Though the majority of CPA Exam questions consist of CPA Exam multiple-choice questions and Task-Based Simulations, candidates must master one other question type in order to pass the CPA Exam: the Written Communication Task. Written Communication Tasks (WCs) only appear on the BEC CPA Exam section, and they only contribute to 15% of your BEC score. However, BEC Written Communication Tasks are such a unique question type that failure to properly prepare for them could leave you with a sizable hole in your BEC score. Conversely, ample practice with BEC Written Communication Tasks can earn you an easy advantage on BEC. Give yourself one less thing to worry about and that much more confidence for CPA Exam success by developing your WC skills, and begin by learning the basics of BEC Written Communication Tasks.
What are BEC Written Communications?
A Written Communication Task is similar to the Task-Based Simulations (TBSs) in that it provides you with scenarios to which you must respond, but the way you respond is what differentiates WCs from TBSs. To answer BEC Written Communication Tasks, you must write your response in the form of a business memo rather than choose your answer from a list of possible options. The purpose of the business memo is to address the needs and concerns of the party designated in the scenario provided, who may be someone like an executive or an auditor. The memo you generate must mimic what a CPA in the field would actually write. For example, you might be asked to recommend a given risk management strategy to executive management or to explain currency exchange rates to a client considering an endeavor into foreign markets.
The topics of a BEC Written Communication Task can venture outside the range of the BEC CSO; they may touch on topics from AUD, FAR, or REG as well. Therefore, sufficient preparation for BEC Written Communication Tasks includes familiarity with all the topics on all the different exam sections.
What are the Number and Scoring Weight of BEC Written Communications?
On the CPA Exam, the BEC section contains three WCs in one testlet. The structure of the BEC CPA Exam section involves five testlets: two MCQ testlets, two TBS testlets, and one WC testlet. The MCQs account for 50% of your grade, the TBSs provide 35%, and the WCs contribute the remaining 15%.
How are the BEC Written Communications Graded?
While computers grade all the different types of CPA Exam questions, human scorers may review and regrade your responses to the BEC Written Communication Tasks if your exam score is hovering around 75%. If your WC answers do necessitate human assessment, your BEC CPA Exam score release may be delayed by about a week.
The AICPA reports that your BEC Written Communication responses will be evaluated according to three general writing criteria: organization, development, and expression.
The AICPA defines organization as the structure of the document, the order of the ideas, and the linking of the ideas. The overview or thesis statement; the unity of the topic sentence and supporting sentences within the paragraphs; and the transitions and connectives between the paragraphs are all included in this category.
The development of your response is the supporting evidence used to clarify and verify your thesis. Details, definitions, examples, and rephrasing should all be employed to progress the development of your writing.
Your expression entails your adherence to the conventional standards of business English. The AICPA groups grammar, punctuation, word usage, capitalization, and spelling under the heading of expression.
A good score on a BEC Written Communication Task calls for a clear thesis delineating your position and plenty of relevant evidence backing it up. Your BEC Written Communication Task response should be systematic, logical, and on topic. You will earn no credit for a response that strays away from the direction of the scenario or that offers illegal advice.
How Can You Be Ready for BEC Written Communications?
The best way to brace yourself for BEC Written Communication Tasks is to use these BEC Written Communication tips for studying and these CPA BEC Written Communication tips for testing. You will also need to get in plenty of practice with Written Communication simulations. Only a CPA review system that thoroughly discusses the testable content and contains the largest test bank of MCQs, TBSs, and WCs available can satisfy all your BEC Written Communication needs, and only Gleim CPA Review qualifies as that review system. See how simple it can be to prepare for BEC Written Communication Tasks with Gleim CPA by trying our free CPA demo today.
CPA Exam Written Communications, commonly known as the essays, is one part of the exam that worries people. The grading is not as black-and-white as the multiple choice questions.
Check out my tips in this video:
Here is the text version for your reference.
Did you know whether the CPA exam essay grading is based on:
- How long we manage to write?
