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Preparing for the CPA Exam

Becoming a CPA is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your accounting career. It’s a choice that will provide extended career opportunities, including increased salary and job opportunities.

One part of the CPA Journey is passing the CPA Exam. Although the CPA Exam is difficult, with the right strategy and approach, you can pass! It’s important that CPA Candidates prepare for the CPA Exam in a way that best fits their learning and lifestyle.

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STUDYING FOR THE CPA EXAM

Before opening a book, watching a lecture, or taking a practice test, it’s important to take the time to create a personalized, CPA Exam study plan. A CPA Exam study plan, also known as a game plan, will help you properly prepare for the CPA Exam while also setting you up for CPA Exam success. Whether you are fresh out of college or have some years of accounting experience under your belt, a study plan will help support your study goals and make it easier to balance work, studies, and a personal life. And, research has shown that students who have a study plan are more likely to stick to their studies while reaching their goals sooner.  

A study plan is your personalized guide to studying for and passing the CPA Exam. Your plan can be as simple or complex as you decide, but should include variations of the following elements: 


  • A breakdown on what to expect on the CPA Exam. Looking at the CPA Exam Blueprints is a great way get an overview of the CPA Exam and are intended to assist candidates in preparing for the Exam. The Blueprints also consider the minimum level of knowledge and skills necessary for initial licensure once candidates become CPAs. 


  • How you plan to approach the CPA Exam as a first time or seasoned candidate. For instance, which section should you sit for first and how quickly you can pass the Exam. Do you want to pass in 3, 6, 9 or 12 months? How much time you’re able to commit to studying for the CPA Exam will be largely determined by your work and personal schedules, as well. 


The good news is that we have study planners to help you get on track with your CPA Exam study plan while showing you how to navigate your studies on your schedule. We also provide a step-by-step guide on the best ways to study for the CPA Exam!   Remember, you have our support as you take this journey towards becoming a CPA and accomplishing your CPA career goals. 


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CPA EXAM REGISTRATION & SCHEDULING

The CPA Exam is offered the first two months of each quarter of the calendar year - these are called “Testing Windows.”

The third month of every quarter is considered a “Blackout Month,” in which no Exams are administered. That includes March, June, September and December.

Candidates are allowed to take all four sections of the CPA Exam during any one testing window. However, you may not take the same section more than once during any single testing window.


CPA EXAM TESTING WINDOWS & BLACKOUT DATES

Test MonthBlackout
Jan - Mar 10MAR 11-31
Apr - Jun 10JUN 11-30
Jul - Sep 10SEP 11-30
Oct - Dec 10DEC 11-31

18-Month Rolling Window

You have an 18-month "rolling" window in which to pass all four sections of the CPA Exam. That window begins from the time you pass the first exam. If you don't pass all four parts within the 18-month window, you lose credit for the first part you passed, and the 18-month window rolls up to the next part you passed; this cycle continues until all four parts are passed within the time frame. It's important note is that you are not able to take the same section of the CPA Exam more than once during any one testing window.

As a Roger CPA Review student, take advantage of our customizable study planners to ensure you stay on track to pass within this window.

HOW TO SCHEDULE THE CPA EXAM

All CPA Exam scheduling is completed through the Prometric Website (https://www.prometric.com/en-us/Pages/home.aspx). 


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Qualify & Apply for the CPA Exam

Qualifying for the CPA Exam requires meeting certain educational requirements before starting the process to apply for and schedule the Exam. 


Qualifying for the CPA Exam

The educational requirements for qualifying for the CPA Exam varies depending on the state and the jurisdiction where you plan to sit for the CPA Exam.  Each state has its own Board of Accountancy that determines the specific requirements.  

All states and jurisdictions require a bachelor's degree and a certain number of credit hours in both accounting and business.  Be sure to check to see what your state requirements are to sit for the CPA Exam before starting the CPA Exam application process. 


Applying for the CPA Exam

Once you have met the educational requirements to sit for the CPA Exam, it's time to apply to sit for the Exam. The steps to apply for the CPA Exam are as follows:

Step 1Apply Online
Step 2Send Transcripts to State Board
Step 3Receive Authorization to Test (ATT)
Step 4Select Exams and Pay NASBA Fees

The CPA Exam has four sections, which includes: 

  • Auditing & Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) 
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) 
  • Regulation (REG) 


You may take any or all sections of the CPA Exam during any testing window and in any order, as long as you complete all four-parts within an 18-month time period. 

