CPA Exam Preparation Tips

CPA Exam Preparation Tips

  • Updated:February 18, 2019
  • Bryce Welker, CPA
  • CPA Review Courses
  • Comments (52)

Keep your eye on the prize with these simple but powerful CPA exam study tips. They will help you prepare for the CPA exam much more efficiently as well as increase your focus and motivation.

Studying for the CPA exam is like learning a language. Consuming just a little bit each day is crucial to re-enforce what you have already studied as well as develop a solid study routine. Keep it fresh in your brain on a daily basis and you will retain much more information.

2. Screw the Media

Ditch the background music, log off your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and put your cell phone on airplane mode.  Every time your phone vibrates or you get a new email notification the temptation to get sucked into the social media black hole becomes too strong. In fact, just close your internet browser altogether. Did you really sacrifice an hour of sleep so you could catch up on the latest celebrity dating gossip? Absolutely not.

3. Jam Out

Download a CPA review audio course and turn otherwise wasted hours into a high quality study session. Listen on your commute to and from work and suddenly you just came up with an extra 5-10 hours of studying each week!

Don’t drive? You’re not off the hook that easy. Here’s a list of other activities where an audio CPA review course can transform your idle time:

-Doing Laundry

-Working out at the gym

-On your lunch break

-While Jogging

-At the car wash

-Riding the bus, subway, taxi

-Airplane Flight

4. Work Hard, Play Hard

Plan one day a week to not even think about studying for the CPA exam. You deserve a break so make plans to see a movie with a friend, go watch sports with your bros, or have a shopping spree with your BFF.  This “recharging day” will be something you look forward to all week long, especially when things become stressful.

5. Remind Yourself Why

I’m going to extend a challenge to you that will take less than a minute and provide you with an insane amount of motivation. Ready? One rule, you must do this right NOW so grab a piece of paper and a pen. Got it?

No seriously, I’ll wait.

Okay, now write down in as few words as possible why you want to pass the CPA exam.  For me personally it was 2 things: #1 To get a $5,000 bonus and #2, to prove everyone wrong who told me there was no way I could pass all 4 sections in 9 months with a full-time job.

Go post this somewhere in your room where you will see it everyday. Mine was on a white board right next to my door so every time I left I would see in it big bold red letters. This little reminder helped me to stay motivated at times when I felt like giving up and kept me in check by reminding me everyday that there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel.

Got any useful tricks up your sleeve?!

If you have any tips or tricks of your own that helped you pass the CPA exam we want to know about it! Please share in the comment box below and help others who are going through the same struggles as you.


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  • Bettyna Abou Nader
    Posted at 11 December, 2017 04:58 AM Reply

    Hello!I'm studying for my CPA exam with Becker. I'm facing some difficulties while practicing the Simulations part. Any advice?

    • Bryce Welker, CPA
      Posted at 19 December, 2017 18:36 PM Reply

      Hi!In my experience the best way to improve on the Simulations is to do a ton of multiple choice practice questions from a different test bank than the course you are studying with. Wiley's CPA Test Bank is an excellent solution, however it is a bit more pricey than the others. The Gryfin CPA Cram Course is one of the most affordable options and includes practice Simulations as well MCQs. Regardless of which CPA supplemental study materials you decide on they are the quickest way to improve your scores and are definitely worth the investment.Cheers, Bryce

    • Khen
      Posted at 10 September, 2017 09:07 AM Reply

      Hi!I am going to take the CPA exam next month. I feel like I need to review more and study harder. Actually, this is 4th time to take. It is really hard especially to a home based mom like me. CPA exam here in the Philippines is quite different since we have to take all the board subject and pass them right away. After that, that it's!And we also have review schools here. And the problem is when the exam date is approaching near they cram to teach everything and I found myself restless and no time to study all by myself or what I mean is to practice the problem solvings. Ugghhh! Here I go again, I hate to failed again since. It is really hard to review.Yeah! Recordings are great! I also do it in some of your theory subject. I recorded them why I do some stuffs. For me my two things #1 to get the license and practice solely #2 to be free from board exam as if I still have unfinished business.Thank you for the time reading my comment. I hope I can do this and I promise to myself to give my last best shot.

      • Kathryn Dennee
        Posted at 27 June, 2016 20:04 PM Reply

        Thanks for the tips! Do you have any advice for improving one's performance on the MCQ's? Oftentimes I'll have most of the principles down, but I'll get a question wrong due to one detail or a silly mistake.

