Tips for CPA Exam Written Communication

Are you looking for tips on the written communication section? This is certainly one part of the exam that worries people. The grading is not as black-and-white as the multiple-choice questions. Is it based on how long we manage to write? How flowery the language we are going to use? Does it help to use bullet points, charts and graphs? Surprisingly, the answer is no for all three.

First of all, Written Communications are only required in the BEC part of the CPA exam. In other words, if you are done with BEC, you can stop reading this article. For BEC takers, this section represents 15% of your grading. Any BEC candidates should make sure they know how Written Communication is graded. What are the Graders Looking For? The graders want to test the candidates’ ability to construct a piece of professional business writing. To secure points for this section, candidates must read a description of a situation or scenario, and write a piece that relates or responds to that scenario. The form of writing is specified in the question. It could be a memo or letter to a client. How Can I Produce a Good Piece of Writing in the Eyes of the Graders? Graders look for: first, complete sentences Second, use of standard English Third, relevance Fourth, clarity Fifth, conciseness Sixth, good organization and seventh, properly formatted with introduction and conclusion Complete Sentences: Avoid Bullet Points and Charts Do not use bullet points, abbreviation, diagrams, charts, number lists and graphs. The reason is actually more technical than anything else – your answers will likely be graded by a computer which is programmed to check grammar and sentence structures. Bullet points are usually not complete sentences. You will lose a point because of that.

Use of Standard English: Stick to Standard Business Writing Format Even if you haven’t taken a business writing class, drafting a standard business letter should be fairly easy for you, if you communicate by emails in professional settings. When it comes to business writing, don’t try to be fancy. Keep it short, simple and straight-to-the-point. Your writing must demonstrate a command of standard professional English, including correct use of grammar, punctuation, spelling and word usage. The CPA Exam software includes a basic word processor that features a spell check function. Be sure to pay attention to this valuable tool.

Relevance: Aim to Stay “On Topic” vs be “Correct” There isn’t a clear right and wrong answer in written communications. It is more important for you to stay on topic. Use topic keywords in your essay and be careful not to copy the text of the question word-for-word. As long as you can demonstrate knowledge of the subject by providing details, examples and definitions, we will pass this part of the exam. Clarity: Include Elaboration and Summary Make sure that each paragraph in your response establishes support, or summarizes the answer to the question on hand. Be Concise: Less is More Avoid writing more than what is needed.

Good Organization: Structure Your Answer before Writing Write down your basic ideas on the notepad provided at the testing centre. Make sure your draft has a clear beginning, main body and conclusion. Start with an overview where you describe the purpose or intent. Then, rewrite the question so that the beginning sentence of the introductory paragraph closely matches with the topic. Then, ensure that your following paragraphs support this overview, and lead into each other well. Summarize the key points in the concluding paragraph. Manage Your Time Be conscious of your time limit.

It is important that your piece of writing will have a complete introduction, the middle paragraphs and a conclusion. Make sure you have enough time to complete each section of the writing. Written Communication at the Next Level… Here are more precise steps on how you can improve your writing. Here are steps, Step 1: Identify the format, objective, your role, and your audience Step 2: Identify keywords related to the objective Step 3: Write down the first sentence of each paragraph Step 4: Begin the first sentence by rewriting the question Step 5: State the core concept or position and develop ideas in separate paragraphs Step 6: Keep the conclusion simple and professional. Step 7: proofread from beginning to end.