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CPA EXAM GAME PLAN

If you’re considering sitting for the CPA Exam, an important first step is to create a CPA Exam Game Plan. Why? Studying for and sitting for the CPA Exam has been compared to preparing for and running a marathon. Remember the Exam is a journey; not a sprint. So preparation is key!


Steps to Creating a CPA Exam Game Plan

  1. Plan your CPA journey. Planning your CPA Exam Game Plan is an important first step to achieving your goal of becoming a CPA. The planning aspect is not only one of the most crucial steps in creating a game plan, but it also helps you identify your goals and what’s most important to you. How quickly do you want to pass the CPA Exam? 3 months? 6 months? 12 months? Taking into consideration both your personal and professional life, how many hours can you contribute to the CPA Exam journey?
  2. Map out your time with a schedule. Start thinking about your current schedule and decide where you can fit in studying for the CPA Exam. You’ll need to determine where and what you can adjust in your life to accommodate several hours of studying a week. During this time, you’ll have to make some sacrifices in your life to make room for taking on this important endeavor. But in the end, the sacrifices you make today will absolutely pay off tomorrow.
  3. Set small goals to reach longer goals. Passing the CPA Exam can seem overwhelming. So, instead of looking at the big picture, create goals that are smaller and easily attainable. If your goal is to pass the CPA Exam in 6 months, create a game plan for 6 months and then create smaller, weekly goals. Meeting smaller goals towards your larger goal will keep you on a positive track to success. 
  4. Follow through on your game plan. Whatever it takes to follow through on your game plan to reach your goals, do it. You’re starting on a journey to reach a larger goal that will consequently benefit your career and life. Find ways to stay inspired and to follow through. Find a study partner, ask your family to support you during this time, create a vision board to envision where you’ll be in 6 months, or reward yourself once you accomplish smaller goals. Whatever it takes to inspire you through this journey should be considered an aspect of your overall game plan. 

If you want to achieve your goal of becoming a CPA and increase your chance of success, be honest to yourself about what it will take to get there. Envision what success looks like, create a game plan, set yourself up for success with actionable items, and follow through to the end. 

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CPA EXAM COST & FEES

Are you aware of all the costs and fees associating with taking the CPA Exam? 

Some fee types associated with the CPA Exam include:

  • State Board Application Fee
  • NASBA CPA Exam Fee
  • Registration Fee
  • CPA Review Course Fee
  • The AICPA Ethics Exam Fee
  • CPA Licensing Fee


A sample breakdown of total cost to become a CPA: 

State Board of Accountancy Application Fees$30-$200 (Varies by State)
NASBA CPA Exam Fees$208.40 for each section
Registration Fee$20-$75 (Varies by State)
CPA Review CourseCourses & Products
AICPA Ethics Exam$129 or $169
CPA Licensure Fee$50-$500 (Varies by State)


Although the CPA Exam is a costly endeavor, it is well worth it once you’re licensed! It's an exciting time to become a CPA that includes many benefits.

As a CPA, you:   

  • Will have long-term job security, coupled with great flexibility
  • Are seen as a trusted advisor and business consultant from day one
  • Are at the forefront of the latest technological advances in the business world
  • Will enjoy a better work-life balance
  • Will receive a great CPA salary with numerous benefits 

How to Prepare to Sit for the CPA Exam

Plan

Make a realistic study plan and stick to it. We always emphasize that the key word here is realistic. Anyone can make a study plan—but making one that you can stick to is the real challenge. Figure out how many months you want to take to pass and then divide all the material accordingly. We have great customizable study planners that you can tailor to fit your lifestyle and study needs, so definitely use them to keep yourself organized and on track. 

Review the CPA Exam Blueprints. The Blueprints are a free study resource provided by the AICPA once or twice a year. The Blueprints let you know what’s going to be on the CPA Exam, including Exam contents and how it will be tested. CPA Candidates often underutilize this important resource when preparing for the CPA exam. 

STUDY

Create a conducive study environment. Similar to the phrase, “You are what you eat,” we like to say, “Your study environment determines your study mood.” Candidates often overlook this factor. If you don’t feel motivated to study whenever it’s time to hit the books, it’s time to analyze what your study setup looks like. If your study area is cluttered or stuffy, rethink your feng shui. Create a study space for yourself that is clean, organized, has plenty of light, and is away from noise or background distractions. This way you create a study environment that puts you in a studying mood rather than just waiting for the feeling of studying to strike you.

