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Studying for BEC Leads a CPA Exam Candidate to Drugs

We don’t have any CPA exam questions in the mailbag this week (you slackers) so we’re resorting yet again to trolling the CPAnet forums for good questions. Here’s an excellent one:

I’ve never had an issue studying, I guess it’s mainly because I always had a logical way of figuring stuff out and completing it extremely quick (which is why REG and AUD were so easy). However, BEC is making a fool of me. I can’t seem to figure out how to attack it, and am severely lacking motivation to study it.

I’ve used adderall a few times, and man does it help. However, I’ve had a recent serotonin problem .. and now if I take it, it actually triggers panic attacks which I try to avoid like the plague.

Do you guys have any other suggestions?

If you grew up in the 90s, chances are you knew at least a handful of kids diagnosed with ADD and prescribed Ritalin or other amphetamine-based prescription drugs to treat this “condition.” I graduated high school in 1998 and at that point, several enterprising young men and women in my class were funding their car payments by selling their prescriptions to classmates.

Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are central nervous system stimulants that artificially force dopamine (the natural “happy drug” in your brain usually released when you are doing something you enjoy like reading Going Concern, writing your resignation letter or sleeping with randoms in your office) to the synapses in your brain. This creates the thrill, so you, in turn, look at studying as something enjoyable. Under the influence of these drugs, you could, in theory, also equally enjoy a root canal, colonoscopy, or your 12th straight hour of busy season gruntwork. Perhaps not ironically, this chemical reaction is similar to the one created in your brain when you fall in love.

The problem with taking Adderall to study for the CPA exam (as opposed to taking it to study for finals in college) is that your brain retains exam information better in smaller pieces over a longer period of time. You simply cannot “cram” for the CPA exam. Not to mention the fact that it’s illegal if you’re buying someone else’s prescription and you are supposed to represent the profession in an ethical manner but we won’t get into that.

Instead, try some of these tips to grease your brain up for studying. Trust us, you’ll be happier and healthier in the long run, though maybe not as unusually happy in the short-term.

Try Omega-3s: While the research is a bit sketchy, it is believed that Omega-3 fatty acids improve general brain function and can positively impact memory. You can find Omega-3s in salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, flax oil, and walnuts or take a quality fish oil supplement daily.

Avoid simple carbs
: Simple carbohydrates like white bread are instantly converted to sugar in your body, filling you with empty calories. Too much sugar at once can actually starve your brain of the glucose it needs to function properly, negatively affecting memory and concentration. Instead, try to eat more complex carbohydrates like peanuts, dried apricots, dried beans and yogurt and stay away from quick fixes like candy.

Eat breakfast: If you are working and studying for the CPA exam, breakfast is probably something you haven’t seen in months or years but numerous studies prove that breakfast has a positive effect on how your brain performs. And if you’re a girl, you might want to try oatmeal instead of cereal, it could improve your short-term memory.

Caffeine is OK, in moderation: Caffeine works in a similar way to Adderall except much milder, in moderation. If you must get a fix, try to avoid sugary energy drinks and stick to plain coffee. Adding flavored cream or sugar to coffee adds empty calories that you might regret once you’re actually done with the exam and needing to shed the extra 10 or even 20 pounds you packed on during studying.