5 Tips for CPA Exam Success

By Michael Kenny, CPA, Withum – March 1, 2021
5 Tips for CPA Exam Success

So, you’ve decided to take the CPA Exam to further your accounting career — congratulations! Although the Exam is challenging to prepare for, the benefits of becoming a CPA are immeasurable to one’s career. The following tips can help make your Exam process as smooth as possible.

1. Set Your Timeline

One of the first things to consider when preparing for the Exam is when to take it. This element is central to success because the amount of time you can dedicate to studying will greatly affect how much material you can cover in a period of time. For example, if you are currently working, do not consider taking an Exam during your busy seasons when you may not have ample time to study. Also be sure to consider your own personal availability, family commitments and other factors that will impact your time to study.

2. Select a Review Course

Another element to consider before beginning to study is which CPA Exam review course to use. Each course has its own benefits, and the course you choose depends totally on your own study preferences. Do not simply choose the review course that you have heard about the most or the one that costs the least. Many of the providers offer a free trial which will allow you to test the course and see which presentation style and format works best for you.

3. Create a Study Schedule

Once you have chosen a review program, start to plan your study schedule. Be realistic; if you know that once you get home from work you will only study for an hour, build that into your planning. Many CPA Exam review courses spread out the material over the amount of time you plan on studying each week. If your target hours are not met on a daily or weekly basis, you will likely fall behind on the material. This will only cause you more stress, which is why it is so important to represent your study time accurately in your review course.

4. Start Studying

With your study plan in place, start studying for the section of the Exam that you have chosen to sit for first. Designate a space of your own for peace and quiet. Focus and concentration are vital to mastering the material on the Exam. The material covered is plentiful, however, with a dedicated space of your own, you’ll be able to hone in on the material and grasp it more quickly. That being said, do not be alarmed if you start to see material that was not covered in any prior courses you have taken. That is to be expected with any review course, and it may even help motivate you to study more with the inclusion of “unmastered” areas of expertise.

5. Build a Support System

Lastly, and perhaps the most important piece of advice, is to make sure you have a friend in accounting who can relate to the struggles of taking the Exam. It is great to be surrounded by your family; however, if they have not taken the CPA Exam, they will not be able to fully understand the trials and tribulations that go along with this process. From my own personal experience, having a friend to relate to not only helps alleviate stress but it also can help you in your review processes by seeing what others have done that helped them. If you do not know anyone else in the field, there are many online forums for CPA Exam candidates to help each other with the Exam and provide tips on studying.

The CPA Exam is very challenging; however, by following these tips, you will be in a much better position to sit for and pass the Exam. Best of luck to all potential candidates!


Michael R. Kenny

Michael Kenny, CPA, is a staff level II accountant at Withum.

This article appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.