The Certified Public Accountant or CPA exam is a uniform test for accountants who want to obtain a license to practice accounting. This designation is recognized globally and is the top highest qualification an account can achieve. A CPA can enjoy numerous benefits, from greater and better job opportunities to more lucrative salaries. However, they must first meet specific requirements and pass the CPA exam to become qualified to practice in their chosen state.
Like most things worthwhile, clearing a CPA exam requires a lot of effort, time, and dedication. Studying for it is no joke, and you must take it seriously. To get to your dream accountant job, you must be ready to make the necessary sacrifices and stay committed to the hard work it asks of you. According to AICPA, on average, only 50% of applicants are able to clear their CPA exam. These statistics prove how valuable this designation is and how a candidate preparing for it should take all the help they can get.
So, if you’re ready to take on the CPA journey but not quite sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we outline tips that will prepare you for the CPA exam and help you achieve your desired results.
Understand the exam outline
Before getting into the how of preparing for an exam, you must fully understand what to prepare for. The CPA exam consists of four sections: business environment and concepts, auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. Typically the exam for each candidate is the same. However, CPA state requirements may cause variations in the questions you get, depending on the state you’re applying from.
To clear the exam, candidates must score at least 75 marks in each section mentioned above within 18 months. Since the CPA exam gets conducted throughout the year, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to apply when it’s most convenient.
Make a plan you can stick to
Since the CPA exam consists of many subjects, you must ensure every topic receives enough time and attention. And to help you with these, planning a study schedule is the best way to go forward. A study plan identifies all the tasks you need to accomplish, their order of priority, and the timeframe to complete them. But your study plan must be workable and not too strict. If you’re too rigid with your tasks and leave little room for flexibility, you’re likely to give up quickly.
Besides hard work, consistency is equally crucial, if not more. While making a plan might be easy, sticking to it requires considerable effort. So, even when you don’t feel like studying, push through the procrastination and cover your day’s goals. You’ll only have yourself to thank when your dedication reaps the reward.
Don’t cram at the last minute
Some students are in the habit of cramming their course content at the last minute. But research shows this isn’t the best way to study and instead increases stress and may even lead to panic attacks. When you put off learning until the last minute, just the amount of information you need to know can quickly overwhelm you. These elevated stress levels can create mind blanks and make you forget things you know you glanced through.
You can’t take exams like the CPA lightly. If cramming were all it took to pass it, this qualification wouldn’t hold much value. More importantly, students who cram study content often have to pull all-nighters. This habit comprises their sleep, making them feel restless and incredibly unprepared to attempt the exam.
Study where there are no distractions
Deciding where to study is just as important as knowing when and how to. Removing distractions from your surroundings is crucial in helping you concentrate on the course content. If you’re studying at home, best avoid high-traffic areas such as the kitchen or lounge, where family members will come and go every little while. With your mind preoccupied elsewhere, you’ll have a poor understanding of vital concepts and have severe confusions pile up instead.
Other distractions like hunger, technology, chores, and even emotional thoughts can prove highly misleading. Designate a specific time for each item so that your study time doesn’t get compromised.
Take practice exams
Practice exams are one of the most helpful ways to prepare for a CPA exam. These force you to jog your memory for answers, work within the time limit, and solve situational problems. They can also help you identify areas or topics where you need to focus more and study harder for the exam.
The internet offers limitless resources where candidates can now access numerous past papers, test questions, and practice sheets. You can time yourself or sit in a makeshift exam hall to create exam simulations to better deal with your real CPA exam. Join a study group or get together with your friends to test each other on common questions and identify areas of improvement.
Flashcards are a tried and tested, most helpful study technique out there. The short and vital messages written on flashcards help improve memory by allowing people to retrieve information much quicker. Whether it’s for kindergarten students learning their phonetics, or a professional preparing for an exam, these prompts are incredibly beneficial. When making flashcards, you’re jotting down core terms and their definitions you’re sure to recall easily during the exam. And since they’re pretty convenient for repetitive practice, you can use them for revising notes and crucial concepts.
Get enough rest
It’s a common misbelief that good sleep just the night before your exam is enough to help you ace it. However, your sleeping patterns throughout the week leading up to the exam, or even earlier, have the most significant impact. When you’re sleep-deprived, you can’t focus on your study content and are likely to have poor work efficiency. Lack of sleep strongly impacts your hippocampus part of the brain responsible for memory retention. And so, you’re bound to make more mistakes and retain far less information than if you’re well-rested.
For productive use of your time, take short power naps during your study breaks to regain energy and get your focus back on track.
Effective studying habits differ for everyone. For instance, what works for you may not be as beneficial for your colleague. Use these tips above to devise a study plan that plays to your strengths and helps you achieve your goals in time. With maximum effort and dedication, there’s no CPA obstacle you can’t cross.