1. Don’t delay registering for the exam. It helps to set a deadline.
Do you feel trapped in exam anxiety and fear to fail? Are you postponing scheduling your Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) exam because of that? Put your thoughts into perspective and know that you are in control. You will enjoy taking the exam if you decide to make it so.
When you firmly decide that you will do your best to prepare for and pass the RTRP exam and you take the first step toward attaining that goal by choosing a date and enrolling for the exam, the inspiration for “how to do it” will come by itself.
Just consider this:
a. If, during your preparation, you study or review all the topics the IRS outlines prescribe, you have a high chance of passing the exam.
b. If you upgrade your knowledge on tax topics in which you perceive weakness, your increase your chances of passing the exam. If you have been preparing tax returns, you may already know more about the exam content than you think. This becomes evident as you proceed with your preparation.
c. If you approach your preparation with a “I am in control” or “I am determined to make this happen” mind-set, you eliminate fear, procrastination, and nervousness, that may stand on your way. Reaffirm your decision daily and use your willpower to create a routine supportive of your goal.
2. Don’t underestimate the exam because it is in multiple choice and true false questions
Multiple choice exams are commonly considered easier than essay exams because they require exam takers to recognize a correct answer among a set of options that includes 3 or 4 wrong answers, rather than “producing” a correct answer in an essay.
However, multiple choice exams usually incorporate a broad range of questions in order to reasonably cover a given topic, and thereby force exam takers to be familiar with a broad range of topics in order to recognize the correct answers. Multiple choice exams require greater effort in preparation in order to recall pertinent details, identify incorrect answers, and choose the correct ones.
It is a myth that exam takers can easily guess the right answers and pass multiple choice exams. The best way to improve the chances of passing a multiple choice and true-false test is to prepare thoroughly for it. There is no substitute for knowing the right answer in the RTRP exam.
3. Don’t overestimate the unfamiliar Prometric environment
If you are a first time exam taker at Prometric, the environment may intimidate you because it is different from the exam environments you had previously.
In your high school or college experiences the teacher might have specified chapters for an exam and you expected questions from those topics only. On exam day you sat in a familiar environment surrounded by classmates, you received a paper with the questions and answered them. The exam probably lasted one hour, and in the following class you received your results. You did this over and over through high school and college.
Ii is different in the RTRP exam environment. The rules are rigid and the highly computerized room is thoroughly monitored with cameras and walk-through. Paper exams are replaced by computer exams, questions are randomly selected from a huge databank and exam sets are not duplicated no matter how many times you take the exam. The grading process and the time factor are also different.
Your previous exam experiences did not prepare you for the RTRP exam experience and maybe this is the scariest part, at first. It is understandable, to a degree, that you may feel intimidated. But then, taking a few simple steps during your preparation for the exam will help you understand and control the anxiety caused by the unknown and the unfamiliar.
Inform yourself about exam day, read about it, watch IRS videos on the subject, visit the Prometric facilities before your exam day and the Center’s testing room will seem attractive to you. You will feel privileged to take an exam in such a well-equipped, and modern environment.
4. Don’t prepare for the exam for too long, but don’t under-prepare
There are three categories of candidates to the RTRP exam:
• Those with years of practice and who are familiar with a computer environment, data researching, law analysis, and e-filing process.
• Those with years of practice but who are unfamiliar with a computer environment.
• Those with fewer years of practice, who are familiar with a computer environment but have limited use of computers in tax applications and research, law analysis, e-filing process, etc.
How much time you should spend preparing for the RTRP exam depends on personal factors such as your familiarity with the tax concepts you will be tested on, the exam format and the computerized environment in which the exam is administered. Other traits such as your skills as a student, your ability to plan, organize and stick to your plan, and your general attitude toward the exam, also play an important role.
I favor focusing fully for a short span of time (3 to 6 weeks) to prepare for the exam. But if you cannot fully focus on your preparation because of work or other responsibilities, set aside some time to disconnect entirely from those responsibilities and dedicate to preparing for and passing the exam. Why? Two reasons: one, the short-term memory is generally just that; “short”. You will need to remember concepts, category names, classifications, and general Code terminology that you saved in your long-term memory. Normally, within 5 to 10 days you begin to forget some of the facts we learned and need to review to bringing them back to the short-term memory.
If you plan to study for months, you’ll need to review topics already studied, which can frustrate you, consume time, and diminish your confidence. That is not good for an exam taker.
The second reason relates to human nature. Assign too much time to studying and it becomes easy to slip into indecision and procrastinate, because of the notion that “there is always more time”. Of course, there are exceptions.