I was speaking with a student who was scheduled to take the FAR exam in a week. The student did not remember any of the material and panicked. The FAR practice exam became a big guessing game.
First of all, I had to calm the student down. I did not want this student to take the FAR practice exam scores at face value. The practice exams are designed to be harder than the actual exam. Specifically, I can attest to the fact that Becker and Gleim have really difficult practice exams. The reason for this is that no company wants to have students ace the practice exam and then fail the real exam.
Nonetheless her FAR practice exam performance was so dismal that clearly something more was amiss.
So what happened?
The student took a big break of five weeks in the middle of studying! She thought that she could just brush up on things one week before the exam. The FAR practice exam clearly showed that she was not ready.
The FAR exam is largely a test of your SHORT term memory. The exam has a ton of material and that is why a lot of CPA students like to get the FAR exam out of the way first.
You must approach the FAR exam with an understanding how your short term memory works. I would estimate that most of my students forget 2/3 of all FAR material after a couple of weeks of inactivity. In computer parlance, that is all information that was once in your RAM. Since your brain did not use the information, it was pushed out in favor of information that is more relevant.
So why do you take FAR practice exams?
- To figure out where you stand. The MCQ’s give you a good window into your overall readiness.
- The practice exams will give you advance notice if the material is not fresh in your mind.
- To get you comfortable with time management principles that are crucial to pass the FAR exam.
Even though the student was not ready to take the FAR exam, I convinced her that this experience was for the better. She clearly saw that this exam was largely a test of her short term memory. Unfortunately, she misjudged the length of time she could go without studying. That is a mistake that will not be repeated when she passes the FAR exam in the next testing window.