The CPA Exam is overwhelming. Granted, that's a very obvious statement but it's amazing how many important practices can be overlooked when you're in the midst of preparing for the exam; even things that seem to be 'obvious'. So in addition to all the study tips we recommend related to the Exam, we thought we'd remind everyone of important things that are easy to forget:
Yes everyone has heard about the studies that show the importance of sleep and academic performance, but students still push their studies late into the night, sometimes to the point where the brain in no longer retaining the information that being crammed into it.
When you're designing your study strategy, take your sleep schedule into consideration. While you may not be getting a full eight hours every night if you're studying, working, and have kids/pets, you don't want to stretch yourself too thin.
2. Eat (Brain Food)
Just as your brain and body need sleep to function properly and efficiently, they also need the right fuel. With a little bit of planning and awareness, you can give you brain the nutrients it needs to function at a high level instead of eating say, the bag of chips you just barely had time to grab from the vending machine at work. It may seem like studying through lunch is more important than taking time to eat a nutritious meal but you'd be surprised at how efficiently your brain will function with attention to your diet.
We understand that you need to spend a significant amount of time at your desk and on the computer when you're studying for the exam. But even just a 20 minute walk around the block can do wonders for your brain's agility and function. Your mind and body must work together for optimum performance, so make sure to spend time stimulating your muscles as much as your mind.
Because the CPA Exam is so consuming, it can be easy to become isolated and close off to other people. Yes, sacrifices in friends and family time will be necessary, but that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the benefits of your support system during this stressful time. Talk about the reasons you're becoming a CPA with a family member or friend to find motivation. Commiserate with study partners, co-workers, or whomever (the CPAnet forum is a great place to do this) so you're able to vent your frustration. Just remember there is a big difference between commiserating about your frustrations and totally obsessing.
5. Step Back
While we would never advise students to be nonchalant about their preparation for the CPA Exam, we have seen plenty of students almost give them self an aneurysm because of the stress of passing the exam. It's important to keep everything in perspective. If you study you will pass. Don't panic at the last minute and convince yourself that you'll fail if you don't do every multiple choice question in the book just one more time. If you find yourself in panic mode, just take a deep breath and remember all the hard work you've put into your studies--you'll be fine.