How To Prepare For Your CPA Exam

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The CPA exam is notoriously difficult, but if you can get past that hurdle, being a working CPA is a well-respected and well-paid career. That’s why, if you talk to anyone who has previously passed the CPA exam, they’ll tell you they used a wide variety of tactics to master the material. In fact, there are nearly as many study strategies as there are people – but there are also some tried and true strategies. If you’re currently preparing for the CPA exam, these four tips can help you cut down on study time, retain difficult material, and ace your exam. 

Know Your Learning Style

You’ll have completed plenty of coursework before you’re allowed to register for the CPA exam, which means you should already have a good sense of your learning style. Use those experiences to choose the right study materials and optimize your preparation process. While some people prefer watching videos or listening to audio about the content, others prefer to read over material, create flashcards, or work in groups.

Set A Schedule

Once you register for the first part of your CPA exam, you have 18 months to pass all four sections, and that means you’ll need to be on a strict schedule. Start by taking some time to make sure you meet all the requirements for your state and review the procedures for scheduling your CPA exam, and don’t forget that you get to decide what order you take the exam in. Anyone who has taken it recommends that you avoid leaving the content you struggle with most for last. Beyond that, create a study schedule based on your planned exam order and commit to it, whether that’s small periods of review a few times a day or longer study sessions several days a week.

Learning Is Different From Reviewing

Many people begin preparing for the CPA exam with the misguided notion that their accounting concentration taught them all of the material, and now they just need to review it. In reality, though, becoming a CPA is challenging precisely because it involves a lot of independent work and an advanced understanding of finance-related concept. By dispelling the notion that you’ve already learned the material, you’re more likely to leave yourself enough time to study.

Another advantage to recognizing how much you still have to learn is that you can separate each topic into the learning stage and the review stage – and the majority of your time will be spent on learning new information. Once you’ve mastered the content for a given exam section, you’ll then want to leave at least a week, but likely more, to review that content before the exam.

Don’t Repeat Yourself

It can be tempting to go over the same exam prep question repeatedly until you understand them, but once you’ve seen a question and gone over it, you’re going to experience the questions differently. So, what should you do instead? Avoid completing the same review questions over again, and instead focus on reviewing content, explaining ideas in your own words, and then spend some time focusing only on the questions you got wrong the first time. These questions will help you identify your weak points and prioritize your study strategy appropriately.

Many people have to retake sections of the CPA exam before they pass them all, but if you focus on being over-prepared before you even register the first time, you put yourself in the best possible position. And, like so many professional paths, it won’t be easy, but all the effort you put into becoming a CPA will be worth it in the long-run.

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