I can think of no better way to spend my week than sitting down for a quick sixteen-hour exam. Okay, I can think of a million other ways. The CPA exam has been dreaded for decades by us accountants. It's a tedious exam that is not for the faint of heart, but at the end of the day it's more than passable. With the right preparation, enough time, and a whole lot of caffeine you'd be amazed what you can do.
Overcoming an Obstacle: 5 Tips for Beating the CPA Exam
1) Have a plan
There's nothing more overwhelming than attacking such an intense exam without having some sort of strategy. Before you book your exam date make sure you've looked at your calendar and really figured out what kind of time you can set aside to study. Does your fall look jam packed with work trips? Do you happen to be planning a wedding this year? If so, maybe it's not the ideal time to focus on this exam. Before you even begin to study take out your calendar and set some goals, with specific dates in mind. According to most exam prep courses the average study time for the exam is around 330-440 hours, yes hours. Of course this is an average, but keep that number in mind before you book your exam date.
2) Prep Courses Are Your Friend
The best way to stick to your study plan is to sign up for prep courses. There are both in-person courses and online options for you to choose from. The Best CPA Exam Prep Course is one that gives you practice tests, feedback, and tips on how to best manage your time. They'll cover the four different sections and how to go about mastering each one. Additionally, prep courses keep you loyal to your study schedule, which is great for those of us who need a bit more external motivation than others.
3) Remember to Breathe
Time management and the help of a prep course are bound to help, but undoubtedly the exam is difficult and your future career depends on it. That said, there's nothing worse than stressing out so much for the exam that you have a panic attack in the middle of it. According to studies, stress is known to reduce our "ability to retrieve old memories." Or in other words, the more stressed out you are the less you will be able to recall when it comes time to take the exam. Make sure you take time during your preparation to break and stretch or take a quick walk around the block. The more you can channel the zen, the better you'll do on the exam.
4) Don't Let the CPA Consume You
We have a tendency to focus on challenging tasks so much that we let them overtake our lives. The best advice I heard when studying for the exam was, "It's just an exam." Make sure you aren't letting relationships and other activities fall at the wayside or inevitably you'll be adding more stress into your life (see point 3). There will always be a possibility to retake an exam, so do not let the possibility of failing one part of it set you back from living your life throughout the process.
5) Prepare Yourself before the Big Day
After you've booked the exam and studied for hours, the thought of looking at one more federal taxation question may be dizzying. At this point trust that you've done all that you can to succeed and you'll be ready to tackle the exam head on. Make sure you get the necessary rest you need before the big day and a hearty breakfast the day of. Have someone you trust give you a ride to the exam so you don't have to worry about parking and other unnecessary stresses the day of. The truth is you may never feel fully ready to take the exam, but if you've followed your study schedule and taken a prep course we promise you are more ready than you may feel.
The CPA exam may seem daunting, but if you follow these five tips you'll be smooth sailing your way to being a certified public accountant in no time.