A lot of people ask me which CPA exam section they should take first. You might be wondering the same thing. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy. Everyone is different and is better with some subjects and worse with others. Telling everyone to take the same section first doesn’t make a lot of sense. Instead, what I tell students and candidates, is it depends on what they are good at.
Shouldn’t You Take the Hardest Section First?
Get the hardest part of the CPA exam out of the way first. This is what most people end up saying. It makes sense, right? WRONG.
Let’s think about how the exam works for a second. You have an 18-month window to pass all four sections. If you don’t pass them all, your first completed section will drop off and your new 18-month window will start with the second section you passed.
In other words, if you don’t pass of four in 18 months, you will have to take your first passed section again. I know; it sucks. Some people end up passing two sections twice because of this time limit.
Now think if you took your hardest part first. You run the risk of having to sit for it again after you already passed it. I don’t know about you, but I would not want to do that.
Aside from the possibility of retaking the exam you struggle with the most, it can also be demoralizing to fail your first section out of the gate. I remember my first section, AUD. I was so pumped up going into the exam room not really knowing what to expect. I just wanted to kill it! If I found out I failed my very first attempt, I would have been pretty heart broken.
Passing the CPA exam and becoming a CPA is just as much a mental game as it is an intellectual one. You have to be in good spirits and ready for it, or there’s a good chance you’ll be one of the 47 percent who fail every testing window.
So, what should you do? Here are my CPA exam order suggestions.
Sit for the Easiest Section First!
That’s why I always suggest sitting for the easiest section first. Now I know none of the sections are really “easy,” but some are less difficult than others. You should sit for the section that you feel most confident in—usually the subject you performed best in college.
This way if you do have to retake your first exam, it won’t be as bad. Plus, passing your first section right out of college is a huge morality booster. At least it was for me. When I saw that I got an 84 on my first Audit section, I was ecstatic and re-energized to start studying for the next section.
It’s important to feel good about yourself going into every exam. You can pass each one the first time just like I did. You just need to strategize.
So What CPA Exam Section is Easiest?
Obviously, this is the next logical question. The answer is, whatever subject you feel most confident and comfortable with. Some people are really good at Financial Accounting and like the FAR section while others prefer Auditing.
Many people think the BEC section is supposed to be the easiest because it only covers general business, economics, a few managerial accounting topics, and writing. I would tend to agree. BEC is one of the shorter exams, only taking 3 hours, and has the fewest multiple-choice questions.
It does have a fair amount of writing, however. If you have a difficult time writing essays and letters under pressure, this might be a difficult section for you. Think about the areas you enjoy the most and get busy!
Decide What Order to Take the CPA Exam and Get a Plan
The main thing is that you get a plan and start a schedule. Anyone can pass the exam. You just need to be focused and work toward it.
Try not to get nervous and overwhelmed getting ready to take your first section. Believe me. The exam is not at all like what you are probably hyping it up to be in your head. Take it easy, follow your CPA review course, and you’ll do fine!
I hope this helps you decide the best order you should take the CPA exam. Soon your first section will be over and you’ll be working on number two. It’s an awesome feeling to know you have one down!
Shaun Conrad is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a passion for teaching. After almost a decade of experience in public accounting, he created MyAccountingCourse.com to help people learn accounting and finance.