The end of busy season marks the beginning of shorter Fridays, fewer projects and more freedom. The last thing anyone wants to do is think about studying for the CPA Exam.
But, believe it or not, it’s a great time to start studying for the CPA Exam. You’re used to long hours of hard work and, despite what you might think, you’ve gleaned tons of accounting information over the last few months. If you’re just not feeling it, here are 8 tips to help you jump into studying for the CPA Exam after busy season.
1. Give yourself some time off
Busy season is tough, no matter your practice area, and it’s essential you take a little time to unwind after it’s over. Take a long weekend or spend a week where you just relax after work. Better yet, go on a work-free vacation. You deserve it, and it will help you jump into studying with a refreshed mind. However, be aware of the post-busy season trap of wanting to take several months off. It’s the perfect time to start studying for the Exam, so take your mini-vacation and come back to the books.
2. Create expectations for friends and family
Before you even start studying, you need to let your social circle know what you’re getting in to. Tell you’re starting to study for the CPA Exam, and make it clear what that entails: long study hours, less time to devote to your social life, and very few late nights or long evenings with friends. By being upfront with your friends and family at the beginning, you’ll create the expectation that you’re busy, which means they won’t tempt you as much and you won’t feel bad turning them down.
3. Find your motivation
When you first start studying for the CPA Exam, motivation tends to come in droves. However, you might not be feeling so hot after a few 20-hour study weeks. Before you start hitting the books, think about your “why” for becoming a CPA. Motivation tends to work best when we’re working for something beyond ourselves: this could be your family or your social life. Figure out early what is going to keep you motivated in the long haul so when you’re feeling down and out, you can remember why you’re studying in the first place.
4. Build a study schedule
Or, better yet, find a fancy software that does it for you. By creating a plan in advance, there are few unplanned idle periods of time where you aren’t sure what to do. Use technology to your advantage and find a study software that creates study schedules and calendars for you to optimize learning before an exam.
5. Find a suitable software
Take some time to consider both your learning style and how you like to study, then look for a study software that caters to those needs. Also consider new software that uses advanced techniques to make learning as individualized as possible. An adaptive learning software identifies your weaknesses and helps you develop them into strengths, leaving you well-rounded on the CPA Exam.
6. Hire a tutor or find a study buddy
If you’re someone who knows you need accountability, finding someone to consistently study with will be a huge help. Hiring a tutor is a great option, or you can look for Exam prep companies that connect you one-on-one with an industry expert. If you’d rather have a more collaborative study time, send an email out to coworkers who are also taking the Exam and set up a few times a week to study together. Not only will this hold you accountable, but it will help you dig into difficult concepts with another person who might have a different perspective.
7. Consider taking your career area first
If you just spent an entire busy season working in tax, then take REG first. If you did it in audit, take AUD first. Busy seasons are filled with learning, even if it’s your first one, and you’d be surprised how much you take away from all those long hours at the office. As you study, you’ll find ideas and concepts that you applied during the busy season, and having real-life examples will help you retain the material. Plus, you’re more likely to pass an exam centered on your career area, giving you a motivational boost before the next exam.
8. Plan passing celebrations
Passing a section of the CPA Exam always warrants a celebration. Consider what you’ll do each time you pass a section of the CPA Exam. Maybe you’ll catch up with friends, go on a short trip, or just Netflix and chill for a few days. No matter what you do, keep this thought in the back of your mind as you study, and use it as your motivation to do what you need to do to pass.
Busy season is hard work, but you’ll come out of it in the perfect headspace to start studying for the CPA Exam. Have a little refresher, spend some times with friends and family, and then jump into studying in order to knock out all four sections once and for all.
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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.