Part 3: How to prepare for Core 1 of the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) – exam preparation & the Core 1 exam

Part 3: How to prepare for Core 1 of the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) – exam preparation & the Core 1 exam

This last post in the “How to prepare for Core 1 of the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP)” series covers preparing for and writing the Core 1 exam. Read on for tips from Caleb Hagemeister CPA, Gold Medalist recipient for Western Canada on the September 2015 CFE. If you missed the other posts in the series, click here for part 1 (readings & assignments), and click here for part 2 (practice cases & multiple-choice questions).

Caleb Hagemeister CPA, Manager, MNP

Exam preparation

Lastly, there is the Core 1 module exam. I was able to take a few days off before the exam to do some focused studying. I spent at least two to three days preparing for the exam. But the reality is, not everyone can afford that much study time due to work commitments. My understanding is that the program has been redesigned to accommodate the various schedules of candidates, which allows them to get prepared by studying in the evenings leading up to the exam. If you’re able to take a day or two off to study and ensure you are prepared, I would suggest that. If not, I recommend spending a few hours studying in the evenings leading up to the exam.

If you put in the effort throughout the module by completing the readings, trying your best on the assignments, treating the practice cases like exams, and thoroughly attempting the multiple-choice questions, I am confident that you will be able to pass the exam.

When studying, go back over the readings and assignments to see what the main focuses of the module were (i.e. revenue recognition for financial reporting; overall financial statement level risk, materiality, and audit procedures for assurance; valuations for finance, etc.). If you’ve seen these topics in your assignments, it is a good idea to study them.

Also, allocate your study time based on the percentage of the topics that make up the test. If your test is 60 to 80% financial reporting, spend 60 to 80% of your time studying financial reporting, and so on. There is a tendency to study what we like and what we know. The opposite should be true—if you are weak in a certain area, and you know it, dedicate more time to that area.

The exam

Once you’ve gotten through the module and the exam preparation, now comes the exam itself. It is a four-hour exam made up of multiple-choice questions and a 60-minute case.

Don’t forget to test your software the night before to make sure everything is working on your laptop. Technological failures on an exam are unpredictable and sometimes unavoidable, but if you’ve done the checks, at least you can say you tried.

Get to the exam location a little early to get set up and comfortable with your surroundings.

When you receive your exam, answer the multiple-choice questions first. If you don’t know an answer, select the one you think is best, note it, and move along. Time management is vital on these exams, and you don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage by spending too much time on certain questions and not enough time on others. Make sure you leave at least 60 minutes to write your case. Odds are, you’ll end up going over. But never take away time from the case, as you won’t know what the issues are until you get into it.

What the rest of CPA PEP looks like

With each passing module, you will get more and more confident with your preparation. You will find your rhythm. Through trial and error, you will know how much time you need to spend on your assignments to ensure you are competent, and you will get a good idea of how you should prepare for the exams.

Remember, you get out of this program what you put in. If you put in minimal effort throughout the module, you will have to pick up the slack come exam time. If you put in a solid effort throughout, you will be ready come exam time.

Best of luck in this first module and the ones to come. Remember, at the end of it all, you receive the grand prize—three letters… the promised land of being a CPA.