Studying for a major certification examination, such as the CPA, CMA or EA Exam, is a huge undertaking. According to the AICPA, test-takers should spend a total of 300 to 400 hours studying for the CPA Exam. Many candidates take any spare moment they can find to hit the books, whether that means waking up earlier, studying through meals, skipping workouts and family time to study, or even pulling all-nighters. It’s no wonder so many CPA candidates are exhausted.
However, sometimes that exhaustion goes a step further. Burnout, a condition caused by long-term stress, is a real risk for those studying for the CPA Exam and other tests like it. People suffering from burnout are more than just tired. Many experience loss of interest, chronic fatigue, trouble sleeping, changes in appetitive, feelings of detachment, difficulty concentrating and anxiety. Along with the physical ailments that burnout can cause or exacerbate, it can also make you lose confidence in your abilities or even your desire to pursue your CPA certification.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid burnout and its negative effects. Here are five ways to keep burnout at bay as you prepare to sit for the CPA Exam.
How to avoid study burnout
Create a detailed study plan
At first glance, the sheer amount of material you’ll need to study for the CPA Exam can seem overwhelming. To ease your anxiety, break it down into more manageable chunks by creating a clear study plan. Remember that the current CPA Exam consists of these four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG). The CPA Exam will be undergoing a number of changing once the CPA Evolution goes into effect next year, but for now, let’s concentrate on building a study plan based on the current format of the exam.
Let’s say you decide to take the AUD section of the CPA Exam in 10 weeks. Assuming the maximum of 400 study hours for the entire CPA Exam, that means you should expect to spend about 100 hours studying for AUD. You would need to study 10 hours a week, or about two hours a day, if your plan is to study five days a week. However, you might be able to schedule longer study sessions on the weekend or carve out dedicated study time in the mornings or evenings.
Now that you have a timeline and estimated daily study hours, create a clear calendar of not only when you’ll study, but what you plan to study. We recommend starting with more challenging concepts first, then moving on to easier ones. Also, be sure to make allowances for things in your personal life and work schedule that could impact your study plan. For example, maybe you’ll need to take an evening off for a friend’s birthday or suddenly make room for an emergency dentist appointment. The goal is to be detailed and structured enough that you make progress on your studies, but adjustable enough to cover the unexpected.
Of course, making the study plan is often the easy part. It’s sticking to it that’s tricky. At the beginning of your CPA studying journey, you might be tempted to replace those study hours with TV, video games or time with friends. Just remember — procrastination only leads to more stress later. To help you stay on track, all of Surgent’s exam review products come with a built-in study planner. Just enter your exam date and take our initial assessment, and our adaptive learning technology will customize a study plan to your exact needs.
Set achievable goals
By creating goals, you give yourself something to look forward to and to strive for during your CPA Exam journey. The overall goal of passing the CPA Exam is a great motivator. However, it may seem too far in the future to motivate you 10 or 12 weeks out. Instead, you could set goals around completing a certain number of practice exams or reaching a specific number of dedicated study hours. Try to keep your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.
When you do reach a goal, give yourself a reward. It can be as simple as your favorite snack, a well-deserved stretch break or something bigger for achieving a major milestone. At the beginning of your CPA prep journey, you might need a little extra encouragement to stick to your schedule. We recommend “front loading” your goals and their associated rewards, and then spreading them out as you get into the study habit.
Find a study buddy
Studying for a big exam can be a solitary and lonely process. When you’re feeling annoyed, frustrated or just plain bored, it can help to have a support sytem. It’s even better when that person is in the same boat and understands your experiences. Having a study buddy means not only having a sympathetic ear, but also someone to hold you accountable to your goals and study plan — and you can do the same for them. Plus, you can ask each other questions, review complicated accounting concepts together and encourage one another to keep going even when the going gets tough.
If you’re currently a college student, you can probably find a study buddy in one of your classes or through one of your professors. Working professionals might be able to meet fellow CPA candidates through your job, networking groups or local organizations.
Don’t neglect your health
Many CPA candidates are so busy preparing for the exam that they find themselves skipping meals, skipping the gym and pounding unhealthy snacks during marathon study sessions. While these actions might seem beneficial in the short term, over time they can be detrimental to your goals. After all, it’s hard to focus when you haven’t slept or eaten enough. You might find yourself making simple mistakes or being unable to remember key information. So, take time for some self-care, whether that’s cooking healthy meals, completing a workout or walking your dog to give yourself a study break.
If you do get some time to relax, try to do something you really enjoy, like spending time with friends or family, taking a walk or watching a movie. Remember, your mental health is important, too.
Schedule shorter study sessions
Studying for the CPA Exam is a marathon, not a sprint, so try to keep each study session to a manageable length. It’s hard to focus for eight hours straight, for example, but two or three hours is probably doable. Plus, most CPA Exam candidates learn better when covering material in bite-sized amounts. Structuring your studying this way also allows you to focus on one concept at a time. By breaking down topics into smaller chunks, you can more easily identify problem areas and seek out specific resources on those subjects.
How to avoid study burnount with Surgent
Surgent CPA Review helps you study smarter, not harder. For example, our proprietary A.S.A.P.® Technology uses adaptive learning to help you study more efficiently, assessing your strengths and weakness so you can tailor your study efforts to those topics. Whenever you log into your course, our Daily Surge cards will appear and suggest concepts to cover during your study session, making it easy to know what to focus on. Our MyMCQ ™ feature adjusts the level of multiple-choice practice questions to help you master increasingly complicated subjects with each round. When you’re getting close to your test date, our ReadySCORE™ feature is an exam-readiness indicator that will predict your likely score if you were to take the test that day.
All our exam review products include unlimited practice exams and a 100% pass guarantee. You’ll have full access to all course materials until you pass the exam.
Hit the books with confidence
Studying for the CPA Exam can be stressful and exhausting time, but Surgent is here to help. By following the steps outlined in this blog, you’ll avoid burnout and make steady progress toward your main goal — becoming CPA certified.