Unlike any other accounting exams, the US CPA exam in India requires correct planning, constant motivation and guidance from experts. In this era of competitive world, preparing for such exams is taking a mental or emotional toll on students. Further there are not many articles or discussion groups dedicated to discussing the topic. This is quite evident in the case of working professionals to manage their CPA study preparation with a hectic work schedule.
Almost every US CPA exam candidate can say that they’ve experienced lack of clarity and guidance during the course of their studying at least a few times, if not many. In this perspective, it would appear beneficial to discuss some tips and strategies that will help students to succeed in the US CPA exam in India.
CPA is a professional course and many working people take up this course along with their full-time jobs. Preparing for such an extensive course content along with a job can be a daunting task if not planned properly. One needs to first formulate a strategy on how to prepare for the CPA exam without affecting the personal and professional life. A disciplined approach towards studies is required to pass the CPA exam. Somebody who is working and planning for CPA studies should consider the below mentioned points:
CPA Exam Planning Framework to Pass- At a Glance
A. Don’t give yourself too much time to study, high intensity is better.
B. Find the right CPA review Course for your learning style and avoid busy work.
C. Use trial and error with your CPA review course to determine the best way to gain an understanding of the AICPA blueprints.
D. Make the CPA exam a priority by being ruthless with your time.
E. Mentally prepare for the possibility of failure, because statistically it’s weird if you DON’T fail at least one section.
F. Surround yourself with CPA exam mentors and tutors.
Based on the above points, let’s discuss the strategies for a working professional to pass US CPA exam in 2022.
1. Balancing the Work and Study Plan
Track your progress and make daily notes on how things are going. At the end of each day, write down how much time you spent preparing for the CPA Exam. An easy way to do this is to give yourself a grade on your daily performance.
On a calendar, give yourself an A, B, C, or an F. Yes, you can skip the D since we need to keep things simple. Or, if you like, you can rate yourself with stars. It doesn’t matter what type of grading system you use, as long as you keep it simple. This exercise will serve a couple of purposes. When you approach your daily studies knowing there’s a grade at the end, you are more likely to strive to do better.
Another reason you want to track your performance is that it prevents you from letting bad habits get too far out of hand. Seeing trends in your progress will allow you to make adjustments to how you’re approaching your studies.
If you score badly on a practice exam, you can easily go back to your daily log and see what things contributed to your score. Maybe you did not get enough sleep or perhaps you have some outside stresses interfering with your studies. No matter what the issues are, having a daily log will ensure that you are holding yourself accountable and give you an easy way to see if you need to adjust your plan.
Your practice exam scores will tell you just about everything you need to know about your preparation. Be honest and flexible with the way you rate your performance. If you did poorly on a couple practice exams early on but are showing improvement, there’s less cause for concern than if you were doing well and started to decline. Make sure your daily grade helps support your improvement. The whole point of this exercise is to keep you on the right path, not to waste your time by beating yourself up.
The most common issue students, particularly, the working professionals face today is distractions. This may require you to take an honest look at how you study. If you find yourself responding to text messages or checking Facebook during your study time, you are only hurting yourself. Each day ask yourself, “is the study time I am putting in quality time?”, “am I getting closer to my weekly study goal or am I flat-lining in my learning performance?”, “are my quizzes getting better or worse?”, “am I prepared for a practice exam?”, “are my practice exam scores improving?”
The daily log is one of the best ways to track your progress and when you do well, please be sure to reward yourself. The goal is to increase your knowledge while continuing to improve your scores. A small reward will give you the boost you need to push through the drudgery we all experience in our studies. Plan the work and work your study plan by grading yourself daily. When you achieve your goal, you will be glad you did!
2. Setting Achievable Targets
If you ask most people studying for the CPA exam what their goal is, they immediately say something like “to pass the CPA Exam.” While you, too, may have that same goal, it is more helpful to break it down into manageable pieces. Having an end goal of passing the CPA exam is great, but it’s too large of a task and since it is not defined by smaller, attainable goals, it leaves a lot of room for failure.
There are way too many moving parts to passing the CPA exam and the only real way to succeed is to break that large goal down into daily action and achievements. Knowing how to study for the CPA exam starts with establishing these smaller goals; once you’ve identified these smaller goals, write them down on your calendar.
This can be set like this: Read for 30 minutes (minimum 15-20 pages). Watch 30 minutes of video lectures. Answer 50 FAR quiz questions.
For example: Read for 4 hours (minimum 150 pages). Watch 2 hours of video lectures. Answer 150 FAR quiz questions.
