CPA Exam Prep Strategies & Tips

Easy CPA prep strategies from a Boston-based accounting professor.
Suffolk Professor Tracey Riley
Tracey Riley, Associate Dean, Graduate Programs in Accounting
Suffolk University

For many years as a professor, I have helped my students with their CPA exam prep. I gave them advice, scolded them to study more, and held their hands when things felt hopeless. Then when I started studying for the CPA exam myself, I realized even more how important it was to have a strategy going into what is arguably the most difficult (and important) part of any accountant’s career.

How to Pass the CPA Exam

Develop a Study Plan and Stick to It

Be realistic in your plan. If you truly have 15 hours a week to study, that’s great. But maybe you don’t and need to really carve out time whenever you can. Being honest with yourself is an essential step in creating that plan.

Ensure Your Family and Friends Understand the Commitment You’re Undertaking

Family and friends should understand how serious a commitment this is and not even tempt you with an invitation to go out. Instead, they could offer to make you dinner and drop it off so you can study uninterrupted.

Take Electives in Your Degree Program that Prepare You for the Exam

You’ll kill two (three?) birds with one stone: Earning three credits, studying for your class, and studying for the CPA exam.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Do as many practice questions as you can. Then redo the ones you got wrong. Then redo the ones you got wrong twice. Repeat.

Don’t Waste Time Studying what You Already Know

It can be a confidence boost to do practice questions on content you’re already familiar with, but, really, you’re wasting your time.

Carefully Choose the Order in Which You’ll Take the Exams

You have 18 months from when you pass the first one. Maybe the first one you take should be the one that’s hardest for you. Or maybe you just finished an auditing class and want to start with that exam while everything’s fresh. Make the exam order play to your strengths.

Find a Way to Get and Stay Motivated

Passing the CPA is a long process. Build in rewards for yourself, not just for passing a section (which of course you’ll celebrate), but for sticking to your study plan or for finally conquering a topic you’ve been struggling with.

Finally, Remember Why You’re Doing all this Hard Work in the First Place

Being an accountant 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.

Find out how the Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School can help you earn your CPA. Learn More.