- How flowery the language we are going to use?
- Or even, whether it helps to add charts and graphs?
Surprisingly, the answer is no for all three.
Written Communications are only required in the BEC part of the exam. If you are done with BEC, you may stop reading this page.
For BEC takers, this section represents 15% of your grading. It is important to know how Written Communication is graded.
What are the Graders Looking For?
The graders want to test the candidates’ ability to construct professional, business documents.
To earn points for this section, candidates must read a description of a situation or scenario, and write a document that relate or responds to that scenario.
The document type is specified in the question which may include a memo or letter to a hypothetical client.
How Can I Produce a Good Piece of Writing in the Eyes of Graders?
Graders look for:
- Complete sentences
- Use of Standard English
- Be Concise
- Good Organization
- Properly formatted with introduction and conclusion
My CPA Exam Written Communication Tips
1. Complete Sentences: Avoid Bullet Points and Charts
Avoid using bullets point, abbreviation, diagrams, charts, number list and graph — these are a big negatives for essays for CPA exam purposes.
The reason is actually more technical than anything else – your answers will likely be graded by machines (yes!) and machines are programmed to check the grammar and sentence structures.
Bullet points are typically not complete sentences. You will lose point because of that.
2. Use of Standard English: Stick to Standard Business Writing Format
Even if you haven’t taken a creative writing class (not necessary), drafting a standard business letter should be fairly easy for you, if you’ve ever answered an e-mail in a professional setting.
When it comes to business writing, don’t be fancy. Keep it short, simple and straight to-the-point. We have some tips on writing good CMA exam essays that could be helpful in this exam.
|Your writing must demonstrate a command of standard professional English, including correct use of grammar, 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.
Tips: check out my review of Elements of Style on standard English writing. This grammar resource from the University of Chicago may be helpful too.
3. Relevance: Aim to Stay “On Topic” vs be “Correct”
Although some papers are randomly pulled and reviewed by human graders, most Written Communications questions are graded by machines. It doesn’t even matter much if you are correct in the concepts.
You just have to stay on topic. Use topic keywords in your essay and be careful not to copy the text of the question word-for-word or you may lose points.
As long as you demonstrate knowledge in the subject by providing details, examples and definitions, we will do a good enough job to pass this part of the exam.
4. Clarity: Include Elaboration and Summary
Make sure each paragraph in your response must establish support or summarizes the answer to the question at hand.
5. Be Concise: Less is More
Avoid writing more than what is needed.
6. Good Organization: Structure Your Answer Before Writing
Write down your basic ideas on the note pad given at the testing center.
Make sure your document has a clear beginning, middle, body and finally conclusion.
Start with an overview where you describe the purpose or intent. Then, rewrite the question so the beginning sentence of introductory paragraph closely matches with the topic. You can get tips on how exactly this can be done in my book (see below).
Then, ensure that your following paragraphs support this overview, and lead into each other well. Summarize the key points of the document on the final paragraph.
7.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. Allocate sufficient time to complete each section of the writing.
How Well Did Others Do in Written Communications
The following chart shows the percentage of “comparable” or “stronger” in score reports, by country. You can see this as something similar to the pass rate.
Obviously, your performance may not be the same as your peers, but this is one data point you can refer to.
Source: NASBA report
If you are from a country with a relatively low percentage, you should get better prepared.
You Can Do This — and Even Better With My “Formula”
I hope these CPA exam written communication tips can ease your concern on this part of the exam.
If you want extra tips to ace in this section, I have a “formula” in Chapter 10 of my book that you can implement when working on any written communication tasks. To give you a glimpse of what it is, here are the steps you can follow:
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 / position and develop ideas in separate paragraphs
Step 6. Keep the conclusion simple and professional
Step 7. Proofread from beginning to end
In terms of how you can actually follow these steps, you’ll need to get my book to find out!
Here is a more detailed discussion of my book, and how you can get your own copy.
For Your Further Reading
Strategies for other exam sections
Filed Under: CPA Exam Prep