It’s no secret that I had a hard time finding out what study methods worked best for me. I went from not studying hard enough to studying like a crazy person. It really wasn’t until I decided to get organized and make a plan that I started passing. I learned a few tips on my way that made my life a lot easier and finally got me my license.
1. PLAN PLAN PLAN!!!
The best advice I can to anyone is to make a plan and stick to it. In college, I was one of those students who could start studying two days before a big exam and pass with ease. Not possible for the CPA exams. It’s all about having a deep understanding of concepts rather than memorizing the material (who knew!). So when the time came to start studying, I would draft out a plan to study so many chapters and review so many questions in one week up until my exam date. And I would try to leave a week open before the test for final review. Schedule your exam as soon as you can so you actually have that end date in mind.
Be as flexible as you can with your schedule because things can happen that will be out of your control. Instead of planning day by day, I suggest structuring it by weekdays (at least 2 hours) and weekends (6-8 hours a day). I learned that if I planned day by day and I couldn’t complete it, I would feel like I’m already failing. And let’s face it, there are those days when you just can’t study or nothing seems to stick. By breaking study time down to increments (but not micromanaging) it was not as overwhelming and I felt like it was easier to achieve goals every week. Planning is also important when looking for the test prep that’s perfect for you and within your budget. When the time comes for you to choose a test prep, make sure you save your bank account by using one of our discount coupons.
2. Figure out the study method that works best for you.
For the Visual learner:
- Take notes and underline while you’re studying.
- Make your own flashcards. Flashcards from the review courses are helpful but sometimes it needs to be written in your own words for you to understand.
- Highlight the key concepts and important information in your review material. I followed Becker’s live classes and followed their exact highlights. Vy the end of the class, pretty much everything got highlighted except “and” or “the”. Not that helpful. Only highlight the important information that you know you’ll need to review right before your exam.
For the Auditory learner:
- Listen to audio lectures.
- Watch the self-study lectures.
- Reread the information that you just learned out loud.
For the Hands-On learner:
- Study with a friend or in groups and workout the material together.
- Take live classes that explain material by demonstration instead of just lecture.
When studying for CPA exam, I discovered I was more of an auditory learner. I bought the audio lectures for both FAR and REG and listened while I was at work or in the car. The information actually stuck with me since I just repeated the lectures over and over anytime I got a chance. I also found it useful to hear myself repeat what I just learned out loud. I actually sang the information out loud. It really helped me retain the information when I sung it to a beat. I know I know, that may not be helpful for everyone but it did the trick for me. And I won’t even lie, I caught myself jamming to my songs while taking the exams (a very big you’re welcome to the Prometric exam watchers). Whatever works!
3. Find a balance.
You’ll probably end up saying “no” to more things than you’d like, but you don’t have to say no to everything. I would let myself have one night a week and half a day on the weekend for free time. I spent my free time going out to dinner with friends, attending to music shows, or even enjoying some solo time to make sure that I was still working out and eating healthy. Sticking to a plan will allow you to balance your social life with work and study. Cutting everything out of your life is pretty detrimental to your well being. So make some time for your friends and family and make sure you have some fun that will keep you motivated to keep going.
4. Take breaks.
Listen to your body and brain! If nothing is getting through, there’s no point to keep pushing yourself. Take a break when needed. If you’re like me and you take the stress of your job home with you, then leave yourself a good hour after work to decompress. It really cleared my head when I went for a run, did some yoga, or even just threw down a quick beer right after work. I swear it, a beer a day will keep those 74s away!
5. Study any chance you can get!
Bring your CPA study materials wherever you go. You’ll find that you have a lot of random downtime moments that are perfect for quick study sessions. I studied on lunch breaks, doctor’s appointments, car check-ups, flights, or even when I did laundry. There’s no wasted study time when you have your materials on hand and at the ready.
6. Ask for help!
When you need some help, don’t be afraid to ask for it! Whether it be from friends, family, or coworkers, you need to let them know when you need their support. People who haven’t gotten their CPA license don’t understand what we’re going through but it’s always nice to hear them tell you “you can do it!” or just have that support and understanding that you’re neglecting them for a temporary reason. If you’re lucky, then you have someone going through it with you where you can vent and they’ll actually know the torture you’re going through. Or just utilize your resources and search out blogs or websites that have people who are studying too. You’re not alone! A big reason why I started this site was so that I could support people who are struggling, like I did. I had a hard time reading blogs or websites about people passing all their sections on their first try. Yeah, it’s possible but come on. Shit happens!
At work, I needed to ask for time to study since time was all too valuable. I had a boss who was completely understanding and let me take some time off to study when I felt like I was racing against the clock. I mean, what’s the worst thing that can happen when you ask? They say no and nothing has changed.
7. Keep the end goal in mind.
What made you do this in the first place? Always keep your motivating reason in mind. I had a few things that kept me going all the way to the end. I wanted my bonus, those three letters after the end of my name on my business card and resume, and by the end I looked forward to the day that it was all done so I could have my life back. I kept it as my computer background: “Imagine the day when it’s all over”. It was truly a wonderful thought. And yes, the day when it was all over was absolutely magical!