Best Way to Study for the CPA Exam

best way to study for the cpa exam

The CPA Exam covers a vast range of accounting information, but a lot of it should look familiar to CPA candidates. If you’ve met the educational requirements for taking the CPA Exam, then you’ve already had extensive exposure to CPA Exam content. However, because you can’t indefinitely retain every accounting detail you’ve learned, you’ll need to review the exam content that has slipped your mind since your last accounting class in order to pass. The topics you can’t remember now (or never fully understood) are your current weak areas, and the best way to study for the CPA Exam is to focus on those weak areas.


Best Way to Study for the CPA Exam: Focus On Weak Areas

Focusing on your weak areas is the best way to study for the CPA Exam because this strategy is both efficient and effective. When you focus on your weak areas, you’re only studying what you need to study for as long as you need to study it. If you study everything, you’re studying more than you need to and wasting a lot of time. You’re also risking burnout, which may leave you too mentally exhausted to pass the CPA Exam once you actually sit for it. Focusing on your weak areas allows you to reach mastery of all exam topics as soon as possible, and this can be done with the following steps:

  1. Detect – Use diagnostic quizzes to find your weak areas
  2. A diagnostic quiz is a quick little quiz you take before you start to study a topic. The purpose of a diagnostic quiz is to reveal what you already know about that topic and pinpoint the details you don’t know. Completing a diagnostic quiz before diving into each study unit of your CPA review enables you to hone in on the right content areas of that study unit. You can successfully determine your weak areas for a study unit with a diagnostic quiz containing as few as 20 questions.

    Keeping the quizzes short and specific to each study unit lets you separate your work into manageable sessions. Some courses require you to take a gigantic quiz of 400+ questions addresses all of the exam content at once. This type of “quiz” (it’s like the entire CPA Exam at once) could take hours to finish and delay your actual studies for several days. Diagnostic quizzes that you can complete in one sitting are less draining and permit you to dive right in to that unknown material as soon as you identify it. The fact that you already have some knowledge about the content will motivate you to push your understanding to its peak in all areas and give you the confidence to do it.

  3. Target – Review the content you struggle with to optimize your studies
  4. Once you know your weak areas, you can begin to build them up by going back to the basics. You don’t need to keep quizzing yourself just yet. You need to learn the information that has evaded you thus far and store it deep within your mind. To do so, you should use the study materials that best suit your learning style. A review course that offers a variety of CPA self-study materials will help you find the most effective way for you to grasp the information and get it to stick.

    You can begin with content outlines that let you learn as fast as you can read, or you can go straight to CPA video lectures that offer more thorough explanations, real-world examples, and a fresh perspective on difficult concepts. Though video lectures take a little longer to go through, the professor-led video lectures of Gleim Premium CPA Review divide each topic into several short videos so that you can move at your own pace. For even more learning flexibility, you can hone your weak areas while checking items off your to-do list with audio lectures. Made for multitasking, audio lectures enable you to listen to commentary on troublesome topics while you drive, ride the bus, clean the house, or even exercise. When you attack your weak areas from all angles with different review materials, you’re sure to sharpen your understanding of the exam content.

  5. Strengthen – Improve your recall with practice quizzes
  6. To prove that you’re progressing your knowledge to the levels the CPA Exam expects, you eventually need to get back to quizzes. Taking quizzes is a form of practice testing, and practice testing is one of the top study methods. Practice testing can do as much as double your recall and works for both simple questions (like CPA Exam multiple-choice questions) and more complex questions (like Task-Based Simulations). Practice testing also requires less time than many other study methods, like rereading or self-explanation. Therefore, you should take plenty of quizzes throughout your review to ensure you really are improving your weak areas and that what you’re learning is entering your long-term memory.

    To achieve mastery in every content area, you should complete practice quizzes as you work through each study unit that include questions from topics you struggled with in past study units. Consistently testing your weak areas empowers you to learn from your mistakes, which is another reason practice testing is so effective. When you answer a question incorrectly and read detailed answer explanations that reveal why the right answer was right and the wrong answers were wrong, that new information leaves a lasting impression in your mind. The next time you encounter a similar question, you can use the memory of your negative experience (answering the original question wrong) to make a better judgment with the information you have available and answer the question correctly. Additionally, regularly taking practice quizzes keeps tricky topics at the forefront of your mind.

  7. Anticipate – Practice in an environment that emulates the CPA Exam
  8. Incorporating practice quizzes into your CPA exam prep equips you to overcome weaknesses with the exam content, but that’s only half the battle. To overcome weaknesses with the exam format, you must take practice quizzes that emulate the look and feel of the CPA Exam. Each CPA Exam section has a total testing time of four hours, and you’ll want to dedicate every second of that time to answering the questions to the best of your ability. Trying to figure out how to maneuver through the testlets, navigate the question types, and submit your answers successfully can waste a good deal of your precious testing time, so you should familiarize yourself with these processes in advance.

    Exam-emulating CPA review exposes you to the format and functionality of the exam before you sit for it, so it’s essential for maximizing your exam-day confidence. When you study with a course that mirrors the CPA Exam in every possible way, you’ll feel right at home in the Prometric testing center. Gleim CPA Review features more exam emulation than any other course on the market, so you can use it to become completely comfortable with the CPA Exam.

Best CPA Review for Focusing On Your Weak Areas: Gleim CPA Review

Focusing on your weak areas is the best way to study for the CPA Exam. It is also a proven study strategy at the foundation of the Gleim learning system. In 40+ years, Gleim has helped candidates pass more than 1 million CPA exams by guiding them through these steps, and we’ve designed our SmartAdaptTM technology to take that guidance to the next level. Our truly adaptive CPA course generates a study plan tailored specifically to your learning needs and constantly adjusts to your performance so that you’re totally prepared for CPA Exam success. Walk through our system of detecting, targeting, strengthening, and anticipating your weaknesses today by accessing our free CPA course demo.