CPA open book exam

4 Tips on how to pass CPA Ireland open book exam

Open Book exams are something every CPA student entering P2 stage have to learn how to tackle. Our lecturer Colm Foley is no stranger to open book exams as he himself had to sit 4 of them in his student years. Needless to say, he passed them all first time and is now teaching others how to approach them. Here are his 4 “best practice” tips on how to approach the Open Book exam.

CPA open book exam- know the content you are bringing.

1) Be familiar with all the material you are planning to bring to the exam!

The concept of an open book exam can be best explained with the following scenario: Imagine you are like the practicing accountant…a client walks into your office, you listen to the issues they have, and using your own expertise and referring to the books on the shelf behind you, you develop a plan for this client.

This is to say: the material you are bringing with you to the exam is not to be used to transcribe whole sections of accounting standards and therefore wasting precious exam time.

The purpose of having the material with you in the exam is not that you can simply read it on the day of the exam and you develop an answer. It is that using your high level of technical knowledge, you can quickly verify your understanding of an issue, and then apply your own judgement to “develop” a suggested answer. As Paul Heaney, Director of Education at CPA Ireland,  states in his Article about Open Book Examinations: ”Marks are awarded for application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, not for transcription.”

2) Organise your material way before the exam.

Make sure you have the material organised in a way that helps you to quickly access material if required. I used “Numbered Dividers” at the front of my A4 folders.

Also, to add to this point, a much more experienced tutor than me remarked one time, in jest, that if a student is spending lots of time, in an open book exam reading the material they have brought with them, then they should bring the material for the next exam with them too; at least this way they can get some study done for the next exam too. This confirms the point made above about being familiar with the material you are bringing to the exam and highlights the importance of organising them.

material must be organized for CPA open book exam

3) Summarise your content

Any material you feel may be useful can be brought into the exam.  You should be familiar with the content. And make sure you remember what points you thought you may find useful when you were preparing it.

One page summary sheets for topics are useful for that. This could be something like a spider diagram, with the topic in the middle of the page and various “legs” reminding the student of key concepts in the topic. Having such a summary page at the front of a particular topic will be useful to you in an Open Book Exam as it will allow you to quickly navigate between the content of what you brought to the exam.

4) You still must know your material inside out.

Finally, remember that when studying for an open book exam, you are still aiming to be as comfortable with the material, as if it were a closed book exam. The key to achieving this level of competence is to practice past exam questions, practice, practice, practice, practice…!!

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