How Many Hours to Study for the CPA Exam?

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How many hours to study for the CPA exam?

Gone are the days when thinking about studying for an exam was something that could easily be pushed off for another time. When it comes to preparing and effectively studying for the CPA Exam, advanced preparation is not only required but entirely necessary. However, how do you know what type of a study schedule and overall hours work best for you? This article will examine suggested study times and other factors that are beneficial to consider when preparing for the CPA Exam.

Overall recommended hours

In general, it is important to remember that there are four parts to the CPA exam that you will need to prepare for, and each should have a total of 80-160 minutes dedicated to that one specific area. Therefore, a rough estimate of your overall study time should amount between 350-450 hours in total. While this number may seem daunting at first glance, the more important factor to consider is how much time in days/weeks/months do you have available to you, and how can you break this up into smaller chunks to maximize your time and ensure that you retain the information?

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Consider your current schedule

If you are at a point in life where you are not working a full time job and are able to devote copious amounts of time to studying for the exam, then consider making it a part of your everyday routine. Treating your study time as a job in and of itself allows you to fully immerse yourself in the content, taking the time to write out in-depth notes, watch helpful videos with advice on how to best prepare, and make the most of available practice quizzes reviewing each section. In this scenario, the goal should be to spend between 30-40 hours per week for about ten to twelve weeks in advance for preparation.

However, on the more realistic side of life, many will be preparing for the exam while also working a full time job. In this case, it is imperative to consider the demands of your everyday life and what will realistically be an achievable goal.

For example, my sister was working full time as a new employee at a CPA firm when she first began to prepare for her CPA Exam. She was fortunate to be working with peers who had already taken the exam and could therefore offer their own insight into what she could expect, but she also understood the demands of her circumstances and what she hoped to accomplish, which was to take all four sections the first time around. This is where she had to really plan out her schedule 12-16 weeks in advance and consider what worked best for her.

How to ensure you maintain your schedule and retain the information

The old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race,” has withstood the test of time for a variety of reasons, but mainly for this simple fact- it’s true. Scientists have spent years studying the transfer from short term to long term memory, and as any simple Google search will tell you, it all comes down to longer periods of preparation broken into smaller chunks of time.

Again, examining the circumstances of someone in a full-time job with a situation similar to the one my sister was in, the attention-to-detail in planning her schedule was crucial in making sure she had the necessary tools to assist in retaining the information. As a general example that could be applied to many working models, setting aside two to three hours per day, Monday- Friday, creates an attainable schedule of 10-15 hours per week. Add on an additional five hours for the weekend (which could realistically be split between both Saturday and Sunday, or leaving Sunday as a necessary “break” day), and a 20 hour per week study schedule has been achieved.

Now, if aiming to stick to the recommended 350-450 hours of total preparation time, a model such as this would require the reviewer to consider beginning the study process 5-6 months in advance, or to also look at additional circumstances that could be beneficial.

Education and Work Experience

How long has it been since you finished your time in college? What work are you currently engaging in that can be applied to any or all of the four parts of the CPA exam? These are important questions to ask that could provide an advantage and potentially take off some of the recommended study hours when preparing for the CPA Exam.

For example, if you have recently just graduated college, particularly with that of your Masters in Accounting degree, then you will agree that many of your accounting courses have provided you with information that is both relevant and directly related to what you are studying for on the CPA Exam. You also have the additional benefit of (hopefully) still being in “school mode”, where you understand the rigor that is required of taking an exam and have study habits in place that work.

Maybe you’re not a recent college graduate, but you are working in a job that has provided you with applicable experience that relates to the content covered within the exam. While accounting is a considerably specialized profession, the ability to have any practice and repetition of working directly with the content you are studying will give you a “leg up” in at least one or more of the sections that you will be preparing for.

Finally, if you are utilizing all of your resources, such as attending study groups with people who are in the same situation as you are, applying yourself in review sessions and being consistent about reading through the notes you have taken, and utilizing any and all practice exams that are available to you, then you are already in a situation that presents you with the opportunity to engage with the material you are learning.

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Points to Remember

When it comes down to it, the CPA Exam is one that requires dedication, repeated practice and engagement with the material, utilizing all available resources, and engaging with the material in a variety of methods. Break this down into smaller chunks that are spaced out over a longer period of time, and you are setting yourself up for success in retaining the information. Good luck!

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