Studying for your CPA exam while working full-time is not going to be easy. Whether you’ve just completed your Bachelors or have been in the working world for a number of years, it can be tough to manage your time. Below, we’ve listed 7 tried-and-tested techniques for studying while working full-time.
1. Give yourself plenty of time
There are CPA candidates who want to get the 4 part exam written as quickly as possible. Don’t fall into this trap! The AICPA recommends scheduling no more than 2 exams at a time. If you’re studying while working full-time, go a step further and don’t schedule more than 1 exam at a time. After you’ve passed your first exam, you will have 18 months to write the remaining three. It’s not a race!
2. Plan your study schedule
Once you have scheduled your exam and have a set date to test, you will know when to start studying. There is a lot of content you will need to cover for each of the 4 exam sections. It’s a good idea to divide this up into even smaller chunks. Then, start by drafting a calendar. Begin with today’s date and end with the date of your examination. Use the calendar to mark landmark dates by which you want to have finished studying different subsections.
Don’t forget to factor in extra time for socialising and relaxation. Since you work full-time, you’re going to want to take this into account. If you know that you’re going to have an extra busy week at work, mark this on the calendar. Perhaps you will get less studying done that week, but that’s OK! If you plan ahead, you will still manage to meet your goals.
3. Be realistic
When you’re planning your study schedule, bear in mind that it will serve you in the long run to set yourself realistic goals. Sure, it would be great to finish a whole section of the review course tonight, but maybe you only have time to watch one lecture and complete some multiple choice questions. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You can only do your best under your unique circumstances.
If you are too ambitious with your goals, you could a) burnout or b) find yourself slacking either at work or in your studies.
4. Iterations and summarising
This is a great tip for any exam taker, but especially if you are working full-time. Repetition is important – it will get stuff into your head. Furthermore, if you take the time to revise and consolidate your notes, you can create some handy flashcards that you can take with you on the bus or while you walk your dog.
Here’s a great plan from a CPA candidate who shared their technique on Quora:
“I planned to go over the course material, sample questions etc. at least 4 times before the exam. First in 30 days, then in 15, followed by a fast paced revision in a week and then the final quick review on the day before the exam”.
5. Find a routine
If you’re a morning person, commit to waking up extra early every day and studying for a few hours. If you’re more of a night owl, dedicate a few hours every evening to your studies (for example, between 8 and 11pm). Find a routine that works best for you – just be consistent. This will help you to manage your time and find balance.
6. Eliminate distractions
Working full-time while studying for your CPA exam means that time is of the essence. If you want to succeed at both your work and your studies, you’re going to need to practice being as efficient as possible. For a lot of people, the biggest time waster is social media. It may sound extreme, but for a lot of candidates deleting social media can be a saving grace.
Turn off your email notifications on your phone. In fact, turn off your phone all together. Try to put all your work commitments on hold during your dedicated study hours. If possible, it might be beneficial to inform your employer that you have another commitment at this time. For example, that you may not be contactable between 7 and 9 every evening.