Deciding to become a CPA is a huge step in your career; it’s a tough path that will mark you as an expert in your field (and the pay raise isn’t bad either). However, taking the CPA Exam amid a full-time job can seem daunting at its best and completely overwhelming at its worst. Luckily, there are ways to help you balance working full-time and studying for the exam. Before you dive into CPA exam study, check out these tips that will make your experience more enjoyable.

1. Find software with efficient learning technology

The hardest aspect of taking the CPA exam while working full-time is ensuring you’re studying efficiently and effectively. The goal is to retain the information from your study materials and pass the exam in as short a time as possible.

While this seems like it’s asking a lot, adaptive learning technology has been making its way into the exam prep market, and it’s a surefire way to make your CPA exam study time easier. Look for software that feeds you bites of information and adapts to your strengths and weaknesses. Learn how adaptive learning software helps you study less and pass faster with Surgent’s ASAP Technology. 

2. Find more time in your day before you start

Working full-time means at least 40 hours of your week are eaten up by your job. Throw in your commute and suddenly your days warrant hardly any study time. This is where you really have to double down on making time in your day to study.

There are a few ways you can do this: you can get up earlier in the morning, you can stay up later at night, or you can forgo social obligations (at least for now). Once you decide how to add time to your day, start incorporating it before you even start studying. This will help you get used to your new routine and prime your time for studying once you dive in.

3. Create a study plan

Or, since we’re all about efficiency here, have your study materials create a study plan for you. You can do the old-fashioned pen-and-paper method, or you can hone your Excel skills and make a study plan via spreadsheet. However, finding study materials that create a plan for you will save you time and get you rolling down the study lane faster. Surgent’s personalized technology creates a study plan that adapts to your needs, and adjusts based on when you’re taking the exam and how much you’re studying, which is an all-around win.

4. Study in small increments

I know your college days encouraged long bouts of studying, but recent studies have shown that short bursts of learning followed by unrelated activities actually fuels the learning process. Find learning materials that cater to this learning style and you might find you learn more in less time, helping you study less and pass faster.

5. Leverage what you now

If you’re working full-time in the accounting field, you’re likely well-immersed in several of the topics of the CPA exam. Use this to help your CPA exam study by trying to relate what you’re learning with what you do. It will help you remember material and feel more prepared going into the exam.

6. Get friends and family onboard

Having a supportive circle of acquaintances is key to your CPA exam study time. If friends or family are upset because you’re so immersed in studying, explain to them the short-term nature of what you’re doing and how their support will help you study and pass the exam faster.

7. Reward yourself 

I know it can seem like you need to devote all of your free time to CPA Exam study, but remember our point about studying for short-increments above. Take a little time every week to have some fun. Get outside for a walk, go to dinner with friends, play with your dog, whatever you need to do to decompress. You’ll not only feel better when you’re doing activities you enjoy, you’ll come back to the study table refreshed and ready to keep learning.


By taking the time to explore and implement the tips above, you can ensure your CPA Exam experience is short and sweet. Remember, it will all be worth it in the end!


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Megan Bierwirth graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and passed the CPA exam within six months of graduation. She worked in both public accounting and industry while becoming a CPA and now runs a virtual bookkeeping company focused on preventive, integrative and complementary medicine professionals.