Reduce Your CPA Exam Study Time By 116 Hours!

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Reduce Your CPA Exam Study Time By 116 Hours!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!

Comparing Two Different CPA Exam Study Strategies

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…


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…

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%

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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! 

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

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