It has been brought to my attention that the current CPA exam has gone through some changes primarily in the writing section. “To earn points for a written communications question, candidates must read a description of a situation or scenario, and must write a document that relates or responds to that scenario” (CPA). There is almost a formula that which CPA candidates can use in order to successfully pass the written portion of the CPA exam. There are also a couple of helpful tips for what and what not to do in your writing responses on the exam.
One of the most important principals on preparing for the essay questions on the CPA exam is that an “accomplished writing style is not as important as an ability to package and communicate the key words and phrases looked for by the graders” (Dauber). In this memorandum, I will give you almost a formula in which to begin writing your responses for the written portion of the CPA exam. Please contact me again if you want me to send a couple sample questions pertaining to the written portion of the exam.
Pre-Exam. Before you can even think about essay questions on the CPA exam, you need to know the exact reason for such questions and what the grader is trying to get out of the candidate. “Skill communication…requires organization, clarity, and a sense of the audience. The main objective is to convey to the grader as effectively as possible your response to the question requirements. In so doing, you are expected to observe the conventions of standard written English and generally to write with the competence of a learned professional” (Dauber).
You don’t necessarily have to be a great writer; you can be a moderate writer and pass with flying colors as long as you write as you’re told. “The first and most important stage in developing a good answer to an essay question is to closely read the question requirements. The organization of the answer should follow logically from the specified requirements. Interpret the requirements in a straightforward, common-sense fashion, circling or underlining the key words or phrases and making sure that your answer addresses those items” (Dauber).
The Formula on CPA Writing. There are certain steps you should follow before you can even write a word on the response form. “The impulse to launce into paragraph one and to develop the essay as you go along must be resisted. Too much time and too many words are wasted that way. Rather, a brief thumbnail outline of the answer-to-be should be used to collect and organize ideas. The resulting answer will be concise and complete. …a thumbnail outline also serves as the equivalent of a rough draft. It helps to prevent false starts, poor coherence, or writing oneself into a corner” (Dauber).
The AICPA has given six characteristics of good writing (May): 1. Coherent organization| Candidates should organize responses so ideas are arranged logically and the flow of thought is easy to follow. | 2. Conciseness| Candidates should present complete thoughts in the fewest words possible while ensuring important points are covered adequately. | 3. Clarity| A clearly written response prevents uncertainty about the candidate’s meaning or reasoning. Clarity involves using words with specific and precise meanings, including proper technical terminology.
4. Use of standard English| Standard English is characterized by exacting standards of punctuation and capitalization, by accurate spelling, by exact diction, by expressive vocabulary, and by knowledgeable usage choices. | 5. Responsiveness to the requirements of the question| Answers should address the requirements of the question directly and demonstrate the candidate’s awareness of the purpose of the writing task. Responses should not be broad expositions on the general subject matter.
6. Appropriateness for the reader| Some essay questions may ask candidates to prepare a document for a certain reader, such as an engagement memorandum for a CPA’s client. When the intended reader is not specified, the candidate should assume the reader is a knowledgeable CPA. | “Remember that you don’t have to be right, you just have to be on topic. Written communications are still mostly machine-graded (though some are pulled and reviewed by human eyes) so it doesn’t even matter if you are right, you just have to stay on topic.
Use topic keywords in your essay, but be careful not to copy the text of the question word-for-word or you may lose points” (Study). “Practice writing and critiquing. As you practice your question answering technique on essay questions, you will be practicing your writing skills (Writing). You only need to disguise yourself as a competent professional. The essay response will be rightfully graded if you don’t have many technical errors or run-on sentences. Your writing needs to have a well-organized form, demonstrate knowledge of the subject, and demonstrate a command of standard professional English.
As long as you can follow these specific guidelines, there is a high probability on passing the written portion of the CPA exam with flying colors. I will send you sample essay questions for the CPA exam in my next memorandum, if needed.
“CPA Exam Tips: Written Communication | CPA Exam Preparation Blog. ” CPA Exam Preparation Blog. Roger CPA Review, 8 May 2009. Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <http://blog. rogercpareview. com/2009/05/cpa-exam-tips-written-communication. html>. Dauber, Nicky A. , and Samuel Person. Barron’s how to prepare for the CPA, certified public accountant examination. 6th ed. Hauppauge, N. Y. : Barron’s, 1998. Print. May, Claire B. , and Susan L. Menelaides. “Good Writing Counts. ” Journal of Accountancy 175 (1993): 78-79. Print. “Study Tip: Writing a Good Written Communication | CPA Exam Preparation Blog. ” CPA Exam Preparation Blog. Roger CPA Review Staff Writers, 15 July 2010. Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <http://blog. rogercpareview. com/2010/07/study-tip-writing-good-written. html>. “Writing Skills for the CPA Exam. ” SmartPros Accounting: Articles, CPE and Career Resources.. Gleim Publications, n. d. Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <http://accounting. smartpros. com/x16246. xml>.