Because studying for the CPA Exam is already challenging enough, studying while working full-time can seem impossible. Recently, we spoke with Adam Borrelli, CPA, a Partner at RSM in Philadelphia, who helped us identify some tips and recommendations for successfully passing the CPA Exam as a professional.

  1. Be realisticThe most important part of attempting the exam is developing a plan. It is important that you be realistic and honest with yourself when it comes to how much time you can and are willing to dedicate, while also keeping in mind that passing is not an easy feat. Understand that most people who pass also make sacrifices.
  2. Manage your time properlyManaging your time is the key to studying. It’s important to stay consistent and study a little bit each day while also keeping in mind that life can be unpredictable. You may be with a client a little later than expected, or you may have unforeseen commitments that come up. Build in extra time to compensate for this. If you can wake up and study before your day even begins, you won’t have to worry about something prohibiting you from doing so later in the day. If you have the luxury of having some quiet time during lunch, use that time to study. Many people stay late or come back to the office after leaving a client to get some studying done because being in a work environment helps them focus.

    Find what works for you and stick with it! And remember – life happens and so does busy season. Don’t let that 18-month deadline to pass your exams create a false sense of security. It goes by faster than you think, especially when you consider the blackout periods, so finish as soon as you can!

  3. Stay motivatedStaying motivated while studying for the exam is especially difficult when you are working. It’s common to begin studying during the summer because work schedules tend to free up a bit or at least become more flexible. But many people find that summer brings temptations of happy hour with coworkers or enjoying the weather with friends and family, making it difficult to stay focused. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer here. As previously mentioned, those who pass make sacrifices. Once you pass the exam, you’ll never have to study that hard again.
  4. Seek help from your employerMany employers, RSM included, fully support their employees and encourage taking the CPA Exam. It is important to initiate a conversation with your advisor or manager and let them know you are ready to take the exam. For example, RSM has a program where each employee is assigned a career advisor as their “go to guide” since people tend to work with different teams when they rotate on/off engagements. Their career advisor will assist in developing a formal study plan based on personal obligations and work load. It is important that you utilize all available resources and inform your employer of your ambitions to begin studying, as they may also provide the same guidance and support.

“Clients rely on us to be experts… and the best way to demonstrate that you’re an expert is to hold that designation.”

– Adam Borrelli, CPA, Partner at RSM 

For more tips for success on the CPA exam, subscribe to the Surgent CPA Review blog, Passing Insights.