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10 Sure Fire Ways to Pass the CPA Exam

Updated on April 3, 2014

Contrary to popular belief...

...studying is not the only action that will contribute to your success on the CPA Exam. Your ability to pass the CPA exam depends on many factors, and as a review course that has helped over 90,000 students pass the CPA Exam, we have compiled a list of our top ten ways to pass the CPA Exam. We hope this list will encourage every student to take their CPA exam experience to the next level!

1. Get Motivated

Reflect: Why do I want to be a CPA?

Before you start studying, ask yourself, why CPA? Is it the prestige, or the benefits, or the career security? Whatever the reasons may be, it’s important to keep them in your mind before and during your studies so you can power through. There’s a lot of content to learn on the CPA exam, so knowing why you’re pursuing a CPA will help you get motivated and stay motivated!

2. Know What it's Going to Take

Pace yourself and understand the exam

The AICPA states that the successful CPA Exam student studies between 300-400 hours. This number is usually over a span of 3-12 months (longer for some). The bottom line: you’ll need to surrender yourself to this exam. You will miss parties, maybe some special events (that Valentine’s Day date may need a rain check) and you’ll be okay with it because you will know why you want to be a CPA (re: Get Motivated). It's also important to keep in mind the levels of stress you will face. Many of you aren't just studying for this exam; you have full time internships, jobs, and even kids. Be prepared to face these stressful situations beforehand.

Besides preparing mentally, it is also crucial to understand the exam's format itself. Here's a quick breakdown (as of 4/2014):

Audit: 4 hours of testing, 90 multiple choice, 7 TBS*

Financial Accounting and Reporting: 4 hours of testing, 90 multiple choice, 7 TBS

Regulation: 3 hours of testing, 72 multiple choice, 6 TBS

Business Environment and Concepts: 72 multiple choice, 3 written communication.

TBS= Task Based Simulations.

If some of the terms above don't make sense to you, then you need to spend some time learning the exam! Check out this complete CPA Exam breakdown to learn more.

3. Research Review Courses

Pick the Right Tools.

The CPA Exam Preparation industry is flooded with many companies who flaunt high pass rates, fancy tools, but can also cost an arm and a leg. Your job is to find one that strikes the right balance: the course should give you the tools you need, have an impressive pass rate, and definitely should not leave your bank handicapped. We urge you to watch course demos, read testimonials, and call up their customer service to ask any questions- most companies LOVE talking to students! If you choose to study with a CPA review course, it’s important to do your research. If you end up purchasing a review course that doesn't fit the way you learn, your studying can really take a blow.

CPA Exam Tip: How To Choose the Right CPA Review Course

There are many factors a student must consider before laying down a couple grand on a CPA Review course. What are these factors? Find out in our CPA Exam tip!

4. Get Organized

Live With No Regrets: Organize Your Studying

As mentioned previously, there’s a truckload of information you will be expected to know for the exam. The smartest way to approach the material is to stay organized and work your way through it systematically. Your CPA Review course should come equipped with customizable study planners to help you do this. With a sense of direction under your belt and a goal in mind, you will feel empowered to work through lesson plans and start learning the material efficiently!

CPA Exam Tip: The Importance of Creating A Study Plan

It's not enough to know which CPA Exam section you're taking next month. You must know what you're studying each day!

5. Find a Study Buddy

Study together, pass together!

Have you ever had a workout buddy? Someone who holds you accountable for waking up at 6am for a jog, or motivates you to go to the gym after work? It works the same way when you get a study buddy while you prepare for the CPA Exam! The benefits of studying with a friend or colleague are endless: you can rely on them for support, you can even complain and whine together, reward each other for reaching milestones, and the best part: you can see if you really understand the exam material by answering each other’s questions and explaining concepts. The CPA Exam is daunting, but it doesn’t have to be with the help of your study buddy. We encourage you to do whatever it takes to make the process easier for you!

CPA Exam Tip: The Benefits of a Study Group

Find a friend who's studying for the CPA exam by posting in CPA Exam LinkedIn Groups, on our Facebook, or even reaching out to people at work who may be studying!

6. Study Hard - There are no shortcuts.

Take the Stairs!
Take the Stairs!

