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The ABCs of taking CPA exams

With the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) national licensure examinations right around the corner, it is important to prepare the best way you can. Results of these tests can define your career. Doing well in the CPA exams can mean entry into the most prestigious accounting firms here and abroad.

Some of the youngest auditors of Punongbayan & Araullo (P&A) were topnotchers in the May 2008 CPA examinations: Christopher Ryan Tan (10th), Jianessa Camille Diaz (9th), Charles Bryan Tan (8th) and Raymund Francis Escala (2nd).
 
Now they offer tried-and-tested methods that they themselves adopted for handling the last few days before the exams.

Days before the exams
Prepare yourself physically. A weary body also means a weary mind, causing your overall performance to slip. After losing so much sleep during the review, spend the final days resetting your body clock. Get enough food and rest so you will be in excellent fighting form.

Don’t cram. Your performance depends on how good a student you were, not on how much cramming you do before the exam. Instead of cramming, go over a methodical, broad-spectrum checklist that covers everything you have taken up.

Don’t listen to rumors about exam content, regardless of source. Many rumors spread before an exam about what topics will be covered. These are usually unsubstantiated and may cause panic and confusion.

Keep your goal in mind. Your objective is to do well in a critical exam. Keep your mind clear of distractions and other concerns, and focus on maintaining an accounting-centered mindset. Keep away from things that normally get too much of your attention, such as playing games or going out.

Conduct casual group study sessions. It is generally a good idea to spend time with friends who are also taking the exams so you can help each other review. Being with people who are on the same boat can give you perspective and sense of security.

Be generous and help others study. Your friends may ask you to help them through certain topics. It is in your best interest to help them because by coaching them you also get your mind on the same track. One of the best ways to review is to teach others.

Stay with people closest to you. While it is a good idea to keep away from distractions, stay close to family and best friends. These people are your support group, and can help keep your spirits up. Let them take care of you and cheer you on. Being around people who support and believe in you can do wonders for your performance.

Be confident. Believe in yourself. It is natural to have doubts about your abilities, but self-doubt can keep you back from doing your best. Think positively about yourself and your skills. You would not have reached this stage if you were not ready and properly educated.

Pray. Whatever your faith, prayer helps. It soothes the mind and relaxes the spirit, allowing you to be at peace.

Days of the exams
Triple-check your required items. When possible, bring two of everything.

Bring medication. Stress does terrible things to the human body. Whether it is hyperacidity, headache or wrist cramp, you will have to get rid of it immediately so you can finish the exams.

Focus on what you know. At the testing centers, there will be people doing last-minute reviewing, talking to themselves or their friends. You may panic a little if you hear things that do not line up with what you know and what you studied. Remind yourself that you have prepared the best way you can. Trust in your education, and trust in your CPA review course.

Prepare well for, and do your best in, the first subject. Every endeavor benefits from a good start. By doing well in the first exam, your confidence gets a boost that will h elp get you through the rest of the exams.

Motivate yourself. Think positive thoughts. During the exams, there will be no one left to cheer you on except yourself.

Good luck!

(As published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 April 2009. This article has also appeared in the Philippine Star, 20 April 2009, and Manila Bulletin, 5 May 2009.)