Studying Smart for the CPA Exam; However, be Real
There are several ideas out there about preparing for and passing the CPA Exam. CPA Exam Review products now promote “study less materials.” I am not here telling anyone that they will not pass with “study less materials.” After all, it’s now a world of fingertip convenience, and probably less for more. However, here are some simple reminders that could go a long way in cracking the code of the CPA Exam. Ask yourself:
- How do basket ballers become great at it? – They train at it (hours at it).
- How do tennis players become great at it? – They train at it (hours at it).
- How do footballers and soccer players become great at it? – They train at it (hours at it).
- How do most business women and men become great at it? – They stay at it (hours at it).
And I could go on and on.
The other day, I was at a mall and in a certain place where people gather, eat, drink and sometimes work. I wasn’t eavesdropping (right 😊), they were sitting right next to me and they were loud (right 😊). So, they were getting married, two young beautiful persons getting married. They hired a wedding planner, they had a checklist, they planned and monitored every item because the day meant the world to them. They sat there for more than two hours going over every single detail to make the upcoming day a success. I could see, they were excited about it. The young bride was about to argue with her spouse to be, because he paid for an item without telling her, and the highlight of that moment of squabble was the person paid was tardy and not responsive. You could see, she was the one in control of it.
Four simple takeaways for today:
- The CPA Exam is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You must train at it, stay at it, spend hours at it, and be coached up to it.
- Have a plan, write it out and stick to it. Like most plans, monitoring and adhering to the timelines are important to the outcome. However, self-monitored plans are dangerous because of self-reporting and no real accountability. This is where most students fall down, as plans are not followed, timelines are constantly readjusted, and here comes exam day, I am not really ready – help! I pray for a miracle.
- Know your strengths. Like the bride to be, she knows her strengths compared to her husband’s. Confidence is good, but honesty is best. I have coached many CPA Exam students to success and spent years teaching and helping in other circles, and it is evident that we are not all of the same strengths. Some students have very little experience and/or knowledge in accounting while others have spent decades in accounting and/or graduated Cum Laude, and Summa Cum Laude. So, Coworker John says, I passed, and I didn’t really study for that many hours. And that’s probably true. Now, who are you comparing yourself to? Wake up! The reality is, that’s strategy may not fit your needs because you are at a different place. You may even need some coaching help to know what you are good at (your strengths) and where you need to improve (your weaknesses).
- Practice. Some persons want the easiest way out, and the concept of smart studying is true. However, sometimes the most basic study rules are the best ones. I cannot over emphasize, practice, practice and more practice.
So, like these other professions that are dangled before us in the media, see the CPA Exam as your football, basketball, soccer, or as your business. Be excited about it, train at it, stay at it, have a plan for it, know your strengths, and practice, practice and more practice, and be confident that because others have cracked the CPA Exam code, you too will crack it. However, strategy matters.
Author: Marshall A. Blair, CPA CIA, CGMA
The author coaches CPA Exam candidates in a classroom setting as well as on a one-on-one basis. He has also completed the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) exam and the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) exams.