When should I start studying for the CPA Exam?

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Here’s a simile you haven’t heard before: the CPA Exam is like an apple pie.

Let’s say you have all the ingredients you need for the perfect pie. However, you’re short on time. You decide to crank up the oven for a 15-minute bake and hope for the best.

Let’s also say you have all the CPA Exam preparation materials you need. However, you’ve put it off until the last minute and have set yourself up for the cram session to end all cram sessions.

In both cases, the result is almost guaranteed to be disappointing.

Now for the good news. When you have all the ingredients you need—and you budget your time wisely—you will be in position for a delicious result.

That’s what we will cover today. Let’s go over the most frequently asked questions pertaining to the CPA Exam and the art of studying for it. By the end of this article, you’ll know what needs to be done—and you might even have added motivation to give your exam prep ingredients all the time they need to cook up the ideal result.

How long should I expect to study for the CPA Exam?

We won’t sugarcoat it. Studying for the CPA Exam is a major time commitment. Most candidates spend somewhere between 350 and 450 hours studying for it. That equates to 20-25 hours per week—an entire part-time job!

With that much study time ahead of you, it’s vital to give yourself all the time you need to prepare for the four sections of the exam.

So, when exactly should I start studying for the CPA Exam?

There are multiple answers here, because it depends on where you are professionally as well as the composition of the exam itself.

College students

Your current accounting courses are important in establishing your exam knowledge. There’s a reason all states require a bachelor’s degree and at least 120 credit hours to apply and sit for the exam. Completion of advanced accounting courses reflects at least a basic knowledge of some skills held by CPAs. It’s important that you do well with this accounting coursework. It may be best to focus on your college studies, rather than juggling courses and exam preparation. The CPA Exam will still be there, ready to challenge you, after college.

If you prefer to start your CPA Exam preparation while still in school, keep in mind that you cannot apply and sit for the exam until you’ve met your state’s education requirements.

Recent college graduates

Immediately after graduating is a great time to start CPA Exam preparation. Material from your advanced accounting courses will still be fresh, and plenty of that material is sure to be on the CPA Exam. Also keep in mind that Becker partners with many universities and accounting employers. Click that link to see if you’re eligible for discounts on Becker exam preparation.

If you’ve recently graduated, you’re likely still in the school mindset – you already know which study methods work best with your learning style and exam prep may not feel like foreign concept.

Career accountants

Our advice: a work-life balance could make or break your CPA success. If you feel like you can add CPA Exam preparation to your existing personal and professional obligations, then now might be the time to dive in. But if, for example, your busy season is approaching, consider starting CPA Exam preparation once the dust has settled. You’ll want to dedicate all the time and energy that’s needed for successful preparation.

We have resources to help you manage your time while studying for the exam. For example, your Becker CPA Exam Review course comes with a study planner that helps you track your progress through exam section content, so that you can use your time as efficiently as possible.

Other factors that can determine your CPA Exam timeline

There are factors out of your control, outside of where you are in your accounting journey, that may influence when you decide to prepare for the CPA Exam.

Testing windows

Candidates have 18 months after passing their first CPA Exam section to pass the remaining three. Ensure your study plan takes this period into account so you don’t lose exam credit.

Ultimately, no matter which stage of your career you happen to be in, it’s never too early to start CPA Exam prep. That’s really the universal answer to the “When should I start studying?” question. Start whenever you can. When you allow yourself ample time, the entire process can be far less stressful.

When it comes to CPA Exam prep, Becker will not let you down.

Becker CPA Exam Review was designed to fit you like a glove. Your life, your learning style and the time you have available matter greatly to us, and we’re here to get you Exam Day ReadySM on your terms.

Join the over one million CPA candidates who counted on Becker for the journey. Whenever you’re ready to take the next step, learn more about our CPA Exam Review packages.

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