5 Steps for Passing the CPA Exam

The CPA exam, an essential certification for accountants, is a difficult and time-consuming test.  This 18-month journey is difficult, but if you follow the five steps outlined below, it can be a successful journey:

Step #1—Select the exam day.

Once you decide to take the CPA exam, apply and pay for it as soon as possible.  If you don’t make a reservation for the exam, you’ll always make excuses to do something else instead of studying.  So select a day to take the text in two or three months.  That will be enough time to review for one course of the CPA exam.

Step #2—Make a study plan.

Based on your familiarity with exam topics, the entire exam can require anywhere between 200 and 1,000 hours of study time.  The most proficient test takers spend about 30 hours a week studying for each section of the exam.  A specific plan doesn’t mean that you just decide which days to study.  You’ll also have to decide during which hours of the day you’re going to study and which specific topics you’ll be studying.  This way, you can check your progress every day to make sure you’re not falling behind.

Step #3—Choose an appropriate review course.

While there are many CPA review providers, as well as a variety of formats, it is critical to choose the one that fits your needs and learning style.  Live review courses are a good option if you benefit from structured and focused study.  Many exam takers prefer online CPA review courses because they are more flexible and can save time, since there’s no drive time to a class.

If possible, try to know the content and tests offered by the courses.  It will be better if you find one with simulation tests, which can help you become familiar with the real test.  The exam, presented in four separate sections, is broken down into multiple choice questions and simulations.  Each section covers different topics, questions, and answer forms (i.e., multiple choice, written communication).  The more comfortable you are with the exam format, the easier your test experience will be.

Step #4—Find reliable study partners.

It’s better to find someone to study with you.  You’ll need someone to encourage you when you’re not in a mood to study.  In addition, partners can help answer your questions, and you can also review knowledge when you’re answering your partners’ question.  Keep in mind that people who have already passed the CPA exam can be your partners.  They can be one of your best sources of advice.  Find out what material they used, what they did and did not like, and tips they can offer.

Step #5—Prepare for your next phase of life.

Once you decide to take the exam, it’s time to say goodbye to your former lifestyle and make some sacrifices.  No more parties on Friday night and no more vacation or “hangouts” with friends.  Get ready for a new life until you pass the exam.  Sounds awful, but it will worth it, when you pass your exam on the first try!

Passing the CPA exam takes time, effort, and organization, but with the right attitude and dedication, you can pass the exam!!

Jacqueline Hill, Esq.

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Jacqueline Hill is a partner at Lexacount Search, where she places top senior-level and other legal talent with law firms and corporate legal departments across the United States. She has been writing about careers, lawyers, attorney professional development, and the legal industry for more than a decade. She can be reached at jacqueline.hill@lexacount.com or 215-740-0104, extension 101.

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