What You Need to Succeed on the CPA Exam

See also: Study Skills

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are at the top of the accounting game. In addition to working as accountants and auditors, CPAs work in roles such as business consultants and tax professionals. Because CPAs have the highest level of training and expertise, they can command high salaries.

But, before you can step into this lucrative career, you must first pass the rigorous CPA examination. The test consists of four distinct sections: Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation. You must pass all of these parts by earning a minimum score of 75 for each.

If you are determined to succeed on the CPA exam, here’s what you need to know.

Enrol with a CPA Review Course

Before you knuckle down to start studying, you need to pay the costs of the application fee and the examination fee. The prices can differ, but most CPA exams cost around $200 (USD). If you want to maximise your chances of passing the exam, it is also highly recommended you invest in enrolling with a CPA review course. A good review course will give you all the study materials you need to conquer the CPA examination, such as video lectures, simulations, and test bank questions.

Student taking a CPA exam.

Create a Study Schedule

Without being organised with your study time, you will be doomed to failure. You need to create a workable study plan that you can fit around your other commitments, and never stray from your schedule! You also need to devote an equal amount of time to study for each of the CPA exam’s sections, so break your schedule down into manageable chunks. You can use a calendar or a spreadsheet to plot and plan each of your day’s allocated hours.

Use Flash Cards

By using proven-to-work study methods, you can increase your chance of succeeding in the examination. Digesting large amounts of information in small and fast increments is a fantastic way to enhance your memory and retention. So, use flashcards to help you to remember vital pieces of information.

Take Study Breaks

If you spend too much time studying in one go you can begin to lose focus, which will be detrimental. Although you need to put in the hours, do not forget to take breaks. And do not underestimate how important those breaks are. If you have been studying solidly for two or three hours, you need to step away for a few minutes to re-energize. A brisk walk or a healthy snack can do wonders for staying alert for the next section of your study time.

Eliminate Distractions

Devoting the right amount of study time can be challenging if you get distracted during your planned schedule. If you are studying at home, other people could distract you from your studies: they could interrupt you, they could be playing loud music in the background, or doing something else that causes you to lose your focus.

When studying for the CPA exam, it is crucial you are able to focus on the tasks at hand. So, identify anything that is distracting and get rid of it. One of the best ways of doing this is to find a study place that is completely free of distractions. This could be a designated study space at home, or you may find it better to learn in another environment, such as a library or café.  

Devote the Right Amount of Study Time

Studying for the CPA examination can feel like a full-time job. Indeed, it should do as most CPA review courses recommend you spend a total of between 350 and 800 hours studying for the test.

Most people spread those study hours over several months. However, cramming information can often be a better process to help you remember it. Many students are better placed to pass the exam when they maximise their short-term memories over short periods of time. It is often best to spend eight full-time weeks studying before the exam date if you want the information to stay fresh in your mind.

However, every student has a different way of learning that suits them best. So, think about how you study best before you decide on the hours you will devote. Also, be aware that some people learn better at different times of the day. If you find yourself more focused in the evenings rather than the mornings, create a schedule to suit.

Take Practice Tests

One of the best ways to prepare yourself for the CPA exam and improve your chances of passing it first time is to take practice tests. You will find official CPA practice tests online that enable you to discover the types of questions you can expect to be asked. Doing practice tests also enables you to work out how long you should devote to each question or section. And the more you take practice tests under exam conditions, such as with a strict time limit, the better placed you will be for tackling the exam on the day.

Remember Why You Are Studying!

You are sure to set out with determination to pass the CPA exam, and you will doubtlessly be ready to put in the hours of devotion you need to dedicate to study time. But after a few weeks of solid study, it can be easy to lose your motivation. After all, you will be swamped with study materials and facts and figures to remember, so it is quite normal for anyone studying for the CPA examination to feel overloaded and stressed.

If you find your mind is wandering and you are asking yourself whether it is all worth it, remember why you are studying in the first place. You want to become a high-level accountant who can demand a fantastic salary and work in a sector you enjoy, right? Keep your goal at the forefront of your mind, and you will stay on top of your studying so you can succeed in the CPA exam.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

Skills You Need

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Bryce Welker

About the Author

Bryce Welker is an active speaker, blogger, and tutor on accounting and finance. As the founder of Crush the CPA Exam, he has helped thousands of candidates pass the CPA Exam on their first attempt.