How to Prevent the CPA Exam From Slowly Killing You
Updated:Oct. 24, 2021
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How to Prevent the CPA Exam From Slowly Killing You
As far as we’re aware, no one has actually been killed by the CPA exam to date. But that doesn’t mean you should push yourself as far over the brink as possible while you’re studying just to tempt fate.
Remember: the CPA exam is a marathon, not a sprint.
You don’t want to be crawling across the finish line with your last bit of energy left (especially if you saved FAR for last)!
Unless you’re into the whole masochist thing (oddly, many accountants do seem to have an affinity for self-inflicted misery), it’s probably a good idea to pace yourself and practice good self-care along the way.
When starting out on your CPA exam journey, it’s incredibly easy to make grandiose plans of passing in six months while working full-time, finishing up your Masters, and possibly walking uphill both ways in the snow to work every day.
Your few friends, colleagues, and CPA exam candidate forum buddies who managed this incredible feat are outliers, and as such shouldn’t be looked upon as the be all and end all of CPA exam plans.
Everyone is different, and only you know how hard you should be pushing yourself. It’s important to be realistic with your goal but also encourage yourself to create a plan that challenges your dedication.
It’s easy to say “I don’t like to study, so I’m going to give myself a few hours a week to study and plan to complete the exam in 18 months at the most leisurely pace possible.”
Remember how I said it’s a race not a sprint? It’s still a race, and you’d be wise to keep up a good pace to stay motivated. Otherwise, it’s highly likely you’ll find yourself roadblocked by defeat early on; it’s harder to recover from self-inflicted failure than it is to put in more effort up front to ensure you are as prepared as possible.
That said, your plan absolutely should include non-exam things. Whatever makes you happy, pencil that in.
Are you the type who needs lazy weekends camped on the couch with Netflix and a snack? Make time for that.
More the outdoorsy type? Schedule a good hike.
Try to focus on the things you enjoy that leave you feeling energized and recharged rather than the things that make you feel good but come at a heavy price. Binge drinkers, I’m looking directly at you!
Think of your plan as a time budget: account for every hour from sleeping to working to TV time. if you’re honest in your time management, you may find you have more time to study than you realized. It’s easy to say to yourself “I have no time to study!” when you’re working full-time plus extra, especially when you include a decent commute.
What am I talking about? That handy little device in your pocket that can do just about everything except take and pass the exam for you!
There are countless services available nowadays that make it easy for people short on time to do all that pesky adulting stuff. Time is the one thing you need the most when studying for the CPA exam; let’s earn some back, shall we?
If you’re lucky, you live in an area with an abundance of apps ready to serve your every need. From Prime Now to Uber Eats, you really never have to leave the house again (except to work and take the exam of course). Services like Clicklist or Instacart can help with the grocery shopping, and subscription boxes for things like razors and beauty supplies ensure you don’t go wandering out in the world looking like a neanderthal just because you’ve been hunched over a CPA exam review book for seven months straight.
Often the cost of these services is little to minimal; if a $4.99 delivery fee is setting off your budget-minded accountant brain, just think how much more you’ll earn as a CPA once you pass. Buying yourself an extra hour or two of studying a week because you didn’t have to wander the grocery store aisles is a great use of $5 if you ask me.
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Ignoring everything I just said above about having a solid plan, accounting for every hour of your day, and scheduling your refrigerator to magically refill itself once a week, sometimes it’s important to throw all that out the window, go outside, and play.
If you find yourself stressed out, sleepless, anxious, or panicked, it’s time to close the books and take a walk around the block.
Pour that drink.
Take your dog to the park.
Waste an hour scrolling through Reddit.
Do absolutely nothing at all.
Whatever YOU do when YOU need a break from the world, give yourself permission to do that every now and then. Remember that race thing? Even some of the best athletes in the world need to stop and refresh along the way.
Remember Friends and Family
To many partners and friends of CPA exam candidates, it can be like their loved one has fallen off the face of the planet once the process starts. The exam becomes your entire being; it’s all you tweet about, talk about, or think about. It robs your friends and loved ones of time they wish you’d be spending with them instead of that stupid CPA review book.
Although your loved ones may not have any clue what you’re going through, they can also be great support during your CPA exam journey, so don’t let your desire to pass the CPA exam on your first try get in the way of your relationships.
If you’re married or dating, make sure regular time with each other is included on your grand CPA exam plan. Have your partner help quiz you with flash cards. Ask if you need support, or a little extra help around the house, so you can be in the best place possible to study.
It’s Only Temporary
In closing, the most important piece of advice to offer when it comes to staying sane as you tackle the CPA exam is this:
It’s not forever.
In the grand scheme of things, you have so many more life experiences that take up or have taken up way more time: things like school, marriage, or your career. If you stick to your plan and take care of yourself along the way, it’ll be somewhere between 12-18 months of sacrifices.