CPA Exam Tips How Long to Study Sections

If you are getting ready to take the CPA exam, you probably have already spent quite a bit of time studying for it. But are you studying enough? CPA exam candidates often wonder how long they should be studying for each section of the exam. Unfortunately, there's no straight-forward answer like "10 days per section". You can get an idea of how long it should take to study for each section however, depending on your specific schedule and study habits.

While there are no strict CPA exam study requirements, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) generally recommends that exam candidates spend 300 to 400 hours preparing for the exam. However, the recommended amount of time spent studying for each exam section varies. Because some sections are more difficult or cover more material than others, here's a suggestion of how to break down your study time in order to meet the AICPA's recommended CPA exam preparation time:

FAR Section

The Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section of the exam is four hours long, and it contains 90 multiple choice questions and seven task-based simulations. The multiple choice section accounts for 60% of the section's score and the simulations account for 40% of the score.

If you were taking a CPA exam review course, you would spend about 33 hours of class time going over the section, and 99 hours studying or doing homework. Therefore, those studying without a review course should plan to spend approximately 132 hours preparing for the FAR section.

REG Section

The Regulation (REG) section of the exam contains 72 multiple choice questions and six task-based simulations. The multiple choice section accounts for 60% of the section's score and the simulations account for 40% of the score.

If you were taking a CPA exam review course, you would spend about 28 hours of lecture time going over the section, and 84 hours studying or doing homework. Therefore, those studying without a review course should plan to spend approximately 112 hours preparing for the REG section.

AUD Section

The Auditing (AUD) section of the exam contains 90 multiple choice questions and seven task-based simulations, with a new research task format included in the 2011 CPA exam. The multiple choice section accounts for 60% of the section's score and the simulations account for 40% of the score.

If you were taking a CPA exam review course, you would spend about 24 hours of lecture time going over the section, and 72 hours studying or doing homework. Therefore, those studying without a review course should plan to spend approximately 96 hours preparing for the AUD section.

BEC Section

The Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section of the exam contains 72 multiple choice questions and three written communication tasks. The multiple choice section accounts for 85% of the section's score and the written communication tasks account for 15% of the score.

If you were taking a CPA exam review course, you would spend about 19 hours of lecture time going over the section, and 57 hours studying or doing homework. Therefore, those studying without a review course should plan to spend approximately 76 hours preparing for the BEC section.

Of course, how much you study depends on your schedule and studying habits too. Some CPA candidates may want or need to spend more than 400 hours studying, while others may feel that 200 hours is sufficient. Some candidates may want to spread out their study time, studying for one hour a night every weekday, while others may only have the weekends available to study.

Whatever your schedule, just make sure you take sufficient time to study! CPA exam candidates must pass all four sections within an 18 month period, so it's important to stay on track. Hold yourself accountable for your study hours by planning out when you will study each topic within an exam section – and then stick to the schedule!

By setting your actual exam dates and planning your study schedule to be prepared for those dates, you'll have a concrete goal to work towards. Stick to your goals, study, and you should have no trouble passing the CPA exam and becoming a CPA.

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