When I passed the CPA exam in July of 2012, I don’t recall ever being so happy or relieved. It was the greatest feeling in the world. Everyone told me that it was difficult but I really had no idea. As I went through the process, I quickly learned that taking time to study was critical. Therefore, I had to shut off my social life completely to live, eat and breathe the exam. As I reflect back on this process, I thought that I would share some tips that helped me.
- Commit to taking the exam as soon as possible after (or before) graduation. If you wait too long, you will be out of the study mode.
- Don’t be overly confident.
- The goal is to pass the exam, not ace it. It’s a timed exam, so taking extra time to get perfect answers to essay questions may cost you.
- Determine how you best learn and set up your study process accordingly.
- Review all the course/study options and select what would work best for you.
- Create a detailed plan for taking the exam. Include dates to take certain sections, when and where you’ll study and your time commitment.
- Share your detailed plan with family, friends and your employer. Ask for their support with this and to hold you accountable.
- Help your family and friends understand how important this exam is. Share with them how this will impact your career, the passing rates and what this credential means to the profession.
- Commit to a study schedule. Whatever you do, discipline yourself to study in 3 -4 hour intervals. Time yourself on how long it takes to read and answer questions. Efficiency and developing a rhythm is important.
- Stay healthy by getting plenty of rest, eating well and drinking water.
- For the essay portion, write an intro paragraph, 2 to 3 paragraphs to support your arguments and write a concluding paragraph.
- If you don’t know the exact answer to an essay question, write about what you do know.
- On multiple choice questions, read the entire question before selecting your answer. Always try to come up with the answer before looking at the choices.
- Omit bad choices in order to increase your chances of getting the right answer.
- Designate your personal cheerleader to encourage and support you through the process.
My best advice is to study. It’s a waste of time, energy and money to take a section of the exam when you’re not prepared. Shortly after taking a section of the exam, outline any areas that concerned you. This way if you don’t pass, you can go back to those notes to see where you struggled. As you wait for your results on one section, start studying for the next section. It’s imperative that you press on and keep the process moving.
Passing the CPA exam will be one of the most rigorous challenges you will face in your career. Earning a CPA credential will put you in an elite group of professionals. It is the most widely sought credential and one that is respected and valued in any business. It is worth every moment of the time it takes to prepare for the exam.