How to Pass the CPA Exam Fast

how to pass the cpa exam fast

When you think about taking the CPA Exam, do you feel the need for speed? How long it takes to pass the CPA Exam primarily depends on how much time you have to study, so there’s no pressure to move too quickly. Above all, the goal is to pass each section the first time. That said, it is possible to prepare at an accelerated pace for candidates willing and able to fast-forward the exam process. We’ll provide the mandatory moves and some sample study schedules so you can learn how to pass the CPA Exam fast.

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How to Pass the CPA Exam Fast

CPA Exam preparation is no different than preparation for a physical feat like running a marathon. To compete in such a demanding activity, you must commit time to getting yourself ready. You’ll spend this time training hard so you can whip your body into shape. In your pursuit of becoming a marathon runner, you could work out wisely by having a coach or following a known system, or you could just try to figure it out on your own. Without knowing anything about running a marathon, you probably understand innately that you’d save yourself a lot of time and perform better if you had a coach or followed a sound, well-thought-out program. Studying for the CPA Exam is the same.

Whether or not you want to break any speed records, you’ll have to take these vital steps to pass the CPA Exam fast:

  1. Use a CPA review course

    This is a must because a review course saves time. It spares you from plodding through the CPA Exam Blueprints alone in an effort to grasp the expansive CPA Exam content, and most courses offer a number of different resources to keep your study sessions fresh and engaging. A thorough review course covers all of the Blueprint content in a clear and concise manner. Relying on a CPA review course is only way to get on the fast track to exam success, so determine the right course for you.

  2. Create and follow a CPA Exam study plan

    You won’t be able to stay in the CPA express lane without a CPA Exam study schedule. A study plan equips you to familiarize yourself with all of the exam content and get comfortable with the exam environment by your preferred test day. It’s key to maximizing your time early so you aren’t scrambling later. The faster you want to pass the CPA Exam, the more extreme your study plan must be. Because you can’t cut corners with your exam preparations, you’ll have to make sacrifices with your schedule instead. Brace yourself for a period of less entertainment, less socializing, and less sleep, but don’t worry! It will only last until you pass.

  3. Focus on your weak areas

    Devoting the majority of your review to unfamiliar or troublesome exam content is the best way to study for the CPA Exam. This strategy is both efficient and effective, as it directs you to study only what you need to for as long as necessary. You won’t be wasting time or energy on material you already know. Instead, you’ll reach expert status with all exam topics as soon as possible. Additionally, you often learn more from getting questions wrong and reading the answer explanations than you do from getting questions right. Strengthen your weaknesses by

    1. Taking a diagnostic quiz before approaching a new topic,
    2. Going back to the basics of the content you struggle with,
    3. Regularly quizzing yourself on that content, and
    4. Reading the answer explanations for the incorrect questions.

    You can adjust your exam prep to focus on your weak areas by yourself, but letting an adaptive CPA review course do it for you is much faster.

  4. Pass each exam section the first time

    Obviously, even one CPA Exam section fail will be a setback. But it can be a bigger setback than you might expect. The average amount of study time per exam section is 160 hours, and most successful candidates invest over 500 hours total in their preparations. You can’t retake your failed exam section until the next testing window, so months will pass before you get another shot. During that time, you’ll have to focus on both strengthening your understanding of the content you missed and maintaining mastery of the content you know. This can add a hundred hours or more to your already significant time investment.

CPA Exam Timing

Practicing with a review course, adhering to a study schedule, and passing the first time are the aspects of your exam timeline that you can control. But the CPA Exam process involves some steps you can’t speed up.

First, you must choose and apply to a CPA state board of accountancy before you can schedule the CPA Exam, and working with the different CPA partners to accomplish these essential tasks takes time. For example, the registration process is full of red tape and potential pitfalls. Furthermore, you can only take the CPA Exam during four annual testing windows, which include the first 2 months and the first 10 days of the third month in each quarter.

  • Q1: January 1 – March 10
  • Q2: April 1 – June 10
  • Q3: July 1 – September 10
  • Q4: October 1 – December 10

As you can see, there will be blackout dates during which you can’t test, only study. Also, you must schedule your exam at least five days in advance. It’s recommended that you schedule at least 65 days in advance to secure your preferred time and location, but if you want to pass fast, you can’t afford to be picky with your exam dates.

