4 Tips to Crush the CPA Exam Simulations

CPA Exam Simulations Tips

The Document Review Simulations (DRS), also referred to as SIMs, test a candidate’s ability to complete a realistic task that simulates something a newly licensed CPA might do on the job.

The simulations are not multiple-choice questions and require you to come up with your own answers to the problems. This part of the exams is heavily weighted and can cripple your score if not approached correctly. Below are 4 tips to help you prepare for them.

#1 – Give Yourself A Fighting Chance

Be sure you leave enough time for the simulations. A general rule of thumb is that if the SIMS are worth 40% of your score, then you should budget 40% of your available time. Below is a good estimate for how much time you should plan on setting aside for the SIMS:

Audit Simulations: 40%  x 4 hour test = 1 hour 36 minutes

FAR Simulations:  40% x 4 hour test = 1 hour 36 minutes

REG Simulations: 40% x 3 hour test = 1 hour 12 minutes

BEC Simulations: 15% x 3 hour test = 27 minutes  (Written portion only for BEC)

#2 Play To Your Strengths

Answer the SIMS in order from “most comfortable with the subject matter” to “least comfortable with the subject matter” so you maximize your points if you run out of time. This will also prevent you from getting stuck on one ridiculously hard SIM for 30 minutes (like I did!).

#3 Expect the Unexpected

You are most likely going to get a simulation that is completely out of left field and was never even touched on by your review course. Expect this! There is one “fake” simulation for each exam that doesn’t even count towards your score. Assume it’s the fake pretest question and move on.

#4 Keep Your Head In The Game

Never ever let yourself get discouraged when your taking the exam. This applies not only to the SIMS section but for the entire freakin CPA exam! You’ve worked your butt off, sacrificed much of your social life, and studied like an animal to get to this point right?  Be proud of yourself and walk out of that testing center like a champ. Keep a positive attitude throughout the exam and you will have a much higher chance of recalling all that info you crammed into your head.

Your Turn

Have you taken any of the Document Review Simulations yet? Got a few pointers of your own?  We wanna know! Please share in the comments section below and spread your knowledge to all those in need.

  • Tiffany

    Hi Bryce,

    I was wondering if you had information on how the SIMs are tested/graded. I have been working on the Audit section, where some SIMs asks for calculations. For my responses, I never know if it is appropriate to type in the formula within the cell or if I should manually calculate it and manually provide the answer. For example, if the test is asking for the number to be rounded to the second decimal place, and I put in the formula that spits out an answer of 0.14. If it was in percentage terms, my answer would be 14%. However, I am wondering if the answer should be 13.99% rather than 0.14. If I enter in 13.99%, the % value is unacceptable in the program. But leaving it as 13.99 is very different from .1399.

    Can you help me out with this?

    • Bryce

      Hi Tiffany,
      I wouldn’t worry about this. I remember on the actual CPA exam the instructions were very clear and it only allowed for one option to be entered, either the decimal format or the percentage format.

  • I’m planning to take FAR in Feb 2013. These test day tips are great. Do you have a study strategy for the SIMS? Thanks

    • Bryce

      Unfortunately, I haven’t found a solid review course yet that properly covers the SIMS or at least prepares you as well as they should. My best advice would be to understand the main concepts and work a lot of multiple choice questions. I’ll keep you posted on any new info as I’ll be looking into some new courses soon.

  • Richard

    Great blog! I’ll be sure to tell all my friends about it, I really like your style of writingI totally agree with “expect the unexpected”. Wish I would have read this before my last exam which I think I totally tanked on the SIMS..

    • Bryce

      Thanks Richard, Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you or your friends!


  • Erin

    During the SIM portion you also have access to the Authoritative Literature. Complete the SIMS to the best of your ability and use the scratch paper to jot down 2-3 items total to look up in the literature. Do not plan to rely on using the literature to complete SIMs, but if you have extra time, it’s a good way to double check some of your uncertainties. In some cases, the literature will not even cover certain SIM topics, so it is important to be prepared!

    • Bryce

      I agree, the SIMS written portion on the BEC exam should not be over looked. Great addition to the list, thanks Erin!

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