        • Kulbir
          Posted at 24 June, 2016 18:59 PM Reply

          Hi I am studying for the FAR exam and I am having tough time remember the material. I know it is impossible to remember all the material. Would you be able to help me how I can pass the CPA exam. It is very tough. I read the material and I forget the material that I read in the beginning in the chapter.

          • Carenna Willmont
            Posted at 29 April, 2016 16:24 PM Reply

            Would you say the bottom line to doing well, is doing as many practice questions as possible, while taking the time to understand why the answer is what it is?

            • BWelk
              Posted at 12 May, 2016 22:43 PM Reply


              • Fabiola
                Posted at 9 August, 2016 14:29 PM Reply

                It's Tuesday exam is Thursday at 1pm. I have tomorrow off from work. I'm wondering if I should postpone my exam. I'm using Becker and have gone through 95% of the questions and the sims for chapters 1-9. Chapter 10 is only partially complete. My fear is that I've only done all of the homework questions once, took maybe 4 progress tests. I made my own chapter outlines to refresh my memory about the important parts. I feel pretty comfortable with the concepts but am afraid the questions will trip me up. I'm planning on doing all progress tests when I get home and if I don't do well....then I'll have to postpone it a week or two. I've been cramming and learning the material for the last month and a half. About 5 hours every single day (okay, I took three days off). I feel as though a day and a half is not enough time to review everything I've learned. :( Especially because everyone recommends to run through the questions a lot and often.

                • BWelk
                  Posted at 15 August, 2016 23:04 PM Reply

                  Definitely would recommend to not put it off, give it your best shot you've come so far and can always re-take it!

            • Carenna Willmont
              Posted at 29 April, 2016 16:22 PM Reply

              I can tell you care. Thank you!!!

              • BWelk
                Posted at 12 May, 2016 22:44 PM Reply

                Thanks for your support :)

              • yan chen
                Posted at 3 December, 2015 19:38 PM Reply

                Hi Bryce, Your website is very helpful for candidate like me. I'm planning to sit for the cpa exam on Jan'16, and I already submit my application. Do you think I should start studying right now or after I got the NTS? Also, I currently working as full time, but my company does't sponsored for my Exam, now I have difficulties choosing the review course. I have read your blog, and also try some trial from Wiley CPAexcel review and some text book from Becker, I still couldn't decide which one to choose. While I went through the trial from Wiley CPAexcel, some of the MCQs are really difficult, where can I find the help? Thanks!

                • Ahmed
                  Posted at 3 December, 2015 15:39 PM Reply

                  Hi Bryce,Great to read your blog. I found it very interesting and informative.I am planning to start my study for CPA exam. I am currently doing my executive MBA with two day evening classes. I need your advise on course material selection as I found myself to be most effectively learn through visual and auditory material. I have accounting & finance academic background but not worked in specific job.I will appreciate your support and advice. Thank you.

                  • Beata
                    Posted at 18 November, 2015 12:25 PM Reply

                    Hi this is Be, I would like some tips to practice to be able to understandthe questions in the exam. I have good knowledge of the topics for the exam I am experienced accountant and if you ask me anything of the exam direct questions I will answer and explain to you correctly.but the way the questions are designed in the exam make me read twice to interpret or be sure what is the specific question some are so long and confusing also the answers alternatives are so similar..I took the exams twice already and I runned against the time i couldn't finish the exam and I didn't pass. I do not know how to I practice exams or why they do not ask direct questions..horrible feeling ..any advice?

                    • Rinada
                      Posted at 9 October, 2015 10:12 AM Reply

                      Hi Bryce,I think I have the same problem as Henry, I'm too studying from the CPAexcel and I spend so much time on each module. I am getting a bit overwhelmed because I'm starting to get the feeling that this is endless. I work a full time job and its too demanding; thus, I only study for an hour or 2 everyday. My question is am I on the right track? I'm self studying, and I prepare my own notes with no video lectures or anything.Your advice is very helpful, thanks a lot!

                      • BWelk
                        Posted at 14 October, 2015 14:18 PM Reply

                        Hi Rinada,This article will help you get through each module much quicker and also retain more information: Cheers,Bryce

                      • Ike
                        Posted at 22 September, 2015 00:35 AM Reply

                        Hi Bryce,I plan on studying with Becker and want to take FAR in January '16.Should I start full time studying in mid November? or October? (I have ADD btw).Also what can I do right now to prepare? (I have been investing my time in lumosity).

