It may not feel like it in the moment, but the hours of studying, taking practice tests, paying for resources, and accumulating hours toward your CPA certification will be worth it when you pass. And if you’re like anyone else preparing for this stressful season of your career, you want to know that you’re using your time to the fullest.
We asked two of our team members — one who just received their CPA certification, and one in the process of taking the tests — what helped them maximize their CPA exam study efforts.
1. Know Yourself
In order to study at your best, you first have to learn how you study best. Everyone’s learning styles are different; where memorization comes easy to some, others prefer to learn by visualization or examples. You don’t just have to follow other people’s advice. Whatever works best for you and feels comfortable is likely the best study routine.
Knowing other strategies may help you hone your study habits, but don’t feel like you have to adopt all of them to be successful.
2. Eliminate Distractions in Your Study Spot
Being able to dedicate your full attention to studying goes beyond doing homework at your desk instead of in bed. Our team said one easy thing that helped them stay focused was studying somewhere outside the home. Getting yourself physically away from easy distractions like a “quick” Netflix break or taking a nap is one way to ensure you won’t waste the valuable time that you’ve carved out for studying.
Another benefit of making a designated study spot is that you’ll find yourself more likely to be in a studying mindset when you step foot in that place, whether it’s a coffee shop with a little crowd noise, or a quiet corner of the library.
3. Find Audio Resources
If you spend a significant amount of time either commuting to work or walking from class to class, there are many free resources and apps (Becker, Gleim, Lambers, Roger) that will read practice exam questions and cover general studying topics when you’re on the go. Our team found they were surprised what they were able to retain from listening to CPA exam prep questions even when they weren’t paying full attention.
There are also accounting podcasts available, like the Journal of Accountancy’s, that may offer more generic advice, encouragement, or interesting topics to help keep you motivated.
4. Set a Schedule
Our team found that there are two hidden benefits — beyond the obvious — to scheduling CPA exam study time: first, it makes it less likely that you’ll find other ways to fill your time, and second, it lets other people in your life know that studying is a priority. When others know that this endeavor takes a lot of time and effort, they’ll be better able to help you by holding you accountable, taking care of you, and encouraging you.
5. Find Your Fuel
The CPA exams are a long haul. You may not pass them all the first time, and you may feel discouraged around the 6th month of studying, but don’t give up! Remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. There are as many reasons for wanting to become a CPA as there are CPAs in the profession. What’s your fuel? If you can connect each studying session to your deeper drive, the nights, weeks, and months will fly by.