10 Habits of Successful CPA Exam Candidates


Studying for the CPA Exam is like having a full-time job. It requires a large amount of time, energy, and sometimes even sweat and tears. However, as the saying goes, if it were easy, everyone would do it. At the same time, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to pass the exam.

We wanted to learn more about what helped our students most during their preparation, so we talked with several students who have already passed one or more parts of the exam. Here are the top 10 most common habits in their responses about being successful on the CPA Exam. 

1. They have a plan

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” That couldn’t be more true for the CPA Exam. Successful candidates used our customizable study planners to map out their daily study goals in order to pass the exam in their desired time frame. They also factored in non-study days to account for breaks or other unplanned events so they wouldn’t fall behind should they need to take some time off. 

2. They’re consistent 

Creating a plan is only half the battle. Sticking to it is the other half. Successful candidates understood the importance of being consistent in their studies every single day. This not only helped condition their minds and bodies to get into an automatic flow and routine of studying but also kept the information they were learning fresh.

3. They wake up early

Successful candidates found that waking up between the hours of 4:00 am–6:00 am were the best times to study. Early in the morning, there are fewer distractions, and starting early made them feel motivated and productive throughout their entire day. They used this time to learn new material and used accompanying tools such as audio lectures, flashcards, and practice question applications during the rest of their day to reinforce the information they learned in the morning. It also prevented fatigue by not having to learn new information when they got home from work or school. 

4. They know how to prioritize their responsibilities 

For successful candidates, the CPA Exam is one of their top priorities. As a result, they know what should take a backseat in their lives and how to properly manage their responsibilities to positively impact and maximize their study efforts. 

5. They view the word “failure” as synonymous with “opportunity” 

If they fail a section, they look for the silver lining and take it as a learning opportunity to do better next time. Whether that’s changing their study techniques or going back and reviewing the entire section, successful candidates don’t let failure determine who they are or what they can accomplish. They pick up where they left off, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and leverage the experience to be a positive one.   

6. They try different study techniques until they find ones that work for them 

There’s no cookie-cutter way to study for the CPA Exam. Everyone learns and retains information differently; the key to passing the exam is finding the study techniques that work for you and sticking to it. And that may require trial and error, which successful students are not afraid to do. 

7. They study smarter, not harder 

Successful candidates know that time is precious. Passing the exam isn’t just about doing as many practice MCQs and TBSs as possible–it’s about doing the right MCQs and TBSs that help strengthen their weak areas. And that’s why they study smarter, not harder with our new Smartpath Predictive Technology™. SmartPath is a data-driven platform that provides candidates with targeted recommendations on where and how to focus their efforts by comparing their progress and performance to those who have passed the CPA Exam. Candidates pass the CPA Exam faster and more efficiently with SmartPath, which not only takes the guesswork out of CPA Exam preparation, but also provides a personalized learning experience that adapts to each candidate. 

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8. They have a strong support system 

When the going gets tough, it’s crucial to have a strong support system to help you through frustrations and hard times. So while it’s important for students to let family and friends know they need space to study, it’s equally important for the student to let them know that they’re relying on them to provide encouragement and support in other ways. 

9. They understand the “why” behind everything they do 

Learning the concepts behind the process is vital to really understand the material. There is a lot of information that can’t, and shouldn’t, just be memorized. To alleviate that, successful candidates try to figure out the “why” behind the process and what the end result is trying to accomplish, instead of just setting up tables and calculating numbers. That way, students apply their knowledge rather than just regurgitate information. 

10. They always keep the end goal in sight 

When studying for the CPA Exam day in and day out for months at a time, it can be easy to get bogged down and have a negative outlook about the exam. However, successful candidates know that it is just something they have to get through before they can enjoy the benefits. They always have the end goal in sight: that obtaining their CPA license will improve their personal and professional lives tremendously, and that the hard work they’re doing to pass the exam is a small price to pay in the larger scheme of things. 

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