                        • BWelk
                          Posted at 23 September, 2015 22:04 PM Reply

                          Hi Ike,If you have the time right now then I would suggest that you start studying right away!Cheers,Bryce

                        • Henry
                          Posted at 17 August, 2015 20:31 PM Reply

                          Hi Bryce, I have been studying FAR with CPAExcel. My concern is that I spent too much time on each chapter. I feel that almost every word on the textbook is so important. Thus, I end up highlighting almost all words on the book and try to memorize all of them at the expense of consuming great amount of time. Am I focused on too much details? Another question is that I have used both textbook and video lectures but many parts of textbook contents were not mentioned during the video lectures and I wonder if these omitted parts are not important for the test. As you described your strategy, I should focus on reading textbooks but have a little difficulty to find the main points that I have to memorize. Every word looks so important! Thanks for your great postings and advise!-Henry

                          • BWelk
                            Posted at 24 August, 2015 22:53 PM Reply

                            Hi Henry,Yes you are definitely worrying way too much about all the details. I would suggest to focus instead on the answers you get incorrect on the MCQ's at the end of each section. This is the important material that you should be digging into more which will have the biggest impact on your overall score.Cheers,Bryce

                          • Louis
                            Posted at 11 July, 2015 20:26 PM Reply

                            Hello,Amazing website and very helpful tips. I started studying for FAR a few days ago and realize that I'm an average accountant. I'm willing to put in the work and I certainly have time at my disposal right now. What do suggest to someone that started the course and realize that it's more difficult than they expected? Do you suggest going back to some of the textbooks from college or continue watching the videos despite getting some of the questions wrong?

                            • BWelk
                              Posted at 29 July, 2015 01:47 AM Reply

                              Hi Louis,I think a lot of people feel like it's more difficult than they expected so you're not alone. The best thing you can do is to figure out how you learn best and focus on that. Is it by watching the videos? Reading the Text? Working through lots of multiple choice questions? Find out whichever way your brain learns best and then put a lot more effort into studying that way.Cheers,Bryce

                            • vaibhav shah
                              Posted at 1 July, 2015 04:05 AM Reply

                              Hello Bryce!I am a level II CFA and FRM part II candidate. I have applied for NTS from Washington jurisdiction. I am waiting for my level II CFA result in the month of July and I expect it to clear. So if I clear I'll have my level III exams in June,2016 and part II FRM exams in the coming November month. I have decided to appear for the FAR subject first as I feel it requires more hours but it would be easy for me as the same content, I have studies in the CFA level I and level II. Please advise me how do I decide my strategy to clear CPA. And I am working to as a Financial Controller in one of the trading company in DUBAI.

                              • Amrita Kaur
                                Posted at 29 May, 2015 18:51 PM Reply

                                Hi Bryce:I just graduated from college and signed up for my CPA Becker course and applied for my NTS. Your blog post just gave me some confidence on getting started on the right foot. How different was studying for the CPA from regular accounting classes in college? I spent a lot of time as a college student so I want to know how to strategize for the CPA.ThanksAmrita

                                • BWelk
                                  Posted at 23 June, 2015 17:47 PM Reply

                                  Thanks Amrita,Thanks for your support!! Studying for college exams and the CPA exam is actually very similar in most ways. The main difference for me was the fact that in school you have an instructor you can meet with before/after class to clarify things and answer all your questions. The CPA exam requires much more self-discipline because you are not "required" to do homework or show up for class. If you are a self-motivated person this won't really effect you but after talking to many candidates this is one of the most common issues that comes up (staying motivated when no one is there to watch and monitor your progress).Cheers,Bryce

                                • camz
                                  Posted at 25 May, 2015 23:14 PM Reply

                                  Nice post!Do you recommend a study partner? Also, I'm in my fourth year of Accounting Major and I'll graduate this December, do you recommend to start studying this summer or is it too soon?-Cam

                                  • BWelk
                                    Posted at 26 May, 2015 01:30 AM Reply

                                    Hi Cam,If you learn better by studying with other people then a study partner would definitely be a good choice, it really just depends on your learning preferences. I would suggest waiting until you are eligible to take the exam to start studying because you will be able to retain much more information. I think starting to study maybe 2 months prior to graduation would be a good strategy though if you want to get a jump on things.Cheers,Bryce

                                    • Cma Ahmed Mamdouh
                                      Posted at 4 September, 2015 12:57 PM Reply

                                      i can be your study partner we can start study as soon as possible

                                    • Jaime
                                      Posted at 25 May, 2015 17:01 PM Reply

                                      I am entering MBV program (Diet MBA) in the fall. I am going to take the additional courses along with the necessary prereq(s) for the CPA exam. Can you give me some advice regarding books, and websites to be affiliated with in the meantime? I have plenty of time to crush the exam. However, I am not in a rush ( a bit hesitant).

