Reduce Your CPA Exam Study Time By 116 Hours!

Reduce Your CPA Exam Study Time By 116 Hours!

Updated:December 9, 2018
Bryce Welker, CPA

less cpa exam study time

After passing my first two CPA exams something hit me like a ton of bricks. I was wasting a TON of time studying the wrong material and studying the wrong way.

How much time am I talking about? Let me break it down for you like a true accountant, by the numbers.

Let me preface this section by stating that I am a completely average accountant, at best. My cumulative GPA was a mere 3.0 (minimum required to graduate was 2.9) and accounting has never come “naturally” to me unlike many people I’ve talked to.

I was able to pass all four sections on the first try due to my strong desire to succeed and consistent study habits, not because of my accounting IQ. Trust me, if I can do it then so can you!

The first two sections of the exam I sat for were Audit and BEC. I studied with Wiley CPAexcel’s course, so the pages below reference their textbooks. Wiley provides excellent CPA study materials, however I believe my results would have been similar with any of the top CPA prep courses out there.

The hours below do not include time spent studying during my final review, read more about that here. Now let’s get to the good stuff, here are the stats…

CPA Section               # of Pages          Hours to Complete                 Pages per Hour        
BEC471607.9
AUDIT610787.8
TOTALS10811387.8

I was able to cover 7.8 pages of material per hour studying the way CPAexcel told me to.  This included going back and retaking practice exams until I scored well on them, while also watching the video lectures.

Then I had my “AHA” moment! I decided I was going to trim the fat and focus only on the important material and concepts.  Here are the stats on my second two exams…

CPA Section             # of Pages          Hours to Complete                   Pages per Hour          
FAR (2 books)11279012.5
REG5625610.0
TOTALS168914611.6

On my last two exams I was able to increase my productivity by 49% and cover an additional 3.8 pages EVERY hour!

Not only did my productivity improve, but so did my average test score, I was ecstatic!

SECTIONS AVERAGE TEST SCORE

BEC and AUD :  79%

FAR and REG :   80%

Keep in mind that FAR and REG historically have the lowest pass rates and are the sections where students tend to struggle the most.

If I would’ve studied more effectively from the start it would have taken me around 239 hours to complete all four sections instead of 284 hours, a difference of 45 hours.

This is 45 hours that I could have spent hanging out with friends, surfing, hiking, lounging on the beach, visiting family, and enjoying life INSTEAD of banging my head against the computer trying to learn about bond amortization!!

If I would have continued studying at the snail-like pace I did for the first two exams it would have taken me 355* hours to get through all the material. Compare this to the 239** hours it would have taken me had I studied efficiently the entire time.  This is a 116 hour difference! Think of all the fun activities you could do with that much extra time!

**(2770 Pages/ 7.8 Pages per Hour = 355 Hours)

**(2770 Pages/ 11.6 Pages per Hour = 239 Hours)

Study Efficiently

I am mostly an experience type learner and learn best by actively doing things like highlighting and writing all over my textbooks while I’m reading. My advice is to focus on the ways you learn best and spend the majority of your time on those.

So what did I do differently to increase my productivity and shave 45 hours off my total study time?

#1- Skip the Video Lectures

The lectures can be a great resource if you are primarily a visual learner but for me the instructors seemed to move through the material too slow which caused me to become bored and get easily distracted.  The lectures introduce the section and go over the main topics, but this duplicated my study efforts as I would then have to read about the same thing in my textbook.   I realized that I was not actually learning from the lectures but was actually learning from reading the textbook, taking notes, and doing the multiple choice quizzes.  I quit watching the videos almost entirely and only watched the ones on sections where I felt weak and needed a little more explanation to fully grasp the material.

#2- Don’t Keep Retaking the Same Multiple Choice Practice Tests

While studying for my first exam I would retake the multiple choice tests over and over until I got at least a 90% before I moved on to the next section. Why? Because CPAexcel didn’t give me “full credit” for completing the section if I didn’t (Seems really lame now looking back on it). This benchmark is similar to the “Becker Promise” that Becker CPA Review offers which doesn’t allow you to reuse their study materials free of charge if you don’t complete each homework assignment with at least a 90%.

After my first test, I would review the answers I got wrong and retake the test.  I found that I would start memorizing the answers just so I would score high on the next test even if I didn’t fully grasp WHY it was the correct answer. On some of the longer tests I would sometimes have to retake them 3 or 4 times before I “passed”! This type of memorization is counter-productive to learning and focuses on getting a good grade which is NOT the goal of studying.

