How to Prepare for the CPA Exam Course

So, you’re going to sit for the CPA Exam? Great! Becoming a Certified Public Accountant is a fantastic step to take in accountancy, and one that doesn’t have to be too difficult – if you put in the study time, and choose the right CPA Review Course.

On this page, we’re going to break down how you should prepare for each of the exam sections, so you feel confident come exam day.

Before you start

So, before we dive into each of the exam sections themselves, we first need to be sure you’ve chosen the right CPA study prep course for your learning style. Did you do your research; does it align with your study schedule, and come with the different study materials you’re looking for (i.e. flashcards, or video lectures)?

CPA candidates will often assume they have to start the studying from scratch, but that’s not the case – in fact, test takers should base the order they take the exam sections on previous experience (through accounting classes or work experience). Plus, the right review materials can actually home in on what your weak points are – take Surgent CPA Review for example, with our adaptive learning technology, we’re able to identify what you don’t know and efficiently focus on those topics so you can pass first time.

Study Tips

Now we can get into a couple of study tips focused around fitting the study schedule in to get you started – want personalized tips based on your experiences, thoughts and concerns? You can get them here.

1. Study Whenever You Can. Study during your commute, during your lunch hour, during your free time in the evening – and set aside time on the weekends. Even if one study session is only 15 minutes, it’s important to study as often as possible. We know it’s a rigorous schedule, but studying with intent is the fastest way to pass the exam.

2. Make Sure Your Friends/Family Know What You’re Doing. Hey – it takes a village. And passing the CPA Exam will take time. That’s why we recommend you make your friends and family aware of what you’re doing, the study schedule you’ll be following and when your exam date is scheduled for. This will help set expectations, and prevent you from feeling guilty if you can’t make your weekend plans with them.

3. Make Time For You. Having said that, while it is important to study often and vigorously, it’s important to take time off between the sections, at least two weeks. Also, during your 20-hour study marathons, schedule some fun into your plan. If you do not find a balance, you will burn out.

Now, onto Preparing for the Sections of the CPA Exam

Find Out How to Pass in Three Weeks

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

What is FAR:

Many candidates consider the CPA FAR exam to be the most challenging of the four because of its length and scope of information covered on the test, but with the appropriate exam prep, you can get a passing score easily.

Topics to study:

The FAR (Financing Accounting and Reporting) section of the CPA examination covers topics like GAAP, financial statements, financial transactions, and reporting for non-profits.


The FAR CPA Exam section has five testlets: two testlets of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and three testlets of Task-Based Simulations.

The MCQ testlets of FAR make up 50% of your CPA Exam score, while the simulation testlets makeup the other 50%.

Audit and Attestation (AUD)

What is AUD:

Unlike the other three CPA Exam sections, AUD tests a candidate’s ability to assess problems and use judgment to draw conclusions. If you study for FAR first, AUD will be easier because the topics build off of each other.

Topics to study:

The Auditing and Attestation section of the CPA Exam covers audits, attestation engagements, and preparation, compilation and review engagements.


The AUD Exam is four hours long with one 15-minute break built in between the first and second task-based simulation testlets. There are also two optional breaks, one after the first multiple choice testlet and one after the second multiple choice testlet, although the timer does run during these breaks.

Regulation (REG)

What is REG: The REG CPA Exam is often broken into two parts: taxation and law. Within those topics are Business Law and Federal tax procedures for a variety of entities.

Topics to study: The Regulation (REG) section of the CPA Examination tests a CPA candidate’s knowledge in the topics of federal taxation, business law, business ethics and professional and legal responsibilities. This exam follows the AICPA Blueprints, and so more than 60% of the REG exam focuses on federal taxation.

Format: The REG CPA Exam is four hours long with one 15-minute break built in between the first and second task-based simulation testlets.

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

What is BEC:

Many candidates report BEC is the easiest section. The national pass rate is above 55%, the highest of all four sections but be careful with this information. You still need to study – and if you follow Surgent’s study plan then you can tap into the Surgent BEC pass rate which hovers much higher – around 89%.

Topics to study:

The Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section of the CPA Exam reviews a CPA’s role within the business environment, and covers topics relating to a variety of business areas, from operations to corporate governance.


BEC is a 4-hour exam, and starts with 2 MCQ testlets. Each of the testlets have 31 multiple choice questions, while the third testlet includes two task-based simulations. Then you will be given a 15-minute break, which is recommended but not mandatory and it will not count against the candidates’ time. After the break, another 2-question testlet is given followed by a testlet with 3 tasks involving work written communication.