In a recent blog post, NASBA's Ryan Hirsch offers five tips to know before taking the CPA exam that might seem a bit obvious so instead of regurgitating them here, let's give them a good old fashioned Going Concern spin.
1. Utilize a CPA exam Review Course
DUH. We don't have official figures on this but Becker does claim their students pass at a rate twice that of those who don't use their course. They've been using that figure at least as long as I started in CPA review five years ago, despite the fact that the national pass rate has changed over the years, Becker's claim hasn't. Still, we can safely assume that it's much easier to study for the exam when you have something to study. The CPA review course you choose is less important than what you choose to do with the course you pick, so do some research, ask around for suggestions and get to cracking on those books, this exam ain't gonna study itself you know.
2. Review Study Material On-the-Go
The great thing about technology is that it allows you the opportunity to squeeze in an extra five or ten minutes of studying on your smartphone wherever you might be: the train, the bus, waiting in line at the DMV and – our personal favorite – on the can. So go ahead and take that 15 minute potty break, you've earned it! And if anyone at your firm questions why you always seem to be in the bathroom, make sure you are seen with Chipotle often and if they get really pushy, start practicing your TMI defense now. Trust us, after a few sentences with explicit descriptions of corny consistency, they'll never ask again.
3. Understand the Exam is a Marathon, not a Sprint
Funny, this is exactly what my former boss used to say, too. No, like word-for-word. You can't copyright a phrase, can you? Anyhoo, the process could take a year – or even three for some candidates – so it is important to pace yourself. By pace yourself we mean "studying in small pieces over a longer period of time versus large chunks in a shorter period" and NOT "take your sweet ass time getting around to cracking open your CPA review books, lest you get exhausted from reading the Table of Contents." Balance is key; keep studying regularly and make it a part of your routine but don't make it the only thing you do for the next year and a half or you'll get burned out and probably fail anyway. A good rule of thumb is no more than three hours of studying per session, per day. Anything more than that and your brain will just shut off anyway.
4. Remember: Every Exam is Different
Once again, technology is a beautiful thing. Back in the day when the exam was paper and pencil, you could actually get a copy of your exam when you were done! There were only a handful of possible question combos and if you failed, you'd have to wait months for the next retake. Nowadays, if you get a particularly hard exam and bomb horribly, don't hang yourself over it as the next time you might get a much easier combination of questions! It's a true crapshoot, so don't get discouraged if you ended up on the crap side the first time around.
5. Adopt Good Sleep Habits
This is a no-brainer not only for CPA exam candidates but any human being, really. Becker suggests getting a good night's sleep the night before your exam but as anyone who has tried to go to bed early one night only to lie there tossing and turning until 3 am can tell you – it isn't always that easy. Start improving your bedtime routine early on and you'll have an easier time getting that good night's sleep the night before your exam without chemical assistance. You can't afford to wake up foggy the morning of your exam. The benefits of a good sleep routine are numerous and will really pay off on exam day.
Great job on the article, NASBA, but maybe next time you can dig a little deeper and offer some tips that haven't already been given a thousand times already? KTHNX.