Practice Like You Play: The Importance of Writing in Exam-Like Conditions

By Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA
Feb 21, 2020

My former rugby coach and conditioning trainer used to tell us, “you practice like you will play”. Since hanging up my cleats, I have often wondered, did Paul know his lessons for pitch preparedness would parallel to the accounting profession? 

To practice like one plays is a sports analogy used to communicate the importance of making gym sessions (the practice) at the same intensity as the game you are training for (the play). In the following discussion, I will emphasize the importance of writing cases in exam-like conditions (e.g. a quiet room, within the time limit and only using the same resources provided on exam day) by offering counter-arguments to common objections I’ve heard from candidates over the years. 

Common Objection #1: I don’t know enough to even ATTEMPT the case

You know more than you know, I promise. I refer you to the ENTRY column of the Competency Map. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t, at some point, know that technical information; our admissions team is thorough. Remember, the real learning is done when you debrief. By working smarter, not harder and writing in the case minutes available, you leave sufficient time and mental energy for a quality debrief.

Objection #2: I tried but wasn’t done by the time limit   

Alrighty, you tried. If you are in a Core module, that means you attempted to write a practice case in 60 minutes, including reading and planning, hit 60 minutes and decided to keep writing. My question to you would be, did that extra time increase your case writing effectiveness?

In the history of case writing, I can count on one hand the number of times a candidate advised me they had enough time to write their case.  While most candidates feel short of time, an overwhelming majority still pass

If you practice writing in the available time, your facilitator will be able to provide you accurate feedback to both capture exactly where you are and how you can get to the next level based on your ACTUAL, not imagined performance. Improvement in case writing is based on small incremental improvements stacked on each other, which include using your facilitator’s feedback.

Objection #3: My facilitator will judge me

We mark your case and do our best to coach you to the next level, wherever you are. In fact, I tend to be skeptical when a candidate’s response is too strong, as it suggests they took extra time to write, making my feedback based on the ideal, not the actual result.

Further, if you are doing your best and someone judges you for coming up short, that is a direct reflection of their lack of character. CPAWSB prides itself on having a strong team of educators and if you have an experience that would indicate otherwise, please follow the guidance in the candidate guide: first ask for clarification from your facilitator, and if that does not resolve it, please email You are supported. 

Objection #4: I’m afraid I won’t qualify to write the final exam

I’m an accountant and like to crunch numbers. Per the candidate guide, a candidate must achieve 75 percent by the end of Week 8 and attend or receive accommodation for the workshop(s). Specific to Core and Elective modules, if a candidate just attempted each AO, didn’t achieve a single RC and scored 50 percent on their MCQs, they would qualify.

Here’s the proof: 

  • IP: 22.5% (100% of 15% for submitting + 50% of 15% performance)
  • PC: 22.5% (as above)
  • MCQs: 22.5% (as above, not including “bump” from pre-work and surveys)
  • Workshop Participation: 10% (participation or accommodation)

As long as you show up and try week after week, you will qualify to write the final exam. If you encounter an extenuating circumstance, you may qualify for an extension and can request one by either emailing or completing the extension request form. Now, please go on and…

Execute Like You Have Practiced

Put in the work now because the exam is going to be difficult. Each week you practice you will build the confidence muscle to help you walk into the exam room with the silent knowledge that you have quality preparation on your side. While rugby coach Paul may have been referring to the commitment required for an evening of field drills or a morning track session, his words are equally relevant when tackling your weekly practice cases.

At CPA PEP, we must practice like we play.

Do you have feedback on this post or a question you’d like answered by an experienced CPAWSB educator? Please contact your facilitator or send a question to the General Topic in the Candidate Discussion forum.


Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA, is an educator and lead policy advisor for CPAWSB, and an instructor of accounting at Dalhousie University. She is on a mission to understand and enable learner efficacy while eliminating doldrums occasionally associated with accounting education. Read more of Sam’s posts at the CPAWSB blog.