HOW TO CREATE A CPA EXAM STUDY PLAN FOR A BUSY SCHEDULE?
02 Nov 2021
How to Create a CPA Exam Study Plan for a Busy Schedule?
If you are preparing for your Certified Public Accountant exam, one of the most important things you can do is set up a study plan that fits your schedule. Most people fail the exam, not because of their intellect but because they don’t have a CPA exam study plan that motivates them to stay on track.
Without a well-designed CPA exam study plan, you are likely to study only when you get bursts of motivation to do so. In the absence of a preparation schedule, it is quite easy and tempting to skip a day and waste a few hours here and there. However, such an approach won't help you get prepared for the exam at the right time. To avoid this, there are some steps you can take to devise a fail proof strategy for the exam.
Let us understand how you can create a plan that helps you prepare for your CPA exam, regardless of how busy your schedule is.
Book the Exam Date:-
While it may sound unrealistic to book the CPA exam date even before preparing for it, it actually works wonders. Setting a date gives you the time frame to create your prep schedule and a deadline that you need to adhere to.
A lot of people put off studying because they haven't set the exam date. Some people decide they will book a date after getting halfway through the course. However, they find themselves procrastinating, never completing their goal.
Booking a CPA exam date sets a target for you to aim for. It is recommended to pass a CPA exam section in a timeframe of 9 months. This ensures you get enough time to study for each section without the study material becoming repetitive or boring. Here is a guideline for the number of hours you should allocate for different sections in your CPA exam study plan.
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR): 110 hours
Regulation (REG): 100 hours
Auditing and Attestation (AUD): 90 hours
Business Environment and Concepts (BEC): 80 hours
Though these are just estimates and the time it takes for you to prepare these sections can be longer or shorter, they serve as a good starting point. You can consider scheduling one exam at a time and take sufficient time to prepare. Once you complete it, you can determine if you should take two sections in the next exam.
Map out Your Regime:-
Before creating a study schedule, you should first map your days, weeks, and months. You can look at your month and note the time commitments. See if you have events that could get in the way of your study.
You might have some trips, birthdays, and other plans on the calendar. You can mark them as no-study days and try to cover them earlier or later.
Next, you can proceed to map your workweek. Remember to account for everything, including the time you take for the commute. Note the time for tasks like shopping, cooking, exercise, laundry, and anything else you must do during the week.
The end goal is to map your regime to your schedule. Applying a disciplined routine to your days, weeks, and months is key to your success in the CPA exam. Though it seems tough to establish a routine and stick to it, it pays off in the long run and takes away a lot of stress.
Set a Schedule :-
Once you have booked a section, you can write down your weekly schedule for preparation. Most CPA candidates have a full-time job; not everybody can afford to take a year off to study for the exam. So, the best thing you can do is find out how you can utilize this guide and prepare for your exam alongside your busy schedule.
Start by looking at your weekdays to determine which days you can study before or after work hours. As a general guideline, you should set aside at least 1.5-2 hours per day for weekdays and 8-10 hours every weekend. This would give you a total preparation time of 18 hours per week. You would require about five weeks to prepare for a section.
It is important to create realistic timelines for different tasks when you set up your schedule. If you think a task should take 30 minutes, give yourself 40 minutes to ensure that you don’t delay your entire schedule in case you run over.
This also gives you some breathing space and some extra time that adds up over weeks and months.
When preparing for your CPA exam with a well-designed plan, it is necessary to avoid getting overambitious. Most of us get too excited in the beginning and start using the available time for preparation. However, you should give yourself some time to relax, otherwise, you may get tired and find it difficult to stick to the schedule throughout your timeframe for study.
Get Rid of Distractions :-
A sure way to free up a lot of your time is to get yourself rid of any distractions. While most of you might think it challenging to devote 18 hours per week to study while working for 55-60 hours a week, it is actually easy. Consider everything that is a distraction – movies, social media, games, reality TV shows, and a lot more.
By simply getting rid of them, you can free up hours and dedicate them to your CPA exam preparation. For example, you might be spending an hour browsing Facebook and other apps on your phone. If you go on a social media hiatus, you will end up with an hour of extra time to study every day.
When you have finally set an exam date, created a schedule on the calendar, and eliminated the distractions, it is time to get started. Stick to your set schedule to the best of your ability. Go slow and remain consistent. It is all about studying a little every day until your exam date. Make sure your CPA courses have the maximum impact.
Remember not to think too much about the future and stay focused on what you have scheduled for the day. If you start to look forward to a few weeks, it is easy to get discouraged. Simply strive to complete your day’s to-do list.
This is just a guideline for those who have a busy schedule and want to prepare for their CPA exam; you can finetune it to match your needs. But whatever schedule you create, remember to stick to it.
Consistency and discipline will help you stay on track even with a busy work schedule or a full-time job, making your CPA exam preparation journey easier and improving your chances of success.
Bryan Kesler is a renowned CPA exam mentor and founder of CPA Exam Guide.. You can connect with Bryan on Linkedin and follow him on Twitter.