I decided to challenge the status quo of most CPA review courses and stop caring about my test scores and focus on learning instead.  Here was my new routine:

less cpa exam study time
It did not matter if I got a 50% or a 90% on the test I would stick to this same process every time.  Instead of retaking the test and seeing 80% of the same questions I already answered correctly, I focused solely on the 20% I missed and was amazed at how much more I was actually learning.  This type of studying forces you to actively engage your mind rather than switching it into auto-pilot and will save you a ton of time.

CPA Exam Hacks and Shortcuts

These two simple strategies saved me 45 hours of my life and regardless of how you learn best there are ways to refine your studying habits and do the same. If you have been using a CPA study materials that aren’t aligned with your personal learning preferences then I highly suggest you take a look at my CPA Review Course Comparison Chart to compare alternative options that will increase your chances of passing. Then make sure to get the best deal with Crush the CPA’s exclusive discounts.

If you know of any other study hacks, shortcuts, tips or techniques that have helped YOU study more efficiently, please share with everyone in the comment box below.  People helping people… that’s what it’s all about folks so share your knowledge and help out your fellow colleagues!

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232 Comments
  • Christophulous
    Posted at 17 January, 2018 14:57 PM Reply

    I agree with your thoughts on skipping the lectures. I usually just go to the lectures if I REALLY need something clarified.

    • Jim
      Posted at 26 December, 2017 21:13 PM Reply

      [* Shield plugin marked this comment as "trash". Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (comment token failure) *] How long will take approx to finish 4 exams ?? 1 year or less ??

      • Bryce Welker, CPA
        Posted at 16 January, 2018 21:58 PM Reply

        Hi Jim, I know students who have passed all 4 exams within 3 months, however most people fall within the 12-18 month range. For me personally, it took 9 months of consistently studying everyday after work and on the weekends before I passed all 4 sections. It really depends how much time you can commit to studying each week and how much previous experience and knowledge you have in accounting. Cheers, Bryce

      • Karli
        Posted at 1 June, 2017 17:04 PM Reply

        This post is so relatable -- I feel like I've wasted so much time the last few months trying to complete everything in the review course instead of actually learning and absorbing the material. Unfortunately, I don't have one passing score to show for the last couple months. Trying to regain that confidence and find the best approach to getting through all of the material and actually knowing it too. I'm currently using Becker, but there's so much material in each module -- between lectures, skill practices and multiple choice questions per module. I'm currently studying for FAR and have also purchased NINJA MCQs for FAR with hopes of getting a different source of study prep material. I'm just not satisfied with Becker. However, I did little research when first buying material and just assumed "Becker was the way to go...". Regardless, I'm just trying to make Becker work since I already have the material. Any additional suggestions to hopefully knock this one out the first try? I'm considering reading the text, working MCQs only and using your method of only working each module's MCQs once through and focusing on the incorrect answers. Then moving on to the next module? Maybe I'm missing something but I have this general thought that if I just focus on the text, MCQs and sims that I can be more effective -- ditch the lectures and the skills practices?Anyone else feeling overwhelmed with Becker and all the skill practices, multiple choice questions and all of the simulations?

        • Danielle
          Posted at 18 February, 2017 00:48 AM Reply

          I am considering resuming my accounting career after being a stay at home mom/military wife for 14 years. Do you think that it would be worthwhile? I have been away from it all for so long. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

          • Steven Santaniello
            Posted at 19 January, 2017 16:23 PM Reply

            Hey Bryce!I am in the process of getting some study material together but I am a different kind of candidate and wanted some advice. I worked 2 jobs all through college, so I probably didn't gain as much knowledge as I should have. Also, I graduated about 4 years ago. Lastly, I am definitely a hands on learner and I feel like studying the practice exams will be best. What do you suggest for type and company? Thanks!Best,Steve

            • Alerito
              Posted at 7 January, 2017 19:14 PM Reply

              will be feasible to take REG and AUD before March 10th? I'm planning on dedicating 120 hours for REG and 130 hours for AUD

              • Benni Ed
                Posted at 27 December, 2016 22:32 PM Reply

                hi i just finished my LSATs and law school application. i have BEC scheduled for jan 12 and i might as well give it a shot as they are changing the format next cyclehow would you advise i go about my 15 day study schedule being i have wiley excel silverthanks