Examples: Read 1/2 of the FAR textbook. Score 85% or higher on my practice quizzes. Watch 8 hours of video lectures. Answer 400 practice questions. Prepare to take the FAR CPA practice exam in the next 60 days and schedule the FAR exam within the next 90 days.
Now, it has to be kept in mind that these are just examples which have to be set without compromising your office work schedule, but do you see how these definitive goals require you to take daily, weekly, and monthly action?
Having real targets written down on a calendar or organizer helps you take manageable steps toward the much larger goal of passing FAR, REG, BEC, and AUD. Each day needs to be one that’s moving you closer to your final objective; anything else is taking you further away.
Be sure you include some days off for rest in your study plan. Most students need a couple days to decompress from heavy studying and CPA exam prep is no different. Have deadlines for taking each exam so you can have them all completed within 18 months or less.
3. The Positive Intention
The CPA exam is a difficult sport of the mind, and it leaves thousands in its wake every year. Do you work with intention? Do you demand success or at least some kind of progress from yourself each and every time you open your books to study?
While most people studying for the CPA exam are not playing in any sports to just participate, rather, they are most certainly playing to win. The question for you is, how bad do you want it? If you are not currently 100% dedicated, you need to be when it comes to CPA exam prep and self-study.
When you log into your CPA Review course or crack your textbooks for another study session, do so with the intention of winning. Fill your head with valuable information by watching video lectures and then, dig deeper into a subject by reading. Get involved with the community and see if you really are mentally in the game. Take some quizzes to see how much you retained, but whatever you do, study and prepare to win.
If you don’t study with the intention of passing, you are not fully committed. As obvious as all of this is, many students are simply going through the motions. You cannot afford to be one of them. If you find passion waning, take a moment to remember all of the reasons why you want to pass the CPA exam and this should help to reset your inner drive.
4. Visualizing the Success
Here the mantra is “Dream it, believe it, Achieve it”. By regularly seeing yourself achieve a goal or benchmark, you are changing the way you prioritize everything you do. Just wanting something badly is not enough to succeed at it though. Beliefs and dreams can only turn into achievements if the right steps are taken, and in the right order. From dreams come actions and as you take action, you are setting yourself apart from those that just talk.
By taking action, you are now becoming a self-visualized doer! What would normally be a place to spend free time may come to be seen as a distraction. Old interests may become complete detours and dream-killing dead ends. If you want to achieve something like passing the CPA exam, visualize the end result and work daily to make progress.
When you get to the place where you truly realize just how bad you want to pass the CPA exam, break the process down into its simpler parts and take regular action. Are you driven enough and motivated enough to put in the sustained effort to get to the finish line? Sure, we all find excuses to not study and need outside motivation to get back into our coursework. Do you have a group that you can count on?
The Fast Forward Academy CPA community is a great place to not only connect with others, but it’s also a great place to get the occasional nudge you might need. Just be sure to pay it forward and help others when they need it to. You will be surprised at just how much a few words can mean to someone struggling with a difficult topic or section in the reading.
If you feel your motivation beginning to wane, take a moment to help a few folks. The mental break and kind words shared with others will help fill your tank back up and remind you why you started on this journey in the first place. Yes, much of the motivation you have, comes from within and sharing and helping others is just one more way to recharge your internal batteries.
As you study and take a quiz, constantly check to make sure you are understanding the questions you miss. Go back and see why you missed them. If you’re having difficulty grasping a subject, connect with others in a study group or join a community discussion to see what others have written there.
Again, the Fast Forward Academy CPA review course offers access to an active community full of students and instructors that can help you. These connections will have lasting, positive benefits. To recap, visualize the end result, take daily steps to get there and help those that need it along the way. Your dreams can and will become achievements if you take the time to visualize and actualize your goals daily!
5.Tracking the Progress
Productive study time is a direct result of setting goals and working your weekly study plans. Your study plans represent a lot of self-sacrifice and a commitment to become more prepared for the CPA exam than you were the day before. Before you study, make the decision to do so with purpose and the intention of getting better. Know what you want to study and just do it; knowing how to study for the CPA exam starts with knowing what to study. At the end of your study session, ask yourself the following questions:
· Did I learn something new?
· Did I tune out the distractions around me and focus on my studies?
· Did I help someone else understand a difficult subject to help further my own learning?
· Was my day productive?
· Did I accomplish my daily study goal, whether it was to read a set number of pages in your textbook, watch a set number of video lectures, or answer a set number of quiz questions?
If you answered yes to these questions than give yourself an “A” or “4 stars” or something positive to track your daily success. If not, figure out what was holding you back and move on. To truly track your progress, you not only need to be honest with your performance, but you also need to do it daily, just like brushing your teeth.