There are truly no shortcuts when it comes to studying for the exam. Yes, there will be little tricks along the way, like mnemonics, or figuring out that you study best early in the mornings. But other than that, it’s just you, your books, and your brain, all hard at work. There is some good news though. We like to say that the CPA Exam is like a lake that is a mile wide but only an inch deep. This means that you need to know a little bit about a lot of information. Your effort will come from making sure you cover your entire syllabus and give yourself time to review before your exam date.

7. Take Breaks and Re-fuel on Motivation

Deep breaths.

When you’re heavily invested in your studying, there will be stressful moments when it will seem like you have too much to learn. This is when you take a break and give your brain a chance to soak in all that you’ve learned.

Remember how you got motivated before you started studying for the exam? Well, it’s time to do that again! You may have lost sight of your end goal, and that’s completely normal!

How to Re-fuel While Studying For the CPA Exam

  • Visit inspirational Pinterest boards
  • Make a list of what you will reward yourself with when you’re done.
  • Indulge in your favorite food, workout, or fun activity, so you are motivated to bounce back into your studies.
  • Read motivational stories about successful CPA exam candidates.

8. Lean On Your Support System

Your go-to people.

These are the people who will support you whether you score that 75, 74, or anything worse. Keep them in the loop when you’re studying for the CPA Exam! They will feel important and will stick around when you’re feeling tired from the studying. When you take breaks, talk to these people. They can be your parents, siblings, close coworkers, and friends. But why limit yourself to people? Did you know that there is a huge support system in your computer? That’s right! There are hundreds of online support communities in which students just like you are ranting, encouraging, and inspiring. These online communities give you a chance to make new friends and connect with peers all over the world. Communities like this are not only great for support, but they often provide you with the most up-to-date information about the CPA Exam industry, so you’ll always be in the loop. Here are some great support communities: our Facebook, our Twitter, the Roger CPA Review Blog, and the CPA Exam Club

9. Practice, Practice, Practice - Did we mention practice?

For the most part, there’s a predictable pattern to studying for the CPA Exam:

1. Watch and listen to lectures

2. Read the textbook, and then work through practice problems.

3. Repeat! This repetition of steps will help the material stick.

Practicing what you’ve learned in the lectures and textbook through practice problems will be key to mastering concepts! Students are encouraged to re-do multiple choice questions in order to pinpoint trouble areas. At Roger CPA Review, we help all our students learn through the Roger Method. This way of teaching ensures maximum retention and results in our high pass rate!.

10. Build your Confidence - If you study, you will pass!

The only thing keeping you from passing the exam is YOU. You could have studied everything and done everything right, but if you walk into that exam feeling too worried or defeated, it won’t do you any good!

Building your confidence will get you farther than you think. Here are some things you can do:

  • Take your practice exams under real, exam-like conditions. Don’t forget to time yourself. This way, when you walk into the real thing, you’ll know the drill.
  • Believe that you will pass. Even if it sounds cheesy, tell yourself that you’ll pass. You’re doing all this studying and preparation, so why would you think otherwise?
  • Set yourself up for success. This means always studying under optimal conditions, with a course that works for you, getting enough rest, and practicing what you’ve been learning. It also means everything we’ve talked about above: leaning on your support group, having a study buddy, etc.

There You Have It.

Those are our 10 sure fire ways to pass the CPA Exam! Whether you implement 1, 3, or all 10 of them is up to you. Every CPA Exam candidate’s journey is different, so we encourage you to do what works best for your learning style.

If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

CPA Exam Basics & How To Get Started

This eBook is great for the candidate who is just beginning to research the CPA Exam and needs somewhere to start. We've compiled information from the AICPA, State Boards of Accountancy, NASBA, Prometric Testing Centers, and of course insider tips from the Roger CPA Review website. Even if you are well into the studying process but want to find out more about the exam itself, you absolutely need to download this eBook.

You will find information on:

-Four Parts of the CPA Exam

-What types of questions you will encounter

-Pass rates and a passing score

-Education requirements

-Application checklist

...and other helpful links, charts, and tips!

What is great about this eBook is the amount of information which is presented in one location. There are numerous resources across the web, including the Roger CPA Review website, where you can find details on the CPA Exam or education requirements to sit, but this combines it all into one location.

The eBook visually walks you through the information step by step. With images that show you what a Task Based Simulation looks like, or how the CPA Exam is mapped out, you may find yourself referencing your copy again and again.


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