The new year is here! As we enter 2018, we begin that special time during which people remember an old season of life and celebrate a new one. It’s an ideal moment to reflect on all our habits and discover how we can improve, especially when it comes to our CPA Exam study habits. If you’ve taken a section or two of the exam, you should stop to consider your best and worst study habits in order to review for your remaining exam sections more efficiently and effectively. Step up your study game and finish strong by using our top 7 CPA Exam study tips of 2017 to make your own New Year’s study resolutions.
Top 7 CPA Exam Study Tips
These CPA Exam study tips will help you refine your review and perfect your preparations. Equip yourself to pass the CPA Exam in 2018 by applying each of them.
- Reach greater levels of comprehension with the exam content.The CPA Exam expects you to be able to not only remember and understand the content in the CPA Exam blueprints but also apply, analyze, and evaluate it. You cannot get away with simply memorizing the terms, definitions, and formulas. You must have a solid grasp of the concepts and be able to use them. The purpose of the CPA Exam is to ensure that newly licensed CPAs are capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of the position, so passing the exam requires candidates to demonstrate higher order skills with the exam content.
One indication that you possess these skills is the ability to reword information about an exam topic rather than simply recite it. You can only reach this level of knowledge by completing effective study sessions in which you focus on retaining the exam content.
- Eliminate distractions when you study.You can only commit 100% of your concentration to your studies when you clear away any and all distractions. To maximize your study time, you should stay away from the T.V., find a quiet place, only listen to instrumental music, and turn your phone on silent (better yet, put it across the room if you can). The only exception to this rule is when you’re doing busywork that simply requires muscle memory, such as driving, exercising, traveling, cleaning, etc. Otherwise, don’t try to study and multitask. It only prevents you from studying well and ensures that you waste your time. It’s a hard study habit to break, but it’s worth it. If you deny yourself temporary pleasures now, you’ll enjoy the more permanent benefits of the CPA later.
- Don’t memorize the content of the practice questions and simulations.Don’t fall prey to another bad study habit: memorizing the content of the practice CPA test questions. This strategy is ineffective because it is highly unlikely that the content you see in a practice question will be exactly the same as what you will see in a real CPA Exam question. Additionally, the CPA Exam is not testing your ability to memorize answers. Therefore, you should instead direct your mental effort toward understanding the topics the practice questions address. You won’t acquire the necessary knowledge and skills unless you concentrate on the exam topics tested instead of memorizing question content. While familiarizing yourself with the wording of CPA Exam questions is a good idea, it should not be your main focus. Focus on comprehension — practice will inherently make you familiar enough with the wording.
- Use your exam time limit to complete practice questions and simulations.While memorizing the questions and answers is one of the worst things you can do when answering practice CPA test questions, one of the best things you can do is apply time management. Observing appropriate time management when working through practice quizzes and simulations empowers you to get comfortable with the actual CPA Exam time limits in advance. Total testing time for each CPA Exam section is four hours, but each section has a different total number of questions. Therefore, you need to know the specific amount of time to allot to the process of answering each exam question per section.
Gleim CPA has already done the math and created a CPA Exam time management system that tells you exactly how many minutes you should devote to each testlet and even what the exam timer should say at the start and finish of each testlet. Though our recommended time allocation for each testlet varies, in general, you should average about 1.25 minutes for each multiple-choice question (MCQ), 18 minutes for each Task-Based Simulation (TBS), and 25 minutes for each Written Communication (WC). If you get in the habit of answering practice questions within these time constraints, you’ll be ahead of the game when you sit for the CPA Exam.
- Employ your work experience to understand the simulations.Some bad study habits are sins of omission, like not considering your work experience as you prepare for the CPA Exam. Passing the CPA Exam is just one of the CPA licensure requirements. Earning about two years of experience in public accounting is another requirement, and you really can use your accounting experience to help you pass the CPA Exam. The projects you accomplish on the job can expand your insight into the TBSs you must complete on the exam. As you work through practice TBSs like Document Review Simulations, recall times in which you performed the tasks the TBSs expect you to do, such as reviewing and revising an audit request list or analyzing tax depreciation worksheets in order to correct a letter to a controller. Additionally, think about your interactions with practice TBSs when you receive new project assignments at work, as you may find that the process of taking on the real-world task will help you correct your common TBS mistakes and refine your approach to this type of exam question. But remember, using your work experience to understand CPA Exam content works well in some instances, but not every instance. The CPA Exam often deals in theory, and a theory and the application of that theory in a work environment can be fairly different.
You should also use your time on the job to enhance your comprehension of the core audit process, which is a significant part of the AUD CPA Exam section. You can ask an auditor you know to show you how (s)he interacts with the auditing process and then compare the scenarios in the exam questions to your knowledge of what auditors do on a daily basis.
- Know the content of other CPA Exam sections.After you pass one section of the CPA Exam, you may be tempted to toss everything you learned for that section out of your head to make space for what you must know to pass the next section. This is a bad habit to develop because, occasionally, remembering content from one exam section makes it easier to succeed on another exam section. The WCs on the BEC CPA Exam section contribute to this truth by covering content from all four exam sections. To prepare for the WCs, you should expect to discuss topics from BEC as well as AUD, FAR, and REG.
TBSs also address multiple aspects of accounting at a time, so you will need to recall topics from different exam sections in order to finish the TBSs on the exam. With your college education, you should not encounter any completely new information in the study units of your CPA review. Instead, the content should simply look unfamiliar at worst.
- Review the answer explanations.The best way to study for the CPA Exam is to learn from your mistakes, and you can develop this study habit while taking MCQ quizzes. After completing an MCQ quiz, you should review the answer explanations for both the questions you got wrong and the ones you got right. The answer explanations for the questions you missed will tell you why your reasoning was incorrect and can help you adjust your thinking. Actions that cause you to miss questions may include misreading the question stem, making a mathematical error, lacking any knowledge of the topic, or being distracted by wrong answer options.
Reviewing the explanations for questions you answered correctly can confirm your understanding and offer further insights. They can also offer a new perspective on the topic that you may need to further strengthen your weaknesses. Finally, reading the answer explanations will reinforce your memory retention and increase your chances of repeat success.
Top CPA Exam Review
These CPA Exam study tips will help you turn around any bad habits you’ve developed, so you can start the new year off right when you make these your New Year’s study resolutions for 2018. However, effective study habits alone will not ensure you pass. You need a CPA review course that will prepare you for the exam better than anything else, and Gleim CPA Review is that course. In 40+ years, Gleim has helped candidates pass more than one million CPA exams. Our proven approach and extensive experience set the benchmark for exam prep while providing you with everything you need to achieve your own CPA Exam success. Discover our innovative and expertly-authored CPA self-study materials by accessing our free CPA course demo today.