CPA Exam Tips for Research Questions

As many of you know, the CPA Exam includes seven task-based simulations for FAR and AUD, and six for REG. And for each of these exams, at least one of the tasks will be a research question.

The research questions are either right or wrong and no partial credit is given. So it pays to invest your time wisely and search smartly on each of these questions. Here are some tips to help you master research questions:

1) Figure out What Specific Terms to Search For

This may sound obvious, but it will save you a ton of time if you take a moment to think about what exactly it is you’re looking for. The search function is very much like Google and you’ll want to identify unique word or words. The less generic the search terms, the better your results. For example, “Statement of Cash Flows” will generate fewer hits than just “Financial Statements.”

And if your search returns too many options, refine it and search again. Don’t get hung up on time management as you may save time by performing a follow-up search rather than poring a large number of hits.

2) Use the Advanced Function to Tailor Your Search

The research question page has multiple tabs. The first tab (“Research”) contains your questions.

The second tab (“Authoritative Literature”) is where you search. From here you can click on the “Advanced Search” and really tailor your search by omitting certain words and looking for exact phrases, just like you can in Google.

3) Narrow down Search Results

Do not start clicking on results right away. Quickly read the summary of your results, it shows where in the literature it was found. For example, if you were searching for general accounting guidance but noted a hit from ASC Topic 978, unless you have a particular interest in learning more about time-share real estate, that’s one you can quickly disregard. Don’t ignore the helpful information the research tool provides after compiling your search results.

4) Use Table of Contents

When your results pop up, you will see a “Table of Contents” on the left side of your screen. You can use this to navigate the literature. Like folders in “My Documents” on your computer, if you understand how the Codification is organized, you may be able to figure out where to head next when you find an answer that’s “close” but not quite right. Maybe the previous or next folder in the list provided makes more sense for what you are looking for.

If you have any tips, comments, or suggestions about how you tackle research questions, please let me know. It’s always great to hear from you.

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