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Contact Us : 800.874.5346 | International: +1 352.375.0772
CPA Exam Schedule Tips

Create a CPA Exam study plan that fits your life

Your CPA Exam schedule needs to take into account that you are more than just a CPA candidate. Whether it’s work, school, or your personal life, you have other commitments competing for your attention. Having a solid plan (and maybe a backup) can be the difference that helps you meet your goals.

Choose the order you are going to sit for the CPA Exam sections.

If you want to become a CPA fast, it can be beneficial to start with the section you are strongest with. Getting into a good study routine and learning the CPA Exam is hard enough without putting a more difficult section up front.

If you have no preference, we recommend taking FAR first and leaving BEC for last. You have 18 months from the time you pass your first section to complete the remaining sections, and FAR takes most candidates the longest to study for. If you aim to pass FAR first, you have all the time you need to study because it doesn’t count against your 18 months. Additionally, most candidates find BEC easiest to prepare for, so it’s a good way to end your CPA Exam journey. Taking BEC last also helps if you happen to get a Written Communication topic from AUD, REG, or even FAR. While candidates can still pass even if they don’t know everything about the topic, having more information at your disposal is rarely a bad thing.

Take note of any upcoming CPA changes and adjust accordingly. The CPA Exam goes through changes regularly. When there are big changes, you may feel more comfortable with one version over the other. You should plan to sit for the version you feel most comfortable with.


With the Gleim Review System, we guarantee you always have updated materials, and your Personal Counselor is always available to discuss exam changes with you to help you decide.

Know how much time you will need to study.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a current student, recent graduate, or seasoned accountant, the best way to begin building your study plan is to estimate how much time you will need to learn the material.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How familiar am I with the material (as outlined in the Blueprints) on the CPA Exam?
    NOTE: Gleim has Free CPA Exam Questions available to help you estimate your knowledge.
  • When was the last time I studied for an exam or took an accounting course?
  • How much available time do I have to study each week?
  • How long can I concentrate in one sitting?

On average, we find that candidates need to spend 150-160 hours studying for each CPA Exam section when using a review course. This number can go up or down depending on your needs. If you are unsure, it’s better to overestimate the time you need, as this will help keep you on track when faced with unexpected setbacks.

Plan to be interrupted.

Personal and career commitments (weddings, work conferences, birthdays, etc.) will affect your study plan and how long it will take you to become a CPA. If you know these dates ahead of time, you’ll be able to plan around them.

It is important to also plan for unexpected problems, such as illness or extra projects at work. The easiest method is to build a buffer into your available study time.

For example, if you think you can realistically study for 4 hours every Monday, plan to study for 3, and use that “3 hours every Monday” when you’re projecting your test date. You can use the extra hour you have available to make up for lost time or even to get ahead! That way, when something does come up, you’re still on track.

Get a calendar and write out your study plan.

Whether you use a physical or digital calendar, an app, or a feature of your Review Course, look at the next couple of months and plan your studies. Use this calendar to track your progress and help you decide if you need to adjust your study plan.


With the Gleim interactive study planner, candidates set goal exam dates, approximate how many hours they will study, and even mark off days when they can’t study. The Gleim Study Planner will then automatically calculate milestones for candidates to reach in the adaptive Review System. Try our demo and see how easy it is to organize your studies!

Passing the CPA Exam in 6 months

Students, recent graduates, and people with plenty of time to study should aim to sit for and pass all 4 sections of the CPA Exam in about 6 months. This would have you taking an exam every 6-7 weeks and studying about 22-26 hours each week. With continuous testing happening in most states, your ability to test more frequently will definitely help. Also, keep exam score release dates in mind, but don’t wait until you know your results for one exam before studying for the next!

StartJan 1
Begin Final ReviewFeb 8
ExamFeb 16
StartFeb 17
Begin Final ReviewMar 26
ExamApr 4
StartApr 5
Begin Final ReviewMay 15
ExamMay 23
StartMay 24
Begin Final ReviewJuly 1
ExamJuly 9

Passing the CPA Exam in 1 year

Candidates with demanding schedules will want to focus on passing each exam section within one year. Since there are four sections, you will want to sit for an exam every 2-3 months (about one per calendar quarter), and plan on setting aside 13-15 hours each week to study.

StartDec 17
Begin Final ReviewFeb 25
ExamMar 5 
StartMar 6
Begin Final ReviewMay 15
ExamMay 23
StartMay 24
Begin Final ReviewAug 2
ExamAug 10
StartAug 11
Begin Final ReviewOct 28
ExamNov 4

Build your support network.

Once you have your study plan set, be sure to let the people around you know. If you will be studying during your lunch hour, tell your boss and coworkers so they are aware of your study times. If you study after dinner, make sure your family is aware so they can try to be quiet.

It might take a few reminders as everyone adjusts to your new schedule, but it can help to share with them why you are making this sacrifice. Remember to ask for help with things when you need it so you can study more effectively. Give your children a few extra chores around the house, ask your roommate or spouse to cook dinner an extra night a week, or delegate some work to a coworker who is available to help.

If no one else in your life understands what it means to study and sit for the CPA Exam, seek out other candidates, past or present, or other exam mentors like our Personal Counselors. You’re not alone, and having someone to share the experience with can help you stay motivated!

Looking for more tips? Check out our full list!

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