As an accounting professional, you know what busy season is and why it’s called busy season. You also know that passing the CPA Exam so you can become a CPA is a crucial career move that you may not be able to put on hold until busy season ends, especially in light of the 18-month window for section credit. To stay on track for success, you’ll need to juggle both time-consuming endeavors , and this 7-step process revealing how to study for the CPA Exam during busy season will help you out.
How to Study for the CPA Exam During Busy Season
Follow these simple steps to prepare for the CPA Exam while enduring busy season.
- Determine your priorities.
If you’re going to study for the CPA Exam during busy season, this is not going to be an easy, breezy, laid-back time of life. It is going to be challenging, hard, maybe even grueling, and in order to survive it, you’re going to need to establish the essentials and drop everything else. Of course, working and studying must be at the top of the list, but you also can’t forget about your health and your family. You won’t accomplish anything worthwhile if you’re starved or sleep-deprived, and your family not only needs you in their lives; they can also provide some of the support, encouragement, and release you’ll need to get through. You can also add fun into the mix, but expect to have to cut back on it quite a bit. Your fun may involve hanging out with friends, engaging in your hobbies, or just vegging out, but no matter what, you’ll have to do it sparingly for the next few months.
- Budget your time.
Now that you know what you can afford to keep on your agenda, you should create a CPA Exam study plan that accounts for everything you need to do. To make your study plan, parcel out the number of hours in a week to each of your mandatory activities. Because it’s busy season, you should prepare to sacrifice about 50-60 hours a week to work. Because it’s the CPA Exam, you should commit to studying for 1-2 hours per day, as you’ll need about 140-150 total study hours per exam section. If you can study for 20 hours a week, you can be completely prepared for your exam section in about 7 weeks. If, however, you study for just 15 hours a week, it will take you about 10 weeks to be ready for your exam section. The faster you’d like to pass your exam section, the more study time you’ll have to fit into each week.Next, figure out how much time you will need to spend eating, sleeping, exercising, being with family, and having fun each week. Use this information to create a concrete schedule to follow until busy season ends and/or you pass your exam section (whichever comes first). Finally, plug this schedule into an interactive study planner. An interactive study planner will adapt to your current lifestyle and streamline your schedule. You’ll find an interactive study planner in Gleim CPA Review.
- Add extra study sessions.
Inserting 1-2 hours of study into a 10+ hour workday doesn’t require magic, just better time management. When you make your mornings and evenings longer, you can find space for two extra study sessions.
- Morning study session: Start your day with a productive study session by getting up 45 minutes to an hour earlier and giving yourself about 30-40 minutes to study. Make waking up this early easier by putting your study materials in place the night before and programming the coffee maker, if possible, to have a hot cup ready.If you prefer, you could take a shower so you’re completely awake and then get right to studying for a certain amount of time before completing your morning routine. Or, you could get dressed, have breakfast, get your lunch bag ready to go, and then study until it’s time for you to leave. If you decide to eat breakfast before you study, watch a video lecture or read an outline while you eat rather than catching up on the news or social media during this time.
- Evening study session: Delay your free time a little longer after you clock out by getting right back into your studies. Take an hour or so to complete a study unit in your online review course, and make sure that your environment promotes this progress instead of hindering it.If the office is quiet and keeps you in productivity mode, stay at your desk until you’ve finished studying or they kick you out. If sitting in your cubicle another minute would melt your brain, then stop by a coffee shop, the library, the park, or any other quiet place to carry out your evening study session. Alternatively, you can go straight to your home office and lock yourself in if it’s sure to be quiet and comfortable.
- Communicate your plan.
Share your intentions to study for the CPA Exam during busy season with your senior and manager so that they’re aware. Give them the details of your study plan to reassure them that you are still committed to producing timely and high-quality work while you prepare for the exam. If you’re honest about your goals and intentions, they should be supportive and let you do what you need to as long as the quality of your work doesn’t suffer.
- Maximize your time.
If you find your job sucking up more and more of your time as busy season drags on, you may need to overlap some of your other activities in order to meet your CPA Exam study goals and stay sane. Implement these tips to maximize your time and retain control of your life:
- Be more productive during the business day.
If you can complete your work projects faster, you will have more time to study and recover. To increase your productivity,
- Eliminate ALL distractions: This means silencing your phone, setting your status as busy (all day if necessary), turning off notifications, and getting away from noisy areas.
- Schedule time for communication: Keep email, text messages, instant messenger, etc., from consuming your time by checking these communications all at once at regular intervals throughout the day and ignoring them until then.
- Make first things first: Complete your most important task before you get into anything else.
- Delegate as much as you can: Outsource tasks that don’t require judgment to service centers or interns.
- Multitask when it makes sense (and actually works).
Study while you complete menial tasks or busy work so you can redeem every second of your day. Start by turning your lunch hour into a mid-day study session. This will require you to bring your own lunch or eat alone in a quiet restaurant; politely decline the offer to dine with your coworkers and go through your flashcards, watch a video lecture, or take a practice quiz while you eat. Then, continue to use audio lectures, flashcards, physical or digital books, or your written notes to study while you accomplish tasks such as traveling, commuting, cleaning, etc.
- Maintain your health so you can work and study well.
Staying healthy while you’re super busy is critical for keeping your energy levels up and your brain fully charged. Optimize your sleep, exercise, and eating habits by following these tips:
- Get as much as sleep as you can during your designated sleep hours. You want to wake up early and still feel refreshed, so you need to get some quality shuteye. Use herbal teas, bananas, crackers, turkey, cranberries, cherries, or warm milk to help you fall asleep, and turn off your electronics at least half an hour before going to bed so that your mind can slow down.
- Work out in the morning or evening while listening to an audio lecture. Whether you use your home gym, the local gym, or the hotel gym (when you’re on the road), working out is an easy way to relieve stress, boost your energy levels, and advance your studies.
- Eat healthy foods that provide lasting energy. You definitely don’t want to crash and burn before you finish your final study session. Healthy foods that help you stay focused and alert include avocado, coffee, salmon, nuts, carrots, blueberries, oats, tomatoes, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and chocolate (yes, chocolate!).
- Be more productive during the business day.
- Take a study vacation.
If you’ve scheduled your exam section for the last few days of busy season or after it officially ends, use some of your PTO to dedicate 3-4 of the business days before your exam exclusively to your CPA Exam studies. These days of nothing but study will allow you to take a practice exam or two, finish up your final review, and be completely ready for exam day.
- Reward yourself.
If you find yourself at the end of a long day of working and studying with time to spare before you turn in (don’t stay up late and get off track!), then reward yourself with one of your more enjoyable priorities. Whether it’s reading, watching a movie, baking cookies, or playing a game with the family, indulge in whatever will help you unwind and feel better about your life. Additionally, once you’ve survived busy season and passed the CPA Exam, take a real vacation to celebrate everything that you’ve accomplished and the fact that you’ll never have to do this again.
How to Get Everything You Need to Pass the CPA Exam
An interactive study planner will be a huge help when you take on the CPA Exam during busy season. So will adaptive CPA review that targets your weak areas and leads you through the exam content so you can make the most of each study session. A course that replicates the CPA Exam as much as possible will also let you get familiar with the format and functionality of the exam before you actually sit for it. Oh, and the largest test bank of practice CPA test questions on the market is definitely not a study tool you’d regret having. Where can you find all of these and more expertly-authored CPA self-study materials? Only in Gleim CPA Review. Discover why Gleim CPA Review prepares you better than any other course by accessing our free CPA demo today.