So you just graduated with a degree in accounting and you are thinking to yourself “I’m done!” Unfortunately, the next phase of your life (for the next one to one and a half years) will be studying for your CPA exams–while working full-time in public accounting!
Studying for your CPA exams while working full time in public accounting is strenuous, intense, and fulfilling. The stress really never goes away throughout all four exams. For me, I would wake up in the morning and the first thing I would think is how many days I had left until my next exam. It really takes up a good chunk of your time. But don’t let this discourage you. Proper planning helps significantly eliminate stress. For example:
Procrastination and what I call “stacking” your studying until the end of the week is very difficult to do and adds to your stress. Stacking also is not being consistent. For instance, I found it difficult to only pick up my study materials once a week for six to eight hours rather than picking up the materials three to four times for six to eight hours in a week.
These exams are intense due to their comprehensiveness and the time limit you have to pass. For example, FAR (financial accounting and reporting) is three semester’s worth of material on one exam (intermediate 1, 2, and advanced accounting). To make matters worse, not everything you study will be asked on the exam. It’s important to hone in on areas that are most frequently asked. When you purchase your review program for the exams, the presenters will tell you to look over these frequently tested sections.
Remember, while you are trying to prepare and keep track of memorizing hundreds of pages of only information, you are also working 40 hours a week. For this reason, I would recommend staying clear of studying and working during busy season. However, if you find yourself up against the clock, sometimes you might be putting in sixty plus working hours and another six or more hours of studying!
The CPA exams are fulfilling. Being able to translate what you studied for the exam into practice is really cool! This process can also be in reverse. For example, I took AUD (Auditing), after having two busy seasons down. This test was probably the easiest for me (and I say that with a grain of salt) as of lot of the information covered on it, I had experienced first-hand at work. The exams are also fulfilling as passing the fourth one for me really felt like my “real” college graduation. I had the support of friends, family, and coworkers for the one and a half years and it was nice to show them the final result from their support.
Studying to get your CPA license is a detailed process and should be done only if you are truly 100% committed. It’s important to remember that the best study plan at the end of the day is whatever works best for you. Making your study plan proper and consistent will help mitigate the stress involved. Give yourself a reason to keep studying and try to have fun with it. Use the intensity of the exams as a tool to keep you motivated. Finally, have a great support network! I really don’t think I would have passed if I didn’t have great people in my corner cheering me on. Best of luck in your journey.