6.Use the Right Study Tools
Many study tools on the market can help you study for the CPA Exam. The best ones review theoretical concepts and then reinforce those concepts by applying them to practice questions. The AICPA has some basic free CPA Exam study materials. They also have free CPA Exam sample tests and a video that shows you how to use the CPA Exam platform. The right tools will help you study more efficiently and effectively, ultimately making passing the CPA Exam a lot less painful. However, before you purchase any study aids, you should step back and take stock of your study plan.
7. Study Pace and Duration
When it comes to studying for major exams like the CPA Exam, scientists have found that studying in short bursts over long periods of time (such as 10 hours per week for 10 weeks, for example) is much better than studying for long hours over a short period of time (for example, 5 hours a day every day for 3 weeks). For most of us, we can only effectively absorb information for so long. If we sit and study for too long, we start to lose focus, and our brains simply can’t retain as much information.
8. Don’t Second Guess Yourself
If you want to pass the CPA exams in your first try, then you must not second guess yourself. Technically, if you have time left after answering all of the multiple-choice questions in a testlet, you can go back and change your answers. However, I advise against doing that. In many cases, you will second guess yourself and submit an incorrect answer. Instead, take a bold “one and done” attitude. Approach each question to the best of your ability. Give your best answer, and then move on.
9. Don’t get tripped up.
When studying simulations for the CPA Exam, be aware that too many details can throw you off course. If the question asks about accounts receivable, then answer that question and don’t lose focus on unrelated points, Bickel noted. Also, be aware of words like “not,” “except,” and “only”, which can also make you stumble. “Be observant,” she said. ” Read the whole question and look for these keywords.”
10. The Four “C” s to Success
Most people know that with experience and practice comes confidence. Whether it’s competing in sports, taking an exam, or going in for a job interview, you need to know what your goals are. Having a plan will give you the confidence you need to succeed. The good news is that nearly any challenge can be broken down into manageable parts or steps.
If you have a mental punch list which allows you to respond to each mini-challenge along the way, you will have confidence. Achieving CPA exam success is not for faint of heart, it requires a battle plan. You are going to war against an onslaught of questions. You win the war when you get enough points to pass. Walk into the exam room on test day ready to wage your battle with confidence. Doing so will help you pass.
It’s great to be confident, but this confidence needs to be tempered with great care. Being extremely careful means you are working through the questions at a good pace and reading them quickly but fully to ensure you are not missing the meaning. Questions can and will be missed when you approach them with haste. Just be careful.
Not only do you have to begin the challenge with laser-like concentration, but you must also maintain that concentration for the duration of the entire exam. It can take a little time to settle into the exam, but the practice exams you’ve previously taken should have prepared you for this.
Practice exams are invaluable to the process because they train you to enter a concentrated state of answering questions, so that come exam day, you’re very familiar with feeling and mindset. On CPA exam day, you will be in a room with others, but everyone will be quiet and focused.
Aside from the one or two people asking to use the restroom, or the person that is annoying you when they clear their throat, you really just have your own thoughts to take you in or out of focus. Stay concentrated the entire exam; do not let your concentration wane at all. If you become distracted, reset and change your posture, stretch, or take a deep breath and continue on. Be mindful now of your ability to concentrate during your practice exams. Working on your focus today will go a long way on exam day.
You have to stay calm regardless of what happens during the exam. Don’t second guess yourself. Get into a mental state of calmness and stay there as you move through the questions and testlets. Significant spikes in blood pressure and heart rate can easily cause you to lose focus.
Breathing exercises can be very helpful for times like these. Being able to get back to your calm, collected state is something you can practice before you take the exam using real-life situations. Feeling anxious or frustrated? Try breathing through it or visualizing things that make you happy. This can help you keep your cool and stay focused on the exam.
Being a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is probably not just a professional goal, but a dream. How exciting is it to be working toward your dream? Remember that when it feels hard. If you develop a good study plan, take help from good quality CPA review materials along with a competent trainer and stick to these CPA Exam study tips, you’ll have a better chance of passing the CPA Exam at first attempt.
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Seek support from experts
Getting guidance from a supportive group of people can put your mind at ease and help you get through rough study days. Like all other exams, the US CPA course too has a specified exam pattern and the candidate needs to undergo lots of practice on those questions to score high marks in the exams. Make sure that you get the right mentors for preparing the exams.
It is recommended to start with the section which you are most familiar with and move forward with there. Always dedicate more time for sections which has less pass rates like BEC exams. Moreover, the US CPA exam patterns are different from the patterns we follow in India or the Asian countries. The key decision is choosing the best US CPA course training institute. Getting guidance from an established training institute not only helps in understanding theoretical subjects, but also attending mock exams, job placement assistance and soft skill training.
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