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5 Tips for Taking the EA Exam


5 Tips for Taking the EA Exam

Tax and accounting professionals hoping to advance in their careers often look towards the opportunity to become enrolled agents. This distinction is given to federally licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation. Once designated as an EA, you may represent taxpayers before the IRS in all cases. In order to receive this designation, individuals must either work for the IRS for a minimum of five years in a position that requires you to interpret the tax code, or to take a test known as the Enrolled Agent Exam.


1.    Pass Rates

While the EA exam is difficult, when considered in comparison to other popular certification measure for accounting and finance professionals, it has a better pass rate. The CPA exam has an overall pass rate of around 50 percent, while the CMA exam pass rate is lower, at 36 percent for Part 1 of the exam and 55 percent for Part 2. The EA has a much higher passing rate, coming in at the following for each section in 2015: Part 1 at 77 percent passing, Part 2 at 60 percent passing, and Part 3 at an impressive 87 percent passing rate.


2.    Know What to Expect

It’s important to know what you’ll go up against when you do sit for the EA examination. It is composed of three parts: Individuals, Businesses, and Representation, Practice and Procedures. The exam is only offered from the beginning of May through the end of February, and you cannot sit for the test during March or April. However, if you take the exam and fail more than four times during a year, you’ll be forced to wait to retake it until the next year’s testing period opens up.


Each of the three parts contains around 100 questions, in addition to a small number of experimental questions that are not scored. You won’t have any idea which questions are not being scored, but these are used to gather statistical information for adding in future exams. It consists of three distinct types of multiple choice questions: incomplete sentences, direct questions, and “all of the following except” prompts.


3.    Take Review Courses

Study guides and courses are essential for correctly learning how to pass the EA exam. Those who go into the test blind are likely going to find themselves having to take it over again. With the proper review, you can discover actionable tips that position you for success when you do finally sit for the exam. The EA exam covers a variety of topics, and the breadth of knowledge required from candidates hoping to pass is enough to intimidate even the most experienced on tax practitioners. One of the best ways to prepare for the exam while simultaneously easing your stress is to take as many mock exams as possible, almost always included in review courses. This practice will help you better anticipate the types of questions you’ll face and the amount of time you’ll have to formulate your answers. By examining your mistakes, you’ll be able to understand what the difference between a correct and incorrect conceptual answer could be. Mock exams are generally included in review courses, so make sure you take advantage of these essential tools.


4.    Network and Work Together

Networking is important in most professional endeavors, and the EA exam is no exception. Getting together or communicating online with individuals who are also studying for the exam can be extremely beneficial, especially if you come across those who have already taken it before and are preparing for the second or third go around. You can choose to join study groups on Facebook or online forums or meet up in person, then share knowledge and swap study tactics with them. They may have advice or preparation tips you haven’t yet considered, and better your chances of passing on the first try.


If you’re looking to advance in your accounting career, consider becoming an Enrolled Agent. With a variety of job opportunities for EAs, you’ll stand to earn better compensation and gain entry to a variety of roles you never considered before. 


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