The CPA exam is a valuable credential that can greatly improve your career, but passing the exam requires careful planning and a big time commitment on your part. Before you dive in and start studying, use these five tips to get ready for the CPA exam.
Make the time commitment to study
Finding the time to study for the CPA exam requires a big commitment. Estimate vary, but here are the number of hours you can expect to spend on each section of the exam:
- Auditing and attestation (AUD): 100 hours
- Financial accounting and reporting (FAR): 160 hours
- Regulation (REG): 110 hours
- Business environment and concepts (BEC): 80 hours
The total number of hours is over 400. Wow — that number seems completely overwhelming.
I had that same feeling when I wrote my Dummies books, since each one took over 500 hours to write. But I broke the time down into 20 hours a week for 25 weeks, and the total was reachable. In the name way, you can plan on 20 hours a week for 20 weeks and get those 400 hours of study completed.
Now, that’s easier said than done because you have to consider where you’ll fit those 20 hours into a given week. One plan would be 2 hours each weekday, with two 5-hour days of study on the weekend. That works, but how will your study time impact work and your family? Those are questions you need to think through for yourself.
Understand the exam format
The CPA exam is a computer-based exam, and you need to be comfortable with the process of taking the exam. Fortunately, most of us now take exams and other educational content online, so it’s not a big deal. Still, if you’re not quite comfortable with the process, the AICPA has a tutorial on their website. The point here is that you don’t want the logistics of using a computer to slow you down, once you get to the test site.
Go over the exam structure
There are three types of exam questions, including multiple choice, simulation and written communication (essay) questions. The simulation questions give you an accounting scenario, and the exam also provides resources that you can use to address the issue presented. For example, a simulation question may give you a spreadsheet template that you use to answer the question.
Work on the essay questions
Many CPA candidates don’t work on enough essay questions to build the skills needed to answer these questions effectively. People think that they can just start writing an essay, with the hope that they’ll provide the information to answer the question. To answer essay questions effectively, write an outline because the outline allows you to organize your thoughts and increases your chances of getting full credit. Practice writing essay outlines.
Cut yourself some slack
You’re taking on a real challenge — cut yourself some slack. If you don’t get enough studying done in a specific week, don’t let it bother you; just keep moving forward.
Use these tips to get ready for the CPA exam. These concepts can increase your chances of success.