The Art Of Studying For The CPA Exam

In my previous blog post I mentioned studying was like an art form. This is where I’d like to introduce you to the staggered start, one of the paint brushes in our arsenal of study tools.

The staggered start is a way of doing multiple choice questions so that things remain fresh and don’t become stagnant.  It is an organic and flexible way of scheduling your study time. I usually schedule my time in 90 minute intervals as this is what much of the scientific literature regarding practice and learning indicates is optimal. I suggest you do some research on the matter or find and tweak what works best for you. You could even use the online study planner provided with your course.

Once you have your time interval down, you can break it into segments and give the staggered start a shot. Important to note is that I watch all the videos before doing the staggered start method. After you watch all the videos begin doing the multiple choice questions during your 90 minute interval. Then take notes on the ones that were wrong and read the reasons why some, or all, or a mere few, were right. Then read a little in the book. After 90 minutes expires, or whatever your time frame is, you must take a break, and then start again. I usually do the dishes, laundry, stretch, or exercise during my breaks to refresh and reset my mind.

The reason I call this the staggered start is because over time you will find that you tend to lean on one mode of studying more than the others. This is actually a strength that could be utilized if you just remember to keep the other modes remotely up to pace.  This is what I call the core competency, your preferred mode of study, dragging the team, or the less desirable modes of study.

For example, say you like to ring out multiple choice questions because you hate reading big paragraphs. Well you’ll always be a little ahead in the multiple choice questions. This might actually make reading easier for you if you read after you do the questions. If you’ve been out of school for a while though, I always recommend watching the lectures first. For me, that’s my favorite part. Multiple choice comes in second, and taking notes on them comes in third. Reading is not my preferred method for learning accounting but I still do it. I just do it using a staggered start so when I begin reading my eyes light up as I recall the terms and words used in the questions and during the lectures.

In a future blog post, I’ll mention some more things one can do to keep their mind fresh involving a tablet and the CPA Exam MC Question app, the review course book, and taking notes on multiple choice questions. Studying for the CPA Exam is a dance. Organic and flexible study methods can make the experience less frustrating.

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