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CPA Exam study tips


If there’s anything we get asked often, it’s “What CPA Exam study tips do you recommend?” While there’s no one secret to successfully studying for the CPA Exam, there are plenty of tried and true methods that our staff, instructors and former students recommend.


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Create a realistic schedule

Studying for the CPA Exam is a significant time commitment, which is why it’s key to carve out blocks of time dedicated specifically to exam review. In fact, the average CPA Exam student spends around 110 hours studying for each exam section! It’s important to plan your study time strategically to ensure that you have adequate time to master each section. The easiest way to make time for exam review is by creating a detailed study schedule. This schedule should indicate how many hours per day you want to study, and which modules, practice exams or other study tools you want to review during each session.

Creating a CPA Exam study plan should also be based on your other responsibilities – not just the CPA Exam. While it’s very important to be disciplined and dedicated to your study plan, don’t burn yourself out in the process. Block off time for activities that are outside of the CPA Exam, like personal events or work obligations, to ensure a well-balanced study routine. Remember, studying doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of doing the things you love. Find that balance!

With that in mind, you do need to commit and adhere to whatever study schedule you put into place, and part of that include spacing yourself. Try giving yourself a month or two to focus on each part of the exam. That way, you’re giving yourself dedicated, broken-down time frames for each specific part. It doesn’t have to be one to two months per section–it could be broken down by weeks. In the end, whatever works best for you will be the key to your success.

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It’s also important to figure out which section of the exam you should tackle first. This may depend on a variety of factors – for example, if you’ve just graduated and have recently taken a course in business law, you may want to tackle REG, as these concepts will be fresh in your mind. If you’re currently working in Audit, you might want to begin your testing with the AUD section, as the material will likely be familiar to you. It all depends on your experience and what your test-taking strategy will be.

Many advise starting with the FAR section, as it covers the most material. However, you should decide if you want to tackle the longest section first, or vice versa. If you’re someone who finds the BEC concepts easy to master, you may want to try and pass this section first to motivate yourself for the remaining three sections. Selecting the order for your CPA Exam sections all depends on your personal preferences and study strategy.

Another study scheduling tip is to mimic the CPA Exam’s timed sections as you study. For example, study in three to four-hour increments, as this is the length of each exam. Also, budget a break every few hours when studying. Get up, walk out of the room, get some fresh air and give your mind a chance to breathe. And consider this – do you focus best in the early morning or late at night? These are times of day that might be more conducive to your studying routine. Once you know the best time of day and location for your personal learning style, stick with it.


Organization is key

As you go through your CPA Review course, grab highlighters and color code the topics based on your own expertise. For example, anything in green means “I got this!” Yellow, “This is on the cusp, but I can get it with some concerted effort.” Red, “I am struggling.” This technique can get you out of the mindset that you must follow a certain flow and will provide an opportunity to reframe the material and get a fresh perspective. You can then review topics by color and know with ease which ones to focus on.

Also, never underestimate the power of simple notetaking! Make poster boards of notes from each module and focus on the more challenging concepts. Jot down notes as you figure out the tougher problems, so you’re reminded of steps you had to take to find the solution. Read and re-read each multiple-choice question, and make sure you have an understanding of why each choice is correct or incorrect, even if you get the question right.

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Make sure your study space is free of clutter and stocked with any materials you might need – whether it’s a laptop charger or good, old fashioned pen-and-paper, you’ll be less likely to get distracted if you have everything you need in one place.


Get focused

It’s hard to study and focus in a world of constant access to devices, news alerts, email pings…you get the drift. Your study space should be distraction-free. Our advice is to turn off all devices that aren’t related to studying. It’s just too tempting, and they can easily be distracting.

If necessary, let your friends and family know that you’ll be out-of-pocket for a few hours to avoid any potential disruptions. Close down your internet browser and email, turn off your phone, close your eyes, imagine the prize at the end and direct 100% of your attention to focus on studying.

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Establish a motivating finish line

Set specific goals: how many hours you want to study, when you will do your studying, what time frame you want to complete the exams in. Have someone hold you accountable to these goals and hold yourself accountable to study in the manner you set out. Always keep your eyes on the end goal!

Maybe your motivation is to finish the CPA Exam before graduating from college so you can enjoy the holidays later in the year. Whatever your motivation, keep it in mind!

Remember, taking (and passing) the CPA Exam is a one-time commitment for a lifetime of career rewards.

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Why Becker?

When you study with Becker, your study package comes equipped with textbooks, flashcards, MCQs, practice tests and more. You’ll also have access to a study planner that helps you track your study progress and helps you use your time effectively. The study planner recommends a plan for each section skill based on your exam dates. This is a great resource to organize your CPA study plan and keep an eye on what you’ve completed and what still needs to be reviewed. Want to learn more, or ready to get started? Great! Let’s go.


Be ready on exam day

When it comes to CPA Exam prep, there’s no better partner than Becker. Our CPA Exam Review offers expert instruction and powerful practice tools to help you be at your best on exam day.