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Here’s Your No-Nonsense Plan to Knock Out the CPA Exam in Six Months

No doubt in the years to come we’ll find ourselves looking back at 2020 asking what lessons can be learned from the coronavirus pandemic. While scientists, epidemiologists, and historians work on unpacking what happened here, there’s one lesson to be learned that CPA Exam candidates already knew all too well: plan for the worst, hope for the best.

By that we mean surely not even the most prepared candidate in the country could have possibly seen this coming. A thorough study plan might allow for, say, a winter flu or a particularly heavy busy season workload. But global pandemic and total shutdown? Yeah, no one penciled that one in. Prometric closures early on in the pandemic threw a wrench in everyone’s plans, from the most well-prepared candidate to the procrastinator who figured they’d get around to the exam whenever.

But now that Prometric is almost back to normal — not to mention cleaner than it’s ever been — and exam slots are beginning to be easier to come by than paper towels were in late March, it’s time to move on as best we can and start making plans. Not so easy to do when you have no idea what the next year might look like, which is all the more reason to buckle down and get it over with.

That said, there are a few “certains” on the horizon that we already know are coming in the form of CPA exam changes. Starting in October, you can expect to see CARES Act material tested in REG. Given it’s literally in the name (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), you can probably figure out what that covers. And there are changes to AUD on the horizon that add task-based simulations on data analytics using Excel to sort and filter data.

These changes are enough reason to get the exam over with before you have to worry about them, but if you find yourself still dragging your feet, keep in mind that NASBA recently announced the CPA Evolution project is moving forward, which means a huge change to the exam in 2024. So there’s that.

Need one more reason to knock out the exam? Credentialed accounting and finance professionals make 5% to 15% more than their uncredentialed counterparts. Even in a less-than-certain job market there’s no denying that the CPA can open doors and give you a leg up on the competition, so remind yourself of that next time you struggle to find the motivation to get this thing over and done.

So how exactly does one tackle the CPA exam in six months? Not gonna lie, it will take a bit more planning than the meandering, get-around-to-it-when-you-get-a-chance route some candidates take. (What, you thought this was going to be some CPA exam cheat code? Yeah sorry, no.) Even without the uncertainties of coronavirus in play, the benefit is obvious: you get the thing over with. And is there any better benefit than that?

Thanks to new continuous testing — which launched July 1 — you can retake a failed section as soon as you find out you didn’t pass, whereas under the old score release timeline you had to wait for the next testing window to retake a section. More flexibility in scheduling is good, but the six-month plan means you should prepare for and schedule each subsequent test assuming you passed the last. To better understand what that means, scroll down for a sample schedule from Gleim that lays out how to plan your exam sections under this model. If that sounds a bit confusing written down, here’s a sample schedule Gleim put together to show you how to schedule each section. If you remember, Gleim previously recommended taking FAR first; however, given the upcoming changes outlined above, they’ve switched up their recommendation so candidates can get REG and AUD out of the way before significant new content hits.

As you can see in the sample schedule above, this still allows for a retake. Let’s go with the schedule the way it’s listed and say you take REG on September 41. Your target score release date is September 16, so assuming the score release gods are smiling down upon you, you receive your score on or before that day but DARN, got a 74. It happens. What should you do?

If you answered “stop everything, throw things at your computer and meticulously review REG in order to retest,” sorry but that’s incorrect. Under the six-month study plan, you would have already started studying your next section (AUD, in the case of our handy-dandy example here) and would continue to forge ahead on that next section. BUT, because you now have the luxury to schedule a REG retake right away, you should review the score report provided to you by the AICPA after a failed exam, review the areas in which you are weak, and schedule your retake for October while continuing to study for AUD.

The key to making this plan work is not sitting around and waiting for your scores to arrive before you move on. This may feel strange as most candidates — your colleagues, classmates, and probably even you — are used to the soon-to-be antiquated tradition of waiting for your scores and then having to schedule around blackout windows should you need a retake. With these scheduling barricades effectively smashed to bits, you’re now empowered to keep pushing forward, but doing so requires sticking to your plan as best you can.

Maybe this sounds a little aggressive. Maybe you’re interested in the concept but don’t think you could possibly make a six-month study plan work with your limited available free-time. May we interest you in a 12-month study plan instead?

You see the concept is the same. It just allows a bit more time between sections. Whether you choose six or 12 months, the idea here is to use your schedule as motivation to keep going as planned, even if you fail a section. In other words, a failed section doesn’t mean your plans go out the window. With the above examples and with a little help from continuous testing, you already have allowed for a failed section just in case. Now that you have your exam dates penciled in, you can visit the Gleim Study Plan blog for a detailed study plan and more guidance on what to do next. We also suggest you check out this exam guide to learn more study tips and guidance on the exam process.

It goes without saying that a study plan like this might mean you need a little extra support. It’s not a bad idea to connect with other exam candidates, be it on forums or even through study groups (on Zoom for now, probably). If you need more support, keep in mind that Gleim has a team of Personal Counselors that will keep you on track with your study plan and cheer you on. Who doesn’t need their own cheerleader every now and then? Head over to Gleim’s website to check out all of the Gleim Premium Review System’s features, including access to your own personal coach!

Look, we don’t need to give you the big speech on tough times and all that. But when so many things are up in the air right now, wouldn’t it be nice to have a plan you can stick to? Plus, studying for the CPA exam makes a great excuse when your friends start asking why you haven’t Konmaried your entire house during quarantine like seemingly everyone else has.

Studying can feel overwhelming, especially now. But it doesn’t have to! We at Gleim are here for you. Our courses support you from start to finish and take away all the guesswork so that studying at home doesn’t feel like studying alone. Our SmartAdapt™ course will guide you through the topics you need to master and tell you when you’re ready to sit for the CPA exam. We deliver complete coverage of exam content through easy-to-understand outlines, plus on-demand, closed-captioned videos when you need a professor to teach you the concepts (or you just want to see someone else’s face). Best of all, our Personal Counselors are here to provide one-on-one assistance and would be thrilled to receive your call or email!

When it’s time to test your exam readiness, our mock exams are closer to the real exam than any other you will find. Demo REG for free today and make the most of your time at home by joining the millions who have passed with Gleim!