                • richie8919
                  Posted at 4 December, 2016 15:37 PM Reply

                  Hello Bryce,I'm currently studying for the FAR section and I scheduled my exam on 1/27/2017. I'm over an approximately 33% of the course material (Wiley). My study plan consist on an average of 3 study hours per day on weekdays and around 5-6 on weekends. Also, in my schedule I take one day to review previously learned concepts. Please note that I have never taken any exams before. I would greatly appreciate if you could give me advice, should I reschedule or do I have enough time to cover the remaining material? My employer gave me two weeks prior to the exam though.Thanks in advance, and I find your tips very helpful,-Ricardo

                  • BWelk
                    Posted at 22 December, 2016 23:14 PM Reply

                    Ya this is a solid study plan and you should definitely have more than enough time to get through all the study materials. Go CRUSH it!Cheers,Bryce

                  • Slab
                    Posted at 29 November, 2016 16:40 PM Reply

                    Is it too much to take all 4 parts of the exam in one testing window? 2 exams in the 1st month of the window and 2 exams in the 2nd month of the window?

                    • BWelk
                      Posted at 22 December, 2016 23:17 PM Reply

                      Ya I would never suggest to try and approach the exams like that, it is just too little time to fully cover all the material.Good luck with whatever plan you decide on,Bryce

                    • Natka
                      Posted at 16 November, 2016 14:15 PM Reply

                      Hi, when you say you take each practice exam, are you referring to the diagnostic tests in Wiley, or did you take practice exams from the Test Bank from that particular area? Thank you for your tips.

                      • ahmed
                        Posted at 29 October, 2016 15:26 PM Reply

                        i'm wondering which material to used for studying the FAR Wiley or Becker(reading study not visual) is Wiley more simple but i heard that it's not enough to study Wiley's material only..what do you think?

                        • BWelk
                          Posted at 1 November, 2016 00:01 AM Reply

                          Hi, I pesonally used Wiley and it is definitely comprehensive enough to pass your exams.Cheers,Bryce

                        • Csantana
                          Posted at 7 October, 2016 17:21 PM Reply

                          Hi! Quick question; I am between Roger, Becker, and Wiley. My understanding is that the sections are too long in Becker, and I don't think I'd have more than 2 hours per sitting to study at any given time. With that said, which one would you recommend?Money isn't the problem since I am not paying for it, so if that isn't true about Becker, please dis-consider cost in your advice. Thank you very much!

                          • BWelk
                            Posted at 28 October, 2016 21:19 PM Reply

                            Hi,If you are a visual learner then I'd suggest Roger CPA Review. If you are more of a self-studier who learns better by reading and then doing lots of practice questions then Wiley would be your best choice. Either one will be a good fit for your 2 hour per day study schedule.Cheers,Bryce

                          • Cpa student
                            Posted at 9 September, 2016 14:25 PM Reply

                            Hi , I find reg extremely challenging . I have no idea about taxation. Which study tool has the best video lecture ?

                            • BWelk
                              Posted at 13 September, 2016 02:10 AM Reply

                              Roger has the best overall video lectures in my opinion. However if you prefer ones that move at a slower pace I'd suggest Wiley or Becker.Cheers,Bryce

                            • Jag
                              Posted at 2 September, 2016 13:55 PM Reply

                              I'm using Wiley's Gold version as well. The FAR course outlines is 975 pages, and I am studying full time (40-48 hours a week). But 3 weeks later, I am only on page 150. I realized that I spent about 10 hours on Direct/Indirect method, as I had trouble with that in my Intermediate classes as well. So, I'm having a little trouble understanding how you were able to cover 12.5 pages per hour (given that's roughly 4 topics/modules in an hour). I followed your advice and stopped watching the videos because they only reiterated what was written in the book. Did you skip/glimpse over sections, or come back to the tougher topics to prevent "obsessing" over particular subjects. Additionally, have you (or anyone you know) had personal experience with Wiley's Focus Notes? Thanks for everything, your website is really helpful!

                              • BWelk
                                Posted at 13 September, 2016 05:31 AM Reply

                                Hi Jag,Thanks for you support! I would read through the entire text of each section then take the MCQ test at the end of the chapter. I would then go back and review any questions I missed to find out why I missed them, and if I had an overall decent score (around 80%) on the first time through then would just start on the next section. This will help you not get obsessed or bogged down by any single section or chapter.Cheers,Bryce

                                • Nazia Hussain
                                  Posted at 16 December, 2016 15:49 PM Reply

                                  Do you recommend doing homework problems after each section or after the entire chapter? I found that once I complete the chapter I don't remember the information which is why I do very poorly on homework problems.

