Not all learning methods are created equal. In fact, some of the most effective ways to learn aren’t the ones most often employed in schools. One such method is called spaced repetition.
The concept of spaced repetition is that our brains learn and recall information better if that information is learned in multiple sessions over time. Applied to studying, it means that instead of cramming and memorizing facts, concepts can be learned more completely and effectively if done more slowly and repetitively over a longer period of time.
You’ve probably heard about spaced repetition at some point
in your educational career.
Tips like “go over your notes from class when you get home” or “study a little bit every day instead of trying to study all at once” are derived from the concept of spaced repetition.
So, how can you, as a CPA Exam candidate, use spaced repetition to be more successful in your studies and retain more valuable information that will serve you well in your career?
The first step is to stop cramming. Well, at least stop relying on that as your main method of studying. A little cramming before an exam is nearly inevitable. Even so, it’s also nearly useless. Spaced repetition makes it much easier for your brain to recall information when it is needed while cramming will keep information fresh for maybe a day or two at best.
If you’re going to kick cramming to the curb and give spaced repetition it’s time to shine, you’ll need to do some planning, be disciplined about your schedule, and give your CPA review time your full attention. That may sound a little intimidating, but it’s really not as hard as it seems. In fact, if you follow these tips, it’s actually much easier than the hours-long cram sessions and all-nighters.
Pick a medium for your review. The most common use of spaced repetition in study situations is flashcards. It’s also the spaced-repetition method we most recommend.
Make a review schedule. For example, when you learn new information in a lecture or reading a chapter of a textbook, you would review that information again in an hour, and then again the next day. Two days later, you revisit it, as well as every other day for the next week. Then you drop down to once a week for a month or so. After that, go back to it once a month. Now, as long as you go back to the information in one way or another, it will become so ingrained in your memory that you won’t forget it.
Set a time limit. Studying for too long is counter-intuitive. If you work at something for too long, your attention will start to fall and you’ll absorb less of the information you’re actually studying. Of course, that also doesn’t mean that shorter is always better. We would recommend giving yourself 20 to 30 minutes per review session. After that, take a break before starting again.
Give extra practice to missed topics. In all of these review sessions, give precedence to topics or questions that you get wrong. If you remember something correctly, you can set it aside until the next review session. If you miss one, review it again. Do this until you remember every topic correctly.
Hold yourself accountable. None of these hacks will be effective without the discipline and accountability to actually stick to the plan. Keeping track of your progress not only keeps you on schedule, it also gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue. Luckily, our students have access to our SmartPath Predictive Technology which helps them to keep track of not only how much information they’ve mastered but also points them in the right direction of which concepts are the most important to review.
In the end, regardless of which exam section you’re studying, spaced repetition is one of the most effective ways to successfully study. You would be surprised at how much your brain is actually capable of learning, remembering, and storing for long periods of time. Spaced repetition helps you unlock all of that brainpower and potential.
Master the most heavily tested CPA Exam topics with our cutting-edge Digital CPA Flashcards that use integrated Spaced Repetition.
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