How to Pass the CPA Exam While Working at a Big 4 Accounting Firm

Advice from Darryl Ucheya | Tax Associate at KPMG

For starters, it’s important you realize that one size does not fit all when it comes to CPA Exam strategy. Everyone has different things going for them, and depending on what variables apply to you, you’ll need to tweak your own CPA Exam strategy accordingly.

With that being said, if you’re a professional studying for the CPA Exam, a full-time job poses a common problem — time and the lack thereof. So here are a few things to keep in mind:

Change your mindset.

It’s not helpful to stay stuck in the “I’m too busy and can’t find the time to study” mode of thinking.
I’m busy, you’re busy, everyone’s busy. That fact is already proven, so it’s time to move on to asking yourself a simple question: How badly do I want to become a CPA?

I know people who wanted to become CPAs, bought review courses, but didn’t follow through with the commitment it takes to get ready for the Exam. Why? They didn’t want it badly enough. Some things were more important to them, and that’s okay. It’s imperative that you’re honest with yourself from the beginning about becoming a CPA before investing your time, money, and energy into it.

Do what it takes.

Now that you’ve determined you want to become a CPA, it’s time to do what it takes to get there. So, what will it take? Your time, plus and an awesome review course like Roger CPA Review. It’s that simple. As a full-time employee, you’ll have to find a way to allocate time from your 24-hour day toward studying. Unless you’re a genius, it’ll take you a few weeks or longer to study for each section. Therefore, it’s important that you find time to study before, during, after work and on the weekends. The weekends are the most important time for CPA Exam studying for anyone. It’s doubly important for you because that’s about the only time you have completely off from work, assuming you’re working a 40-hour week. You can get so much done on the weekends.

I studied while taking a maximum course load in graduate school and working in some capacity. I would study intermittently during the day, at night, and on the weekends. I basically did as much as I could when I could. I’ll admit, I didn’t religiously stick to a schedule. But weekends were the days I studied the most — doing 8-hour days sometimes, while watching Netflix episodes in between. Hey, whatever works right?

Here are some actionable tips you can apply now while balancing work, study and life:

  1. Study as much as you can when you can — listen to lectures as you commute and do practice questions in your spare time.
  2. Binge study on the weekends. If you somehow fall off schedule during a hectic workweek, use the weekend to get back on track.
  3. Ask your support system (employer, family and friends) for consideration during this period. I’m sure they want you to succeed too. Therefore, they’ll have to afford you some time off.

The CPA designation is not unattainable. It requires time and taking things one step at a time. You can and will pass if you put your mind to it. As Roger Philipp, CPA, CGMA always says, “The CPA Exam isn’t a test of intelligence. It’s a test of discipline.”


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