7 BIG Mistakes CPA Exam Candidates Make

CPA Exam Candidate Mistakes

Not Deciding If Becoming a CPA Is Right for You

Everyone knows the amazing benefits of becoming a CPA — like higher lifetime earnings and faster career advancement. The truth is it’s not the right path for everyone. The flip side of those benefits is a very real cost to actually get certified. 

It’s difficult and time consuming to become a CPA. You’ll have to pause other important areas of your life while you study for the exams. If becoming a CPA isn’t truly something you want, it’s going to be hard to make those sacrifices every day.

Spend some time thinking about if/why you want it. And if you don’t want to put in the work, that’s ok too. You can still have a successful career without becoming a CPA. It’s better to know that about yourself now, so you don’t waste valuable time and energy when your heart isn’t in it.

Not Getting Started Today

If you want to become a Certified Public Accountant, the best time to get started was yesterday. The second best time to get started is today. It never gets easier and you’ll never have ‘enough time.’

The best advice I can give is to start preparing as soon as possible. If you’re still a student, do your best to finish your exams before you start working full time. If you’re already working, do your best to get through them before busy season.

Underestimating Study Time Needed

The average student needs 80-100 hours study time per section (up to 400 hours total).

Are you prepared to put in the time and effort to make your dream a reality? It’s a difficult test and studying takes time away from other areas of your life. Are you willing to give up some of your social life, spend less time at the gym, or lose sleep to reach your goal?

Not Setting Up Success Systems

You can’t rely on will power alone to accomplish big goals like the CPA exam. You won’t stick to your diet if the fridge is full of pizza and beer. And you wonít stick to your study plan unless you set up systems to help you study, even on days when you don’t feel like it.

Join a study group (in person or virtual) and hold each other accountable. Set aside specific times to meet and discuss FAR concepts or work together on REG multiple choice questions.

Prefer to study solo? I used to stop at Panera every night on my commute home from work. It was an easy way to develop the habit of studying every day, and I was happy to wait a few hours until Chicago traffic died down. I’d get dinner while I studied and still make it home earlier than a normal busy season night.

Not Getting Help

There’s so much information in these exams. It’s impossible to take the test enough times to see patterns and uncover what’s most likely to be on the test.

If your professor assigns 10 biographies to read before the midterm next week, would you do it? Sure, you’re smart and motivated so you could do it. But your grades in other classes will suffer. Or you’d have less time with your girlfriend. In short, it would lower your overall quality of life.

Now let’s say it’s not against the rules to hire a tutor. In fact, that’s what everyone does. These tutors have worked with so many students that they know the most important parts of George Washington’s life that are usually on the test. So you can learn the most important stuff, and not waste time on anything else.

CPA exam review courses are your tutors. Sure, they teach you a lot. But their real value is helping you avoid time wasting areas that won’t be on the test. Choose the CPA Review course thatís right for you, and make sure all your hard work matters.

Studying to Learn vs. Pass the CPA Exam

My professors will hate me for this one, but itís true. You should be studying to pass this section of the CPA Exam. Not going in depth on obscure accounting topics that you find interesting. Itís about focus and keeping your eye on the ball in the current moment, not a statement of what’s more important in life.

It’s great that you want to go down a 3 hour rabbit hole about the history and economic impacts of Section 179 deductions. That type of curiosity and dedication to deep learning is wonderful. It will help you build the skills to have successful career.

But that’s not your goal *right now* Your goal today is to pass the CPA exam. You don’t see Lebron taking a cooking class in the middle of the finals. He does that on his own time, after accomplishing his big goal of winning the championship.

Skipping Practice Questions

Practice questions and simulations are the best way to retain what you learn and discover areas where you need to keep studying. So don’t call it a day after watching your lecture or reading a chapter.

Put that knowledge to the test and do the Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and practice Simulations (TBSs). This not only helps you remember important concepts, but also makes you more comfortable with the CPA Exam format. Making you more confident on test day.