Get rid of all your distractions.You know yourself best. What is it that distracts you from putting in a good few hours’ worth of study time? If it’s social media, delete the applications from your phone. If it’s your phone, turn it off and put it in a drawer. If it’s Netflix, delete your subscription! You get the idea. Be honest about what it is that’s keeping you from being most productive and find temporary solutions to get rid of them during study time.

Find which study technique(s) work best for you. There are a lot of different ways that people study. Your job is to find the technique that works best for how you learn and retain information. A good starting point is following your review course’s study recommendation and then tailoring it from there. Some candidates prefer watching lectures first, doing practice questions second, reviewing the areas they are weaker on third, and then doing a final review for every chapter. Others prefer writing important concepts and topics down while following along with the lecture video while others work on practice questions before diving into the lectures. And the list goes on. It may take some trial and error before you find out which methods are most effective, but once you find your study sweet spot, the rest is history!

Study in the morning and review at night. When’s the best time to study? We get this question a lot. If you’re a current college student or a working professional, or both, finding time to study can be hard if you already have a full day. In fact, it’s probably the last thing you want to do when you come home. Our best advice? Study very early in the morning and review what you studied that morning at night by using flashcards or doing practice questions. We have found that most candidates find this method to be the most effective since there are less distractions early in the morning and they have better, more optimistic energy and focus. If you’re not a morning person, you can train your mind and body with routine and repetition. We recommend studying at about 4 or 5am until you have to leave for work or school. You can reinforce the concepts you learned later in the evening, allowing yourself to rest and not have to learn new material when you’re already tired and your focus is waning after a long day.

SUPPORT

Garner support from family and friends. Don’t underestimate the amount of love and understanding that comes from your biggest supporters! Let them know that there will be times you’ll be unavailable as you study for your CPA Exam, and let them know in advance what it is you need from them in order to be successful in this endeavor. It could be having your mom only call you once a week or letting your friends know that you can only designate 1 or 2 Saturdays this month to hang out. Also utilize your loved ones as people you can share this experience with. You will have ups and downs throughout the process, so talk to them about your anxieties and struggles. The worst thing you can do is keep it all to yourself! 

Reward yourself often for reaching goals. Finding motivation to study is one of the biggest struggles CPA Exam candidates face. Because you’re essentially studying for months and doing the same study routine every day, you won’t always be excited to hit the books. However, many candidates have found it helpful to set miniature goals and then reward themselves when they reach them.  You can do this on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, depending on how much motivation you need. For example, if you accomplish your study goals for the day, reward yourself with an episode of your favorite Netflix original. If you accomplished your study goal for the week, reward yourself with a night out with friends. If you met your study goal for the month, reward yourself with a weekend camping trip or a new pair of shoes. Setting small goals and rewards promotes healthy study habits and keeps you sane. It also helps you push yourself steadily with the end result in mind. 

Take care of yourself. And last but not least, being successful on the CPA Exam involves taking care of yourself. You can’t stick to a study plan or study at all if your body and mind are not in a healthy state. With that being said, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, and not getting burnt out. 

Take the SmartPath to CPA!

Remember—there’s no shortcut to passing the CPA Exam. You just must put in the time and effort! As Roger Philipp, CPA, CGMA, always states, the CPA Exam is not an IQ test; it's a test of discipline. And once you're done, it will all be worth it. We make it easy with our patent pending Smartpath Predictive Technology™ that helps you pass the CPA Exam faster with data-supported targets based on the performance of successful students. So, you’ll get exactly what you need to pass the Exam. 


Preparing for the CPA Exam Q & A

The amount of time it takes to prepare for the CPA Exam depends on the candidate. A typical CPA candidate spends approximately 300 – 400 hours preparing to pass all parts of the exam which equates to approximately 1.5 – 2 hours per day. However, a more true indicator of the time it takes to prepare for the exam is the comprehension level of the candidate.

Since most CPA Review courses have an expiration date, it is recommended to purchase a course when you are ready to begin studying for the CPA Exam. Most candidates are ready to begin studying once they have completed the application process and received the Notice to Schedule (NTS) which allows them to schedule the exam.