How to Create a CPA Exam Study Plan


We are often asked by CPA Exam candidates how to best create a study schedule when balancing a career and/or a family. Our answer is always the same regardless of the candidate’s personal situation: you must be diligent in accounting for your time! Many candidates make the mistake of saying… 

“I’ll study after work” or “I’ll get it done on the weekend” without sitting down and making a list of all of their activities from the time they wake up to the time they go to sleep. However, without seeing and adhering to a tangible schedule, it’s difficult to hold oneself accountable for actually putting in the hours needed. 

To get started, make a daily schedule for yourself.

It may look something like this:

6:00 AMWake up
6:00 – 8:00 AMWork through Flashcards
8:00 – 8:30 AMGet ready for work 
9:00 – 12:00 PMWork
12:00 – 1:00 PMLunch/review lectures 
1:00 – 6:00 PM Work
7:00 – 10:00 PMTake a Practice Exam
10:00 – 11:00 PMRelax/Unwind 
11:00 PM Go to bed 

It is imperative that you list all of your activities. 

You can skip “brushing teeth” and other activities that only take a few minutes, of course, but once you have your entire day in front of you in terms of what your priorities and obligations are, it becomes much easier to stick to your schedule. This is key to successfully preparing for the CPA Exam.

It is too easy to put off studying until you have a free minute and if you are working, it’s especially important to schedule your time to prevent procrastination after a long hard day at work.

We are also often asked about how many weeks or months it should take to study for a particular section.

Because everyone’s lives are different, it’s impossible to say it should take x number of months to study for FAR. Instead, we use the AICPA’s recommendation for study hours. For every 1 hour of lecture you watch, you should spend about 2 – 3 hours doing homework for that lecture or section. You can use this example to create a general rule of hours you should spend studying and then tailor your schedule to fit it according to your lifestyle as well as the time frame in which you would like to pass the CPA Exam. Keep in mind that the table below is meant to provide an approximate timetable of how many hours it might take to study for the CPA Exam based on the AICPA recommendations. There are many factors to consider when planning your studies, such as the number of video lectures you have and how quickly you are able to grasp some of the more difficult CPA exam topics.

AUD  29 hours of video lecture   +87 hours of study     =116 total hours
BEC  22 hours of video lecture   +66 hours of study     =88 total hours
FAR   47 hours of video lecture   +141 hours of study   =188 total hours
REG  28 hours of video lecture   +84 hours of study     =112 total hours

These benchmarks assume that you are watching each lecture once.

If you are watching your videos more than once, you should add additional homework hours accordingly. Also, all candidates are different, and depending on your experience, existing knowledge base, and educational history, you may need more or less time on each or all sections. That’s totally normal and it’s much better to be realistic about your own individual needs instead of relying on what your colleagues and classmates have done for their own studies.

The CPA Exam is a test of discipline… 

But it’s certainly not a test of how little a life you can have in the time you are studying. Creating a schedule leaves you some wiggle room for social activities (in moderation of course!) as you will be able to see just how much time you are putting into studying and how much you are leaving for your actual life.

It’s entirely OK to plan dinner with friends on a Saturday or date night with your partner as long as you are still putting in the hours and sticking to your schedule. In fact, it’s almost a requirement that you reward yourself for your hard work instead of punishing yourself by taking away all of the fun in your life just because you are studying!

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