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How to fight exam nerves

Tips for making exam day go smoothly

Just thinking about the CPA Exam strikes fear into the heart of many accounting students. So on the days right before the test, it’s normal to be a little nervous. Here are some tricks of the trade for keeping your cool before you ace the CPA Exam.

Make a list, check it twice

You know what you’ll be tested on, but you should prepare yourself in other ways too. Check the Prometric website to see exactly what you need to bring, but don’t forget your Notice To Schedule, two forms of government issue ID, and anything else they tell you to have with you. Consider putting everything you need in one big, gallon-sized plastic bag so that it’s all in one place and you can see exactly what you have. And make sure you know what not to pack too – food, your own pencils, scratch paper, and everything else that’s on the no-no list.

Know where and when you're going

You may have written down your exam time in big red letters on your calendar – but check your confirmation one more time about a week before. We know a guy who found out the day before that he wrote down the wrong day for his exam.

A few days before the test, take a drive to your testing location. Make sure that you know exactly where it is (including finding the room inside the building if you can) so that you don’t miss your testing slot. While you’re at it, set extra alarms so that you can show up at least 30 minutes early on the big day.

Take a test run

Even if you’ve gone through a billion practice tests, be sure to take at least a few as if you were taking the real test. Sit in a quiet room with a practice test and a timer, recreating the exam environment as much as you can. You may find that your timing isn’t quite right or that you need to build up your test-taking endurance. You may even want to recreate a whole test day – get up when you’ll need to, eat your breakfast of champions, and take your practice test at your scheduled time. That way, your mind and body will be prepared for the grueling day of test taking.

Dress for the test

You’re going to be sitting in the same room for 3-4 hours, so you want to make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. The proctor will not be impressed by your pleather pants or itchy wool sweater, so save the showing off for after the exam. Opt for clothes that are comfortable and appropriate for room temperature. Hats, visors, and sunglasses are prohibited, and if you need a jacket or sweater it must stay on through the whole test.

Take care of yourself

Testing time is valuable, so you don’t want to spend any of it nodding off or thinking about your next meal. Go to bed early and get plenty of sleep before the exam to help your mind be clear and alert while you’re thinking about simulations and multiple choice questions. The morning of your test, eat a healthy breakfast that will give you the energy you need (and not a stomach ache). Being well-fed and well-rested will give help you perform your best on the test.

Be confident

On test day, you’re ready to go. If it makes you feel better to do a quick review right before your test, do it but don’t overdo it. Remember, you’re about to take a 3-4 hour exam, so you don’t want to spend your energy studying things you already know. When you get there, take a few deep breaths and then show that test what you’re made of.

Want more encouragement? Check out diaries of CPAs who bested the CPA Exam. And use our free test resources too, because you can never be too prepared.

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