WRITE OR RIGHT?The Importance of Good Writing Skills for the CPA Exam Molly Brown, James Madison University Valerie Wendt, Bisk CPA Review
CPA Exam – Written Communication Questions• Business Environment & Concepts Section • 3 hour exam • 1 testlet containing 3 written communication questions • 1 question is a pretest question • Written communication questions are 15% of your score
Written Communication Questions Not an essay! Candidates must read a situation description and then write an appropriate document relating to the situation. Instructions will state what form the document should take (i.e. memo or letter).
Scoring Written communication questions are scored based on 3 general writing criteria: 1. Organization 2. Development 3. Expression If your response is off-topic, you will not receive any credit for the response.
Organization Document’s structure, ordering of ideas, and linking of one idea to another: • Overview/thesis statement – Must Have! • Unified paragraphs (topic & supporting sentences) • Transitions and connectives
Development Document’s supporting evidence/information to clarify thoughts: • Details • Definitions • Examples • Rephrasing
Expression Document’s use of conventional standards of business English: • Grammar • Sentence construction, subject/verb agreement, pronouns, modifiers • Punctuation • Final, comma • Word usage • Incorrect, imprecise language • Avoid jargon, social media language • Capitalization • Spelling
Scoring How Do You Earn a Top Score? •Understand the context •Think through your message •Structure your response •Pay attention to grammar and spelling
Understand the Context Who are you in the prompt? Who are you writing to? – An auditor/CPA writing to a client – An auditor writing to a superior – An audit senior writing to staff – An internal accountant writing to a superior – An internal accountant writing to staff
Understand the Context •Avoid being too technical if writing to non-accountants •Keep the tone friendly, but professional
Think Through Your Message •Take a deep breath •Brainstorm points before responding •Keep it simple •Pick 2 or 3 points
Structure Your Response 4 or 5 paragraphs is best You MUST have a thesis paragraph & a concluding paragraph to earn a top score Make an outline of the first sentence of each paragraph, then fill in the rest Your thesis (introductory) paragraph cannot include your actual response, or you will be penalized
Structure Your Response Stick to one point per supporting paragraph Use transitioning phrases – First…, second…, lastly… – In addition… – In summary… Brief concluding paragraph – Thank you… – Feel free to contact me at…
Sentence Structure is Important Diction – appropriate word choice Find the best word possible to explain clearly and concisely what you are trying to say Troublesome words (ie. Accept/Except) Syntax – order of words in a sentence Don’t be hasty in your composition Read each sentence carefully Make sure words are in the best possible order Modifier Placement – placing modifiers (i.e. adverbs) improperly can be confusing and often changes the meaning Modifier should be placed before the word(s) it modifies
Sentence Structure is Important Sentence Fragments Each sentence needs at least (1) a subject and (2) a predicate Check for run-on sentences Punctuation Use appropriate punctuation Two most common areas involving periods occur when incorporating quotation marks and/or parentheses with periods Spelling Don’t rely on spell checkers
Diagnostic English Quiz- Choose the best choice The company can assert any defenses against third party beneficiaries that against the promisee.
Diagnostic English Quiz- Choose the best choice The company can Answer: assert any defenses against third party beneficiaries that against the Pronouns promisee.
Diagnostic English Quiz- Choose the best choice Under the cost method, treasury stock is presented on the balance sheet as an unallocated reduction of total equity.
Diagnostic English Quiz- Choose the best choice Under the cost method, Answer: treasury stock is presented on the balance sheet as an unallocated reduction of total equity. Possessive noun
Diagnostic English Quiz- Choose the best choice A common format of bank reconciliation statements to reconcile both book and bank balances to a common amount known as the “true balance.”
Diagnostic English Quiz- Choose the best choice A common format of bank Answer: reconciliation statements to reconcile both book and bank balances to a common amount known as the “true balance.” Verb - agreement
Resources The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White The Business Writing Handbook, by William Paxson