Do you have a rent-free situation? Is your savings account large enough to sustain you for the next year without having to work? Do you have, for all intents and purposes, all the time in the world? If you can answer yes to these questions, then read no further. You’re problem won’t be trying to find extra hours in the day to study for the CPA Exam. You’ll need to figure out how to fill the rest of your day after you study.
However, for the rest of you out there in the real world, let’s look at how you can create an effective study plan despite not having enough hours in the day.
Map Out Your Day, Week, Month
Before you can try to find the necessary time to study, you need to first map out your schedule. Utilizing a digital calendar is perfect for this. You can start with a month view and put down all your big monthly time commitments. Then lay out your work week. Account for everything, including the time it takes you to commute. Block out time for exercise, cooking meals, meal planning, shopping, laundry, and any other boring yet necessary task on which you must spend time.
The goal is to become regimented. You can only be successful in passing the CPA Exam if you apply a disciplined routine to your day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month living. And while it is easy to start grousing at this point, take heart that once you establish a routine and stick to it, it’ll actually feel good and eliminate a ton of stress.
When carving out your schedule, be sure to create realistic timelines for tasks. For example, if you think it’ll take you 45 minutes to accomplish something, then give yourself an hour to make sure if you run over, you don’t delay the rest of your schedule. This will also give you a little breathing room when conquering the mundane and give you small chunks of time to yourself that will add up over the day, week, and month.
Don’t be too ambitious. It’s easy to get excited and start plugging up all the gaps in your schedule with time to study for four tests. Remember to give yourself time to breath. If you don’t, you’ll burn yourself out rather quickly and make it doubly hard to stick to any kind of timeline. So what’s a good amount of time to set aside to study for each section of the CPA Exam?
The Worst Answer
We all hate noncommittal answers, especially those that start with, “That depends.” Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that nobody can answer definitively but you. But we’re not going to leave you high and dry with some Zen buddhist or crazy aunt nonsense that says the answer lies within, so go and sit in the sand until the wind carries the answer to you from the inner chambers of your heart.
Instead, there are some rough estimates for each section of the CPA Exam. The FAR section could take roughly 120 hours of study time. The REG section could take about 110 hours. The AUD section, maybe 100 hours. BEC, 85 hours give or take. We can’t stress this enough though: these are estimates, your mileage may vary.
Start with 120 hours and schedule that out. We recommend a 9-month plan for all four sections of the exam. But if you’re ambitious, you can choose to knock out all four sections during two testing windows within an 6 month timeframe. This is going to seriously cut into all your free time though. And if you’re in that first group of people we mentioned who exist in fantasy land, then you can even try to destroy all four within a 3 month timeframe. This isn’t very feasible for most people. You can always stretch this out to a 12 month plan as well, which will ensure you have more than enough time to pass all four sections on the first go round.
You can definitely pare down your study time as you go, especially if you find inefficiencies along the way. This is why figuring out your learning style immediately is hugely advantageous. This way you don’t waste valuable time watching videos if you’re a hands-on type of learner, or using too much rote memorization from reading if you’re an audio learner.
If you can put in at least 1.5 hours each night throughout the week and a solid 8 hour day on one of the weekend days, you’ll have an entire day away from the CPA Exam to do whatever the hell you want to do. You could even break that 8 hours up into 4 hours on both Saturday and Sunday. We recommend you give yourself one day without studying. It really helps recharge your batteries and keep you from burning out. If you stick to that schedule, you’ll put in 120 hours of study in 7.74 weeks—just shy of two months. You should also use supplementary study materials that provide you much-needed test questions.
You can change this up however you like, it’s just a guideline. But it’s one that’s worked for plenty of CPA candidates. In the end, you’ll fine tune this to your individual needs. Just remember to stick to whatever schedule you come up with, and perhaps most importantly, don’t get stuck on ticking off the hours. Focus on how well your study time is working. What are your percentage right scores on your review course? Study well, not just for a long time.
Lead Content Writer
Duke is a professional writer with a penchant for the world of finance and accounting. He enjoys rock climbing, free diving, and cooking.
Favorite Quote: "You can never have too many knives."