This post is long overdue but right after I passed the CPA exam, I got caught up in a whirlwind of buying a house & going through yet another 6 month busy season (joys of public accounting). As I had mentioned in my last post, I wanted to share my tips for studying for the CPA exam while working a full-time job. Just as a disclaimer, if you're wanting to study for state or national honors.... definitely study more than this. But if you are wanting to study to feel comfortable enough going into the exam to pass, then hopefully my tips will help. Also, this worked for me but may not work for you so be sure to study in whatever manner is most appropriate for you. I chose to take the entire exam within 3 1/2 months but this is certainly not a must for anyone. My tips can be applied to whether you're taking one part of the exam or all parts of the exam.
Some background info on me.... I graduated from college in December 2010 with a bachelor's degree in accounting. I took classes in excess of my degree program in order to have the required number of hours of accounting classes. Some additional classes that I took were cost accounting, governmental accounting and advanced financial (consolidations).
I started on my CPA exam journey in May 2011. But I truly was not as focused as I needed to be. I had just finished my first busy season & finally had some free time so I didn't study as much as I should have. I took FAR (twice) and BEC (which I didn't study much for.... I don't recommend it) during 2011 but didn't pass either. The only reason I didn't pass was because I didn't study enough or use the time I had to study wisely.
I had the Becker Review Course to help me in studying for the CPA exam. In 2011, I listened to the lectures, read the book, did the homework problems and simulations. However, I NEVER made it through the entire FAR book during my first attempts. For BEC, I ended up studying like two days beforehand and didn't get through the book.
After my crazy busy season in 2012, I decided that if I could live through 80 hour weeks for 7 months, I could continue having no life for just 3 1/2 more months (and do something for myself that will further my career). I took AUD the last day in May 2012 and studied about 1 week for the section (I was in the audit profession so this section was relatively much more easy for me than the others). Then I took REG the beginning of July 2012, BEC the end of July 2012 and FAR the end of August 2012. I gave myself 6 weeks to study for REG as that was the section I was most concerned about, 2 weeks for BEC and 5 weeks for FAR. Here are my tips on how I passed the CPA exam:
1. Study when you are most effective, for me this was in the morning before work. I would get in a couple of hours of studying in the morning before work. For me, this was most effective because I tend to not want to do anything after a long day of work. Additionally, I would study during my lunch as well.
2. The manner in which I studied was I'd first copy down the notes from the e-book within the Becker software into my actual book (this may seem redundant but physically writing it into my book helped me remember the concepts). Next, read the assigned section (Step 3 below) while taking notes and in particular, the mnemonics. Once you read through the section, do the homework problems. For the questions I missed, I would understand why I got the question wrong then move on. Then I would move onto the next section, repeating these steps. Once I had completed an entire chapter, I would read through my notes, go through the flashcards for the chapter, go through the simulations and go through all the missed homework problems. This sounds like a lot of studying (which it is) but I never listened to the lectures in my studying for the exam and passing. For me, they were a waste of at least 2-3 hours and I would only listen to them to take notes. However, to each their own and some of my friends found the lectures very helpful.
3. Plan to succeed! The CPA exam is a monster of an exam and juggling work as well as studying is very challenging. I took time to plan my study schedule starting from REG. You will have to gauge how much information you can go through in each study session. I found that splitting up my study time in small sections throughout the week then having a larger study session during the weekend (6-8 hours on Saturday and Sunday) worked best for me. Certainly I got off track once in a while but for the most part I stuck to my schedule. Also, on the weekend when I met my goal, I felt perfectly fine giving myself some relax time.
4. Lastly, the most helpful piece of advice I was given on my CPA journey was to give yourself the chance to pass. I felt so down on myself in my early attempts to pass the CPA exam but truly I hadn't prepared myself. So to anyone else out there feeling like they won't be able to do it, believe me, you will! Just give yourself the chance to pass.... make sure you feel comfortable with the material going into the exam instead of hoping you'll slide right by. The CPA exam is not one of those exams you can frankly BS yourself through and you owe yourself the opportunity to show off those years of sitting in a classroom :)
Anyways, this is long overdue but I truly hope my tips will help someone else out in the CPA-seeking world. If any of you have any questions, I would love to help answer them. Good luck!