CPA exam tips to help you excel?
There are resources you can use to help you estimate how long you’ll need to spend on it before you take the test.
Time management is also a key factor within the test itself. It’s a timed test over four hours, so you can’t afford to linger too long on any one question. You need to be able to recall the information you need quickly and efficiently, so you can answer the question and move on immediately to the next one.
As you take practice tests, you’ll begin to establish a rhythm for progressing through the test sections.
In addition to the four hours allocated for the test itself, there are an additional 15 minutes for “other” activities that don’t count toward your total time for the FAR CPA exam. These are:
- 5 minutes for welcome and to enter your launch code
- 5 minutes on a confidentiality section
- 5 minutes on a survey
You will also have a 15-minute standardized break partway through the test
Here is a FAR CPA exam breakdown, as an example of how you could manage your time during the test:
|Section of test||Time per answer||Total time|
|Testlet 1: multiple-choice questions||75 seconds||41 minutes|
|Testlet 2: multiple-choice questions||75 seconds||41 minutes|
|Testlet 3: two task-based simulations||18 minutes each||36 minutes|
|Testlet 3: three task-based simulations||18 minutes each||54 minutes|
|Testlet 3: three task-based simulations||18 minutes each||54 minutes|
|Leaving extra time for review:||14 minutes|
How much time should the different kinds of questions take? The FAR exam features both multiple-choice and task-based simulation questions, with each type taking up about half your time.
Multiple-choice questions: approximately half of the test, or two hours. You will need to complete each multiple-choice question in a little over one minute.
Task-based simulations: approximately two hours in total. You will need to complete each task-based simulation in 18-22 minutes.
You can see that you will have to exercise some precision to efficiently complete the test. There are numerous strategies for this, many of which will be taught to you in a good CPA review course.
3. Plan to study extensively over a long period
There are four sections within the FAR CPA exam:
- Conceptual framework, standard-setting and financial reporting
- Select financial statement accounts
- Select transactions
- State and local governments
How hard is the FAR CPA exam? Honestly, it’s known for being very challenging.
FAR has the lowest pass rates and is anecdotally reported to be the most difficult section for many students.
You will need to know an incredibly broad scope of knowledge to excel in the FAR section of the CPA exam.
One of our biggest FAR CPA exam tips is that you will need to dedicate a lot of time to studying.
As you plan the weeks or even months of CPA exam prep, factoring in which section requires more study will be important. A study calendar and study schedule will be vital to your success.
4. Schedule time for ongoing review
Accounting knowledge builds on itself over time.
As you memorize statutes, systems, processes, and more, make sure to go back and revisit concepts periodically to keep them fresh in your mind and strengthen your existing understanding.
Many students do this through digital flashcards, which keep track of your knowledge based on right or wrong answers.
Intuitive CPA review courses can build a program algorithmically to customize the delivery of content based on your performance. This will ensure that you are circling back to concepts and incorporating new concepts only when you have a solid grasp on familiar material.
5. Compare your notes to CPA exam blueprints
This includes update alerts for the CPA exam blueprints. This is most important if you are studying without an official CPA exam review, as review courses generally stay up to date with the latest changes to the exam.
You want to be sure that no updates have been made that would change answers or even the structure of the test.
6. Practice MCQs and TSBs
Another of our FAR CPA exam tips is that you should get a lot of practice in for both the multiple-choice questions and the task-based simulations that you’ll find on this section of the exam.
For multiple-choice questions, here are the recommended exercises:
- Memorize as many answers as possible
- Use a large multiple-choice question bank
- Practice the timing, reading carefully and answering quickly
- Use digital flashcards
- Create symbols, acronyms and use other memorization techniques
- Pay attention to keywords
For task-based simulations, here are the best tips for study:
- Practice topics in numerous ways, at different times during your study and in different formats
- Practice the same simulation multiple times, giving you the opportunity to think more deeply about the topic
- Take the AICPA practice test, which is closely modeled to the real test
- Stick to authoritative literature as you memorize answers
- Practice the skills of answering questions, writing answers, and reviewing or double-checking your responses
7. Use online forums for support and questions
Online forums can provide a great platform for asking questions and getting fast answers from real people.
Places like Reddit.com/r/CPA are full of people who have taken the CPA exam, or who are studying for the CPA exam.
Some CPA exam review courses also have their own platforms for student interaction and Q & A.
The official sources for content remain the same, but these message boards can help you immensely as you prepare for the CPA exam.
8. Take a practice test
Throughout your CPA exam study, you will practice the various elements of the test, including multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. To determine final test readiness, however, you need to practice the test in full.
If you are using a CPA exam review, this will have a test readiness indicator built in. But it’s still essential to practice taking a simulated test.
This will help you allocate time, answer questions, and accurately gauge how you will perform on the real test. A practice test is a good final step because it will ensure that you only take the FAR CPA exam when you are truly ready.
Finding more FAR CPA exam tips
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