Pass the New 2017 CPA Exam: Tips From Surgent’s Accounting Expert

Pass the New 2017 CPA Exam: Tips From Surgent’s Accounting Expert

Last Updated:May 24, 2018
Bryce Welker, CPA

The 2017 CPA exam has quite a few changes, but should these alterations affect how you prepare for the test and the order in which you take the sections? The short answer is yes, as CPA exam expert Liz Kohler explains to us in this informative video.

Click below to see what the new exam changes will mean for test takers, how they will influence studying, and some great ways that Surgent has adjusted its course to the new material. Then see how Surgent’s new course stacks up to the competition on my top 12 best CPA review courses.


For those of you who don’t have time to watch the full video, check out my synopsis below so you can jump to the time where your specific questions are addressed. You can also read my guide to the 2017 CPA Exam Changes.


  • At 1:00 – What is the recommended order to take the CPA Exam?
    • Begin with FAR
    • Why? It is the foundation of accounting and the content here is most likely to show up on other parts.
    • Also, FAR tends to be the toughest part.
    • When you start, your motivation will help you take on the hardest part.
    • Once you pass, you know the hardest part is out of the way and you’re facing a downward sloping hill.
    • Then next, take the AUD section.
      • Why? A lot of questions on AUD relate to the FAR content.
      • If you are a recent college grad, chances are that you just took an AUD related class and you need to take the section earlier while the information is fresh in your mind.
    • Then to the REG section.
      • Topics covered are tax, a little law, and ethics. FAR knowledge will be helpful for the tax.
    • Lastly, BEC.
      • Used to be the easiest, but now with the updates, it is more difficult.
      • Content pulls from freshman year classes.
      • Written communication can come from any section of the exam, that’s why we suggest taking this last so you will have studied for all the material that could be tested.


  • At 8:25 – When should you take the CPA exam?
    • The first two months of every quarter.
    • March, June, September, and December are non-testing months.
    • For the year of 2017, candidates can test into the 10th day of these blackout months. This is because of the 2017 changes.
    • The dream schedule for recent college graduates (at 10:47): Study in June, take the exam in July. Study through July and take your second part before the 10th of August. Then continue studying through September and take your third part in October. Continue studying through November and take your final part before the 10th of December.
    • If that’s too aggressive, do a part a quarter.
    • Shoot for a year! Don’t use the 18 months they give you or you will have to deal with your earlier parts expiring if you fail a section.


  • At 13:40 – What’s the new format of the CPA exam?
    • Each section has 5 testlets.
    • Use your 15 minute break to track your pacing.
    • Right at your 2 hour mark, you need to be half way through or it will be difficult to finish the exam.
    • One of the Written Communication questions is a pretest question, so it doesn’t count. You will not know this though. Grammar, organization, punctuation, spelling all count, so make sure you have quality writing and editing help when studying.


  • At 22:04 – How has the CPA exam weighting changed?
    • AUD, FAR, REG are now 50/50 for MCQs and TBSs.
    • BEC is now 35% TBS and 50% MCQ and 15% Written Communications.
    • Why? To get candidates away from memorization and regurgitation. The focus is now on application and analysis with the TBSs.


  • 25:20 – What is the CPA exam score release timeline?
    • Examiners want to hold on to candidates’ scores and compare them across the county to see how everyone did as a whole.
    • AICPA want to make sure they are fair in their scaled scoring system.
    • There will be a delay in the scoring released throughout 2017 due to the extended time.
    • State boards will accommodate those who are not going to hear their scores within the 18 month window due to the release delay.


  • At 30:57 – What is new about the welcome screens?
    • You used to have 10 minutes before the exam, now it is only 5 minutes long. Here you need to verify all you information and enter your 7 digit launch code that is on your NTS (don’t forget to bring your NTS with you).
    • You will then have the policy acceptance page.
    • You can practice with the welcome screen on the AICPA’s website (which is strongly recommended).


  • At 34:30 – How do the break screens work?
    • You will see a screen that gives you the option to take a break.
    • Your clock will continue if you take this optional break.
    • You will get the same break screen for the standard 15 minute break, this will not count against your time.
    • We suggest getting back to your test after 13 minutes so you have time to continue your exam and re-enter your launch code. This way, you won’t lose any time.


  • At 36:40 – What is new about the warning screens?
    • When you get to the end of your testlet, you will get a warning screen that alerts you to skipped questions.
    • Never skip, guess!


  • 39:30 – How do you prepare for the new CPA exam?
    • Study what you don’t know.
      • That could mean study the harder stuff that is usually organized at the end of your review course.
      • Build your weaknesses into strengths.
    • Practice MCQs.
      • If you get one wrong, that’s a topic you should explore more via video lesson or textbook.
    • Practice TBSs.
      • Document review simulations.
      • Comprehensive simulations.
    • Strategy for MCQs:
      • Never leave a question blank.
      • Do not skip a question.
      • Guess, flag the question.
      • Spend 1 minute to 1.5 minutes on each MCQ.
      • Keep an eye on the clock.
      • Try to get through the MCQs as quickly as possible so you have time for the TBSs.
    • Time management is crucial. Don’t get hung up on questions you had to guess on if you are low on time.
    • Simulations will vary in the amount of time required to complete. Make sure you understand the different type of simulations and how much time you need to finish them. This needs to be incorporated into your time management so when you face them on test day, you will know how much time to save for a longer TBS if you get a quick one in an earlier testlet.

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