                                      • BWelk
                                        Posted at 26 May, 2015 01:45 AM Reply

                                        Sure, what kind of information are you looking for specifically?

                                      • Brando T
                                        Posted at 23 July, 2014 04:05 AM Reply

                                        Bryce,Your blog has been giving me a lot of confidence and inspiration to sit for the CPA. Thanks in advanceJust curious: what did you find was the most challenging in studying for the CPA? And did you actually study the materials before signing up for the sections? Would you mind sharing your experience from start to end?Thank you very much for your time and attention!-Brando.

                                        • BWelk
                                          Posted at 27 July, 2014 12:12 PM Reply

                                          Thanks Brando,You can read about my experiences from start to end in all of my blog posts and also by purchasing my study guide.The most challenging thing was definitely being disciplined enough to consistently study almost every day. I discuss this in some of my other blog posts so I recommend checking them out!Cheers,Bryce

                                        • Bren
                                          Posted at 12 July, 2013 00:09 AM Reply

                                          Bryce,Great site.I would like to know your study plan/strategy for FAR.I will be taking this after 15 years out of college. I plan to use Cpaexcel Complex Self Study - is this suitable?Thank you,Bruce.

                                          • Bryce
                                            Posted at 12 July, 2013 00:32 AM Reply

                                            Thanks Bren,I studied for about 2 hours a day during the week after I got home from work. On the weekends I would study about 6 hours on Saturday and took Sunday off to recharge my batteries and have a fun day where I didn't have to think about studying. I used CPAexcel and this study plan worked great with their CPA review course. If you are a good self-studier and prefer to work at your own pace, CPAexcel is your best option.Good luck on your CPA journey!Bryce

                                          • Jen
                                            Posted at 10 June, 2013 15:18 PM Reply

                                            Hey Bryce!I recently came across your website and absolutely LOVE IT! I too, consider myself a pretty average accountant who now works in Internal Audit. I started with the AUD section because I thought it would be the "easiest" section to pass and boost my motivation for this CPA journey....however I have failed (Nov 2012 - 71, May 2013- 70) AUD twice!I'm bummed out...speechless. I used Becker both times and thought I HAD IT IN THE BAG especially this time. I'm completely lost as to what I'm doing wrong....any tips? I'm annoyed because now I have to learn the changed/new AUD section and am ready to give up on this thing all together :-/Help!

                                            • Bryce
                                              Posted at 11 June, 2013 16:24 PM Reply

                                              Hi Jennifer,Stick with it! You are so close and I think by tweaking your study habits just a little bit you will pass this next time around!I would try implementing a few new study strategies. Here is what worked best for me personally: Reread each section of your book, as you read, write down in a notebook the most important information in your own words. Then create flashcards based off of this information (Yes, write it down again in a more summarized format). Take the multiple choice question tests, focus in on every question you missed, find out why you missed it, then add this info to your notebook).By doing this for each section, you are essentially creating the ultimate final review study guide. When you have gotten through the whole book, re-read all of your notes, and start studying your flashcards like crazy. The last thing I would do during your final review is to take the practice exams until you are scoring between 80% -85% on each section.One last tip of advice would be to pace yourself. I found it much easier to retain information when I studied for 2-3 hours a day on a consistent basis, rather than cram in 8 hours of studying 2 or 3 times a week. The audit test is 4 hours long, so by studying for no more than 4 hours at a time, you are training your brain to be able to focus for this amount of time.Again this is what worked best for me, so feel free to take what you want from it, but be sure and mix up your study strategy as this will help you think about the same concepts in a different way. Don't give up, there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel, all your hard work will pay off big time and it is totally worth it!Cheers,Bryce

                                              • Hillary
                                                Posted at 10 July, 2014 04:27 AM Reply

                                                Thanks for your advice, because I'm going through the same situation right now :)