How to Pass the CPA Exam in 1 Year

Passing the CPA Exam in one year involves a moderate study plan that works well for candidates who’ve been out of school for a while and need a refresher on a fair number of topics. To accomplish this, aim to pass one section per testing window and budget approximately 10-12 weeks of study time per section. As mentioned, the average amount of study time required to prepare for each section is 160 hours. To log this many study hours in 10-12 weeks, you should study 13-15 hours a week at a rate of one and a half to two hours of study per day. However, the amount of time you need to study correlates to how your knowledge base, so you may need less time to study the relevant material that you know well.

Time Line

Weeks per Section

Hours per Week

Hours per Day

1 year

10-12

13-15

1 ½-2

How to Pass the CPA Exam in 6 Months

If you’re not currently battling through busy season and you regularly apply the relevant accounting skills, you can consider passing the CPA Exam in six months (which is generally how long your Notice to Schedule (NTS) is valid). This study plan is aggressive but feasible. To manage it, take one section at the beginning and another section near the end of two consecutive testing windows, budgeting approximately six to seven weeks of study per section (e.g., exam dates of January 2, February 14, April 1, and May 15). You’ll need to study 22-26 hours per week (that’s about three to three and a half hours of study a day) to stick to this schedule.

Time Line

Weeks per Section

Hours per Week

Hours per Day

6 months

6-7

22-26

3-3 ½

How to Pass the CPA Exam in 3 Months

If you’re a soon-to-graduate accounting student or a very recent graduate with loads of information from your accounting classes still fresh in your mind (and you’d love to pass the exam before your first accounting job starts in the fall), you have the unique opportunity to attempt the entire exam in just three months (or four if your job doesn’t start until September). Most other types of candidates should not attempt this plan. A three month period is about equivalent to one testing window, and there are two testing windows in the summer (April 1 – June 10, July 1 – September 10). Still, we’re warning you: it will be grueling. To pass this fast, you’ll have to study at an almost double-time pace (somewhere between 50-80 hours a week, depending on how well you know the material) and either study for two sections simultaneously for four weeks or give yourself only two weeks for each section. Clearly, there won’t be room for much else in your life. To stay sane during your 11-hour study sessions, take a 20-minute break every three hours. To stay healthy, eat during these breaks, exercise regularly, and shoot for six to eight hours of sleep a night.

Time Line

Weeks per Section

Hours per Week

Hours per Day

3 months

2

80

11 ½

How to Pass the CPA Exam in 20 Days

This time, we don’t mean the entire CPA Exam. Just one section of the CPA Exam. Passing the whole exam in just three weeks is practically impossible and never advisable. Twenty days (give or take a few) isn’t the most ideal amount of time for passing one section either, but if it’s your only option, it’s worth a shot. Like the previous study itinerary, this schedule is probably only feasible for students and recent graduates. Sometimes, life happens (or you procrastinate in a major way), and you find yourself needing to pass in about three weeks in order to save your exam credit from the cut-off of the 18-month window (or even just to use your NTS before it expires). If this describes you, you can reach 160 hours of studying in approximately 20 days by putting in eight hours every day. If you can’t start working part-time for this brief period for the sake of hitting that daily mark, you’ll have to wake up earlier, stay up later, and clock longer study sessions over the weekends. It might not be an enjoyable 20 days, but it will be rewarding to have passed the exam section that almost got away.

Time Line

Weeks per Section

Hours per Week

Hours per Day

20 days

~3

53

8

CPA Review for Passing the Exam Fast

If you want to achieve complete CPA Exam success in less time, make the process easier on yourself by preparing with an adaptive CPA review course. Powered by our SmartAdapt™ technology, Gleim CPA Review is the best adaptive exam prep on the market. Our course

  • keeps you on track for success with our interactive study planner,
  • directs you to only study what you don’t know by detecting your weak areas,
  • helps you strengthen those weaknesses by serving you more practice questions about topics you missed, and
  • tells you when you’re ready to take the exam with our Final Review mode.

Access our free CPA course demo today to experience the speed of SmartAdapt™ for yourself.