5 Ways to Prepare for the CPA Exam: Best Tricks & Tips


It is harder to pass the Uniform CPA exam than it is to pass the exam to become a doctor or lawyer, according to Pearson Education. This four-part exam consists of 14 hours of testing in:

  1. Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  2. Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
  3. Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)
  4. Regulation (REG)

With a brutal pass rate of 40 to 60%, the CPA exam has a reputation for being challenging. It is reported that nearly half of aspiring Certified Public Accountants fail this exam. Avoid becoming a statistic with these CPA exam preparation tips.

Image credit: Steven S. | Flickr

1. Find the Right CPA Review Course

One of the most important steps in passing the CPA exam is finding a CPA study course that will maximize your learning potential.

If you get a course that fits your preferred learning style, your learning efficiency and tendency is going to increase. Are you a visual learner or a self-studier? Understanding your learning style will help you find a CPA exam review course that's right for you.

For example, if you're determined that you're a self-studier, go for a CPA study course that offers more of a solid textbook, a ton of multiple-choice questions, pre-made flashcards, and minimal video lectures.

2. Design a Handy CPA Exam Study Schedule

Experts recommend that you study for the CPA exam between 350 – 800 hours total to pass the test. When you factor in your full-time job, it can be hard to even come close to that range.

I strongly recommend that students study for the exam before they start working. You will become very busy, especially if you work for the Big 4, and your studying habits and discipline will diminish over time.. I studied religiously for six months in order to pass all 4 parts of the exam.Miguel A. Palma CPA, PFS and CGMA

But if you craft a CPA study schedule and stick to it, you'll find that you can even go over and beyond that. A study routine is great to have because it not only allows you to cover all the sections evenly but saves you some time off your busy schedule.

Here's a typical study schedule you could follow:

  • Weekdays – 2 hrs after dinner
  • Saturday – 4 hours in the morning
  • Sunday – No studying

If you stick to your schedule, you'll soon find that you're studying for more than 15 hours per week, which otherwise would be hard without a schedule.

3. Get Your Mind Right

Mental preparation is key if you want to pass the Uniform CPA exam. If you're not 100% mentally prepared to tackle the exam, then you'll procrastinate, lose focus, and in the end fail the test.

So how do you prepare yourself mentally?

Before the start of every session, stop for a few seconds and get your mind right. Take a deep breath and rid your mind of everything that's revolving around your life, so you can focus on the task at hand.

Studying is a mental activity. If you go into every section with a focused mindset, you'll be able to get through more materials and remember more than you would otherwise.

4. Take Study Breaks

It's great to study hard, but remember to give yourself a break. If you don't, you'll soon burn out and not get the most out of your study sessions.

No matter how motivated you are, you cannot study 24/7. It's important to include study breaks in your reading routine. Make a habit of giving yourself 15 – 20 minutes breaks between sessions. Doing so helps to revitalize your mind and open it up to new challenges.

5. Avoid Distractions

Distractions can be a huge impediment to your CPA success. Learn to get rid of them before they steer you down a path to failure.

So how do you do it?

Ditch the background music, put your phone on airplane mode, and switch off the TV/radio. Every time you get a new notification or your phone vibrates, the temptation to get sucked into the social media black hole gets stronger. Avoiding distractions will help you to stay focused.

What are your tips for preparing for the CPA exam? Share with us in the comments section below.

Bryce Welker is an active speaker, blogger, and tutor on accounting and finance. As the founder of Crush The CPA Exam, he has helped thousands of candidates pass the CPA exam on their first attempt.Bryce Welker

The views expressed in the Contributors section are not necessarily the views of Palma Financial Services, Inc.