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Here’s How to Study For the CPA Exam and Still Salvage a Decent Summer

woman in a field

I dunno about you but I’ve been in a real funk since at least October. Maybe it’s just a seasonal thing, maybe I need professional help idk, but either way, summer really surprised me. It was like one day temperatures were cooling and leaves were falling, the next I woke up from yet another nap and suddenly it’s 95 degrees with a red hot sun shining down on trees plump with fresh green leaves. I hate summer. Give me an igloo with a wolfskin blanket and a fire in Northern Minnesota over East Coast humidity any day. I digress.

If you, like me, were taken completely by surprise when summer snuck up on you, well then I guess we’re not alone. Actually, it’s sort of a known, if somewhat misunderstood, phenomena that time appears to pass faster as you age; add to that new research that says fatigue and a lack of stimuli (think: repetitive daily tasks, the bulk of which are boring as shit) can make time seem to be slipping out of our hands quicker and quicker. That thing they say about time flying when you’re having fun? Yeah, bullshit. Time flies when you’re tired, rapidly aging, and bored as hell. I imagine a good number of you fit in at least two of those categories.

So if you’ve ever had one of those “oh shit, when did Christmas get here?” moments, it’s not just your procrastination to blame. I mean, maybe that’s a big part of it but let’s go ahead and blame it on some outside factor. In the meantime, let’s talk about how to make the most of the next three months and plug ever onward through the CPA exam.

There are about 2,208 hours in summer, many of which are daylight. Let’s be generous and say you sleep seven hours a night, which takes up 644 hours. Let’s also be generous and assume you’re a normal human being with a regular job working eight hours a day, five days a week, which makes 512 hours, give or take. That leaves 1,052 hours to work with if my math is correct, which it may entirely not be since I leave that shit to you guys.

You need about 300-400 hours to study for the CPA exam, depending of course on your core understanding of tested concepts going into it, as well as a plethora of other factors we won’t get into here. Barring a few exceptional outliers, most people fit nicely into that window as far as study time needed goes. So technically speaking, you absolutely could study for and pass all four parts of the CPA exam during summer while working a full-time job and getting a decent night’s rest, but who the hell would do that to themselves?

The entire reason for that exercise was to show that although time flies when you’re parked on the couch stuffing your face, scrolling Reddit, and binge-watching Mad Men for the fifth time, you actually have a lot more time than you think. So if you must, budget it. As you can see from the exercise above, there’s plenty to go around. Prioritize the things that are important to you like time with friends, lounging at the pool, collecting sweat stains on your white t-shirts, whatever.

Second, be realistic. If you’re one of those people who thrives on sunbathing (do people still do that?) and loitering at outdoor cafes when the weather is nice, then don’t be a dumbass and try to cram in too many CPA exam sections during summer. Do that shit when it’s all slushy and gross outside. Unless you’ve blown it off for the last three years and you’re one rescheduled exam away from being counseled out of public accounting forever, there’s absolutely no reason to force yourself to bite off more than you can chew. Bragging rights? Nope, no one gives a shit. Oppression points? Yeah, OK, maybe you’ll be able to complain about how rough your life is when you’re cooped up in the air conditioning doing MCQ drills for the eleventy billionth time while everyone else is out enjoying the nice weather, but see above re: no one gives a crap. At the end of the day, assuming you pass, you and the guy who took all 18 months to pass have exactly equal certifications.

My old boss at CPA review used to (and probably still does) say the CPA exam is a marathon, not a sprint. You ever try to run a marathon in the middle of summer? Fuck that. Pace yourself. Take the time to appreciate a cold beer on a hot patio. Enjoy it now while you can, because summer only comes once a year. Cheers.