How long does it take to study for the CPA Exam? 

Studying for the exam

If you're considering taking the CPA Exam or already starting to study for it, you know that the process to pass all four exam sections is a long one. You’ve likely heard from other CPAs that it takes months of intense studying to pass all four exam sections, and when you think about how many hours to study for the CPA Exam, it can feel overwhelming. 

To help you better understand the process, know how much time to block out for each section, and create an effective study plan, we're breaking down the recommendations of how long to study for the CPA Exam and adding some tips to make the process a bit easier.  


Depending on the Discipline you choose, you can expect your CPA Exam study time to be between 320 and 420 hours, or between 80 and 120 hours per section. But with a smart study strategy and the right materials, you can keep from getting overwhelmed while making sure you're ready to walk into the exam with confidence. 

Get study and schedule tips from National Instructor Mike Potenza



Applying for the CPA Exam

First things first, make sure you're eligible to sit for the CPA Exam. The CPA requirements vary from state to state, with some states requiring a bachelor's degree to sit for the exam while others only require specific hours are met. Once you confirm that you’re eligible to sit for your first section, you’ll need to apply with your state board to verify your eligibility and give you the green light to schedule your test. 

It takes about four to six weeks to process your application, and then you should receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS). Once you receive your NTS, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) recommends scheduling your preferred test date 45 days in advance. While you can book your test date earlier, slots fill up fast and this extended timeline gives you the opportunity to select a date that gives you ample time to prepare and meet other commitments. 

How long to study for the CPA Exam by section

As we mentioned above, Becker recommends between 320 and 420 total hours of CPA Exam study time, but let's break it down by section. Before we dive in, remember that you must pass all three Core sections and one of the three Disciplines listed below to earn your license. 

Auditing and Attestation (AUD) - 80 to 100 hours

AUD is a Core section consisting of 78 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and seven task-based simulations (TBSs) covering the auditing process across four specific areas: 

  • Ethics, professional responsibilities and general principles
  • Assessing risk and developing a planned response
  • Performing further procedures and obtaining evidence
  • Forming conclusions and reporting

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) - 80 to 100 hours

FAR is a Core section consisting of 50 MCQs and seven TBSs related to financial accounting and reporting frameworks. More specifically, the three content areas in this section are: 

  • Financial reporting
  • Select balance sheet accounts
  • Select transactions

Taxation and Regulation (REG) - 80 to 100 hours

REG is the third Core section and consists of 72 MCQs and eight TBSs related to tax practice. This is exam covers five content areas: 

  • Ethics, professional responsibilities and federal tax procedures
  • Business law
  • Federal taxation of property transactions
  • Federal taxation of individuals
  • Federal taxation of entities

Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR) - 100 to 120 hours

BAR is a Discipline section that tests you on more complex technical accounting topics that build on the foundational topics covered in FAR. This section consists of 50 MCQs and 8 TBSs across three content areas: 

  • Business analysis
  • Technical accounting and reporting
  • State and local governments

Information Systems and Controls (ISC) - 80 to 100 hours

ISC is a Discipline section that tests you on information technology audit and advisory services, data management, and System and Organization Controls (SOC) engagement. Consisting of 82 MCQs and 6 TBSs, this section includes more advanced topics that builds on topics covered by AUD, including three specific content areas: 

  • Information systems and data management
  • Security, confidentiality and privacy
  • Considerations for SOC engagements

Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP) - 80 to 100 hours

TCP is the third Discipline you can choose from and tests you on more advanced tax compliance and planning topics that builds on what REG tested you on. This section consists of 68 MCQs and 6 TBSs over four content areas: 

  • Tax compliance and planning for individuals and personal financial planning
  • Entity tax compliance
  • Entity tax planning
  • Property transactions

While we've recommended how long to study for the CPA Exam by section based on the AICPA blueprint, we also know that your study needs may vary. Using practice tests and mini-exams, you can determine areas that need more focus and time. 

Mapping your CPA Exam study time

Now that you know how many hours to study for the CPA Exam, creating a timeline and having an organized and comprehensive study plan will guarantee that you’re rock-solid on all the concepts covered in the exam by your test dates. 

Determine how many hours a week you can study

You know that you will need to spend between 80 to 120 hours studying for each section of the CPA Exam. The next step is determining when you want to take the exam and how much time you can reasonably spend studying each week. 

While most CPA candidates spend between 10 to 20 hours studying, keep in mind that it's not a race. If you're working full time, have young children, or have multiple engagements you need to fulfill each week, the amount of time you can spend studying may be less than someone who is between jobs and has fewer responsibilities. 

Make time for practice tests 

How do you know you fully understand the material you've spent hours focusing on? When you're considering how long to study for the CPA Exam, make sure you include taking practice tests and even simulated exams that mimic the full CPA Exam. These will help you find areas where you may need to devote more time studying and improve your likelihood of passing the exam. 

Complete the exams within your state's timeline

While it's important to take the exams at the pace that is right for you, make sure you know when your exams "expire." Up until recently, all CPA candidates had a rolling 18 months from the time they passed their first exam to pass the other three, otherwise, the first exam would need to be retaken. 

However, NASBA recently recommended state boards of accountantcy extend the expiration to 30 months, and most states have adopted this recommendation. Make sure you check with your state to see how long you have to pass the four sections. 

Becker helps you plan your CPA Exam study time

Becker's CPA Exam review makes it easy to plan and study for the CPA Exam. With a simple and comprehensive study planner, you can map out your study schedule based on your exam date and how many weeks you want to study. You'll get a study plan that includes specific topics to cover each week and time to focus on your simulated exams. Think of it as having a personal trainer that helps you get ready to crush the CPA Exam, telling you exactly what to study and when! 

Leveraging the CPA Exam Review not only creates and manages the schedule for you, but also helps you stay engaged and focused by incorporating variety in the content library, such as live video lectures, simulations, practice tests and multiple choice.

Even better, with Becker's Adapt2U technology, you can take personalized practice tests that help you easily track your progress and determine areas where you may need to devote more study time. 

Try Becker's CPA Exam review free for 14 days

If you're ready to start studying for the CPA Exam, Becker can help you get Exam Day Readysm with textbooks, lecture videos, live streaming courses, and personalized practice tests. We also have simulated exams for each section that mirror the "real thing," so you know exactly what to expect. 

See why more students trust Becker to help them pass the exam - try our CPA Exam review free for 14 days!


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