                                  • BWelk
                                    Posted at 22 December, 2016 23:10 PM Reply

                                    Ya I definitely suggest doing the practice questions after each section, you will retain much more information this way.Cheers,Bryce

                              • ts
                                Posted at 25 August, 2016 05:47 AM Reply

                                I took Becker twice - once live years ago, and online just a few years ago. I have now been formally tested and diagnosed with ADHD and OCD, so the videos were killing me. if you have ADHD, I can say with confidence that Becker is not for you. It takes up so much time and is incredibly boring. I could not stay awake and I could not take Pete and Tim droning on any more, but I couldn't understand why I was not passing.I gave up on passing for a long time as my ADHD and OCD were not diagnosed until 2 years ago when I took my son to a psychiatrist for the same issue, and the psychiatrist advised testing for me too. With treatment, the textbooks made sense and work was so much better that I gained the confidence to try again, but I was determined to never suffer through videos ever again. I got Wiley CPAexcel text only, and NINJA. I believe NINJA was the key. I read the chapters and did problems from the text, then went through all the ninja questions, and did the above method, working through a group of questions and making note cards on what I missed. The nights and mornings before exams, I worked problems but mainly went back through all the note cards. When I got my REG score this past May, I could not believe my eyes. I had finally broken free and had the confidence to study and take AUD and BEC back to back at the end of this past July - guess what - PASSED!! Now all I have left is FAR on September and I will be using the same method - Wiley CPAexcel and NINJA. If you are reading this and truly struggling to finish one page of material, please go see a psychiatrist to be sure you don't have ADHD. It is not a made up condition, and it will change your life if you get treatment. I am very thankful for my psychiatrist and my therapist, and Wiley and NINJA. I will be done soon!

                                • Annie
                                  Posted at 12 August, 2016 17:09 PM Reply

                                  Did you use Willey's silver or Platinum version?

                                  • BWelk
                                    Posted at 15 August, 2016 23:03 PM Reply

                                    I used Wiley's Gold version.

                                  • Ruby
                                    Posted at 15 July, 2016 00:51 AM Reply

                                    Hi Bryce, My notice to sit expires in 2 weeks. Although I've been studying for the REG section I still have a few lessons to go through on the Wiley course. I'm afraid I won't have time to review my notes and do a few practice exams before the test day. Any study tips? How long did you give yourself to review everything before taking a section of the exam?

                                    • Michael Yau
                                      Posted at 4 July, 2016 15:49 PM Reply

                                      Bryce, I am a visual learning and have got the WileyCPA pack + Test Bank. By far I have watched the videos and read the Study Text for each lesson, and then take the Multiple Choice Test. Do you think I can rely on this method to fully grasp the essential parts to prepare for FAR? Or should I read the book as well to cover the missing parts? What method would you suggest to a visual learner?

                                      • Rashad Lewis
                                        Posted at 1 April, 2016 07:54 AM Reply

                                        Bryce,Twice I was 7 points away from nailing BEC. Neither of the time I did well on the writing. Any suggestion? I am using CPA excel by the way.I read the "study text" section online for each section and then I do the PQ & EQ's.I am thinking about taking it again in 2 weeks. Any suggestion so this time I can pass finally.I look forward for your response.

                                        • BWelk
                                          Posted at 13 April, 2016 21:17 PM Reply

                                          Hi Rashad,Since the test is coming up soon I would suggest getting the Wiley CPA test bank or Gleim Test Bank for FAR and just doing hundreds and hundreds of practice problems. I am not the best writer but was able to pass on this portion of BEc because the MCQ's I drilled over and over engrained the concepts into my memory.Cheers,Bryce

                                        • Kimberly Valimont
                                          Posted at 26 March, 2016 20:10 PM Reply

                                          I have two questions. 1- Do you think that beyond knowing the material, how comfortable one is with the exam format helps your outcome on the exam. 2-What do you think is the best study program? and if I were to choose Becker, do you think that the in class is worth it or is it the same as just watching the videos. I have heard the class just repeats the videos...has anyone found this is true?Thank you.!

                                          • BWelk
                                            Posted at 31 March, 2016 19:44 PM Reply

                                            Hi Kimberly,Being comfortable with the exam format is important, but can be learned quickly. Stay away from Becker Live classes, heard nothing but horror stories over the last few years about them.Cheers,Bryce