CPA Prep

How Long Should I Study For the CPA Exam?

If you’re studying for the CPA exam you’re probably wondering, “how long does it take to study for a section of the CPA exam”? Unfortunately, unlike in college, cramming for one of the 4 parts of the CPA exam in a single weekend isn’t enough to pass.

If you’re looking for a quick answer for your question you came to the wrong place. Anyone can write an article and throw out some round number to show you how many hours you need to study but that’s not what works for most candidates. Most candidates don’t have any issue putting in the hours but most candidates have an issue passing the exam. If you want a fool proof method to pass the exam then keep reading!

For most candidates it can be difficult to transition from a structured college curriculum to a self study schedule on your free time. From working full time to attempting to maintain your social life it can be difficult to stick to a study calendar.

But you’re not here to read about the struggles and difficulties of the exam – you’re here to get some answers to your CPA exam questions:

  • How many hours should I study per week?
  • How many weeks will it take to be ready for the exam?
  • How many days per week should I study?
  • How do I know when I’m ready to pass the exam?

These and many more questions will be answered below!

Stop Focusing on Hours!

The most common mistake I see from candidates is the obsession with hours. Yes putting in hours of prep time is important but hours alone doesn’t correlate to success on the exam. If you’re interested on passing you want to focus on progress.

Depending on what CPA exam prep course you’re using you probably have the course work split up into chapters. When you’re creating a study calendar you want to focus on progress per chapter and not so much on hours per session.

What I often see is candidates devoting an hour or two per day on CPA prep but often times those hours are not efficient nor effective. Typically, candidates will throw on a lecture or run through some multiple choice questions while they play on their phone or watch TV in the background. Although passive learning may be a legitimate strategy for some it’s often a loosing strategy for most.

So how do you make your study sessions for effective? Start by making a study calendar.

How to Create a Study Calendar

When creating a study calendar you have two options – use a forward looking approach or a backward looking approach.

Backward Looking Approach

If you know what date you want to take the exam you should use a backward looking approach. This works best for candidates who have more time on their hands.

The backward looking approach focuses on the amount of weeks between now and the test date. What you want to do is pick an exam date and work backwards to see how many chapters you’ll need to cover each week.

Focusing on chapters per week is important because it focuses on progress per week instead of hours. You know when you’re comfortable with a chapter so picking a chapter per week goal gives you flexibility to decide how much time you want to devote per chapter.

Some chapters might take a few days while some chapters might take a week and a half but as long as you’re sticking to your goals you’ll be ensuring you reach your progress goal by the end of the week (no matter how many hours it takes).

Forward Looking Approach

If you don’t have much time on your hands then maybe try a forward looking approach. The forward looking approach focuses on how many chapters you can complete each week. Some candidates can study 2 chapters per week while others will only be able to get through half a chapter.

Whatever your reasonable chapter per week goal is it will guide your study calendar. Simply pick your start date and look forward to see when’s the earliest you can schedule your exam.

Staying Focused

Now that you have a guide to your CPA prep calendar you’ll need to find a way to stay focused. Here are just a few tricks to make your study sessions effective and efficient so that you don’t focus on hours.

  • Break-up your study schedule into 1 or 2 hour blocks. Watch an hour lecture in the morning/read a chapter in the morning, do multiple choice questions during lunch, and revisit some problem topics at night.
  • Know your why! Why do you want to be a CPA? To provide for your family? To advance your career? Whatever the reason may be it will keep you focused!
  • Buy an actual calendar. Write out your study calendar out on an actual calendar and cross off the weeks as you get through the chapters. Hang the calendar up where you’ll see it everyday to remind you of your goals.

Whatever you need to do to keep you focused on your goal will cut down on your study time significantly. Remember, focus on progress and not on hours. You want to make sure you’re setting weekly goals and breaking up your study schedule.

You should now have everything you need to set a solid CPA exam prep schedule. If you want more CPA exam tips like this one make sure to follow me on LinkedIn to get your daily dose of CPA exam tips.

Jeremias Ramos is a CPA working at a nationally recognized full-service accounting, tax, and consulting firm with offices conveniently located throughout the Northeast. Jeremias specializes in tax and business consulting with focus areas in real estate, professional service providers, medical practitioners, and eCommerce businesses.

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