Working in a public accounting firm and doing basically anything else requiring brain power after work can be a tough task. Friends, family, and other aspiring CPA’s always ask how to balance a grueling work schedule with studying. Below are my top tips, tricks, and general advice for how to study for the CPA Exam while working full time (without losing your mind!).
Take the exam before working full time
Ok- This goes against the topic of the blog, but it’s the one thing that all of my friends and co-workers regret not doing. Most people I started with had the luxury of at least a summer off before beginning full time at the firm. While some still worked part time, knocking out at least one or two sections really made all the difference one they were spending 8-15 hours a day outside of the house at work. I find it hard to even have an intelligible conversation sometimes after a rough day, let alone study for a couple hours. As much as it sucks to give up a bit of summer time, it’ll pay serious dividends in the long run. Plus many firms offer a monetary reward for passing in the first three years, which was an amazing incentive being a broke college kid.
Pick an exam date so you’re committed
If you don’t have the luxury of having time off before studying, selecting a date a month or so ahead of time keeps you committed. Once you pick (and pay) for an exam date, you’re forced to begin studying. It’s easy to push off studying when you haven’t locked down a day to take the exam. Scheduling forces you to plan, and allot a certain amount of material to get through each week. It forces you to budget your time to stay on track and although it (sadly) doesn’t help with the motivation to sit down and read about taxes after work, makes it much more difficult to blow off a study session.
Along with the above of selecting an exam date, utilizing those ever important time management skills can really help to fit in study time. It may seem silly at the time, but filling out a time management template or just writing down your schedule in a daily planner, adding in a few hours in the morning or after dinner for studying, can also help to make your way through the test prep material. Even utilizing your lunch hour during less busy days at work can be beneficial in your test prep. Something that worked for many of my peers was finding a quiet space at work after they had finished for the day and studying there. This allowed them to escape the distractions of home and stay in the “work” mindset.
While taking the CPA exam and working full time will certainly be no easy task, it definitely is do-able. Try using the above suggestions and always remember how beneficial passing will be to your future career (and wallet) to stay motivated!
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